Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Jazz and Bossa Artist of the Week (march 27 - april 2) - Hiromi
Hiromi Ueharafirst mesmerized the jazz community with her 2003 Telarc debut, Another Mind. The buzz started by her first album spread all the way back to her native Japan, where Another Mind shipped gold (100,000 units) and received the Recording Industry Association of Japan's (RIAJ) Jazz Album of the Year Award. The keyboardist/ composer's second release, Brain, won the Horizon Award at the 2004 Surround Music Awards, Swing Journal's New Star Award, Jazz Life's Gold Album, HMV Japan's Best Japanese Jazz Album, and the Japan Music Pen Club's Japanese Artist Award (the JMPC is a classical/jazz journalists club). Brain was also named Album of the Year in Swing Journal's 2005 Readers Poll. In 2006, Hiromi won Best Jazz Act at the Boston Music Awards and the Guinness Jazz Festival's Rising Star Award. She also claimed Jazzman of the Year, Pianist of the Year and Album of the Year in Swing Journal Japan's Readers Poll for her 2006 release, Spiral. Hiromi continues her winning streak with the 2007 release of Time Control and in 2008, Beyond Standard. Both releases feature Hiromi's super group, Sonic Bloom.
Born in Shizuoka, Japan, in 1979, Hiromi took her first piano lessons at age six. She learned from her earliest teacher to tap into the intuitive as well as the technical aspects of music.
"Her energy was always so high, and she was so emotional," Hiromi says of her first piano teacher. "When she wanted me to play with a certain kind of dynamics, she wouldn't say it with technical terms. If the piece was something passionate, she would say, 'Play red.' Or if it was something mellow, she would say, 'Play blue.' I could really play from my heart that way, and not just from my ears."
Hiromi took that intuitive approach a step further when she enrolled in the Yamaha School of Music less then a year after her first piano lessons. By age 12, she was performing in public, sometimes with very high-profile orchestras. "When I was 14, I went to Czechoslovakia and played with the Czech Philharmonic," she says. "That was a great experience, to play with such a professional orchestra."
Further into her teens, her tastes expanded to include jazz as well as classical music. A chance meeting with Chick Corea when she was 17 led to a performance with the well-known jazz pianist the very next day.
"It was in Tokyo," Hiromi recalls. "He was doing something at Yamaha, and I was visiting Tokyo at the time to take some lessons. I talked to some teachers and said that I really wanted to see him. I sat down with him, and he said 'Play something.' So I played something, and then he said, 'Can you improvise?' I told him I could, and we did some two-piano improvisations. Then he asked me if I was free the next day. I told him I was, and he said, 'Well, I have a concert tomorrow. Why don't you come?' So I went there, and he called my name at the end of the concert, and we did some improvisations together."
After a couple years of writing advertising jingles for Nissan and a few other high-profile Japanese companies, Hiromi came to the United States in 1999 to study at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. For as open as her musical sensibilities had already been when she came to the U.S., the Berklee experience pushed her envelope even further.
"It expanded so much the way I see music," she says. "Some people dig jazz, some people dig classical music, some people dig rock. Everyone is so concerned about who they like. They always say, 'This guy is the best,' 'No, this guy is the best.' But I think everyone is great. I really don't have barriers to any type of music. I could listen to everything from metal to classical music to anything else."
Among her mentors at Berklee was veteran jazz bassist Richard Evans, who teaches arranging and orchestration. Evans co-produced Another Mind, her Telarc debut, with longtime friend and collaborator Ahmad Jamal, who has also taken a personal interest in Hiromi's artistic development. "She is nothing short of amazing," says Jamal. "Her music, together with her overwhelming charm and spirit, causes her to soar to unimaginable musical heights."
At 26, Hiromi stands at the threshold of limitless possibility, constantly drawing inspiration from virtually everyone and everything around her. Her list of influences, like her music itself, is boundless. "I love Bach, I love Oscar Peterson, I love Franz Liszt, I love Ahmad Jamal," she says. "I also love people like Sly and the Family Stone, Dream Theatre and King Crimson. Also, I'm so much inspired by sports players like Carl Lewis and Michael Jordan. Basically, I'm inspired by anyone who has big, big energy. They really come straight to my heart."
But she won't, as a matter of principle, put labels on her music. She'll continue to follow whatever moves her, and leave the definitions to others.
