2018 Countdown | Escaper

We recently had the pleasure of seeing Escaper perform live right here in East Philly, and it really did not help us define the genre. Yet it did help us fully understand the band and the mission: Will Hanza is tuned into a sound from some far off place and is leading the band onward. Digging deep on stage, Hanza is both here and there at the same time, as the band lends their complete energy and attention to powering his journey. This is no copy, no recitation, this is musical exploration in its most reverent state. They call it retrofuture space rock/spy funk, but it is really interstellar overdrive. Set some time aside and dig into Escaper.

2018 Countdown | AJ Ghent

His lineage and pedigree are without question in the wold of sacred steel, yet AJ Ghent pushes forward to reinvent the blues for modern times. His 2018 release, The Neo Blues project, is a lively and powerful work that dares you to jump out of your seat. The guitar work is both raw and finessed, with a groove that can’t be denied. The Neo-Blues project seems to pick up where Texas Blues left off so many years ago, with a return to the gospel. Dig in and support, and wherever you are - if you have the chance to see this man play, do it.

2018 Countdown | MKGO

The wonderfully mysterious Michael Kammers (MK) emerged from his studio earlier this year with a new recording and a story. The MK Groove Orchestra was the house band as the McKittrick Hotel in NYC converted into a movie landscape for 9 epic dance parties known as ‘supercinema’. Michael chose Jabberwockie from the Alice in Wonderland Supercinema as the track to be recorded, and he and the family set down the track to commemorate 15 years of the MK Groove Orchestra. 10 artists manifesting the ideas of the composer and conductor, with Lisa McQuade’s supernatural vocal soaring through. Forward and backward, for those who care to dig deep.

2018 Countdown | Todd Clouser

As we prepare to round the corner to our 20th year in the music business, we’re counting down this year’s releases from the top. 2018 began with Todd Clouser’s Live Album featuring none other than Ropeadope founder John Medeski on the keys, and JT Bates on the kit. Todd is like a musical graffiti artist with megaphone in hand, commenting on the beauty of basic humanity in the current capitalist/imperialist money grab of a system. It’s heavy, it’s explorative, it’s art.

Robi Botos | Old Soul

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There is but one human race, and yet from the one comes immediate division as we place definitions on one another. Growing up in Budapest, this division was always clear for Robi Botos as he reflected on his Romani heritage and the suffering that the Roma have endured. Often emigration can be a desire for separation, but it seems that more often it is born of a desire for inclusion. This is true in Robi’s case as he moved his family to Canada at 20 to continue his life in music. Fully immersed in the Jazz scene, Botos placed first in the Montreux Jazz Festival’s solo piano competition, where the great Oscar Peterson took note. Soon the two formed a friendship that endured, as Peterson taught Robi to find his own voice.

Today Robi Botos is on call as a top pianist worldwide; his last album earned the Juno Award for Best Jazz Album, and he is persistently immersed in a community of inclusion rather than separation. Such is the power of music, and such is the power of a gentle, old soul, seeking connection.

We are proud to present the new album - Old Soul - from Robi Botos, a work that tells of the artist’s path and diverse stylistic interest. The core band is Larnell Lewis, Mike Downes, and Seamus Blake - and if that is somehow not enough, special guests Cory Henry, Ingrid Jensen, and Lionel Loueke round out the mix. Old Soul is set for worldwide release on November 9, 2018.

Eddie Palmieri | Mi Luz Mayor

Eddie Palmieri is in his prime; Last year’s Latin Jazz release Sabiduria brought the full power of his experience and willingness to push boundaries together in a near perfect presentation. This year he stunned us yet again with a powerful Salsa album - Full Circle - accompanied by the PalmieriSalsaJams App, which allows fans and students to manipulate and 'remix' all of the tracks, as a practice tool and as an interactive way to understand the arrangements.

And Now, Mr. Palmieri delivers a second Salsa project, due out on December 7, 2018. Mi Luz Mayor is best described in his words:

'Here I present to you the music that my late wife, Iraida, and I enjoyed in our youth.  I would play this music in our home often, during the holidays and on special occasions.  We would dance to this music, but there were also times where the music spoke for us.  Music was the constant force that touched our hearts and would heal any wounds that life sent our way. Ultimately, these songs represent our love story.  Selecting each composition and writing new music helped me work through my grief after she passed away in 2014.  Because this music is in her honor, everything from start to finish had to be of the highest caliber, and I am proud to say that it is just that.

