Monday, February 29, 2016

USA: Marcos Varela-San Ygnacio (Origin Records 2016)

San Ygnacio
Though a well-established member of New York's jazz scene for the past 12 years, bassist and composer Marcos Varela looks back to his birthplace of San Ygnacio, Texas and his trek still in progress as inspiration for his debut recording. Pulling together mentors and brothers in music - including master drummer Billy Hart, pianist George Cables, saxophonist Dayna Stephens and trombonist Clifton Anderson - they supply a warm depth of spirit to this collection of compositions, some from the playlists from his tours with the bands of Billy Hart, Winard Harper, and Clifton Anderson, along with Varela's own originals. From his family's move to present day Southern Texas from old-world Spain, his youth in Houston with its deep blues and church music influences, and his years in NY performing constantly with legendary masters and highly-regarded peers, 'San Ygnacio' reveals elements of all that while offering an exciting introduction to a dynamic musical voice. '. . . his tone, choice of notes and compositions will place his playing and name on the list of bassists to be heard' - Ron Carter

GERMANY: Johannes Bigge Trio - PEGASUS

Upcoming tour with new Album PEGASUS!

Dear Jazz lovers,

Johannes Bigge (piano), Moritz Baumgaertner (drums) and Attika Kontou (bass) start their debut album tour through Germany!

The eight pieces on PEGASUS reflect all kinds of influences, but avoid adapting structures or even familiar melodies directly. Instead, the Johannes Bigge Trio finds their own topics, meanders from catchy motifs to flowing lines, circling repetitions or edgy riffs, playing sometimes gently, sometimes impetuously.

Johannes Bigge sees his compositions as stories that have become sound. It is about a mood and a musical narrative flow in which a part of the composition passes into the next, guides the dynamics of the piece through various modifications and ultimately again to the beginning, or ends up somewhere else.

A while ago, the journalist and festival curator Bernd Noglik put it like this: “Johannes Bigge is on his way to creating his own musical language. His highly nuanced way of shaping sound from the piano does without the fashionable; instead, it proves to be highly talented, sensitive, original and innovative."

The album PEGASUS, the debut album of the trio, lives – among others – from these particular interactions.

If you like to read the newsletter in German or French, please get back to us!!!

Upcoming Concerts:

Johannes Bigge Trio - Pegasus

Thu 25 Feb 2016
Germany Leipzig - Telegraph
Fri 26 Feb 2016
Germany Kalkhorst - Gut Dönkendorf
Wed 16 March 2016
Germany Freiberg - IG Jazz
Fri 18 March 2016
Germany Cologne - Loft
Thu 12 May 2016
Germany Frankfurt - Fabrik
Fri 13 May 2016
Germany Schweinfurt - Disharmonie 
Sat 14 May 2016
Germany Bayreuth - Glashaus
Sun 15 May 2016
Germany Aub - Ars Musica
Tue 17 May 2016
Germany Lübeck - CVJM
Sat 21 May 2016
Germany Pohrsdorf - Saxstall

Sun 22 May 2016
Germany Berlin - A-Trane
more tour dates upcoming!
Central America Tour
Nils Wogram Root 70 - Wise Men Can Be Wrong

Fri 26 Feb 2016
El Salvador San SalvadorJazz Festival San Salvador

Sat 27 Feb 2016
El Salvador Suchitoto Teatro Alejandro Cotto

Sun 28 Feb 2016
Honduras TegucigalpaRedondel de los Artesanos

Fri 04 Mar 2016
Guatemala Guatemala Cityvenue to be announced 

Sat 05 Mar 2016
Mexico Mexico CityEurojazz Festival at Centro Nacional de las Artes 

Wed 09 Mar 2016
Mexico San Luis PotosíEspejo de Agua, Centro de las Artes de San Luis Potosí   

Sat 12 Mar 2016
Nicaragua ManaguaCinemateca Nacional (Palacio de la Cultura de Nicaragua)

