Wednesday, July 30, 2014




Dimitrije Vasiljevic’s new album Metaphor has been released in the United States on July 22, 2014 and is now available on iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby and Google Play stores.
Metaphor is a contemporary jazz solo piano album influenced by classical music aesthetics and a touch of Balkan traditions. Compelling original compositions radiate a vivid blend of artistic virtuosity and a delicate music thought which send the listener on a musical journey filled with varying emotions.
French pianist Jean-Michel Pilc praises the album with words “astonishing virtuosity, unique personality and straight to your heart sensibility. Dimitrije has it all and is a new force to reckon with. I am a fan.”
The album brings a fresh treatment of solo piano as a device of compositional expression. Through the clear presentation of somewhat dreamy yet confident celebration of piano sound, Metaphor successfully blends modern jazz language, impressionistic harmonies and Balkan rhythms.
“Living in a loud and fast world of modern age, people tend to neglect the obvious and skip the present, chasing the phantoms of somewhat delusional future. In such a setting, the metaphors of timeless virtues smolder in the ether of  reality, reminding us about our true nature and indigenous spirit”, said Dimitrije Vasiljevic, explaining the title of his new record.
The album features eight original jazz solo piano compositions, seven of which recorded and produced at Oktaven Audio studio in New York, while one, “The Love Is Out There” recorded at the live performance in Montreux Jazz Festival where Vasiljevic debuted it. “Metaphor” was produced by LeitmotivArts.
The opening track, “Wardenclyffe”, pulls in the audience with its strong and passionate texture at the very introduction, while painting a musical portrait of Nikola Tesla. And then there’s “Sacre-Coeur” a beautiful track that evokes footsteps of the cobblestones of Paris. “Ditto” and “Anima” are insightful picturesque dedications in which Vasiljevic wistfully depict the complexity of individual characters. Mysterious “Ellipsis” and moderately discreet “Far” introduce a contrasting mood which suggest composer’s tendency for the exploration of strong melodic passages. And finally, “Tronozhats”, a traditional Montenegrin three-legged stool, metaphorically refers to the piano, Vasiljevic’s roots and traditions which inspire and influence his music expression.
Through a wide palette of moods and colors, the album brings a lyrical story about a search for inner worlds and their emotional vigor using the power of jazz in a very personal way. Stunning cover artwork alludes to the infinite movement and ebbs and flows of emotions present in Vasiljevic’s music.


 Dimitrije Vasiljevic @

Dimitrije Vasiljevic Official Web site

Jazz Connect Conference Announces Dates and Location for 2015 Event

JFC JazzTimes

Jazz Connect Conference Announces
Dates and Location for 2015 Event
Melissa Walker talks about the Jazz House Kids Program
at 2013 Jazz Connect Conference.
Series of Workshops, Panels and Events on
January 8-9, 2015 will Address Important Issues and
Trends in the Jazz Community

The Jazz Connect Conference, organized by JazzTimes and the Jazz Forward Coalition, announced the dates and location for the annual gathering of the jazz community in 2015. The conference will be held January 8-9, 2015 at Saint Peter's Church in New York City and will lead into the annual APAP (Association of Performing Arts Presenters) Conference as well as Winter Jazzfest. Now in its third year, the conference will continue to focus on vital issues affecting the jazz community carrying on the format and momentum from the January 2014 event which had over 800 registrants. The Jazz Connect Conference in 2015 will present a series of workshops, panels and events held over the course of two days to engage, stimulate and challenge the registrants.