The music is a reflection of the profound respect, admiration and impact both Rene Hernández and Ray Santos have had on my musical life.  Their arranging skills show careful study and the diligence I endeavor to carry over into my own arrangements.  It is the platform from which I rarely move, where the historical integrity of the Cuban structures are preserved and expounded upon – that is the excitement that drives my creative process.   The music also embodies the contributions and arranging talent of Jose Madera – I truly believe he is an inspiration to the next generation of arrangers.

As for the musicians…I am surrounded by Chiefs, each a master of their own instrument.  I am incredibly grateful to all the musicians that are on this recording and of course, the special guests, Mr. Carlos Santana, Mr. Gilberto Santa Rosa and La Voz del Caribe, Herman Olivera.'

Mi Luz Mayor is set for release on December 7, with preorder available now.

Troker X Ropeadope

It’s only natural that musicians inspire the next generation: in this case a band from Guadelajara listened to some Ropeadope originals - DJ Logic, Sex Mob, and John Medeski - and were inspired to craft their own version, blending Jazz with Mexican tradition and that Rock edge. We are proud to welcome Troker to the family as they release their sixth studio album - Imperfecto.

In these songs resonates, finally, the desire to gain height while we fight the silence.’

The Brockettship has landed

Best known for his part in the creation of the PianoArc 360 and as the keyboardist for Lady Gaga, Brockett Parsons is ready to step into his own spotlight with his new release - The Brockettship. Recorded with Adrian Harpham at the board, the album has all the classic marks of a Modern Icon Recording, bringing out Parsons’ talent and creativity in a wide ranging yet coherent mix of Jazz, Hip-Hop, and Soul. Appearances from MonoNeon, Ohene Savant, Spanky McCurdy, and James Genus (among others) bring the broad style that Brockett intended. This album plays like a story of life, rather than an expression of talent in a specific genre. This is music as an expression of the artist’s journey. Take a little taste right here and preorder for October 12 delivery.

The Mayo Clinic | Unity Of Forces

Once again David Cieri translates life into music. His recent release - Notes From The Underscore show his work on a variety of documentaries with Florentine Films. His previous work with Yusef Komunyakaa and Mike Brown captures the intersection of poetry and music just as if you were wandering by a downtown club and heard it live. And now, David returns with the soundtrack to the new documentary - The Mayo Clinic: Unity Of Forces. Here David composes for the unique film, with the great Bill Frisell on guitar. He describes the documentary in this way:

‘Talk surrounding our current health care crisis needs to step away from the divisive, un-nuanced, and essentially useless binary modes of I’m right and you’re wrong. The Mayo Clinic model is actively shifting this conversation away from political gridlock and into the realms of discovery and earned possibility.

The music is striving to represent this ideal - historically and into the future. This is perhaps an uncommon story because it offers real hope and prescription rather than description of our ills, which too often get inordinate attention.  My intent was to bake the church pew and Wagner and Americana into the compositions; it’s the most moral music I’ve made to date.  The sessions were challenging; it’s one thing to give the darkness due weight in music but it was another challenge altogether to make very positive gestures have real and earned gravity too.  And the musicians!  Listening back to Bill and Putnam dialoguing on a few of these cuts is to feel immense love and joy in being here to witness, to watch, to pry, to learn, to become something better than we have imagined.

The Mayo Clinic: Unity Of Forces airs on PBS on September 25th and 26th. The soundtrack is available for preorder now.

Ramsey Lewis X Ropeadope

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Contemporary Jazz icon Ramsey Lewis holds a permanent place in Jazz history, not just for his pedigree as a composer and pianist, but for his constant motion and embrace of new styles. From The Ramsey Lewis Trio through to Urban Knights, Lewis has consistently released music that fits the time while preserving the heart of Jazz. An NEA Jazz Master, a prominent radio host in the Legends of Jazz series, and a persistent supporter of mentorship for young musicians, Ramsey Lewis is a living legend and a role model of musical expression and statesmanship.

After a rumored retirement in spring of 2018, Lewis reinvigorated his commitment to music and set continued tour dates for 2018 and 2019. In August he returned to the studio after signing with Ropeadope, where he joins a range of progressive musicians such as Terrace Martin, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Aaron Parks, and Eddie Palmieri. The new album will be a new visitation of the Urban Knights era, an all-star jazz, R&B and funk band which features Grammy nominated guitarist Henry Johnson, drummer Charles Heath, bassist Joshua Ramos and keyboardist Tim Gant, along with some special guests from within the Ropeadope roster.