New album "PEGASUS" OUT NOW!!!
Johannes Bigge Trio

Johannes Bigge - Piano
Moritz Baumgaertner - Drums
Attika Kontou - Bass

=> order your CD @ my labelshop
=> purchase your download

Sunday, February 28, 2016

USA Highlights In Jazz Salute to Paquito D’Rivera Thursday March 3rd 8pm @ Tribeca Performing Arts

Jack Kleinsinger’s Highlights In Jazz, New York’s longest running jazz concert series, continues its 44th season on Thursday March 3, 2016 with a A Salute To Paquito D’Rivera featuring the multi Grammy Award Winning saxophonist/clarinetist with his critically acclaimed Latin Jazz Quintet featuring trumpeter Diego Urcola and the world premiere of Clarinet Summit with D’Rivera, Ken Peplowski and Will and Peter Anderson, plus, as in all Highlights In Jazz concerts, a surprise special guest.
The second concert of the Highlights 44th season A Salute to Paquito D’Rivera who will be honored as this year’s recipient of the Annual Highlights In Jazz Award which has been presented every year since 1974 to honor a singular living jazz musician for their “matchless musical achievements.”  D’Rivera joins an esteemed roster of previous honorees including Roy Eldridge, Lionel Hampton, Roy Haynes, Hank Jones, Frank Wess, Dr. Billy Taylor and many others.  Kleinsinger is proud to bestow this honor upon D’Rivera recalling that the alto saxophonist/clarinetist, who will be making his fourth Highlights In Jazz appearance, originally performed on the series back in 1984 not long after he first arrived in the US from his native Cuba, on a program billed Jazz Is My Passport that also featured Brazilian songstress Astrud Gilberto and Belgian harmonica legend Toots Theilmans. Since then he has appeared in other Highlights In Jazz programs, both as a guest soloist and with his own group. D’Rivera remembers  “Jack Kleinsinger was one of the first impresarios to invite me to join his prestigious series.  For that, and for his contribution for this music, I hold him in high esteem, and as a dear friend.”  This show will have D’Rivera performing with his working quintet featuring Argentine trumpeter Diego Urcola, pianist Alex Brown, bassist Zach Brown, and drummer Erik Doob, as well as part of a Clarinet Summit with previous Highlights In Jazz Award recipient Ken Peplowski and twin brother reed men Will and Peter Anderson, who appeared together on Highlights’ successful Saxophone Summit concert in 2015.  The four clarinetists will be ably assisted by the exciting young rhythm team of bassist David Wong and drummer Kenny Washington.

As in all Highlights In Jazz concerts, these great artists will be joined by a surprise special guest. Some of the biggest stars in jazz who have appeared as special guests in previous years have been Eubie Blake, Cab Calloway, Dizzy Gillespie, Earl Hines, Branford Marsalis, Carmen McRae, Gerry Mulligan, George Shearing and other jazz luminaries.

Jack Kleinsinger’s Highlights In Jazz, continues its 44th season on Thursday May 12th with Highlights In Jazz Audience Favorites.  The all star cast will feature two Highlights In Jazz Award Winners guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, along with vocalist Alexis Cole, trumpeter Bria Skonberg, guitarist Frank Vignola, bassist/vocalist Nicki Parrott and drummer Alvin Atkinson. The season will conclude on Thursday June 16th with Trio Time, featuring the classic jazz of the Dick Hyman Trio with bassist Jay Leonhart and guitarist Howard Alden and the Brazilian sounds of Trio da Paz, with guitarist Romero Lumbambo, bassist Nilson Matta and drummer Duduka Da Fonseca.
All Shows At

BMCC TRIBECA Performing Arts Center
Borough of Manhattan Community College
199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007

By car take FDR Drive south to end, through underpass onto West Street,
north to Chambers.
By Subway take 1, 2, 3, 9, A, C, E, J or M train to Chambers or N, R to City Hall stop. Walk west on Chambers.
Box Office 212-220-1460
Ticket Prices
$45.00 (student rate with valid ID)
or by mail order.
$180.00 per subscription