Moderators and panelists will again include an impressive cross-section of artists and professionals from around the world. Among the panelists and speakers in past Jazz Connect Conferences have been Ben Allison, Marty Ashby, Gail Boyd, Ben Cameron, Jim Donio, Sara Donnelly, Dave Douglas, Rachel Ford, Robert Glasper, Bryan Grone, Jana Herzen, Tim Jackson, Willard Jenkins, Michael Kline, Vijay Iyer, Karen Kennedy, Jana La Sorte, Jeff Levenson, Derrick Lucas, Danny Melnick, Allison Miller, Jason Moran, Wulf Muller, Arturo O'Farrill, Greg Osby, Eddie Palmieri, Al Pryor, Vernon Reid, Michael Ricci, Mark Ruffin, Matthew Shipp, Scott Southard, Meghan Stabile, Ed Trefsger, Matt Wilson, Isabel Yrigoyen and many other notable artists and professionals. Early Bird Registration is only $75 until September 30, with additional discounts offered to members of various organizations.
Arturo O'Farrill addresses audience at 2013 Conference.
The Jazz Connect conference is organized by Peter Gordon of the Jazz Forward Coalition and Lee Mergner of JazzTimes, with assistance and input from over a dozen industry professionals. With a theme of "Strength Through Community" the conference will again bring together a wide cross-section of the jazz community for 12 workshops and 5 plenary sessions, on a variety of timely and engaging subjects. "One of the great pleasures I've witnessed at the conference is the reemergence of jazz engaging with itself," says Gordon. "What better time than now to put our collective intelligence to work, creating a giant shared resource. What better time than now to show our unity, dedication and vitality. And invite the world to take the breath of life we call jazz."

Saint Peter's provides a unique setting for this gathering of the jazz community. The church has a long history of supporting and affiliating with jazz, going back to 1965 when the Reverend John Gensel created the Jazz Ministry. Over the years, Pastor Gensel officiated at many weddings and baptisms, as well as countless funerals and memorial services for both little-known and legendary musicians and champions of jazz, including Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, John Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins, Thelonious Monk, Eubie Blake, Alberta Hunter, Erroll Garner, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Roy Eldridge, Sarah Vaughan, Teddy Wilson, Major Holley, Zoot Sims, Bill Evans, Mel Lewis, John Hammond, Barney Josephson, and Max Gordon.

Today, the church works with organizations such as the Duke Ellington Society, the Jazz Foundation of America, International Women in Jazz and Chamber Music America, and it hosts a variety of events, from jazz vespers to memorial services, throughout the year. "Saint Peter's has been a gathering place for the jazz community in New York since 1965," explains Ike Sturm, music director for the Jazz Ministry at the church. "Jazz Connect strikes me as a perfect complement to what the Jazz Ministry has stood for since the beginning: community, support, celebration and creativity." The church will be providing the conference with multiple and spacious multi-purpose rooms, including a black box theater, for the workshop and panel sessions.

The Jazz Connect Conference is one of several pre-conferences tied to APAP, but due to the large number of attendees, the conference moved from its location for the last three years at the Hilton New York to nearby Saint Peter's Church. The Jazz Connect Conference is part of "January in NYC Is the Place to Be for the Performing Arts," celebrating the unmatched convergence of performing arts professionals, audiences and events in New York City. Every January, more than 45,000 people from around the globe flock to New York City for public festivals and industry gatherings, featuring over 1,500 performances by thousands of world-class artists of all disciplines and genres, including world music, theatre, dance, jazz, and more.
Mark Ruffin of Sirius/XM on radio panel at 2014 Conference.
JazzTimes is the official publication for the event. "The magazine has a long history of involvement with jazz industry conferences-from the JazzTimes Conventions during 1979-1998 to the industry track at the IAJE conferences during 2000-2009," explains Mergner, group publisher for JazzTimes. "The Jazz Connect Conference represents a natural progression from the past and we're happy to partner with the Jazz Forward Coalition to bring together all the diverse segments of the jazz community for two days."

For more information about the Jazz Connect conference, you can e-mail To pre-register for the conference, go to the event page. To reserve a table-top display or to advertise in the Conference edition of JazzTimes, contact Miene Smith at 617-706-9092 or

Attendees can get a special discount at the host hotels for the APAP|NYC conference, but must go through the APAP|NYC website

About the Jazz Forward Coalition
The Jazz Forward Coalition (JFC) is a consortium of industry leaders focused on enhancing jazz's vitality and cultural relevance for audience development. JFC is focused on developing programs and platforms to support its two central themes of advocacy and infrastructure. By providing a global voice, JFC will cultivate opportunities to motivate growth for current and future generations to expand jazz's cultural footprint.

