Sunday, October 24, 2010

Artist of the Week: Ayako Shirasaki

Artist of the Week: Ayako Shirasaki


Recognized in her native Japan as a jazz prodigy (in the 5th grade she was already transcribing Bud Powell solos), Ayako Shirasaki while yet a pre-teen won many prizes including the Grand Prize at the Asakusa Jazz Competition. Her professional career began at the tender age of twelve when she began regular appearances at the “J” jazz club in Tokyo. Her extraordinary talent was soon recognized, and she was featured in Swing Journal.

Extremely versatile, Ayako majored in classical music at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and performed as a classical pianist for several years after graduation. But the love of the jazz idiom instilled by her father from the age of five won out, and Ayako soon returned to her first love, winning in 1995 second prize in the prestigious First Annual Heineken Jazz Competition.

In 1997 Ayako moved to New York City where she currently resides. Her talent won her a scholarship in the masters program at the Manhattan School of Music where she studied performance with such noted teachers as Kenny Barron and Ted Rosenthal and composition with Mike Abene.

Ayako is fast making a name for herself as one of the most exciting and inventive pianists on the New York jazz scene. She has been heard at the Blue Note, The Kitano, Birdland, Cobi’s Place, Dizzy’s Club, Sugar Hill Bistro, Swing 46, Copeland’s, Cleopatra’s Needle, and Kavehaz. Her unique style and strong rhythmic sense have made her much in demand. She has played with Lewis Nash, Kalil Madi, John Benitez, Steve Kirby, Kengo Nakamura, Kenny Garrett, Clarence Penn, Kit McLure and Harold Ousley.

Ayako released two self-produced CDs in 2002, “Live in New York” with her trio and “The Duo Live” with vibraphonist Tim Collins. In August 2003, her major debut CD “Existence” (Lewis Nash on drums, Marco Panascia on bass) was released in Japan. Her second major CD “Musically Yours” was released in June, 2005. In April 2006, Ayako’s long-waited solo piano album “Home Alone” was released. Additionally she has been featured on Marian McPartlands “An NPR Jazz Christmas with Marian McPartland and Friends, Vol. 3″ and recently on “Best of 1st International Jazz Solo Piano Festival 2009″.


“Ayako Shirasaki is a devoted, virtuosic, daring and expressive pianist.” - Howard Mandel, president of the Jazz Journalists Association and senior contributor DOWNBEAT Magazine, September 2009

“Ayako is an extremely gifted musician. She is blessed with great technique, a fertile and creative imagination, a firm understanding of the jazz tradition and a real love for the music. I recommend Ayako without reservation.” - Pianist, Kenny Barron

“She is one amazing musician, and an incredible pianist and composer. One of the greatest pianists I’ve ever heard! Don’t dare miss her. Ayako has everything that makes a musician great.” - Pianist, Jessica Williams

“Jazz improvisation at the highest level.” - Jazzthetik, German Jazz Magazine, April 2009

“Shirasaki is a virtuoso whose technique ranges from a tender touch like the late Tommy Flanagan, and brisk runs like Bud Powell, but with a brilliant creativity all her own.” - Greg Thomas, Chief editor, Harlem World Magazine

“She’s awfully good: rhapsodic when the material demands but still quite capable of swinging with Powellish drive.” - Paul Blair, Hot House Jazz Magazine, November 2007

“Ayako has a very good sense of time and advanced harmonic ideas.” - Ted Rosenthal, Pianist and Thelonious Monk Competition Winner

“Ya’ know, the good thing about this girl is that she really can swing!!” - Dr. Buster Brown , Tap Dancer

“Ayako, you are the very best!” - Cobi Narita, Music promoter


- Performance at Jazz Journalists Association Awards Gala 2010, New York (video)
- 1st International Jazz Solo Piano Festival 2009, Germany, Berlin, Munich, Hamburg
- Guest on Marian McPartland’s radio show “Piano Jazz” 2006; National Public Radio
- Finalist in the Mary Lou Williams Women In Jazz Piano Competition 2005 and 2006; Washington, D.C., USA
- Finalist in the Great American Jazz Piano Competition 2004, 2005 and 2006; Jacksonville, Fl., USA
- Member of the 2003 Jazz Aspen Snowmass Emerging Artist Program; Aspen, Co., USA
- Second prize in the First Annual Heineken Jazz Competition 1995
- Grand Prize at the Asakusa Jazz Competition; Asakusa, Japan