Tickets can be purchased in advance at the box office.
You are now able to use your credit card at the Tribeca PAC Box Office located on 199 Chambers Street, or by calling (212) 220-1460 and now online at

Please send a check made payable to: Highlights In Jazz

Please mail orders to:
Highlights In Jazz 

7 Peter Cooper Road, Apt. 11E  New York NY 10010
(Please enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope)

Highlights in Jazz 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

BRAZIL/SPAIN/SWEDEN/CUBA/SWITZERLAND: FEB 2016 | Pellegrino Live Music Musical Programming Booking

María Toro Quartet
The Colors and exoticism of Jazz Flamenco
Line-up: María Toro, flute | Jean-Michel Pilc, piano |Ben Street, double bass | Justin Brown, drums
Ulf Wakenius Trio
An electrifying organ trio with the best guitar jazz repertoire. Line-up: Ulf Wakenius, guitar | Leonardo Corradi, organ | Tony Match, drums
Video (Full concert in Brazil, May 2015)
Leny Andrade & Quintet
The legend of Brazilian Jazz & Bossa
Line-up: Leny Andrade, vocals | João C Coutinho, piano | Ney Conceição, bass | Paulinho Trumpete, trumpet | Widor Santiago, sax | Erivelton Silva, drums
Video (Ronnie Scotts, UK. 2014) (Boehmia Jazz Fest, CZ, 2014) (Umbria Jazz Winter, 2010)
Cainã Cavalcante & Michael Pipoquinha Duo
Bass & Guitar virtuous duo from Brazil's northeast Line-up: Cainã Cavalcante, guitar | Michael Pipoquinha, bass
BOOKING NOW: EUROPE (June 23 to 26 & July 3 to 12)
CONFIRMED July 2nd: Rigas Ritmi Festival, Latvia
Yilian Cañizares Quintet
A powerfull flow of fresh and modern mix of latin with world. Line-up: Yilian Cañizares, violin | Daniel Stawinski, piano | David Brito, bass | Cyril Regamey, drums | Inor Sotolongo, percussion
CONFIRMED July 1st: Rigas Ritmi Festival, Latvia
*East/North Europe/South America
Gabriel Grossi Trio
Ease, explosion and breathtaking improvisations. One of the most virtuous jazz harmonica players of the world.  Line-up: Gabriel Grossi, harmonica | Jurandir Santana, guitar | Reinaldo Boaventura, percussion
Pellegrino Live Music
Rua Gustavo Sampaio 426 / 504 Leme
Rio de Janeiro/RJ 22010-010 Brasil

GERMANY/USA/ITALY/AUSTRALIA : Engelbert Wrobel, Paolo Alderighi, Nicki Parrot, Stephanie Trick - From Joplin To Jobim (Click Records 2016)

From Joplin to Jobim
01. The Cascades (4:01)
02. Blueberry Hill (4:52)
03. Tico Tico No Fuba (4:54)
04. September Song (4:30)
05. Agitation Rag (2:50)
06. Bei Mir Bist Du Schon (4:07)
07. Doralice (4:23)
08. Thanks For The Memory (3:43)
09. Liza (4:18)
10. Aquarela Do Brasil (2:54)
11. Donna (4:30)
12. The Girl From Ipanema/Wave/Aqua De Beber (7:23)
13. Willie El Gato (3:29)
14. Swingin' Ladies Boogie (3:05)
15. Il Profumo Del Mondo (3:46)

Engelbert Wrobel (clarinet, saxophone, GER)
Stephanie Trick (piano, USA)
Paolo Alderighi (Piano, IT)”
Nicki Parrott (bass, vocal, AUS)

Saturday, February 27, 2016

USA: Jazz @Rutgers 250: Music, Art and the Written Word Wed., March 2, 2016 4:30pm FREE