About JazzTimes
JazzTimes is America's preeminent jazz magazine providing irreverent, uncompromising and often provocative coverage of the American jazz scene. Relying on an award-winning editorial staff, JazzTimes encompasses special themes, directories, comprehensive news reports and an extensive music review section. JazzTimes is a must-read for the jazz enthusiast. On the web at

About Saint Peter's Church
The Jazz Ministry at Saint Peter's Church (often referred to as "the jazz church") began in 1965 in New York City, serving musicians and their families and opening the doors of the church to jazz. Weekly vespers services support guest musicians and promote new expression and fellowship, while educational programs, public concerts, memorials and festivals help creatively shape the life of New York City.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Vocalist Ranee Lee Re-Imagines Jazz and Soul Classics on "What's Going On" - Available September 9 on Justin Time Records

Justin Time

Vocalist Ranee Lee Re-Imagines 
Jazz and Soul Classics on What's Going On - 
Available September 9 on Justin Time Records 


Brooklyn-born, Montreal-based vocalist and songwriter Ranee Lee, one of Canada's most treasured jazz vocalists, an award-winning actress, author and jazz educator, releases her 13th recording on Justin-Time Records, entitled What's Going On. Following A Celebration in Time, with piano giant Oliver Jones and receiving a Juno award for Ranee Lee Lives Upstairs, Lee returns with a set of re-imagined jazz, soul and reggae classics, as well as several original compositions. She is accompanied by Richard Ring on guitar, Taurey Butler and Chad Linsley on piano, Morgan Moore and Dave Watts on acoustic bass, Dave Laing on drums and Chet Doxas on tenor saxophone.

Four of the tunes on What's Going On feature the Birds On A Wire String Quartet, with masterful arrangements by Andy Ballantyne. "Working with strings has always been an otherworldly experience for me," says Lee.  The addition of the strings imbues the music with "a brilliant and ethereal presence, an elegant sensuousness that lifts me even further and transports me," she reflects, noting how the strings inspire her to phrase differently, enveloping herself in their currents.

The choice of material for the album stems from Lee's love of interpreting lyrics. "I feel differently about the mood of a particular song and perform it differently based on the arrangement." Chosen for its resonant, still-relevant social commentary, Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" opens the album with a fresh arrangement. "In 1970, when this song was brought to the world's attention, it caught mine on many levels," recalls Lee. "It was important to me then, as it is now. Communicating the moving lyrics of this beautifully crafted song to my audience confirms the need to be continually vigilant, and support the positive and authentic relationships we should have with one another."

   Photo Credit: Pierre Arsenault 
Lee connected with "Where Do You Start?" as a love song that "tells the entire story." Her soulful, heartfelt vocals enhance Alan and Marilyn Bergman's lyrics and Johnny Mandel's tender melody, while Chad Linsley and the string quartet add layered poignancy.  The Coleman Hawkins / Thelonious Monk standard "I Mean You" is treated with verve and infused with a Latin groove as Lee delivers Jon Hendricks' lyrics with a sense of playfulness. Emotionally stimulating, "A Lazy Afternoon" creates a cinematic effect, tapping all the senses. Bob Marley's beloved anthem "One Love" draws on Lee's own heritage; her mother, Inez Monica Johnson, was born in Kingston, Jamaica. Lee performs the song with three of her grandchildren, embracing the message of universal love and respect by all people for all people, regardless of race, creed or color.

Lee contributes three originals to the recording. "Writing originals helps me to further my journey of interpretation," she reveals. "I often choose or write a song from a personal perspective, likely the influence of an event in my life, or the association of a story with a message, or because it is challenging to perform." Arranged by Taurey Butler, "Echoes of the Heart" is an up-tempo swing featuring vigorous interplay. "It Will Be What It Will Be" offers words of encouragement for our youth, reflecting the complexity of erroneous decisions and their potentially devastating outcome, and the empowerment that comes with taking positive control and receiving supportive advice. "Silent Tears" was inspired by the difficulties experienced by those suffering from clinical depression, underscoring the importance of recognizing the signs and assisting a loved one.

