Mwenso & The Shakes

Always at the front of exciting new music, the folks at Jazziz dropped the news today of the impending Mwenso & The Shakes album due out on August 2 right here at Ropeadope:

JAZZIZ presents the premiere of “No Regrets” by Harlem-based band Mwenso & the Shakes, a unique troupe of global artists presenting music that merges entertainment and artistry. The song will be featured on the band’s debut album, Emergence. Bandleader Michael Mwenso tells us that “‘No Regrets’ is about the relationship we have between our convictions and the realization that everything is meant to happen. So, you win and you lose. There should be no regrets. Stay on path and listen to your ancestors. Strength will always keep you here.” He also tells us this is one of his favorite tracks of the album “especially because of Anthony Orgi’s angelic saxophone solo.

Check the news at Jazziz right here.

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New Music | Jon Regen

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A protégé of the legendary pianist Kenny Barron, Jon Regen began his career as a sideman to jazz artists like Ted Dunbar, Kyle Eastwood and Little Jimmy Scott. As the editor of Keyboard Magazine, he’s got his finger on the pulse of new music daily, yet it is his solo songwriting and recording career that interests us the most. Jon Regen calls it the way he sees (and hears) it, casting aside the yoke of criticism and self doubt. Jon writes SONGS; his five solo albums have been acclaimed by press and fans alike. We are proud to announce the arrival of Jon’s latest work - Higher Ground - at a time when we all need it. This time a host of a-list musicians join him - Keith Carlock, Tim Lefebvre, Larry Klein, Matt Rollings, Ricky Peterson, Jerry Marotta, Geoge Marinelli, Julia Kent, and Gregoire Maret. The album was produced by Jamiroquai's Matt Johnson and includes musical performances by legends like Andy Summers of The Police, Benmont Tench of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Chuck Leavell of The Rolling Stones and Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran. We’ll leave you with this quote from the great Bruce Hornsby:

‘Jon Regen has a rare combination of elements - virtuosic playing ability, soulful singing, and a strong songwriting talent, all developing more and more as he grows and grows as an artist through the years. Give him a freaking listen!’

The first single hits Friday July 12th, stay tuned…

There and Then | 20 Years Of Ropeadope

That’s right, we are closing in on 20 years of this thing called Ropeadope and it is STILL a wild ride. Some people tell us to slow it down, but we’ve got our foot firmly on the gas to get the music to the people. With 35 more records due out this year, we must also do some deep diving into the catalog to shine light on the gems of the past. Each week on Spotify and Apple Music we’ll be putting up a playlist highlighting some key moments and artists.

Many Ropeadope records have a solid groove, and this week we grab a collection of tracks from over the years with a bit of a beat. Cue it up, tap your foot and nod your head while you work.

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Windows On The World

Windows on the World is a dramatic love story about a Mexican son's search for his father – a missing, undocumented worker in The World Trade Center on 9/11.  On the morning of September 11, 2001, Fernando (Ryan Guzman - “Step Up” franchise, “Boy Next Door") and his family in Mazatlan watch their TV in horror as the Twin Towers collapse. Fernando's father, Balthazar (Edward James Olmos) works in the Windows on the World restaurant. But he does not call to say he is safe. And there is no way to contact him. As the family grieves for his apparent loss, Fernando’s distraught mother swears she sees her husband on news footage – escaping from the building ALIVE! 

Heroic Fernando decides to take the epic journey from Mexico to New York City to find his father and save his family. Along the way, he falls in love with empathetic Lia (Chelsea Gilligan), and befriends an eclectic group of international characters that help him restore his faith in humanity, as Fernando discovers the hard truths about his father, the melting pot of America, and the immigrant experience. The film also has memorable performances from Richard Cabral (“The Mayans”) Glynn Turman (“Cooley High,” “The Wire”) Julie Carmen (“In the Mouth of Madness,” “Gloria”) and Luna Lauren Velez (“Dexter,” “Oz.”) It was directed by Michael Olmos (“Filly Brown") - adopted son of Edward James Olmos, cinematography by Reynaldo Villalobos ("Risky Business,” “Urban Cowboy,” TV’s “Breaking Bad”), with a soundtrack that includes a new song with vocals and guitar by David Hidalgo (Los Lobos) and blues hall of famer Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica. Plus original jazz music from members of the SFJAZZ Collective (past and present), Eric Harland, David Sanchez, Edward Simon, Obed Calvaire, Robin Eubanks, Matt Penman, along with Taylor Eigsti and Ethan Iverson (The Bad Plus)...as well as tracks from Les Claypool (Primus) and Fela Kuti.