Jazz @Rutgers 250:
Music, Art and the Written Word

Wed., March 2, 2016 4:30pm

Photo by Ed Berger
Enjoy performances by the Leo Johnson Quartet and the NJPAC Jazz for Teens, an art exhibition by the Brodsky Center featuring the works on jazz by Faith Ringgold, an exhibition of the works of Walter Dean Myers, and other presentations by the New Jersey Center for the Book. This event is hosted by Rutgers Retired Faculty and Staff Advisory Council and cosponsored by The Jazz Institute, The Brodsky Center, The New Jersey Center for the Book, Rutgers University Libraries.

Location: Newark Campus of Rutgers University Paul Robeson Center, Essex Room, 350 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard, Newark, NJ.

This event is free and open to the public.
 Space is limited. RSVP early.

Leo Johnson who plays tenor sax came to Newark in the late '50s before joining the service and becoming a member of the U.S. Air Force Band in Europe. After his tour ended, he returned to Newark and has been a mainstay on the jazz scene ever since. These days, he fronts his own quartet, but in the past he has played in the bands of Specks Williams, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Bill Doggett, Jack McDuff, Jimmy McGriff and Chico Mendoza. Johnson served as musical director of Little Jimmy Scott's band and also toured with organist Rhoda Scott, recording with her in Paris. He holds a BA in music performance and a master's in jazz history from Rutgers-Newark. Over the years, Johnson has also served as a mentor to many young musicians who either lived locally or came to the New York metropolitan area seeking a career in jazz, these artists include Cassandra Wilson, Winard and Phillip Harper, Terence Blanchard, Victor Jones, Andy McCloud, Dave Eubanks, Alan Watson and Regina Belle. Johnson has released two CDs in recent years: "It's About Time" and "Message to Mankind." He is the musical director of the Newark Jazz Elders, who were proclaimed in 2007, “New Jersey’s living legends jazz band” by Jon Corzine, then Governor of the State.

NJPAC’s Teen Jazz Quartet, members of the PAC’s Jazz for Teens Program, which brings together 7th-12th grade instrumental and vocal students from diverse communities in the tri-state region (NJ/NY/PA) for multi-faceted, intensive instruction in jazz. The Music Director and faculty are professional touring musicians and teaching artists who mentor students in the time-honored tradition of the genre.

The work of Faith Ringgold is the centerpiece of the art exhibition.
She has received more than 75 awards, fellowships, citations and honors, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Fellowship for painting, two National Endowment for the Arts Awards (for painting and sculpture) and 23 honorary doctorates, one of which is from her alma mater The City College of New York. Ringgold is professor emeritus at the University of California in San Diego, California and is represented by ACA Galleries in New York City. Ringgold has close ties to Rutgers and to its Brodsky Center. Her first big survey exhibition was at the Zimmerli Art Museum; she has worked on projects at and with the Brodsky Center; she has received a Rutgers Honorary degree; and Rutgers gives one of her prints as the official gift to honorary degree recipients.

For more than a decade the New Jersey Center for the Book (NJCB) has advanced a dynamic literacy agenda, championing its definition as the ability to read and write while extending it to include literacies rising in the 21st century. NJCB initiatives reach out to the richly diverse communities of our state, from those residing in our challenged inner cities to those in our outlying suburbs.  A number of their initiatives will also be on display.

The work of Walter Dean Myers, collected posthumously, demonstrates that he is the centerpiece of the written word exhibition not only because he was a jazz enthusiast and supporter, but also because of the quality, uniqueness and intrinsic merit of what he produced as an author. A revolutionary thinker, he redefined the young African Americans male in literature and opened previously closed windows to their world. Critics have called him “one of the most important authors of young adult literature of our age.” He won the
Coretta Scott King Award for African-American authors five times.  His 1988 novel Fallen Angels is one of the books most frequently challenged in the U.S. because of its adult language and its realistic depiction of the Vietnam War.  Myers was the third U.S. National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, appointed by the Library of Congress (LC) serving in 2012 and 2013.  In 2016 LC instituted the Walter Award in his honor, given annually to the Emerging Majority author whose work features a diverse main character or addresses diversity in a meaningful way.