"White Gardenia," a poetic reflection on finding, then losing love, with lyrics by Roger Peace (author of a musical play of the same title starring Lee as Billie Holiday, to be staged in March 2015) coupled with Butler's elegant melody, is enhanced by the strings and, of course, by Lee's haunting delivery. Closing the album is Leon Russell's timeless "A Song For You," which Lee dedicates to her family. Beautifully arranged for strings and featuring longtime collaborator and husband Richard Ring on guitar, the tune showcases her depth and sincerity, her powerful and dynamic vocals. Having drawn comparisons to Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington, Lee clearly has a sound all her own -- evidenced, once again, on this new recording.

Ranee Lee · What's Going On
Justin Time Records ·  Release Date: September 9, 2014

For more information on RANEE LEE, please visit:
For more information on Justin Time Records, please visit:

For media information, please contact:
DL Media  ·  610-667-0501
Matthew Jurasek  ·
Greg Angiolillo ·

Serving the Finest in Jazz Since 1988
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For Immediate Release Please




Laura Dreyer
sax, flute
Itamar Assiere
Jefferson Lescowich
Mila Schiavo
Aldivas Ayres
Davy Mooney
& Bernardo Bososio
Marcio Amaro
Karen Rodriguez
Débora Watts

Teri Koide


New York, July 22, 2014 - Laura Dreyer, a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, has established herself as a vital member of the New York jazz scene. Always drawn to Brazilian music, the composer, educator and multi-instrumentalist created a "latinized" fusion incorporating elements of jazz, funk, and rock.
Dreyer was a founding member and contributing arranger for the big band DIVA. In this capacity, she worked with luminaries Dave Brubeck, Rosemary Clooney, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Slide Hampton and Clark Terry, among others. Additionally she has performed with Dr. Billy Taylor, Mel Lewis, Robert Palmer, Nnenna Freelon, Lea DelariaLeny Andrade and Portinho. She was a band member for the award-winning musicals "Hot and Sweet" and the Duke Ellington tribute, "Hit Me With A Hot Note."

The National Endowment for the Arts awarded Dreyer grants in performance and professional jazz study/composition. She participated in the BMI Jazz Composer's Workshop and four of her songs have received an honorable mention in Billboard Magazine's songwriting contests.

Dreyer has been active as an educator, and continues to write for music publications.

Of her current work she says, "I discovered an intrinsic emotional quality in Brazilian music that helped me find a deeper level of self-expression. After having performed many times with Brazilian jazz artists throughout the years in New York City and Brazil, I began to envision recording my newest album in Rio de Janeiro. I had worked with world-class Rio-based jazz artists in Brazil, and realized that I had found the perfect group of musicians to perform my music and complete my vision."

In the spirit of creating a multi- cultural recording, vocalist and music educator Professor Roger Wesby wrote lyrics in Spanish for one of Dreyer's compositions. Brazilian vocalist Débora Watts adapted these lyrics to Portuguese, and penned lyrics to another one of Dreyer's songs. Vocalist Teri Koide contributed her vocal talents and English lyrics to another piece, and Karen Rodriguez helped with further Spanish lyrics and stellar vocals. The repertoire was completed with the addition of two arrangements of a composition by the legendary Romeo Santos.

The 14 tracks of the CD were recorded in the historic neighborhood of Santa Teresa with engineer Carlos Fuchs at his state of the art studio.

Dreyer concludes, "I am grateful that the magic I felt during the recording session, and my passion for the fascinating sounds of Brazil, are captured on Vida. Arte. Amor."

  1. Caminhos Novos
  2. Beauty & The Beast
  3. Ping Pong
  4. La Pena El Placer (Portuguese Version)
  5. Beijo del Sol (Rio Version)
  6. Spring St.
  7. Vale La Pena El Placer
  8. O Outro Lado do Seu Amor
  9. Perdendo Voce
  10. A Somba Se Foi
  11. Until Daybreak
  12. Arcade
  13. A Danca dos Cacharros
  14. Perdiendote

For further info please visit or

Antje Hübner
hubtone PR | New York
phone: 212-932-1667  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Newburgh Jazz Series presents Tyrone Birkett at Thomas Bull Memorial Park Campbell Hall Wed, July 23rd 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Newburgh Jazz Series
Tyrone Birkett
at Thomas Bull Memorial Park
Campbell Hall
Wed, July 23rd 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Open to the public,
FREE. Bring a chair or blanket.

