These are the times of experimentation beyond genre; not necessarily in a deliberate fashion but simply because these are times of crossing cultures and established tradition while simultaneously paying tribute. Tosin Aribisala hails from Nigeria, and the music Tony Allen, King Sunny Ade, and Fela Kuti are as much in his blood as the music of Art Blakey, Bob Marley, and Sting. His 2018 release Afrika Rising draws on his full experience of bearing witness to different cultures and finding a place in both. Currently in Los Angeles, Tosin spent time in Washington DC and New York as he takes the differences in the world and seeks to bring us Unity and hope - "my music is a mixture of African rhythmic textures and some elements of jazz and blues, with lyrics of hope, love and human realities.". Dig in.
Avram Fefer, one of the new school old guard top level cats from the New York scene, hit us this year with a new project dubbed Rivers On Mars. The lineup - Greg Tate of Black Rock Coalition and Burnt Sugar Arkestra on the Laptop, On Ka’ Davis of Sun Ra Arkestra on guitar, Chris Eddleton of Red Baraat on drums, and Avram on Sax, Bass Clarinet, and Flute. With a diverse lineup like this you know you’re about to take a journey; Deja Voodoo walks through what you might expect from the band name - a stellar journey with edgy performances that give the audience a chance to share the band's sense of experimentation, voyage, and danger.
Formed in 2012 at the 5th Estate sessions in Brooklyn, NYC, Beekman is a collective endeavor by saxophonist Kyle Nasser, pianist Yago Vazguez, bassist Pablo Menares, and drummer Rodrigo Recabarren. The quartet couples eclectic original compositions – steeped in jazz, rock, Latin, and classical – with dynamic group interplay into a sound that is international while remaining squarely in the realm of modern jazz. With members from three different continents, Beekman brings a plethora of influences to bear on its compositional and improvisational aesthetics.
This year Kyle Nasser and Beekman followed up their Ropeadope debut with a live record from their performances in San Francisco. There’s always talk of chops in Jazz, and of course they are there, but the capture of beekman’s live performance transcends critical thinking and just finds a comfortable place of musical enjoyment. Grab a beverage of your choice, relax, and just drift.
Modern Icon Recordings is building something special, as Adrian Harpham brings his ear and intense production sensibilities to the game. His goal is to coax out the best in every artist, and this treasure from Stephanie McKay is a shining example. In her career, McKay has walked the challenging line between the pitfalls of fame and the real heart of musical expression. Her credits show her careful selection of collaborations; not just gigs but an organic evolution of her connections. Kelis, Amp Fiddler, Roy Hargrove, Brooklyn Funk Essentials, Yasiin Bey, Talib Kweli, DJ Spinna, and more – each has a specific individuality, and have held their art above commercial success. Her 2018 Album Song In My Heart finds McKay in a deep experimental and soulful place of expression. From the gentle and yearning ‘Quietly’, to the empowering title track, to the delightful, life affirming track Home, co-written with Stephanie’s son – Song In My Heart is gem to be held close at all times.
Craig Irving, the Philadelphia hip-hop vocalist better known as Cee Know the Doodlebug of the Grammy-winning hip-hop trio Digable Planets, adopted the moniker Cee Knowledge while studying the 5% Nation of Islam in 1988 at Howard University. Knowledge grew up in a city full of musical traditions from the cosmic jazz of the Sun Ra Arkestra to the new Philly soul of Bilal and Musiq Soulchild and the groundbreaking hip-hop of the Roots and Chill Moody. It was a place for Knowledge to absorb all kinds of music from early hip-hop and '70s funk to avant-garde jazz and new Philly soul. Knowledge's mind drifted south of Philadelphia for his funk sources in the music of Parliament-Funkadelic, the Bar-Kays, and Barry White. He first expressed his love of funk, jazz, and hip-hop together in Digable Planets, which won a Grammy for Best Rap Performance in 1993.
2018 marked the release of Alien-Aided - a Cosmic Funk anthology via Artists First Records and Ropeadope. The crew is on their game, with special guests Schoolly D, Cookie Rabinowitz, and many more. Get cosmic and funky, Y’all.