Ayako is equally comfortable entertaining jazz piano audiences in a solo setting or as leader of a larger ensemble. Ayako attributes her ability to excel in both settings due to her command of numerous musical genres and her ability to provide a strong time feel, as if her left hand assumes the role of a seasoned bassist or percussionist. Ayako`s ability to collaborate across a wide range ofmusical settings is evidenced in recent duo performances with tap dancers, vibraphonists and horn players. Influential musicians cited by Ayako include Bill Evans, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and Billy Strayhorn. Ayako has performed tribute concerts in honor of several of these jazz legends and plans on performing more in the future.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Artist of the Week: Ceumar

Artist of the Week: Ceumar
Here's a crystal clear voiced brazilian singer, named "Ceumar" ( pronounced as "say-ooh-mar") , whose name could have been an artistic reference: heaven (Ceu) and the sea (Mar) - very lyrical and a justifying metaphor for her musical approach.

When asked, Ceumar will reveal the truth of her name: it's a combination of her father's and mother's names. At home the young Ceumar was exposed to the music of artists like Milton Nascimento, Lo Borges, Clube da Esquina, Joyce and Boca Livre. When starting her own musical adventure, Ceumar tended to choose the less obvious road, not very eager to sing the songs "everybody" already sung before her. That was illustrated by her more or less first show, which she called "30 Músicas que você não ouve no radio" (30 Songs you don't hear on the radio) and contained songs by Egberto Gismonti, A Barca do Sol, Hermeto Pascoal and others.

Ceumar plays with ..

She has made performances with premier Brazilian artists such as Vitor Ramil, Nilson Chaves, Lui Coimbra, Sergio Perere, Mauricio Tizumba. ceumar & jazztrioRecently, she has participated in the project DISCO DE OURO – TROPICALIA (“Golden Record – Tropicalia” ) with Lula Queiroga, Sergio Dias (Mutantes) and Rebeca Matta.

Last years she performed a lot in Europe with a wonderful jazztrio from Amsterdam NL ( Mike del Ferro - Olaf Keus - Frans van der Hoeven ) and with the african-european-brazilian crossover group Kokoura. Recently Ceumar also performed with the great American jazz-singer Deborah Carter.

History: Ceumar played at ..

During the last 5 years, Ceumar made performances in Curitiba (Paiol, Guairinha), Itajai – Santa Catarina (Winter Festival), Porto Alegre (Santander Cultural), Campinas, Rio de Janeiro (Novo Canto Project, Bolsa Nova Project), Belem (SESC DOCA), Sao Luis (Circo da Cidade), Brasilia (CCBB, Feitico Mineiro), Belo Horizonte (TIM Mov. Perc – 2005) besides her performances in Sao Paulo – capital and countryside.

In 2005, joined the Projeto Pixinguinha (Pixinguinha Project) roaming about the North and Center regions of Brazil. She also joined the Festival Cultura (Cultura Festival) exibited by the TV Channel “ TV Cultura”, with the song ACHOU! (by Dante Ozzetti and Luiz Tatit) achieving the second place.

In 2006 & 2007 Ceumar performed many shows in The Netherlands, Spain and Belgium. Some of these concerts were together with guitarist Dante Ozzetti, others were accompanied by the Mike Del Ferro Trio or Kokoura.


Festival Mundial, Bimhuis Amsterdam, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Tropentheater Amsterdam, De Doelen Rotterdam, Zuiderpershuis Antwerpen (Belgium), Rasa Utrecht (NL), Sfinx Festival( Belgium).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Artist of the Week: Flavia Bittencourt

Artist of the Week: Flavia Bittencourt

Em seu segundo trabalho Flávia Bittencourt viaja na obra de Dominguinhos. O CD Todo Domingos, em edição independente, mostra uma cantora forte que ousa e experimenta. Ela coloca seu toque pessoal em cada uma das doze releituras especialíssimas escolhidas na imensa obra do compositor.

