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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Early last year Middle Blue hit The Ropeadope Room for an intimate performance featuring Brad Farberman, Jeremy Danneman, Danny Tamberelli, Mike Clark, and Jared Pauley. The band was in great form, and the man behind the keys stood out (by not standing out); as Clark and Farberman charged forward Jared laid down the feel that felt like fuel to their fire. We are now thrilled to announce the arrival of Jared’s solo project, On Capitol Street, with a wide range of moods from samba and bossa nova to boogaloo and Latin jazz. Musicians featured on the project include Mike Clark, drummer Cengiz Baysal, percussionist Elizabeth Pupo-Walker, Duane Eubanks, saxophonist Adam Hutcheson, and vocalist Tamuz Nissim. On Capitol Street is a breezy stroll through classic styles with a seasoned guide. The great Bruce Hampton once said ‘If you’re not soloing and I can hear you, then you’re not doing it right’. Jared Pauley understands this, and that’s what makes On Capitol Street so compelling.
Mysterious. Joyful. Nomadic. Empowered. These are just a few of the words that come to mind as we introduce the new member of the Ropeadope family known as C R O W N . Musical artist and songwriter C R O W N examines the crisis of womxn in todays world: how they are pulled between the potential ahead and the echoes of an under-liberated past (and present). Her songs tell the story of her own discoveries and strive to illuminate the nuanced challenges womxn face in every day experience. The music has a subaquatic feel yet undeniable connection to R&B and Soul.
‘It's a sultry neo-soul affair, mottled with red-lit trip-hop synths and distant beats – there's also a vibrant '90s streak in her voice, recalling the slick tones of R&B icons... While there are similarities to Stateside acts like Frank Ocean, she carves a niche all her own by implementing the very British stylings of Lamb, Portishead and Massive Attack.’ - The 405
C R O W N has two projects ready for release at Ropeadope - Epicene begins in preorder this Friday with release date of May 31 - Unlearning hits on July 28 with early listen and preorder on June 28. Tune in to 21Soul on May 27th for an in depth discussion of the artist and her mission.
We’ve been enthralled with Vivian Sessoms two part project LIFE as it reveals its depth and transition from dark to light. More than just a collection of songs, LIFE is a conceptual reflection on the world in both a cultural and musical sense. The production is unique, a soulful and almost subterranean groove that sets the perfect vibe for Vivian’s wide ranging vocal talent. When she steps up to the mic with power everyone can feel it, as evidenced in her stunning performance on her tribute to Erica Garner, I Can’t Breathe. Her (and husband and producer Chris Parks) choices of select cover songs reveal a specific understanding of music history, from See LIne Woman to The Best Is Yet To Come, to One Thing Leads To Another.
LIFE II is set for release on Friday May 17: drop in here to catch up and preorder.
Last year we had the great pleasure of hosting Logan Richardson for a live session here at the Ropeadope Room. If you’ve heard Logan’s album Blues People, it is impossible to avoid the haunting guitar style of Igor Osypov. And now, we present ROSEMARINE, a trio formed by Danish singer Mia Knop Jacobsen, Igor, and drummer Philip Dornbusch. The sound is unique and hard to define, it’s big and powerful one moment and sublime and delicate the next. You can feel the interplay between the musicians as they reach for a space that they call their own. Expressions of love, loss, anger and determination come through on their self titled debut album, due out on May 10th. Pre-orders (and a taste) hit on April 5.
Our hero Bubby Lewis is at it again, this time a new single featuring Jhene Aiko. Setting the tone for the lead in to his second album, Hero Dynasty, due out on July 19, 2019, Bubby hits us with a strikingly beautiful track featuring the longing vocals of Jhene Aiko. The song reveals the comfort and connection between two great artists…
‘Miss & Love was written for the purpose of healing people. Everyone has lost somebody, but we can all make it. It is relatable not just to those who have passed on, but also to those to have lost relationships.’ (Bubby Lewis)
Miss & Love is refreshingly soft and dreamy in a time when there is noise all around, urging us to find that place of love within, and to share it.