It’s been a hot minute since Adam & Kizzie have recorded, and in 2018 they revealed what they had been working on and we were simply stunned. We knew they had a fresh take on music, but the depths of their creative vision were on full display with The Book Of EEDO Vol 3. The lead single, Breathless, is a masterwork - funky, fun, and powerful as any pop hit, with a heavy dose of soul. The pure, universal honesty of a couple in love is expressed, with Adam beatboxing and rapping behind and between Kizzie’s lofty and longing vocals. This one’s a TOP pick from a big year here at Ropeadope, on repeat all the time. Dig in.
Established as a bandleader, composer, and player with Conjunto La Perfecta, Eddie Palmieri presses forward yet again. Immersed in the New York scene and seeking to infuse the music with new sounds, Palmieri begins a new phase, bringing elements of funk and soul into the mix. He recorded four albums under the Tico label, which were considered to be his finest work to date. It is the second release, Justicia, which marks a distinct turning point; social commentary and politics. We can see the seeds from the previous response to Mozambique, but now the message is more direct; lyrically pointed with calls for justice for Boricuas and African Americans and ending with a message of unity and brotherhood. It is here we see the breadth of Palmieri’s understanding of the history of captives and slaves, and the diaspora that spreads music to fuel hope. The album seems to have inspired others on the scene, notably Tony Pabón's La Protesta and Manny Oquendo's Conjunto Libre.
Justicia tendrán, justicia verán en el mundo y los que deseamos, recompensa ellos verán, no serán, no serán perjudicados. Si no hubiera tiranía, todos fuéramos hermanos, dulce paz y armonía, alegría tu lo verás... Justicia tendrán, justicia verán en el mundo y los que deseamos, recompensa mi tambo, oye mi tambo la justicia yo reclamo... hay cuando llegará la justicia.
With his Conjunto La Perfecta in peak form, Palmieri continued in the studio with the great Cal Tjader to follow up El Sonida Nuevo. This time the gloves are off with some serious cookers from both camps, notably the title track Bamboleate and Tjader’s Samba De Los Suenho. With bassist Bobby Rodriguez holding the groove and a sense of wild abandon in both the rhythm and the vocals, Bambeolate feels like a wild street party in a place you’d love to be. By bringing the best of Palmieri’s Salsa band and Tjader’s Latin Jazz sensibility, this album feels like a major crossover moment in the history of both, and one can imagine the sixties NYC crowd embracing it as they search for new sounds.
We are digging back into the incredible life of Eddie Palmieri as we prepare to release Mi Luz Mayor (tomorrow!). All along the way we find gems as Eddie progresses and continues to express fierce independence and musical curiosity, coupled with a steady desire to fuse elements of different cultures. In 1966 he released Mambo Con Conga Is Mozambique, bringing powerful Cuban Rhythms into the mix. According to Historia de la Salsa de Hiram Guadalupe Perez, some Cuban exiles opposed the album, as any warming of tension between the US and Cuba at the time was not acceptable to them. The album was supposedly listed as a ‘communist product’ by the US Government. Quite a distinction, and perhaps a precursor to social and political dialogue around his music.
Coming up next; more from Cal & Eddie and the progression towards Justicia.
If you’re just joining us we are celebrating Eddie Palmieri all week as we prepare for the release of Mi Luz Mayor, his second Salsa album of 2018.
Conjunto La Perfecta continued to ignite the Charanga dance craze on ballroom floors through the sixties, with extra trombone power and Palmieri’s signature fourth chord sound. Like so many bands of that time one can see the changes in photographs of the band members; slowly the traditional suits and clean cut hair gave way to a loose look and full experimentation and creativity were the norm. The great Cal Tjader saw the band in New York and soon he and Eddie were in Rudy Van Gelder’s studio to record El Sonido Nuevo (The New Sound). The results again changed the landscape of Latin music and Latin Jazz, fusing them and breaking them open at the same time. The pair drew on the Cuban Mozambique dance rhythm for certain tracks, and Eddie drew on both the Cuban influence of Machito and the big band style of Glenn Miller.
