Company Of Heaven Jazz Festival

January 7, 2010

Company of Heaven, the booking agency for many of creative improvised music’s biggest names, will hold its second annual jazz festival at New York’s Cornelia Street Café this weekend as part of the festivities surrounding the 2010 Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) Conference.

The Thirteenth Assembly, featuring Taylor Ho Bynum, Mary Halvorson, Jessica Pavone and Tomas Fujiwara, will be performing, as will Playscape Recordings artists, the Michael Musillami Trio + 3, Mario Pavone‘s Totem Quartet and George Schuller’s Circle Wide. A complete schedule of events for the three-night festival is available here.


AAJ-NY: Best Of 2009

December 29, 2009

AllAboutJazz-New York published its annual Best of 2009 feature in the new January issue and we’re very proud to say our clients are well-represented.

Special congratulations to those recognized as the year’s best in the following categories:

Albums of the Year
Darcy James Argue, Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam Records)
Bill Dixon, Tapestries for Small Orchestra (Firehouse 12 Records)
David S. Ware, Shakti (AUM Fidelity)

Debut Albums
John Hébert, Byzantine Monkey (Firehouse 12 Records)
Darius Jones Trio, Man’ish Boy (A Raw & Beautiful Thing) (AUM Fidelity)

Vocal Releases
The Fay Victor Ensemble, The FreeSong Suite (Greene Avenue Music)

Large Ensemble Releases
Darcy James Argue, Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam Records)

Albums of the Year – Honorable Mention
Cleaver/Parker/Taborn, Farmers By Nature (AUM Fidelity)
Harris Eisenstadt, Canada Day (Clean Feed)
Garrison Fewell, Variable Density Sound Orchestra (Creative Nation Music)
KLANG, Tea Music (Allos Documents)
Michael Musillami Trio + 3, From Seeds (Playscape Recordings)


Signal To Noise: Taylor Ho Bynum, Fonda/Stevens Group, The Fully Celebrated, Darius Jones and Joe Morris

December 14, 2009

The Winter 2010 issue of Signal To Noise arrived this weekend and with it reviews of the latest releases from Taylor Ho Bynum & SpiderMonkey Strings, the Fonda/Stevens Group, The Fully Celebrated, the Darius Jones Trio and the Joe Morris Quartet.

“Bynum’s compositions consistently engage and amplify the texts [from his sister’s novel, Madeleine is Sleeping],” writes Stuart Broomer in his review of Madeleine Dreams (Firehouse 12 Records), “and the performances are at a high level. Vocalist Kyoko Kitamura ranges from pensive dramatic readings to jazz-inflected vocals and creative improvisations, performing admirably in the divergent settings. The group’s improvisational skills come to the fore on pieces by three great composers—Ornette Coleman, Duke Ellington and Sun Ra—whose works are all subtly complementary…the results are driving, focused, expressive performances that make the most of the jazz tradition.”

“After 20 years of musical partnership, pianist Michael Jefry Stevens, bassist Joe Fonda, drummer Harvey Sorgen and trumpeter Herb Robertson have developed a rich chemistry,” declares James Hale. “On Memphis, their 11th recording, the quartet surges with energy—equal parts Stevens’ proclivity for aggresive vamps, Robertson’s slippery slalom runs, and a wrecking crew of a rhythm duo. When the mood turns somber individual members find ways of keeping the tension high, whether its Fonda’s abrasive arco on ‘For My Brother’ or the free segments that alternate with Stevens’ pretty theme on ‘Whale Majesty.'”

“Alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs, bassist Timo Shanko and drummer Django Carranza hammer away at eight slices of groove-based music that is is peppy, incisive and yes, amusing,” explains Jay Collins in his review of Drunk on the Blood of the Holy Ones (AUM Fidelity). “The Fully Celebrated is a group that doesn’t take themselves too seriously, but the music is of high caliber and a hell of a lot of fun.”

Marc Medwin describes the Darius Jones Trio’s debut, Man’ish Boy (AUM Fidelity), as “a barn-burner from note one. Jones could not have chosen better musicians to enter into his world, with Cooper-Moore and drummer Rakalam Bob Moses enhancing every moan, cry and shriek emanating from his alto.”

Jay Collins calls the Joe Morris Quartet’s second release, Today On Earth (AUM Fidelity), “Morris at his most accessible. His tremendous single-note flurries come to bear immediately on the boppish ‘Backbone’ and the exuberantly swinging ‘Imaginary Solutions.’ The quartet’s keen melodic sense is eveident on ‘Ashes’ and the ruminative ‘Animal,’ especially in Hobbs’s earthy, gripping saxophone playing. Hobbs and Morris’s unison lines against the rhythm section’s restless activity are part of the record’s pleasures. Like Drunk on the Blood of the Holy Ones, Today on Earth has it all: smart compositional structures that launch tasty, unpredictable improvisations.”


Playscape To Release The Peter Madsen Trio’s The Litchfield Suite In March

December 3, 2009

Photo by Gerhard Klocker

Playscape Recordings will launch its 2010 release schedule on March 16th with the Peter Madsen Trio’s The Litchfield Suite (PSR#080308). This is pianist/composer Peter Madsen‘s third recording for the label, but his first leading, and composing for, his own band, following the acclaimed solo piano showcases Sphere Essence: Another Side of Monk and Prevue of Tomorrow. The Litchfield Suite, also featuring bassist Andy McKee and drummer Gerald Cleaver, documents the premiere of Madsen’s six-part titular work at the 2008 Litchfield Jazz Festival.