For more info about our events

Read a preview for this concert HERE

Performing Music From Their
New CD

"Postmodern Spirituals: The Promised Land" 
Listen HERE

Tyrone Birkett | Emancipation "The Promised Land”
(Araminta Music 111562-02)
Street Date March 25, 2014
Tyrone Birkett (saxophones, keyboards); Paula Ralph Birkett (vocals); Gregory Royals (piano, organ); Reggie Young (electric Bass); Jason Patterson (drums) Except on: Strength - Pablo Vergara (electric keyboards); Camille Gainer Jones (drums) The Promise - Pablo Vergara (piano); John Benitez (acoustic Bass);
Camille Gainer Jones (drums)
Saxophonist Tyrone Birkett has synthesized his mentorship by jazz greats Frank Foster and Budd Johnson, years toiling in black church sanctuaries and 70s soul-jazz into a distinctive fusion. An “outsider” artist not common to the jazz scene, not considering himself a jazz musician in the strictest sense, he has nonetheless developed a powerful lyrical sound with shades of post-Coltraneisms, jazz sensibilities and an idiosyncratic but musical melodic sense. A composer and conceptualist as well, he has created “Postmodern Spirituals”, a retelling of the Negro freedom song. Created as a voice for freedom in contemporary times, by re-imagining and reviving the Negro spiritual.

Postmodern Spirituals: The Promised Land is the first presentation of the Postmodern Spiritual concept, featuring saxophonist Tyrone Birkett with vivid compositions that vary from the funk-driven epic “The Departure”, commencing with a bold declaration, an overture of sorts for the project. Vocalist Paula Ralph-Birkett gives the statement of purpose which flows into a sax solo that "preaches the message". Other selections range from a re-imagining of the Negro Spiritual "Motherless Child' revived by a soulful vocal rendition, funky underpinning and new arrangement, "Strength" with a determined vocal delivery by Paula Ralph-Birkett and a unyielding sax solo by Tyrone Birkett.

Then a modern re-creation of a slave’s sorrow song, the heartfelt ballad “Deep River”, (which is heard in the 1929 film version of "Showboat"); the impressionistic “Freedom Dreaming” ; ending with the haunting “The Promise” with a melody inspired by Wayne Shorter featuring a passionate solo by bassist John Benitez, round out the album.

Together these songs suggest a revitalizing of the classic “CTI” sound with its blending of soulful sophistication, added by a rich and imaginative harmonic palette and curious usage of form.
The message of the music is translated through the lyrics and melody that can be described as “neo-folk” in its character underpinned at times by modernistic
harmonic structures. Presented with a versatile and able cast of musicians, this recording promotes the notion of freedom in word and deed, style and substance.

“Postmodern Spirituals: The Promised Land”, Freedom Music for the 21st century. 

Media Contact

Jim Eigo
Jazz Promo Services
272 State Route 94 South #1
Warwick, NY 10990-3363
Ph: 845-986-1677 / Fax: 845-986-1699
Cell / text: 917-755-8960
Skype: jazzpromo

Jazz Journal JULY 2014

JULY 2014

Ehud Asherie Bruce Lindsay investigates a young pianist bringing new life to a broad mainstream repertoire from Eubie Blake onwards

Profiles: Jack Honeyborne remembers the days when you could be a professional jobbing musician; Alexander Bone looks forward to some sort of musical career after winning the first BBC Young Musician Jazz Award; Kerem Görsev says that despite owning 89 Bill Evans albums he will never play an Evans tune on stage

Letters More Pee Wee painting; learnéd jazz; Graham Boatfield; Les Tomkins & Ronnie’s; Iggy, top of the jazz Pops

Curtis Stigers Derek Ansell interviews a man who over the past 20 years has transformed himself from longhaired pop singer into top-billed jazz vocalist

Don Fagerquist Gordon Jack reintroduces the trumpeter overlooked by many but not by employers Krupa, Shaw, Herman and Pell

