Chicago Jazz Soul Hip-Hop outfit Sidewalk Chalk hit us with their next studio album this year, this time with Robert 'Sput' Searight in the producer's chair. Their experience with Sput led the band deeper into themselves, with stunning results. Split into three movements - The Hope, The Loss, and The Birth - An Orchid Is Born shows the band’s remarkable capacity for growth. They see that we cannot be reborn until we lose what we have, first treading in the well of despair that is a loss preceded by hope. In these three movements, Sidewalk Chalk has realized the best version of their band and, in the process, created their most important body of work.The hard fought project encapsulates the latest chapter of the band’s growth as a unit -- a period somehow beautified by a series of deep wounds that might have derailed a less focused collective. Little more than a year removed from the debut of their live album Shoulder Season, a seismic shift rocked the foundations of Sidewalk Chalk, refined their aesthetic and inspired a body of work that is as cathartic as it is the catapult necessary to push the rarefied groove at the foundation of their sound past its Chicago stomping grounds, to points across the globe.
Israeli double-bassist Adam Ben Ezra is a phenomenon who redefines the term 'one man band'. A multi-instrumentalist, Adam brings the bass to the front and weaves influences from Bach to Sting into a live show like no other. His new recording - Pin Drop - captures the full experience as it was recorded live in an intimate studio setting. From Adam's original compositions to a miraculous version of The Beatles 'Dear Prudence', Pin Drop is a delightful journey. Adam recently toured the US and performed live with a Marimba playing robot, as if to further demonstrate that he is pioneering our future. See Adam Ben Ezra in his element right here.
We can guarantee you that THIS is the most under-rated and overlooked album of 2017. These are the times we live in, when gems lie right in front of us and we busy ourselves sorting out the rubbish. The name alone got our attention - it is clear that Andrew Neesley and Tim Emmerick know their history. Andrew is a Jazz composer who cut his teeth with Big Bands, and Tim is a songwriter with a serious love of indie rock. Together they distill the energy and craft of a fifteen piece band and make it sound simple, pure, and perfected. And the songs - They are mysterious, longing, and leave you happy. Which is OK, we promise.
For over a decade, Akashic Record has been a crusader for organ driven funk and soul jazz in the Boston music scene. Their fourth release, Big Bang (Spring 2017, Ropeadope), carries forward their consistent approach of producing music that includes soulful melodies, virtuosic soloists and most importantly, a hard grooving rhythm section to ensure that you will be bobbin’ your head! Big Bang is a follow up to their 2013 Ropeadope release Bring It Back, and features Brian Thomas on trombone, Jared Sims on baritone saxophone, Steve Fell on guitar, Peter MaClean on drums, Sam Gilman on organ and Darby Wolf on clavinet and piano. Produced by Akashic Record, Big Bang was once again recorded by Craig Welsch (aka dubfader) at Rear Window Studio and mixed by the incredible Alan Evans (Soulive) at Iron Wax Studios. “We love the basic sounds that Craig is able get. He is a true master. Alan really completes our vision in the mix with his passion for funk and soul jazz. It was really a priority to work with both of them again on Big Bang”, says AR trombonist Brian Thomas.
When Adam Turchin arrived in Los Angeles, he found a gig trading what he knew: saxophones. A chance encounter with saxophonist and producer Terrace Martin changed his life. The two locked in on the intricacies of various vintage reed instruments and Turchin found himself invited to a session that night. Martin, a fixture on the Los Angeles jazz and R&B scene, took the enthusiastic East Coaster under his wing and brought him around town.
And now, Adam Turchin has arrived with a rich album of lush soul and orchestral swells of lysergic wanderlust. His band, which includes Terrace Martin (whose recent Grammy® nominated album, Velvet Portraits, Turchin was heavily involved in, playing tenor and baritone sax and working on the administrative side also) as well as vocalists Rose Gold and Kate Faust, is a tight ensemble, not overwhelmed by guests but instead performed mostly by Turchin. That's not to say that he didn't get some other highly regarded friends such as rapper Javier Starks, trumpeter Josef Leimberg, electric guitarist Marlon Williams, and others join the project.
Sometimes a band comes along that just kicks ass. Escaper is Will Hanza on guitar, stretching out like the whole universe is clearly in his view; Jazz sensibilities with rock fantasies is what we like to call it. Will is joined by friends and bandmates Andrew Nesbitt, Jay Giacomazzo, Adam Ahuja on keys and Johnny Butler on sax. Escaper is taking space-jam-jazz-rock one giant step forward, and while they hit us with this gem - Skeleton Key - in 2017 they've already lined up a new release for 2018. Forget the retro stereotypes, strap on your space boots, and get ready to ride.