There and Then | 20 Years Of Ropeadope

That’s right, we are closing in on 20 years of this thing called Ropeadope and it is STILL a wild ride. Some people tell us to slow it down, but we’ve got our foot firmly on the gas to get the music to the people. With 35 more records due out this year, we must also do some deep diving into the catalog to shine light on the gems of the past. Each week on Spotify and Apple Music we’ll be putting up a playlist highlighting some key moments and artists, starting with the great Greg Hester.

Greg Hester has lived it: from touring with Robin Trower and Leon Russell to playing that local restaurant gig where the drunk guy waves a 20 and requests the most overplayed song ever. He has three records out on Ropeadope - two of which feature the members of James Brown’s last band (including Danny Ray!), and one a collection of ballads that tell the story of his life. Greg Hester captures that southern soul groove. his powerful and unique voice belting out the truth with full emotion and a wry sense of humor in the midst of the struggle called life. Greg is responsible for connecting Ropeadope with Col Bruce Hampton; for that and for the great music he brought us we are eternally grateful.

Drop in below to join us, subscribe for notifications.

New Music | Charles Owens

The mighty Charles Owens is back, this time with a double album highlighting two formats. Three And Thirteen finds Owens back at Jellowstone Studio in Richmond with Devonne Harris on drums, and Andrew Randazzo playing electric bass. The trust, telepathy, and pocket has only grown and evolved with time, and the trio runs through fresh and daring arrangements of familiar songs as far back as 1929 (The beautiful, haunting and plaintive Hoagy Carmichael chestnut “Stardust”), to as recent as 2008 (Radiohead’s “15 Step”). The second part of the LP (Thirteen) finds the R4ND4ZZO BIG B4ND presenting lovingly crafted arrangements of Owens’ compositions by master arranger and bassist Andrew Randazzo.

Three and Thirteen captures the devotion and ambition of Owens with a cast of world class musicians breaking new ground. Look for preorder soon by following Ropeadope here.

Charles Owens is an Award winning Tenor Saxophonist, composer, band leader, Ropeadope Recording Artist, and educator and has been performing, composing, and teaching professionally for over 20 years. He's a veteran of the New York City jazz scene where he regularly performs at world famous clubs such as Smalls, The Blue Note, and Birdland, to name a few. He has made 6 albums as a leader and appeared on numerous recordings as a hired soloist. He's 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 and many others. He has devoted his life to pursuing excellence in the beloved art form known as Jazz.

New Music | Ben Seawell

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Bassist, singer and songwriter Ben Seawell originally hails from North Carolina, where he was in demand as part of the backing rhythm section for notable artists traveling through. He then studied at William Paterson University with Todd Coolman, Rufus Reid, and Michael Moore before moving to New York City. When he met Adrian Harpham at 55 Bar the pair knew right away they would be working together. it took some time, and they plotted a guest list of musicians as diverse as their experiences - Henry Butler, Amp Fiddler, Gabe Gordon, Falu Shah, Seamus Blake, Daniel Sadownick, Deron Johnson and more would grace the final album. Titled FIVE, the recording takes Ben’s unique songs and adds all of the finishing touches and flourish that we have come to expect from Adrian Harpham, who manages to bring out the best in each player. FIVE is set for release on July 26th via Modern Icon Recordings. Check in with us here or here for more news.

New Music | Ramsey Lewis

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NEA JazzMaster Ramsey Lewis is a living legend; it is impossible to imagine today’s landscape of Jazz, funk, and R&B without his contribution. From gold records in the sixties to Grammy awards, Ramsey Lewis has always been a collaborator, working with many including Grover Washington Jr, Maurice White & Earth, Wind, and Fire, Dr. Billy Taylor, Dr. John, and The London Philharmonic. His classic band Urban Knights includes guitarist Henry Johnson, drummer Charles Heath, bassist Joshua Ramos and keyboardist Tim Gant, and they have released six albums that kept the sound and spirit of funk and R&B alive. And now we are thrilled to announce the next - VII by Ramsey Lewis and Urban Knights - will be set for release in the fall of 2019. Original compositions are interspersed with carefully selected classics from John Coltrane, Jimmy Reed, Chick Corea, and The Beatles. Drop in here to follow and get the news on preorder and release dates.

New Music | Tim Ries

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Tim Ries has held down the saxophone and keyboard chairs with The Rolling Stones for the past 21 years, all the while espousing his love of Jazz on his own projects and shows. In 2005 he hit the studio with a cast of greats - Jack DeJohnette, Bill Frisell, Larry Goldings, Grégoire Maret, James Genus and Scott Colley - and recorded a master work. Tim waited to release it as his mother was very ill during the recording, and sadly passed soon after its completion. And now, fourteen years later, Life Changes from Tim Ries is ready for release. The title speaks to the events that brought him to this point, with reference to his daughters Bella, Eliana, and Jasia (who performs on the album), and the dedication to his mother Edith Ries.