"I don't want to put a name on my music," she says. "Other people can put a name on what I do. It's just the union of what I've been listening to and what I've been learning. It has some elements of classical music, it has some rock, it has some jazz, but I don't want to give it a name."
Another Mind (2003) CD-83558
Brain (2004) CD-83600
Spiral (2005) CD-83631
Time Control (2007) CD-83655
Beyond Standard (2008) CD-83686
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Jazz and Bossa Artist of the Week (march 20 - 26) - David Sanchez
Sanchez took up the conga when he was eight and started playing tenor saxophone at age 12. The earliest influences were Afro-Caribbean and danza but also European and Latin classical. At 12 Sanchez attended La Escuela Libre de Musica which emphasized formal musical studies and classical European styles and two years later, 1982, was much taken with a Miles Davis album, Basic Miles, featuring John Coltrane as well as Lady in Satin, a 1958 album by Billie Holiday with strings, arranged and conducted by Ray Ellis. Sanchez considered a college career in psychology but auditioned at Berklee and Rutgers University. Sanchez chose Rutgers because he got a better scholarship and was near New York which was Sanchez' goal. While at Rutgers, Sanchez studied with Kenny Barron, Ted Dunbar, and John Purcell.
After a period freelancing in New York with many top Latin players (including Paquito D'Rivera and Claudio Roditi), Sanchez joined Dizzy Gillespie's United Nation Orchestra in 1990 and Dizzy became Sanchez' mentor. Dizzy's group toured 27 countries, and 100 U.S. cities in 31 states, and also saw other notable musicians (Flora Purim for example, another Grammy Award nominee). After the United Nation Orchestra Sanchez continued to play with Dizzy until Dizzy died in 1993, mainly in Dizzy's Trio with Mike Longo. Since then he has toured with the Philip Morris SuperBand, recorded with Slide Hampton and his Jazz Masters, Charlie Sepulveda, Roy Hargrove, Kenny Drew, Jr., Ryan Kisor, Danilo Perez, Rachel Z, and Hilton Ruiz, and headed his own sessions for Columbia Records.
Since joining Columbia Records, Sanchez has released seven albums/CDs. Sanchez was much affected by 9-11 and the devastation of New York and this partly delayed his music released. But Sanchez was able to put together a very international situation for his real followup after 9-11. In 2005 Sanchez won the Grammy award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album for his 2004 Coral which was two years in the making. Recorded in The Czech Republic with The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, Coral features a sextet: alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, pianist Edsel Gomez, bassists John Benitez and Ben Street, drummer Adam Cruz, and percussionist Pernell Saturnino.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Jazz and Bossa Artist of the Week (march 13 - 19) - Suzane Pittson
“When you listen to the lovely Ms. Suzanne Pittson, you are being made
privy to the artistry of someone who is setting the pace and creating new
standards for those who follow and dare to call themselves ʻjazz
singers.ʼ” — Buster Williams, bassist
“OUT OF THE HUB: THE MUSIC OF FREDDIE HUBBARD,” Suzanne Pittsonʼs most
recent recording, released on August 24, 2010, takes jazz vocals to a new level. While this recording demonstrates a perfect marriage of Hubbardʼs music and Suzanneʼs
lyrics, it also showcases her amazing skill as an improvising jazz musician, with an
astonishing technical facility, beautiful tone and phrasing, and unrelenting swing.
Suzanne was born into a musical family, and began piano lessons at age 8 with John
Hiersoux, a student of a student of Franz Liszt. Though she played classical music, her family listened to jazz day and night. When she was very young, she performed a
Schumann piece for Erroll Garner, a friend of the family, and he reciprocated by playing “Misty” on her piano at her request! Witnessing the creative freedom of this genius at an early age, no doubt instilled a profound curiosity of this magnificent art form.
Suzanne first fell in love with the music of the great trumpeter Freddie Hubbard while still in high school. She went on to complete a Bachelor of Music and Master of Arts in music as a classical pianist at San Francisco State University, where she performed as soloist and accompanist, and in various chamber ensembles. While in graduate school, she also began to study jazz. With years of piano training under her belt, she set out to explore the music of the modern horn players, transcribing and singing their solos.
Hubbardʼs unique harmonic language was of particular interest, and she determined to
use it as a model for her own developing vocal improvisations.