4:30-7:00 pm: Jazz performances in the Essex Room at the Robeson Center on the Rutgers Newark Campus
7:00--Refreshments plus exhibitions of art (the work of Faith Ringgold) & the written words (the works of Walter Dean Myers) and additional authors located in the Dana Library across the Norman Samuels Plaza from the Robeson Center.

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail:

USA: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis -Abyssinian Mass (Blue Engine Records 2016)

Abyssinian Mass 

In 2008, nine-time GRAMMY Award winner Wynton Marsalis was commissioned to write a piece commemorating the 200th anniversary of Harlem s Abyssinian Baptist Church. The result was a sacred celebration: a sweeping composition for a big band and 70-piece gospel choir. In 2013, award-winning recording artist Damien Sneed and his choir, Chorale Le Chateau, joined the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis on a 16-city, 19-show tour across the American south and into deep dialogue with the African American history. Now, The Abyssinian Mass Marsalis s first original recorded composition in six years documents this piece s immense power to make audiences clap their hands and sing along to its joyous spirituality, its profound swing, and its bluesy swagger.

This landmark double album also includes a new essay from renowned public intellectual Leon Wieseltier and a bonus DVD documentary that features performances, interviews, and insights into the process behind The Abyssinian Mass. The album s exploration of the African American experience places it in the tradition of Marsalis's Pulitzer Prize-winning composition and record Blood on the Fields. As The Abyssinian Mass reminds us, In this great land of ours, everyone has a place. No matter your faith or background, The Abyssinian Mass is a sprawling, soulful triumph and a swinging affirmation of just how good being human can feel.

GERMANY: Angelika Niescier & Florian Weber - NYC Five (Intakt 2016)

With their new album, alto player and bandleader Angelica Niescier and pianist and composer Florian Weber both from Cologne, Germany place themselves at the centre of the New York jazz scene.
Their quintet NYC FIVE is completed by three jazz musicians in great demand in the “Big Apple”: trumpeter Ralph Alessi, bassplayer Christopher Tordini and drummer Tyshawn Sorey. The quintet plays highly contemporary jazz with original tunes, distinctive arrangments, complex rhythms and expressive improvisations.
Laurence Donohue-Greene, editor at «The New York City Jazz Record» writes: "With this new dynamic quintet – Angelika, Florian, Ralph, Chris and Tyshawn present a unique aura of timelessness, as much influenced from decades past as about the present and future state of jazz, from New York and beyond." And: "Angelika’s distinctive tone shoots right through to the listener’s core."

1. The Barn Thing 08:28
2. And Over 10:20
3. Invaded 06:39
4. The Liquid Stone 07:31
5. Parsifal 06:21
6. Für Krefeld 08:06

Angelika Niescier: Saxophone
Ralph Alessi: Trumpet
Florian Weber: Piano
Christopher Tordini: Bass
Tyshawn Sorey: Drums

Friday, February 26, 2016

USA: Bill O’Connell And The Latin Jazz All-Stars "Heart Beat" CD Release Show Monday, April 25th @ Subrosa

Bill O’Connell And The Latin Jazz All-Stars

"Heart Beat" CD Release Show
Monday, April 25th
@ Subrosa
Shows at 7:30 and 9:30

Bill O'Connell-piano
Steve Slagle-sax and flute
Conrad Herwig-trombone
Luques Curtis- bass
Richie Barshay-drums
Roman Diaz-congas

63 Gansevoort St,
New York, NY 10014 
(646) 240-4264 

BILL O’CONNELL and the Latin Jazz All-Stars
Heart Beat

Conrad Herwig
Steve Slagle
Luques Curtis
Richie Barshay
Roman Diaz


1.       Vertigo                                                                                                              6:57
          (B. O’Connell)  (O’Connell Music)  SESAC