Sometimes you drop everything and pay full attention to the task at hand. When the Maestro Eddie Palmieri - a man with a renegade career and nothing BUT quality - calls, well that is one of those times. We're still humbled and honored that Mr. Palmieri chose Ropeadope to release a masterpiece - Sabiduria - in the spring of 2017. The album is a powerful and dizzying blend of funk, soul, jazz and pop with a guiding force (of course) of rhythm.
Sabiduria - which means WISDOM - features appearances from seasoned greats: Bernard Purdie, Ronnie Cuber, Xavier Rivera, Iwao Sado, Camilo Molina, Donald Harrison, Alfredo de la Fe, David Spinozza, and Marcus Miller. Plus a core band of Anthony Carrillo (bongo), Little Johnny Rivero (conga),Luisito Quintero (timbales), and Luques Curtis (bass).
This one of THE records - the ones that stay in your collection year after year and gain value with every listen. It is a timeless statement from one of the world's greatest composers and characters; a man whose legend will light tour way for many generations. Mr. Palmieri, we thank you for your courage, your wild heart, and of course for the music that defines our human nature.
It's clear we are in love with the musicians and the scene in Richmond VA, so we were thrilled when Charles Owens called and mentioned his new project - As One - with the RVA crew of Kelli Strawbridge, Devonne Harris, and Andrew Randazzo. Charles is a veteran of the NYC Jazz scene, having performed with such jazz luminaries as Mark Turner, Brad Mehldau, Omer Avital, Jason Linder, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Brian Blade, Peter Bernstein, Larry Goldings, Jeff Watts, Sam Yahel, and Joel Frahm among many others.
"As One marks several “firsts” for me. First one with electric bass, first one with electric piano, first one with almost no walking bass lines. This electric quartet had its nucleus when I first heard Kelli play drums. I was immediately hooked. He plays with dynamics, and soul. He listens, and can play intensely without over-powering. His time is great and he gets wonderful tones from his instruments. So much excellence… Devonne and Andy are back with for this record except now Andy is on electric bass (his true love)! Andy’s playing is so free and beautiful. He adds so much to the sound and arrangements of the music here. Is there ANYTHING better than having a killin' bass player in your band? I don’t know. Then the genius that is Devonne is now playing keyboards instead of drums. Anyone who knows Devonne is aware of all the instruments he plays so very well. Ever since I met him in 2010 he’s been a powerful musical force in my life.
Under the guidance of Brian Hurst from SoulandJazz.com, Atlanta Records continues to shine with sizzling new talent that meet at the intersection of Soul and Jazz. This time it's Michon Young, hailing from Detroit (by way of Gary, Indiana) and delivering a deep gospel-tinged vocal on her debut. Love,Life,Experiences is at once a meditation and a groove as Michon writes and sings from the heart. In her words:
I have always believed that music is love. It is universal. It can soothe the soul, bring tears to your eyes or simply just place you in a reflective state. Either way, music has the ability to penetrate the heart and invoke many genuine, real emotions. Each song on this project is taken from a personal experience. Each song represents a part of my life that most can relate to e.g. the joy and excitement of love, the hurt that love can sometimes bring and the encouragement that you sometimes must give yourself when you’re left facing life alone. This project takes you on a journey from beginning to end. For me, this musical journey was written from experiencing the pain of lost love but also the joy of finding new love again. It also lyrically expresses the concerns about the divisive world we’re living in today and the importance of uniting as one. Many songs on this project are filled with Live instrumentation. I’ve always been a fan of old school great musical composition and the way it merged with sound lyrical content. “Love, Life, Experiences”, tells a story similar to the stories told in years past by songwriters and musicians alike. This is my story. My hope is that at least one song from this project will touch a heart, involve a raw emotion, soothe the soul, uplift and inspire. I hope many will enjoy the journey and musical ride of “Love,Life,Experiences”. - Michon
Jared Sims taught jazz and classical saxophone at the University of Rhode Island from 2005 to 2016. As assistant director of jazz studies, he directed the school’s big band at the Newport Jazz Festival four times. He co-founded the Newport Jazz Camp, a summer program for high school musicians. He also has taught at the University of New Hampshire and Southern New Hampshire University.