The story is unique, and we all get a glimpse into the past with some of the best players on the planet. And yet the story quickly moves away as you listen; Life Changes could well have been recorded yesterday in its adventurous and grand style. We are proud to bring this project to the world - Life Changes will be released on August 9th, with preorders online on July 5th. Look for Tim Ries on the road with The Rolling Stones, and check for his solo shows around those dates, with CDs available as early as this weekend.

New Music | Mike Clark

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How do you like your Jazz? If you like it played with seasoned precision and a driven sense of wanton abandon by some of the finest players on the planet, then you’re in luck as we prepare for the release of Mike Clark’s new album. Mike assembled the cats - Randy Brecker, Christian McBride, Donald Harrison Jr, Rob Dixon, and Antonio Ferao - for a live performance at The Iridium Jazz Club in New York City. Dubbed Indigo Blue, this is an all star band without the hype; six masters engaging in the sport of improvisation as collaborators seeking to transcend the individual parts. The recording is pristine, as if the perfection of the performance demanded the utmost care and attention. The result is a careful document in the history of Jazz. Indigo Blue: Live at The Iridium is set for release on July 12; stay tuned here for first listen and preorder on June 21.

Cover Photo by Derek Brad


New Music | VSUS

VSUS returns with a guitar-driven collaborative record for the ages.  The musicians on this 4-track storybook reimagine previous, younger versions of themselves  – and re-create it in the chaos of New York City. Imagine King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Yes, Joshua Redman, and a touch of Jimi Hendrix.  One might call it a modern twist on classic instrumental prog, wrapped up in a Renaissance mood to capture the memory of the soul. Written by E Scott Lindner (guitar/engineering) and his writing comrade Andrew Hagg (guitars), and reinterpreted along with Adam Ahuja (keyboards), Pablo Eluchans (drums) and Andrew Gould (sax), this experimental record takes the listener on a slightly disturbing, yet satisfying, breath-inducing journey.  Old versus new. Visions of a lethargic sun.

New Music | Aaron Whitby

Aaron Whitby is best known for his work with longtime collaborator Martha Redbone, the acclaimed Native/African-American songstress with whom he created the music genre ‘Native American Soul. Currently the team have created and are touring Bone Hill - The Concert, a devised, multi-disciplinary theatrical concert originally commissioned by Joe’s Pub and The Public Theater.

Mentored by Ohio Player Walter ‘Junie’ Morrison, Aaron Whitby has recorded with many greats, from Natalie Cole to George Clinton, and performed with the likes of Non Hendryx and Vernon Reid. His intent and style are unmistakeable - he’s got soul and it’s evident from the very first note until the last. And now, Aaron’s debut solo album - Cousin From Another Planet - is ready for prime time. With a cooking band that includes Fred Cash, Gary Fritz, Rodney Holmes, and Jerome Harris, and special guest vocalists Lisa Fischer, Tamar Kali, Rome Neal and Martha Redbone, Aaron leads us on a journey that includes social reflection and a powerful, positive message, all with a funky and soulful vibe.

New Music | Nievergelt

The Jewels began as an ongoing late-night conversation: while on the road for two years as the touring rhythm section for various artists, bassist Derek Nievergelt and drummer Adrian Harpham spent endless hours on buses and planes philosophizing about the ideal record. They talked about David Axelrod, Quincy Jones, and the Beastie Boys. They talked about Led Zeppelin, P-Funk, and Paul McCartney. They talked about soundtracks to 60s sci-fi, 70s soft porn, and 80s cop shows. Already transitioning from life as a gig monster to producing and writing, Nievergelt realized he had a mission: to turn this philosophizing into reality.

The Jewels is the culmination of that mission.

Most of the tracks took shape based on a story or sketch. They weren’t really songs until they suddenly were. The premise of one? “Lost in the woods in nice shoes.” The core trio of Nievergelt, Harpham, and guitarist Al Street hashed out the ideas on a first take, and then the second take was it. They didn’t do third takes. But it’s not just the bass-drums-guitar trio that makes the The Jewels sound like a lost gem uncovered in a flea market at the edge of the world. Sure, there’s buzzing amps and plenty of tape hiss, but there’s also the shimmer of a Wurlitzer organ, live string and horn parts, modular synth, even a waterphone and a marxophone.

Whatever it takes.

That was the operating principle.

With its laidback openness, its refusal to be defined, and its dirt, The Jewels is the perfect soundtrack for all your quirks, whatever they may be.