2.       The Eyes of a Child                                                                                           7:37
          (B. O’Connell)  (O’Connell Music)  SESAC

3.       Awani                                                                                                               5:30
          (B. O’Connell)  (O’Connell Music / Roman Diaz)  SESAC / BMI

4.       Waters of March                                                                                               6:50
          (A.C. Jobim)  (Corcovado Music)  BMI

5.       Tabasco                                                                                                           4:38
          (B. O’Connell)  (O’Connell Music)  SESAC

6.       ESP                                                                                                                  6:11
          (W. Shorter)  (Miyako Music)  BMI

7.       Heart-Beat                                                                                                        7:11
          (B. O’Connell)  (O’Connell Music)  SESAC

8.       Wake Up                                                                                                          4:31
          (B. O’Connell)  (O’Connell Music)  SESAC

9.       Peace On Earth                                                                                                7:08
          (B. O’Connell)  (O’Connell Music / Roman Diaz)  SESAC / BMI


Bill O’Connell – piano
Conrad Herwig – trombone
Steve Slagle – soprano (tr. 1, 4, 7), alto (tr. 3, 6, 8, 9) saxophones & flute (tr. 2 & 5)
Luques Curtis – bass
Richie Barshay – drums
Roman Diaz – congas, percussion, bata drums (tr.  2 & 9), vocal (tr. 9)
Melvis Santa – vocal (tr. 3, 6, 9)
Diego Lopez & Clemente Medina – bata drums (tr. 2 & 9)

All arrangements by Bill O’Connell

Produced by Bill O’Connell
Executive Producer: Joe Fields
Engineered by Chris Sulit
Recorded at Trading 8’s Music, Paramus, NJ on June 2 & 3, 2015
Mixed by Kevin Blackler at Blackler Mastering
Photography: Sophie Solomon-O’Connell

Bill O’Connell is a Steinway Artist
Steve Slagle plays Yanagisawa Soprano Saxophone and Van Doren Reeds
Conrad Herwig performs exclusively on Michael Rath trombones
Luques Curtis plays D’Addario strings & appears courtesy of Truth Revolution Records
Richie Barshay plays Canopus Drums, Remo Drumheads, Zildjian Cymbals and Vic Firth Sticks
Roman Diaz plays Latin Percussion

Conrad Herwig appears courtesy of Half Note Records
Roman Diaz appears courtesy of Motema Music

“Most of my contemporaries didn’t go down this path,” Bill O’Connell says, reflecting on his decision to immerse himself in the heady world of Latin jazz at the onset of his career as a keyboardist, composer and arranger. “But I saw the beauty in this music and it touched me on an emotional and intellectual level,” he adds. “So, four decades later, here I am.”

Here as well are O’Connell’s devoted fans, primed to relish the latest offering by this man of many talents on Heart Beat, his fourth release for the Savant label. Always one to seek out new ways to express his music vision, the pianist has throughout his career embraced a broad stylistic swath of jazz, Latin and Brazilian idioms while experimenting with an equally diverse orchestral formats, from a duo to unconventional trio settings and ensembles of various sizes. His well-known resume includes long stints as keyboardist and arranger for the legendary Cuban conguero Mongo Santamaria and Puerto Rican flautist Dave Valentín as well as engagements with a diverse array of jazz and Latin artists, from saxophonists Sonny Rollins and Gato Barbieri to trumpeters Chet Baker and Jerry Gonzalez.