We first met Jared when he brought the power funk Akashic Record to Ropeadope, and four years later we find Jared quite a distance from Boston , in the great state of West Virginia. Putting down new roots and reconnecting with old ones find led Sims to his next project - Change Of Address. All About Jazz frames the story:
'Jared Sims isn't a purist, that's for sure. On Change Of Address, an album that marks his return to life in West Virginia after two decades spent in New England, he wields his baritone saxophone on a set of slick tunes that speaks to jazz's soul and funk extensions. Sims places his weighty horn squarely in the middle of an organ outfit, but he's not trying to take on the legacy of Ronnie Cuber or looking to juxtapose his bari against some form of a classic Blue Note sound. The fact that this date is on Ropeadope should be an obvious hint, to those familiar with that label, that there's a strong groove and pocket element at the center of this music.'
Described by the great Quincy Jones as “an unbelievable drummer. So creative I couldn’t believe it … he really is a 360-degree beautiful young cat”, Ollie Howell simply caught our attention with his expressive compositions. What stood out the most was that the drums did not stand out the most!
Self Identity is Ollie's second album, written post-surgery like a cosmic reminder to find the joy in life. The band - Duncan Eagles on Tenor Saxophone, Ant Law on Electric Guitar, Henry Spencer on Trumpet, Matt Robinson on Piano, and Max Luthert on Double Bass - seem to intimately understand the mission. Of course, you cannot help but turn your attention back to the drummer, whose delicate style is gently leading the way, coaxing the travelers ion the path. Head over here to join Ollie on his journey.
David Cieri is a master composer, capable of the most subtle turns of phrase, and sensitive to every nuance of image and sound. His work ranges from the emotionally sublime to the rhythmically hypnotic, from the joyous to the foreboding. In this remarkable collection of work that he has composed for us over ten years, one can hear all of these feelings come together. From the spiraling ascendance of Meditation 9 to the ethereal breath of Into Another Life, Dave proves his gifts on each track. (Ken Burns)
"Collaborating with Florentine Films over the course of the last ten years has yielded music that I am very grateful and excited to share. To remove these compositions from their visual counterparts—from the bath that the images have been swimming in—and present them as expressions in their own right has its advantages. Working with these remarkable human beings has taught me a great deal about the potentials inherent in stitching together sound and image—the compositions are true co-conspirators in helping to have mutual influence over the film watcher and, in a sense, this music has “changed” the images as much as the images have framed the music.
My first assignment for the Florentine gang—the stately “Leola” by Scott Joplin—works to accentuate the freedom and accessibility of our national treasures in The National Parks, while the swag in “Prohibition Ramble” was built to dance with a newly emerging sense of inner freedom, as exemplified in 'Prohibition'. After traveling to Vietnam to ready myself for writing and performing music for 'The Vietnam War', the music that eventually was tempted forth worked to etch out the mystery and the horror of our darkest potentials as humans, while never losing sight of our redeeming qualities.
This collection surveys the landscape of music I have made for these documentaries over the last ten years. I hope you imagine the films these compositions were made for, but I also hope you hear the love and friendship that I have steadily and increasingly been feeling for this gang of collaborators. Now that these compositions are “detached” from their original homes, I also hope they open you up to your own “scenes” and imaginings because, above and beyond anything else, I feel as Roger Ebert did about the movies: my wish is that this music activates our finer feelings and broadest sense of humanity as only art—empathy machines—can do."
From our label affiliate Artists First Records here in Philly comes the unique and articulate duo Kin4Life - IQ and Nor - the self described answer to the question 'what happened to the female rap game?'. These two are electric, full of energy and purpose and not afraid to have fun.
A brilliantly woven mix of hip hop and R&B offerings, Firewerk from Kin4Life features production from Los Angeles based producer Parker Lewiz, Mount Vernon, NY’s Marsie Music, legendary New York producers DJ Mary Mac and DJ Jazzy Joyce, and in-house duo The KIN Factory. Other collaborators include musician prodigy Tosh the Drummer, NBC’s “The Voice” season four contestant Karina Iglesias and New Orleans rapper Look Alive.
Beginning 100 years after the first jazz recording, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah announced The Centennial Trilogy : three full length albums that reflect deeply on the history of Jazz. In his words, Christian was ‘trying to create a document that fully acculturated all of the things that grew from the first century of jazz…. To force all of those things into one context as a means of creating a newer, larger context for artists to be able to grow from’
The scope of the trilogy is not limited to the music; Christian is using broad strokes to present his vision of the world. Growing up in the upper ninth ward he witnessed people enduring the same challenges regardless of their race or ethic background. Undereducated to serve the tourist culture, facing food insecurity and viewing each other as different because of the lens of race. He understood that race was and is a social construct, and saw that people could be working together to build and move forward.