Next Up - More Mozambique…
As a young man Eddie Palmieri learned from his brother Charlie, accompanying him at talent contests and gigs. He studied piano, and soon his time would come to perform in the dance halls with the great Tito Rodriguez. It might seem as though he was ready to follow the scene, but soon his innate curiosity and fierce vision began to emerge. In 1961 Palmieri started his first band featuring Ismael Quintana on vocals - Conjunto La Perfecta - foreshadowing his life’s quest for musical perfection. With Charanga as the dance craze of the time, he flipped the big band lineup by replacing violins with trombones, creating one of, if not the most innovative groups of the time. On the liner notes to the debut album, Charlie Palmieri dubbed the style ‘Trombanga’. This subtle but powerful change led a whole new movement as other bandleaders adopted the new sound. And yet, this is just the start of Eddie Palmieri’s experimentation.
Up next, the blending of style gets deep…
EVERY DAY we are thankful that the great Eddie Palmieri has entrusted us with his recordings; albums that represent his continuous search for perfection in music. It began last year with the Latin Jazz classic Sabiduria, and continued in 2018 with Salsa albums Full Circle and Mi Luz Mayor. And so we salute Mr. Palmieri, with highlights from his career each day as we lead up to Friday’s release of Mi Luz Mayor. First, some history:
Born in 1936 in New York, Mr. Eddie Palmieri is a bandleader, arranger, and composer who has skillfully fused the rhythm of his Puerto Rican heritage with the complexity of his jazz influences. He gained international attention as a pianist in the 1950’s, playing with Eddie Forrester and the popular Tito Rodriguez Orchestra, among others. In 1961 he formed La Perfecta, featuring an unconventional front line of trombones that created a new sound, mixing American Jazz into Afro-Caribbean rhythms and leading to the trombone-heavy Salsa explosion in the 1970s.
Throughout the 60s and 70s Mr. Palmieri continued to surprise fans and critics with his unique sound – in 1970 he released the epic ‘Harlem River Drive’, merging Black and Latin music into a free-form sound that seamlessly blends elements of funk, soul, rock, salsa, and jazz. In 1975 Mr. Palmieri was awarded the very first Grammy for Best Latin Recording; this would be the first of ten Grammys over the next 30 years. His lyrics and arranging style have influenced countless musicians from a diverse array of settings, including Chick Corea, Ruben Blades, Willie Colon and the Fania All Stars, Christian McBride, and hip hop pioneer Bobbito Garcia.
It’s good to have a little fun ya know, and while we take the music seriously we were super excited for this record from Sasha Masakowski. Playful, eccentric, but with all the chops one would expect from a progressive Jazz musician, Sasha’s 2018 release Art Market brings a range of style with instant classics like ‘Juicy Booty Song’ and ‘Sister’, but it was her version of the New Orleans staple Jockamo that grabbed our attention. The song has a storied history, and Sasha re-imagines it from a woman’s perspective without losing the spirit. Dig in to Art Market right here.
Tommaso embodies the art form: gentle, flowing, dignified yet absolutely curious. A traveler with a message who is just as comfortable in his native Padova, Italy, as he is in a New York studio. A student of the drum and the rhythm, and a man who embraces technology as it applies to music. He came to Ropeadope via Mark de Clive-Lowe’s imprint Mashibeats, delivering his acclaimed debut album Aforemention, in 2016 and this year he reworked the project with remixes that developed through random encounters on his tour of the world. Nia Andrews, Natalie May, and more bring the album out of the studio and into the world in a soulful way. Drop in right here for both albums.