New Music | Casimir Liberski

Hailing from Brussels, Casimir Liberski formed his first trio at the age of thirteen; from his first live appearances his music has been described as moving, exhilarating, and atypical. Drawing inspiration from Jazz and Blues greats, peppered with his personal influences of grunge, alt rock, and video game music, Liberski proves those descriptions true. In 2006 he made his way to Berklee as the first European to receive the school’s Presidential scholarship. He sought guidance from the likes of Brad Mehldau, Craig Taborn, Vijay Iyer and more, but it was the privileged mentorship of Ornette Coleman that set him free to fully improvise. Since 2008 Liberski has consistently released music - with labels and independently - along with collaborations with Louis de Mieulles and compositions for film and television. And now, we have in our hands Casimir Liberski’s next recording - Cosmic Liberty - set for release on September 20, 2019. To pave the way, we’ve released the title track early. Drop in here for first listen, and head over to Casimir’s house for the whole story.

New Music | Jimmy Stephens

Jim Stephens continues his mission to shine a light on the roots of music. Early in 2019 he assembled a cast of players at Esplanade Studios in New Orleans; they were from two worlds that Jimmy inhabits - Philly and New Orleans. Trusted friends and young guns from Philly Ja-Tun Thomas, Andre ‘Boy Wonder’ Coles, and newcomer Ariel Skye met up with New Orleans greats Jeffrey T. Watkins, Jerry JBLAKK Henderson and Big Sam Williams, with the great Shaun Martin for an added touch. The chemistry was instant, as the mission was understood by all without any introduction needed. The result is Yellow River, a collection of gospel meets roots meets the blues tracks that hit the raw undercurrent with an admirable polish. Yellow River is a crowning achievement of a man (and his friends) on a mission. The horns are for real (of course), with Ja-Tun and Boy Wonder trading off vocals with the powerful and courageous Ariel Skye. from slow cooking old school blues whisking you away to the bayou (Call It What It Is), to a gentle yet powerful version of Bessie Smith (The Band), Yellow River delivers a fresh and elegant take on the roots of American music.

Yellow River is set for release on June 28th, with preorder available right here.

Mwenso & The Shakes

Their performances are so riveting it is impossible to turn away, as if there is some element of humanity inside us that we have forgotten and are longing to awaken. The troupe of global artists came together when Michael Mwenso created the late night jam at Dizzy’s, and they can groove, cook, and jam all the way home, with three vocals and a tap dancer up front. Michael Mwenso leads their electrifying show, described by the New York Times as “intense, prowling, and ebullient.”

Mwenso hails from Sierra Leone, but spent his teen years hanging out at Ronnie Scott’s in London where he was exposed to the greats, with the great James Brown bringing him up to sing and dance - a moment that changed his life. The band is from well, everywhere, a truly global meeting of like minds. While fully mesmerizing to watch, the band has powerful message inside the music - an uplifting statement of individuality, courage, and community. The compositions cover a formidable timeline of jazz and blues expression through African and Afro American music.

It is with great pleasure and honor that we announce the debut album from Mwenso & The Shakes, Emergence [The Process of Coming Into Being], due out on August 2, 2019. We will leave you with their sensational performance at The Prospect Park bandshell. Whatever you are doing right now will have to wait.

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Welcome Yazz Ahmed

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As challenging as these times are on planet earth, it is with great wonder and comfort that we are witnessing the emergence of great leaders with vision; individuals who are reinventing Jazz while also becoming role models for others as they express their worldview through their art. Composer, trumpeter, and flugelhorn player Yazz Ahmed has performed with Radiohead and The New Puritans. Her second album, La Saboteuse, featured Shabaka Hutchings and Naadia Sheriff and was hailed by critics and fans alike.

Yazz was born in London to a British ballerina mother and Bahraini engineer father, with the family moving to Bahrain soon afterwards. When she was nine, Ahmed and her sisters returned to London with their mother. Her maternal grandfather, Terry Brown, was a jazz trumpeter and record producer in the 50s, and when Ahmed was given the choice of taking up an instrument at her new school, she chose the trumpet.

Her third album, Polyhymnia, will be released in October 2019, and while Yazz continues to blend Jazz with traditional Arabic rhythms and melodies, she brings her message with the music. Polyhymnia is a celebration of female courage and determination. It is a suite of six compositions, each dedicated to women of outstanding qualities, whom Yazz finds to be inspirational role models. We welcome this powerful and important statement as we work towards a world of equality.

New Music | Bluke

Back in the early days of Ropeadope there was Bullfrog, with Blurum13 and Kid Koala mixing it up. To say the album was ahead of its time, well ya know. As we dig into the archives to celebrate our 20th we find those tracks fit perfectly right alongside releases from 2019. And now we are stoked to say that Blurum13 is back, and he’s brought his friend - the great and always mysterious Luke Vibert - with him. Together they are the defenders of righteous old school Hip-Hop, and the new album from BLUKE is set for May 24th!