‘It is with great pride that we welcome Mr. Lewis to the Ropeadope family. Our role is to honor the vast history of Jazz and to support those artists that carry the legacy yet also remain progressive to build the next chapter of Jazz history’ (Louis Marks, Ropeadope)

Fima Ephron | Songs From The tree

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Modern Icon Recordings is stepping it up this year, as label head Adrian Harpham curates a delicate balance of accessible yet eclectic sounds. Next up is Fima Ephron - one of the world’s most sought after bassists. His credits are extensive, from Natalie Merchant to Gil Scott Heron, from Chris Potter to Nate Smith. We first heard Fima on Nate Smith’s KINFOLK, and now we are proud to announce Fima’s third solo project - Songs From The Tree.

Here is Fima’s take on the music: ‘On February 5th 2016 a cold winters day in NYC I had the good fortune of assembling a supremely talented group of musicians in the studio (Chris Potter on Sax, Adam Rogers on Guitar, Nate Smith on Drums, Kevin Hays on Keys, and David Torn (Loops). By the time we had finished 10 hours later there were 10 pieces of music recorded. 10 hours to record a whole record is a small amount of time, so it necessitated moving quickly and committing to takes - most of the music was recorded in one take. I couldn’t be happier with the results.’

We agree.

Songs From The Tree hits on October 26, 2018 with Pre-orders beginning on September 28. Drop in here to stay on top of all things from Modern Icon Recordings.

Cienfuegos | Bestiario Sonoro

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From Ropeadope Sur in Mexico City, curated by Todd Clouser, comes Cienfuegos; a post-modern quintet that mixes Jazz, Rock, and Contemporary music to create a unique mix that appeals to magical realism, Improvisation, and the Mexican ‘imaginary’.

Their new project, Bestiario Sonoro, is a conceptual album based in the pre-hispanic cosmovision of México and observation of today’s reality, encapsulating the past and present of Mexican heritage. The journey begins with tribute to pre-hispanic gods such as La Serpiente and El Jaguar and moves on to Latino fervor in El Alebrije. An exploration in binary conception of beauty (El Cenzontle) -  and destruction (El Perro de Agua). The journey of the Bestiario ends in El Sumidero, a piece that is the invocation of a traditional mexican song talking about peace and longing, going south to the heart of the mexican cosmovision.

Bestiario Sonoro is set for release on October 5, with pre-orders starting on September 14, 2018. Drop in here and follow Ropeadope Sur for notifications. .

Grüt | Side Room Stories

If you've had the wonderful chance to spin Col. Bruce Hampton's Live At The Vista Room, you've heard the Colonel shout out 'Wytanis' in the midst of the mayhem. That's Daniel Wytanis on the trombone in one of the finest live performances of our time. And now we are pleased to introduce Grüt, the experimental band comprised of Daniel Wytanis, Patrick Arthur on guitar, Brandon Boone on bass, Morgan Guerin on drums, and Avys Burroughs on sax. Young guns all around, but with musical sensibilities of seasoned cats. Together they blend the predetermined with the spontaneous, and fearlessness with absolute risk. Their debut album, Side Room Stories, is out now, and they've signed on with the Ropeadope family to lead up to their next release in 2019. Join us in welcoming Grüt and watch their musical development. Start right here on the Twitter, and dig in here for details. 

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Drums And Tuba

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That's right. The band formerly known as Just Drums And Tuba is back. Formed in 1995 by Tony Nozero and Brian Wolff, this avant-everything duo that began Austin Texas has achieved legendary under (and above) ground status as they take two instruments and blend Jazz fusion, Hardcore Punk, and Alternative Hip-Hop in a surprising structured way. The band has not recorded since 2005, and we are honored to bring you their new project - TRIUMPH!. Joined by Steve Garofano on (additional) Drums and Percussion, Ben Ellman on Sax, Jonathon Freilich on Guitar, and Francesca Wolff on vocals, Brian adds in his own Vocal, Beatbox, Trombone and Flute to for an epic statement of, well - triumph!. Seemingly unaffected by the challenges of the times, or simply strong enough to bear it with a driving, forward moving and anthemic call, Drums And Tuba are here to lead the way. Triumph! is set for release on September 28. 

Big Hands Rhythm & Blues Band

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1950 was the year that Leonard and Phil Chess rebranded their record label and began their legendary association with Sam Phillips of the Memphis Recording Service. With the great Willie Dixon writing and co-producing they helped build the foundation of what we call Rock & Roll. Ike Turner, Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters are just a few of the key figures that Chess brought to the world. Fast forward to the late 60's and bands like MC5 and The Sonics took the music back to its raw and powerful state. And now, it's time again to get back to the root. Big Hands Rhythm & Blues Band takes a little bit from both of these veins of Blues history and infuses it with a growl reminiscent of Chuck E Weiss and Tom Waits, plus a bit of rollicking momentum a la Captain Beefheart. These are times of high energy and purpose, and these cats are ready to reflect and respond with raw guitar and a driving beat. The new album is titled Thoughts And Prayers, and you can well guess this is a sardonic comment on life in 2019. Stay tuned for updates right here.