An interesting and subtle album of 2018 is this one from The Eric Binder Trio. His debut on Ropeadope caught some great attention from the Jazz community, and this year Eric returned with a tribute to Malcolm Cecil, with Cecil on the record! Malcolm Cecil played with greats in the UK - Ronnie Scott and The Jazz Five, Johnny Griffin, Stan Getz, and many more. But his career led him to a gig behind the console, as he became a skilled producer and engineer for artists including Stevie Wonder, Weather Report, The Isley Brothers and others too numerous to mention here. Eric Binder believes that Malcolm Cecil’s bass playing was overlooked as a result, and on The Malcolm Cecil Project he highlights just that. Rounding out the trio is NY tenor Joel Frahm, a perfect complement for the project. This is a classic Jazz project in the best way - the young gun paying tribute to the art, and a man who carried the art forward in the best way. Dig In.
Infinity Gritty delivered this one from Project K-Paz, the brainchild of Alvaro Kapaz and Pablo Eluchans. The trio is formed with the addition of Adam Ahuja, and their 2018 album Post-Something, brings purely improvisational music inspired by deep reflection on our times.
'We are in a controversial era, when the world seems easily polarized and tensions quickly rise. But the future lies in the hands of the new generations, who bring us hope of a reality that will build bonds out of bleak surroundings, turning our differences into strengths, and discover a new unity for our humanity. How we as humans choose to deal with sadness, loss, excitement, madness, joy, love.' (Project K-Paz)
Post-Something was recorded in one night with Infinity Gritty alum and general wizard of all recording things E. Scott Lindner.
Saxophonist Warren Walker and Guitarist Federico Casagrande are longtime friends in the Paris music scene and together they form OddAtlas along with drummer Caleb Dolister and bassist Sam Minaie from New York. The project began with the newly formed quartet locking themselves in a remote alpine studio during a frigid December week in Chamonix, France, 2016. They arrived at the studio with a few odd compositions, plugged in and started to create. Despite the cold air rushing down from Mont Blanc to still the town, the studio stayed warmed by hours of exploring their collective compositions.
OddAtlas’ self-titled album takes the listener through this process, and documents the seasoned and progressive Post-Jazz performers as they build their musical ideas and concepts while recording. Though their paths are clearly from different places, they managed to discover a cohesive energy, and a steady ambiance can be felt throughout the entire album as melodies evolve over playful and ever-changing contrasts. The album feels equally like a journey to unknown parts and the long road back home from them.
What happens when you put four badass musicians who have seen it all in a studio together? A blood sport of shredding, with all the players on the same team. And so it is that Mark Sherman, Mike Clark, Chase Baird, and Felix Pastorius became Venture. Like many great things it started spontaneously, with a casual statement after a gig, and once the gauntlet was down and it had to be done. The results are stunning, as these cats don’t play around. The young guns can bring the f word - fusion - to the game, but they need to heed those that lived it and still treat it like the absolute fun that it is. Take a ride with Venture today.
This is one of many delightful moments from 2018 : Dimitrije Vasiljevic is a soft spoken man, yet his story is big. Born in Serbia and trained in the Soviet classical music system, Dimitrije fell in love with the music of New Orleans and of course, it changed his path as he followed his heart (and ears) to the USA. Dimi is currently a music professor at Xavier University in Louisiana, and his 2018 album - Accidental Nomad - tells the story in instrumental form of his journey as he reflects on the path that makes so much sense to him (and us), but is truly difficult for others to understand. And the music! A carefully woven tapestry that blends his classical training, his understanding of odd meters in the Serbian style, and his finely tuned ear for American Jazz. Accidental Nomad is like an easy chair, a spot where you feel at home while reflecting on the day’s journey. Bravo.
2018 marked he launch of Uprising Music NYC, an artist advocacy group and record label headed up by family and friends of Mr. Eddie Palmieri. With a solid community of artists in Latin Jazz and beyond, Uprising brings a wide roster of talent to the world. First up: Mr. Alex Conde, a pedigreed Spanish Flamenco and Jazz pianist who seeks to merge the elements of Flamenco, Afro-Cuban, and American Jazz forms. His new album, Origins, features Luques Curtis, Marcus Gilmore, Conrad Herwig, Brian Lynch, and more, and it is a delicate expression of his vision, conjuring images of a time past with a subtle dramatic edge. Origins sets the tone for the quality we can expect from Uprising Music - stay tuned.