Still Clinging to the Wreckage Steve Voce looks forward to a reissue of the 1961 Armstrong/Ellington session and muses on the tension between Sonny Stitt and Miles Davis

The Classical Tinge Part 6 (ii): Strayhorn, Strings & Schneider. Dave Jones continues his series on the relationship between classical music and jazz

Obituaries: Joe Wilder, modest possessor of ‘one of the most beautiful trumpet sounds in jazz’; Herb Jeffries, singer, actor, initiator of all-black Western movies and skin-tone satirist; Armando Peraza, Cuban percussionist with George Shearing, Cal Tjader and Carlos Santana and many leading names in popular music; Alan Davie, Scottish artist and musician who did a portrait of Sonny Rollins and played with Evan Parker, Tony Oxley and others

Origin Records to Release “The Forward (Towards Equality) Suite” by Composer & Bandleader Anthony Branker & His Octet Word Play, July 15

With a unique combination of depth and accessibility, composer and bandleader Anthony Branker is able to put forth a jazz perspective steeped in soulful optimism. "The Forward (Towards Equality) Suite," the Princeton University professor’s latest project for Origin Records, is a stylistically diverse twelve-movement work spotlighting Branker's exceptional prowess as a composer and guided by thought-provoking material meant to embody the essence of America and its people. 