Por ser de lá, na certa por isso mesmo. Flávia Bittencourt é de São Luis, Maranhão. Dominguinhos é de Garanhuns, Pernambuco. Os dois estados no Nordeste brasileiro, região de cultura rica e de forte identidade musical. Flávia e Dominguinhos são artistas do mundo. Ela, jovem e talentosa cantora atenta aos movimentos mais delicados de sua arte. Ele sanfoneiro e compositor consagrado, autor de diversos sucessos que permeiam o inconsciente coletivo. A mistura dos dois se mostra mágica em um álbum de nobre abordagem contemporânea.

Nesse encontro Flávia deita belíssima voz, cheia de ritmo, em clássicos como Lamento sertanejo, Tenho sede e Abri a porta. Com coragem chega até a Eu só quero um xodó, música das mais presentes no dia-a-dia do país. E – pasmem – ela consegue trazer vida nova partindo de elementos do bumba-meu-boi e da música flamenca. Os arranjos foram maturados de maneira coletiva com a banda. “Geralmente eu penso na música, começo a cantá-la sozinha e as idéias começam a surgir”, conta Flávia. No disco passam arranjos assinados por Jayme Vignoli, Leandro Saramago, Luiz Flavio Alcofra, Silvério Pontes, Alessandro Cardoso, Gérson da Conceição, Charlles da Costa, Thiago França e Rogério Fernandes

Flávia está irresistível em Sete meninas, dessas gravações quentes que fazem até o chão dançar contagiado pelos metais e percussão. Ao mesmo tempo se mostra especialmente lírica na releitura delicada para Tenho sede. E esquenta com tons de reggae Abri a porta, hit pop do grupo A Cor do Som no início dos anos 80.

E a festa soma presenças. A celebração de Dominguinhos se estende a seus parceiros. Aqui um painel variado que vai de Gilberto Gil a Guadalupe; de Djavan a Manduka; de Toinho até Anastácia, a mais presente. Passa também a presença de Jorge Benjor, celebrado na música "O Babulina", lançada por Dominguinhos em 1976.

Mais eis que o próprio compositor se faz presente, voz agreste acolhedora e sanfona aconchegada no peito, na íntima "Diz amiga". A amiga em questão não resistiu e incluiu uma composição própria e inédita, "Seu Domingos", homenagem dentro da homenagem.

A difícil seleção de repertório parte de uma carreira de mais de 40 anos do compositor. Assim que revelou ao homenageado a intenção de fazer o disco, Flávia ganhou apoio de Dominguinhos que ofereceu a ela discos raros, em que ela mergulhou em horas de pesquisa. “Foi um processo difícil porque eu tinha material pra fazer alguns discos e tinha que escolher só doze faixas. Mas também não queria deixar de lado alguns clássicos que são tão lindos”, revela.

A relação de Flávia Bittencourt com a música de Dominguinhos vem dos discos que o pai ouvia em casa. Mais tarde, já colegas de profissão, o encontro nos bastidores de um evento em que se apresentavam. O compositor convidou a cantora para interpretar o clássico De volta pro aconchego. O caminho de amizade levou Dominguinhos a participar do primeiro CD de Flávia, lançado em 2005.

O novo passo entrelaça ainda mais as histórias. Ele, longa estrada percorrida e em plena atividade levando sua música onde o povo está. Ela, segundo CD e construindo uma história sincera e apaixonada por sua música. Juntos em Todo Domingos, a voz de Flávia Bittencourt e a obra de Dominguinhos foram feitos um para o outro, basta ouvir.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Artist of the Week: Harvie S

Harvie S, award winning composer, arranger, bassist, educator and producer is continually challenging himself and his peers, expanding the borders of musical direction.