The first release in the trilogy, Ruler Rebel, vividly depicts Adjuah's new vision and sound - revealing Adjuah to the listener in a way never heard before via a completely new production methodology that Stretches Trap Music with West African and New Orleanian Afro-Native American styles. Ruler Rebel is set for pre-order on 2/17/17, to coincide with the first annual Stretch Music Festival at Harlem Stage. The Stretch Music Festival, created and curated by Adjuah, explores the boundaries of Stretch, Jazz, Trap, and Alternative Rock with some of music’s most poised and fiery rising stars. The festival consists of five days of events, culminating with concerts on February 17th and 18th at Harlem Stage with performances by Butcher Brown, Braxton Cook, Venus, The Bridge Trio, Sarah Elizabeth Charles, and Matthew Stevens.
'Opening with a distant glow of synths and a dissonant, strobing pattern on acoustic guitar, it leads to a melody suffused with unhurried grandeur. Archer and Doob keep the motor humming at an unpredictable frequency, and Stevens reels off a calmly self-assured solo.' (Nate Chinen)
So the praise for Matthew Stevens' second album, Preverbal, begins. Matt tours regularly with Esperanza Spalding (who appears on a track), yet clearly has his own uique vision of what Jazz can be. Virtuosic, Shape Shifting, and visceral are all used to describe this kinetic exploration of harmony and rhythm as Stevens bridges his garage band past with the present. Recorded without charts, Preverbal features Eric Doob on drums and Vicente Archer on bass.
THIS RECORD! Maurice Brown joined the Ropeadope family with his Mobetta label in a whirlwind session of discussions, and he dropped this gem that we rank as one of our top releases of the year. Maurice has a brilliant combination of purpose, perserverance, and talent that set him in the front of his generation of musicians. The Mood features incredible performances by Kris Bowers, Chelsea Baratz, Chris Turner, Joe Blaxx, Weedie Braimah, Saunders Sermons, J. Ivy, and Talib Kweli. The expected groove, polish, and trumpet pyrotechnics are there, yet The Mood reaches much further with adventurous exploration and rounds out with the message of 'Stand Up', delivered by Talib Kweli. This song should be the anthem of 2017.
Ben Rando heads up our label partner Onde Music in the south of France, and consistently brings tasteful albums that walk the open space between Jazz and Soul. This year he graced the airwaves with his self titled debut album, featuring the divine Sarah Elizabeth Charles on vocals, Yacine Boulares on sax, Federico Casagrande on guitar , Sam Favreau on double bass, and Cédrick Bec on the drums. The clarity of the recording hits you first, followed by Rando's intensely personal feel and emotive playing. This record tells a story of the world from one man's view - self reflective, taking in the loneliness of the world and transforming it to something positive and beautiful. The compositions are intricate, bringing Rando's experience in classical music, dance, and theater together under the language of Jazz. Dig in.
"The new Soule Monde album Must Be Nice digs deeper into the pool of rhythms and melody. Still drawing from the funk and also the rhythms Russ played with his time in the Afro Beat band Zzebra. Ray and Russ mash it all together Soule Monde style with that great chemistry they have for writing as a band. Always boiling it down to some unique songs for your body, mind and soul. It's been said before but Must Be Nice will take you on a musical journey." (Russ Lawton)
In solid contrast to the sizzle and the flash - these guys simply hold down the groove. It is refreshing to hear the Hammond in a near constant, up-front solo state with drums just straight locked in. These cats have played a few gigs together, and the seasoned feel of their musical partnership tells the story.
Dig in right here.
Spank, (George "Spanky" McCurdy) is a world-renowned drummer and up-and-coming producer who is well-versed across a broad spectrum of musical styles. A proud native of North Philadelphia, Spank has performed with the likes of Sean “Diddy” Combs, Lady Gaga, Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, and Kanye West. He has also collaborated with Brandy, Queen Latifah, Nas, Q-Tip, Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, and Tye Tribbett.
For 6 years, Spank served as the lead drummer for Lady Gaga, including during her incredibly successful “The Monster Ball Tour,” which grossed close to a quarter of a billion dollars. He also performed with Lady Gaga at the 2016 Oscars, during her ground breaking performance. In May 2013, Spank and Hudson Music released an instructional DVD on drumming called “Off Time/On Time”. Spank was also featured on the December 2013 cover of Modern Drummer Magazine.
Spank’s unique musical aura was fostered at an early age. He grew up watching the choir director at his local church, and funneled the passion of gospel music towards cultivating his own fearless approach to drumming and producing.
Spank's debut album, CIRCA LXXXI, hit the airwaves on February 24, 2017 and it's a progressive representation of his drum style, his experimental nature, and the core soul sounds of his native Philadelphia. Drop in and take that trip.