"The Forward (Towards Equality) Suite" is Anthony Branker’s seventh recording as a leader and sixth for Origin Records. Featuring his all-star group “Word Play,” we hear the latest from the pen of this forward-thinking composer whose work has steadily been gaining recognition worldwide. Recently, Branker was named in Down Beat magazine’s 62nd Annual Critics Poll as a "Rising Star Composer."
As a composer who takes delight in incorporating an eclectic array of styles and approaches in his recordings, Branker’s new CD features a broad range of influences – from jazz to spoken word and funk – to modal music and R&B – to African and Afro-Latin sensibilities – to freer methods of music-making.
As Branker shares, “I wanted the music for this project to be reflective of our democratic spirit; our dedication to the principles of freedom and equality; the multiplicity of cultures that have come together to comprise our country; the array of diverse influences that have shaped us; as well as our passionate, vibrant, and soulful nature.”
Anthony Branker is joined on this captivating recording by a powerhouse edition of his group "Word Play" featuring several long-time collaborators that include tenor & soprano saxophonist Ralph Bowen, pianist Jim Ridl, bassist Kenny Davis, drummer Donald Edwards, and conguero Renato Thoms as well as new additions to the collective – alto saxophonist David Binney, trombonist Conrad Herwig, and vocalist Alison Crockett. Also appearing as guests are 5th Grade students from the Martin Luther King Elementary School in Piscataway, New Jersey who provide spoken word offerings.
Branker recognizes how extraordinary it was to work with this collection of musicians: “Every member of the group is someone whose music I have greatly admired for a long time. I am absolutely blessed to have these brilliant artists involved in this project…they have infused the music with their unique sensibilities and, together, have provided an indescribable spirit!”
According to Branker, the concept for "The Forward (Towards Equality) Suite" was realized during the fall of 2012 when he was out of the country on sabbatical and watching the final weeks of the presidential election campaign unfold by way of international television news media. “During this time, I thought long and hard about what America meant to my family, who came to the United States from the West Indies in the 1950s, and what it might mean to future generations of my family…I thought about notions of democracy, freedom, justice, and equality…I thought about where we have been as a nation and what we can still aspire to be and accomplish in the name of all Americans, if we, as a people, could simply come together as one, on behalf of all…”
Branker’s new "Forward Suite" release is filled with an abundance of memorable moments, created, in no small part, by the emphasis he places on presenting lyrical melodies, infectious grooves, and passion-filled collective conversations within the ensemble. “The principle I value most as a composer is the importance of communicating and connecting with the listener in some way. In fact, I believe that melodic lyricism and rhythmic feel can be used in powerful ways to bring others into our musical world, because it is through these elements that most people come to interact with music as listeners.”
While there are far too many musical highlights on this CD to give adequate attention to in this space, several are worth noting. Composed in 2005, the Woody Shaw-John Coltrane influenced “Forgotten Peoples” is packed with imaginative solos and fiery ensemble play. This was Branker’s creative response to images he viewed of victims of Hurricane Katrina living in New Orleans stranded and huddled together waiting on rooftops above the flood waters; hoping to be rescued and wondering whether America had turned their backs on them during their time of despair.
Constructed around the rhythm of the syllables found in its title, the contagiously joyous “Equality” features vivid and dazzling improvisational performances by saxophonist Binney and pianist Ridl in a quartet setting with Davis and Edwards. “Its performance,” as Branker writes in his liner notes, “reveals the kind of communicative interaction that can take place when individuals are connected to each other by a necessary mutuality. Here, each member is viewed as an equal and what guides the creative process is an unspoken obligation to a spirit of we, which I believe is symbolic of our democratic disposition. It also illustrates what can emerge when diverse voices unite and work together.”
Special mention should also be given to “Our Dreams,” the Suite’s seventh movement on which Branker collaborated with sixteen 5th Grade students from the Martin Luther King Elementary School who shared their dreams for the future of this country and the citizens of the world. As Branker states, “It was incredible to return to the town in which I grew up to work with these remarkable young people who talked about, with hope and innocence in their voices, such pressing social issues as poverty, gun violence, hunger, racism, education, pollution, and joblessness. They also spoke of their desire to one day live in a world where the concept of peace could be experienced by all.”
Since 2004, Anthony Branker has led two jazz collectives ("Ascent" and "Word Play") and has added seven recordings to his musically rich discography as a composer. They include the Origin releases "The Forward (Towards Equality) Suite" (2014), "Uppity" (2013), "Together" (2012), "Dialogic" (2011), "Dance Music" (2010), "Blessings" (2009), and the 2006 "Spirit Songs" recording on Sons of Sound Records.
Besides the musicians found in his current Word Play ensemble, Branker’s recording projects have also featured Mark Gross, Tia Fuller, Steve Wilson, Antonio Hart, Andy Hunter, Clifford Adams, Eli Asher, Jonny King, Bryan Carrott, John Benitez, Belden Bullock, Adam Cruz, Ralph Peterson Jr., Wilby Fletcher, Kadri Voorand, and Freddie Bryant.
Branker holds an endowed chair in jazz studies and is the director of jazz studies at Princeton University, where he has taught for the past 25 years. Internationally, he has served as a visiting composer at conservatories in Denmark, Germany, and Estonia, and has had his music featured in performance in Italy, Australia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, China, Russia, Lithuania, and Japan. In addition, his music has also been presented in such New York venues as the Iridium Jazz Club, Sweet Basil Jazz Club, The Five Spot, Symphony Space, and the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Branker is very enthusiastic when he talks about "The Forward (Towards Equality) Suite" release and feels it represents some of his best work to date as a composer/bandleader. “I am so proud of this project as both a recording and as an extended composition! Yet, anyone who knows me is aware that I’ve never been fond of sitting still too long. I guess at the heart of it all is this desire to keep on exploring and discovering, to continue to use music as a means to provide commentary on life and our world, and to create interesting music with others that will hopefully resonate in some way with listeners.”
"The Forward (Towards Equality) Suite" will undoubtedly be a recording that will resonate with many because of its beauty, infectious energy, and positive messages. When composer Anthony Branker brings you into his musical world, you may never want to leave!
Anthony Branker
J Prof Music


Trombonist Reggie Watkins to Release "One for Miles, One for Maynard," Aug. 26

"One for Miles, One for Maynard,"
Second CD from
Pittsburgh-Based Trombonist/Composer
Reggie Watkins,
Due for August 26 Release

CD Release Shows Featuring Watkins's Quartet
Scheduled for
Rockwood Music Hall, NYC, 9/25 &
James Street Gastropub, Pittsburgh, 9/27  