A legendary bassist he has performed and recorded with Stan Getz, Chet Baker, Dexter Gordon, Tony Bennett, Ray Baretto, Michael Brecker, Jean Pierre Rampal, Paquito D'Rivera, Gil Evans, Art Farmer, Mark Turner, Jim Hall, Stefon Harris, Billy Hart, Lee Konitz, Yusef Lateef, Dave Leibman, Joe Lovano, Pat Metheny, Paul Motion, Chico O'Farrill, Danilo Perez, Maria Schneider, Zoot Sims, Toots Thielemans, Ray Vega, James Williams, Phil Woods, Louie Bellson and countless others.

He can be heard on 13 Cds as a leader. 12 as a Co-Leader and over 350 CDs as a sideman. These recordings include his work with an enormous variety of artistic voices such as James Brown, Kenny Barron, Chick Corea, Tom Harrell, Sheila Jordan, Steve Kuhn, Pat Martino, David Mathews, Virginia Mayhew, Pucho and the Latin Soul Brothers,Anat Cohen, Tyshawn Sorey Mike Stern, Donny McCaslin, John Scofield, Dr. Billy Taylor, Yusef Lateef and Grover Washington Jr.

His 2008 release with jazz legend Kenny Barron "Now was the time" on High Note records was voted best of the year and topped the Jazz Week charts for over five months.

His most recent CD released in May 2010 "Cocolamus Bridge" on the Blue Bamboo Label and premieres a panoply of original compositions by Harvie.

Harvie's innovative piece "S" was a winner in the International Song Writing competition of 2006.

Harvie S was selected a Jazz Ambassador for the United States and toured throughout Europe

and Southeast Asia in this honored capacity in 2006.

He has been a guest on NPRs "All Things Considered" and "Fresh Air." His career is documented in Leonard Feather's Encyclopedia of Jazz, the Grove Dictionary of Jazz and the All Music Guide. Mr. S composed the musical themes for the documentaries The Trumpet Kings, The Piano Legends and John Coltrane. He can been seen and heard on the music videos of Toots Thielemans, Pat Martino, Sheila Jordan, Jay Clayton, Jane Ira Bloom and countless others.

Harvie S has been featured in print and internet articles in The New York Times, The New York Post, The Daily News, Japan Times, USA Today, Downbeat, All About Jazz, Jazziz, Cadence , Jazz Improv, Coda(Canada), Jazztimes, Swing Journal(Japan), Jazz Life(Japan), Jazz Forum(Poland), Jazz Hot (France), Hot House, Jazz Improv, The Los Angeles Times, Jazz Podium and Jazz-it (Italy).

As a bandleader Harvie S has performed at The Blue Note, The Iridium, The Kennedy Center, Montreal Jazz Festival, JVC Festival and Freehoffer Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, Detroit Jazz Festival, Temple University, the Painted Bride, Carnegie Hall, Yoshis, The Edminton Jazz Festival, The Toronto Jazz Festival, The Sugarloaf Festival, The Saratoga Jazz Festival,, Sweet Rhythm, the Philadelphia Museum After Five Series, the JVC Jazz Festival, Manhattan School of Music Jazz Festival, Flushing Town Hall Jazz Concert Series, The Rochester Jazz Festival, The Lake George Jazz Festival, Pori Jazz Festival, Cape Cod Jazz Festival, Tblissi Jazz Festival, Jazz at Riverspace, the WBGO Summer Jazz Festival, the Tarrytown Library Concert Series, the 55 Bar, the Kitano, the Zinc Bar, the Middleton County Artists in Residence Series, and the Patterson School District Arts in Education Program.

In addition to his performance career, Harvie S is an active educator. He has been a Professor of Jazz Bass and Ensembles at Manhattan School of Music for both undergraduate and graduate divisions since 1984.

He has conducted workshops, lecture demonstrations and presentations throughout the world at many venues including The Kennedy Center, The New School, New York University, Columbia University, Harvard University, the International Association of Jazz Educators, the International Society of Bassists, Yale University, Amherst College, L'Escuela de Nationale, Havana, Cuba, Carnegie Hall Jazz Education Program, Sibelius Academy, Eastman School of Music, Berklee College of Music, William Paterson College and The Henry Third Street Music Settlement.

Currently developing a new music for a variety of musical ensembles and recordings, Harvie S

is integrating his lifetime of musical experience and research into opening doors to new and exciting pathways of creative expression