On Heart Beat, the frontline of O’Connell’s handpicked Latin Jazz All-Stars more than lives up to its billing. Trombonist Conrad Herwig, a long-serving member of pianist Eddie Palmieri’s Latin jazz group, and has put his own stamp on the music via a series of critically-acclaimed The Latin Side of recordings which have given a Latin spin to the compositions of such luminaries as Herbie Hancock and John Coltrane. “I’ve gotten really tight with him since playing on his projects,” O’Connell says of his friend, a fellow music professor at Rutgers University. “He’s truly a virtuoso on the trombone with a beautiful sweet tone and very melodic ideas.” As for woodwind artist Steve Slagle, O’Connell has known him since the 1980s and has long been aware of his unique gifts. “He brings a unique voice to whatever he plays,” the leader comments, “very free but also swingin’.”

The core rhythm section of bassist Luques Curtis, drummer Richie Barshay and Cuban conga drummer and percussionist Roman Diaz is perfectly suited to O’Connell’s overall concept. “Every member of my group needs to really know the vocabulary of both Latin and jazz idioms,” he states. “These guys all have a sensitive touch but can also express themselves dynamically.” The presence of these rhythm aces, plus vocalist Melvis Santa on three tracks, allows O’Connell to experiment with some heretofore seldom used elements – the rustic cadence of folkloric-rooted conga and batá drumming and the use of a coro (vocal chorus) to add a touch of mysticism. 

The tracks, including seven originals by the leader, convey a wide range of sonic moods and rhythmic grooves. “Vertigo,” the compelling set opener, is an exhilarating example of O’Connell’s inherent curiosity and natural inventiveness at work. He starts the piece alone playing freely before diving into a robust, two-handed figure in 7. The results are arresting. “I’ve never considered myself an odd metered guy, but lately I’ve been doing it more,” he comments. “And, I’ve found that when I start writing in odd times, I internalize it more. When I play it, I play it. But when I write it, I really hear it.”

“Eyes of a Child,” a trance-setting ballad, starts with a simple piano figure that O’Connell says is close in style to a batá cadence. “Anything you add a batá to has that spiritual vibe,” he notes. “And I love the combination of the trombone and flute. They blend very nicely.” “Awani” is a brisk-paced workout with both bebop and funky música tipica variants surging throughout. Diaz wrote the coro, allowing the Latin and jazz worlds to smoothly blend. The coro and hardcore Latin feel open the arrangement before it goes into a blues at the bridge. Then it alternates back and forth between the Latin and jazz. “Using a coro really opened it up for me,” O’Connell reminisces, ecstatic about the happy results.

For Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Waters of March,” an often recorded standard by the famed Brazilian composer, O’Connell’s approach was to slow down the catchy, simple melody and add some new harmony. “Tabasco,” another original that was originally recorded with Dave Valentín 25 years ago, was written in 5 but performed in 6 due to the flautist’s preference. “So, I’ve waited all this time to do it as I originally conceived it,” the pianist laughs.

For Wayne Shorter’s “ESP,” O’Connell arranged it as a kind of as a round for the horns, alternating between a straight-ahead jazz and Latin feel. The session’s title tune, “Heart-Beat,” celebrates the role of the conga as the true pulse of Latin jazz. “The rest of us do other things while Roman holds down the fort,” the leader states. “He is a pure timekeeper but also a great soloist with really big ears. Here he really took care of business and played beautifully.” “Wake Up,” with its juicy chord changes and hypnotic rhythms, is an example of the kind of naturally appealing melodies the composer has crafted since the 1970s.

The set closer, “Peace on Earth,” an homage to Obatalá, an Orisha (deity) in the Afro-Cuban of Santería religion, ends the session as dramatically as it began. “This is about my conscious awakening,” O’Connell admits. “I like mixing a message into the music if I’m feeling it. The vocal and batá drumming give it a spiritual personality. I’m not trying to change the world, just add something positive to it.”

Addressing the evolution of a career that is convincingly summarized on Heart Beat, O’Connell muses about his journey as an artist. “There have been leaps and bounds along the way,” he notes. “That’s the beauty of having been in it for the long haul. And, ultimately, that’s the beauty of music; it can grow with you for your entire life.”

-- Mark Holston
Music critic and contributor, JAZZIZ and LATINO magazines

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