July 15, 2014

Reggie Watkins One for Miles One for Maynard If there was a lesson trombonist Reggie Watkins learned from both Maynard Ferguson and Miles Davis, it was that jazz can -- and should -- go anywhere it wants, stylistically. On his infectious new album, One for Miles, One for Maynard -- his second as a leader and first since 2004 -- Watkins and his band offer deep bop grooves, soulful vigor, and sparkling interplay. The CD will be released by Corona Music on August 26.
Produced by the trombonist and recorded in the historic Heid Studio in Pittsburgh, where Watkins has been based since the mid-'90s, the recording features a cast of terrific and versatile players from the area including the rhythm section of pianist Howard Alexander III of the Afro American Music Institute, double bassist Jeff Grubbs of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and drummer David Throckmorton, a "monster" player, says Watkins, whose father Bob drummed with singer Buddy Greco, among others.

Those names, plus those of trumpeter Ian Gordon, lead trumpeter Steve Hawk, and saxophonist Rick Matt, may not be familiar to people in other cities. But they're all highly regarded players -- as is Brooklyn wild card Matt Parker, who, like Watkins, Throckmorton, and Matt, is an alumnus of Maynard Ferguson's Big Bop Nouveau.

"Maynard had a wave of Pittsburgh musicians in his band," says Watkins. "He'd come through town and, based on recommendations, snap people up. That band worked nine months out of the year and played a million gigs. I got so much out of it."

Reggie Watkins   
The "one" for Miles, "Shhh," from In a Silent Way, is played in "a relaxed, thoughtful mode," while Ferguson's "Chala Nata," from his 1970 M.F. Horn album, is updated with scratch effects, samples, and funky groove. Three originals by the leader, two from saxophonist Parker, and one by McCoy Tyner ("Contemplation") round out the program.

Reggie Watkins was born on August 24, 1971 in Wheeling, West Virginia. He played trumpet and tuba in high school before switching to valve trombone, then eventually slide trombone. It was as a music major at West Virginia University that he was first exposed to the playing of 'bone legend J.J. Johnson.

"From the first moment I heard him solo, my life was changed," he said. "J.J.'s melodic concept, the clarity of his tone, just the image of him playing got to me. As dazzled as I was by his speed, it was those other things that mattered the most."

In Pittsburgh, Watkins was influenced by Roger Humphries, the local legend known for playing with Horace Silver on such classic albums as Song for My Father. Watkins became involved in various bands and gained a reputation for his strong, groove-minded playing.

In 1999, Watkins became Maynard Ferguson's trombonist, music director, and arranger. He is featured as a trombonist and arranger on Swingin' for Schuur, the 2001 album the trumpeter made with singer Diane Schuur.

Reggie Watkins In 2003, Watkins performed at the 16th annual Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Competition -- the only one dedicated to the trombone. He didn't win -- that honor went to Andre Heyward of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. But he was thrilled to have been chosen as one of 11 semi-finalists by trombone greats Conrad Herwig and Eddie Bert and to perform with the all-star rhythm section of Eric Reed, Robert Hurst, and Carl Allen. "I also got to perform in front of my idols," he said. "It was an amazing experience."

The next year, Watkins recorded his first album, A-List, which was part of the Maynard Ferguson Presents series. The recording featured his compositions and arrangements.

Watkins played with pop artist Jason Mraz ("I'm Yours") from 2008 to 2013 as part of The Grooveline Horns, an Austin, Texas-based pop and funk horn section that prides itself on being able to play anything from Engelbert Humperdinck to the Beastie Boys. He values his experience with Mraz as much as any in his career.

"I'm into all parts of music, everything," says Watkins, who lived in Austin during most of his association with Mraz. "There's nothing I'm adamantly against. It was refreshing to gain perspective, going back and forth from jazz bands to Jason. I found out that I really loved section work. And Grooveline is a great section to work in."

Watkins is planning two shows to mark the release of One for Miles, One for Maynard. He'll be performing with his quartet (including Howard Alexander III, piano, and David Throckmorton, drums) at Rockwood Music Hall in New York City, 9/25, and James Street Gastropub, Pittsburgh, 9/27. 

"It was important for me on this record to represent honestly not just my influences but also my own voice and where I've been," says Watkins.   

Reggie Watkins Shhh 
Reggie Watkins "Shhh"

Photography: Sienna Watkins
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