All Aboard The Brockettship

If you have internet access you've probably seen Brockett Parsons navigating the Brock360 ; the 288 key circular keyboard that debuted in Lady Gaga's Super Bowl performance. Just a glimpse gives the hint that the man is tuned in to a vast array of transcendent sounds and rhythms. Trained in Jazz, Parsons caught the ear and eye of Sean Combs; he toured the world with Diddy's band and performed with many others including Talib Kweli, Taylor McFerrin, and Guru before picking up his current gig with Lady Gaga.

And now, it is with great pleasure that we announce Brockett's debut album via our family imprint Modern Icon Recordings. Brockettship is a stunning collection of compositions, exploring all of Parson's diverse musical interest and filtered through the unique production ear of Adrian Harpham. Oh, and there are guests; Peter Gunz, Mononeon, James Genus, Seamus Blake to name but a few. Brockettship hits the street on October 12, 2018 - stay tuned right here for details. 

dred scott rides alone

dred scott. The incomparable renegade pianist who co-founded the ground breaking hip- hop jazz group Alphabet Soup. The musical director for AMFAR's Cinema Against Aids gala at The Cannes Film Festival. Composer and performer in six San Francisco Mime Troupe productions. Film and commercial composer, solo artist, and all around player with celebs too numerous to mention. And the super subtle and not-as-subtle piano player at Del Posto in New York. dred has graced us with three albums thus far; a live recording from his long running Live At Rockwood residency, and the simultaneous releases Going Nowhere and Prepared Piano. It's been a minute since the maestro of the maelstrom has recorded, and now he returns to the studio to record ALL of the musical parts to his new album - dred scott Rides Alone. The compositions are sublime, perhaps dred's most accessible and gentle writing and playing in his storied career. dred scott rides alone stands as a mature and melodic statement of life and love. dred scott rides alone will be released on September 21, with pre-orders starting August 24. Stop in here to hear and understand dred scott. 

 Photo by Michael Pollack

Photo by Michael Pollack

Whose Hat Is This?

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In 2015, while on tour with The Tedeschi-Trucks Band, band members Tim Lefebvre, Tyler “Falcon” Greenwell, J.J. Johnson, and Kebbi Williams took the stage at the A-Trane in Berlin and went to a place that caused some audience members to throw their clothes (was that a hat?), and set the mandate for a new project to evolve. And so Whose Hat Is This? picked up the improvisational gauntlet thrown down by jambanders and took it to its (ill)logical extreme. They've played with the greats, from TTB to Bowie to Col Bruce, and this band allows them complete freedom to challenge each other, the audience, and the very vibration of the time-space continuum. Their new project, Everything's OK, was recorded live at the 8X10, and features the future-voice stylings of the enigmatic Kokayi. November 16 is the date; stay tuned here for updates. 

Aaron Parks Little Big

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Aaron Parks created a stir with his debut in 2008,  Invisible Cinema, and we are thrilled to announce the natural successor to that album. Aaron Parks Little Big is a lush, melodic and driving work, blending genre and style in a fluid narrative from start to finish. The title references the novel by John Crowley, but also informs us that this is a band; Greg Tuohey with a searing tone on guitar, David 'DJ' Ginyard on bass, and Tommy Crane on drums. As a unit, they bring Parks' compositions to perfect expression, moving across the space and time of different styles to reflect the interwoven and complex world we now inhabit. Aaron Parks Little Big is an easy listen at any time, always ready for your attention when you are ready to dig deeper, and it leaves you with a sense of comfort and optimism. October 19 is the date, stay tuned for Pre-order info. 

Jared Sims | The New York Sessions

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Jared Sims seems to often speak of places; with his 2017 release Change Of Address he brought us from the busy streets of Boston to his home in West Virginia as he took the chair heading up the Jazz Studies department at WVU. And now, Jared returns with The New York Sessions, his tribute to the places and sounds of New York City. There's something about the sax that can describe the feeling of New York, that sexy and gritty feel on the street, that energy, that flow, that feeling that you not only belong but that it's YOURS. Jared captures the heat on the street as he and the band are in absolutely top form, taking us through the city with tracks titled Tribeca Tap Bar, The Bodega, Pelham and more. This is both a story and a journey; tune in here for pre-order info as we prepare for an October 12 release.