“Two years ago,” writes Madsen in the liner notes, “festival founder Vita Muir invited me to perform with one of my own bands. Given my love of composing, and close association with the festival over the years, it soon became clear that I should write something special for this event. I needed a drummer who was diverse enough to handle the wide variety of styles in my writing and Gerald fit perfectly. Andy, who I’ve known for more than 25 years, is a dream to work with…I knew he could also deal with all the different styles, freedom and written parts I wanted on the bass.”

“Madsen has the chops and harmonic skills of two pianists,” declared David R. Adler in a Playscape Recordings label feature for the American Music Center’s NewMusicBox. Critics have called his previous recordings for the label “stunning” (Ken Dryden, AllMusic.com), “must-hear” (Marc Medwin, Cadence), “consistently intriguing” (Nick Pitt, Coda) and “confrontational and interesting” (Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, Eighth Edition). In his review of Madsen’s latest, Prevue of Tomorrow, the Village Voice‘s Francis Davis wrote, “He’s the maverick’s maverick, and this could well prove the year’s most unlikely tour de force.”

A well-kept secret among critics, musicians and jazz aficionados alike, Madsen is a highly valued 30-year veteran of the creative music scene who earned his first big break touring with Stan Getz in 1987. He has since worked with poets, choirs, dancers and dozens of the world’s premier improvisers ranging from Benny Golson and Stanley Turrentine to Joe Lovano and Kenny Garrett to Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker. Overall, his discography features nearly 100 recordings, including numerous Playscape titles as the pianist of choice for longtime collaborators Michael Musillami and Mario Pavone. Originally from Wisconsin, he currently splits his time between New York and Vorarlberg, Austria. Learn more at http://www.petermadsen.us


The Fonda/Stevens Group’s European Tour Begins Today

October 15, 2009
Photo by Lindsay Beyerstein

Photo by Lindsay Beyerstein

Starting tonight, The Fonda/Stevens Group will celebrate its latest release, Memphis (Playscape Recordings), with a European tour spanning two weeks and eight countries.

Details can be found here.

Co-led by bassist/composer Joe Fonda and pianist/composer Michael Jefry Stevens, who are also celebrating 25 years as collaborators in 2009, The Fonda/Stevens Group features trumpeter Herb Robertson and drummer Harvey Sorgen.


The Fonda/Stevens Group’s Memphis Released Today

September 29, 2009

Playscape Recordings officially welcomes The Fonda/Stevens Group to its roster with the September 29th release of Memphis, the eminent ensemble’s 11th recording.

Only the fourth studio release in the band’s two-decade existence, Memphis takes its name from Stevens’ composition, “Memphis Ramble”, one of ten tracks documented here for the first time following the band’s March 2008 U.S. tour.

Co-led by bassist/composer Joe Fonda and pianist/composer Michael Jefry Stevens, who celebrate the 25th anniversary of their first collaboration in 2009, The Fonda/Stevens Group also features trumpeter Herb Robertson and drummer Harvey Sorgen.

“Their quartet is a fine example of how a long established band can gel without becoming predictable, with many of its moves unforeseeable in advance,” explains AllAboutJazz.com’s Nic Jones. “This helps to keep the music fresh, but it’s the level of collective empathy that often takes it to another level…it’s clear on ‘Memphis Ramble’ that the group had reached a level of understanding in excess of even its usual working relationship.”

“The great thing about the band is its human warmth and musical openness,” writes Stef Gijssels on his popular blog, Free Jazz. “They can play AACM-like music (‘In The Whitecage’), post-bop (‘For My Brother’), blues, Stanko-esque melancholy (‘Whole Majesty’), free improvisation (‘Yes This Is It!’) and spontaneous chants (‘Memphis Ramble’)…it is fun, musically entertaining and interesting.”

The Downtown Music Gallery’s Bruce Lee Gallanter adds, “What makes this band great is that they can swing their asses off, go out, come back and stop on a dime. Their jubilant spirit is infectious. This is the one disc that makes me feel so good every time I hear it.”

The Fonda/Stevens Group will celebrate its latest record with a two-week, eight-country European tour in the second half of October. Details can be found here.


Jazziz: The Fully Celebrated + Michael Musillami

September 24, 2009

The new Fall 2009 issue of Jazziz features reviews of The Fully Celebrated’s Drunk on the Blood of the Holy Ones (AUM Fidelity) and the Michael Musillami Trio + 3’s From Seeds (Playscape Recordings).

“The album feels fresh and playful,” writes Michael Roberts about the former, “displaying the creative exuberance typically associated with young players in the joy-of-discovery phase. [Alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs’] approach empasizes wit, accessibility and a willingness to venture into disparate stylistic territories…the longtime bandmates can do more than genre-hop. The Fully Celebrated’s heady blend brims with a vitality that hasn’t ebbed with the passage of time.”

“Guitarist Michael Musillami performs one of the best high-wire acts in jazz,” declares Ed Hazell, “walking the line between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ without ever losing his poise. There’s no predicting the direction of any given tune. Arrangements make consistently imaginative and effective use of the horns. Seamlessly assembled and performed, From Seeds features not such a trio plus three as a fully realized sextet.”