In June of 2008, Suzanne and her husband, pianist Jeff Pittson, visited Freddie at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City to seek permission to record original lyrics to some of his compositions. While he was initially flattered, Freddie was not confident that a vocalist could sing his complex compositions and he requested a demo. Upon hearing the demo, Freddie enthusiastically approved the lyrics to five of his compositions, stating that he was very pleased and looked forward to hearing the recording. Ms. Pittson has expressed that the making of this CD with Freddieʼs blessing was indeed a great honor and privilege.
“Out of the Hub: The Music of Freddie Hubbard” features some of the most dynamic
jazz musicians on the New York City scene today. Along with Suzanne on vocals, the
! SUZANNE PITTSON
recording features Jeremy Pelt on trumpet, Steve Wilson on alto and soprano
saxophone, Jeff Pittson on piano, John Patitucci on bass and Willie Jones III on
drums, with stunning arrangements by Jeff Pittson. The lyrics were a collective
collaboration between Suzanne, Jeff and their son Evan, who also created the cover
illustration and CD graphics. All of the original lyrics express ideas about life, music, love, joy, suffering, and fantasy, but always seek to find hope in the midst of crisis. The two vocalese lyrics on “Lament for Booker (Bright Sun) and “Crisis” (Weʼre Having a Crisis) - set to Freddieʼs trumpet solos - are narratives based on their respective titles.
“Lament for Booker” expresses praise and admiration for the great trumpeter Booker
Little, who died at the age of 23, and the vocalese shows appreciation for the jazz
legacy that our predecessors have helped to create. “Crisis” is an urgent cry for
dialogue between people and cultures in order to resolve our world crisis.
“Out of the Hub: The Music of Freddie Hubbard” was recorded by Mike Marciano on
August 26 & 27, 2008 at Systems Two in Brooklyn, New York and was mixed and
mastered by Mike Marciano in April, 2009.
Suzanne Pittson is an exuberant, engaging and experienced performer. She has
performed in the US and Europe at such major venues as Yoshiʼs, Birdland, Catalina
Bar and Grill, Town Hall, Symphony Space, Aaron Davis Hall, Cornelia Street Cafe,
Enzoʼs Jazz, and has performed and/or recorded with John Patitucci, Buster Williams,
Dave Liebman, Shunzo Ohno, Mike Clark, Steve Wilson, Jeremy Pelt, Mark Soskin,
Jack Walrath, Chip Jackson, Harvie S, and others. Ms. Pittsonʼs first recording, Blues
and the Abstract Truth won strong praise from critics. Then in 1997, she set original
lyrics to all four movements of John Coltraneʼs seminal work, “A Love Supreme,” which
she then recorded in 1999 on her second CD, Resolution: A Remembrance of John
Coltrane. She is thus far the only vocalist to have sung the entire “A Love Supreme,” as noted in Ashley Kahnʼs book, “A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltraneʼs Signature Album.”
Ms. Pittson is Assistant Professor of Jazz Vocal Studies at the City College of New York, and lives in Dobbs Ferry, NY with her husband Jeff and son Evan.
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Jazz and Bossa Artist of the Week (march 6 - 12): Roberta Piket
Pianist/composer Roberta Piket has become one of the few musicians in New York who is respected for both her swinging and inventive straight-ahead jazz playing as well as her powerful and sensitive work in creative improvised music. For Roberta, there are no genre boundaries, only good music to be made.
Roberta has played professionally as a sidewoman with David Liebman, Rufus Reid, Michael Formanek, Lionel Hampton, Mickey Roker, Billy Mintz, Harvey Wainapel, Eliot Zigmund, Benny Golson and the BMI/NY Jazz Orchestra and has twice been a featured guest on Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz, on National Public Radio. She has also performed with some of the most interesting musicians in European and American creative music, including drummers Klaus Kugel and Billy Mintz, and saxophonists Petras Vysniauskas, Roby Glod and Louie Belogenis.
A gifted composer as well, Roberta was a finalist in the Thelonious Monk BMI Composers’ Competition.
Roberta is from Queens, NY. Her father, the composer Frederick Piket, gave her her first piano lessons when she was seven. Roberta began playing jazz in her early teens, studying jazz piano with Walter Bishop, Jr and classical piano with Vera Wels. After graduating from prestigious Hunter College High School, she entered the joint double-degree program at Tufts University and the New England Conservatory of Music, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from the former and a Bachelor’s Degree in Jazz Studies from the latter. During this time she studied privately with Fred Hersch, Stanley Cowell, Jim McNeely and Bob Moses. Upon returning to New York, she studied for six years with her most important mentor, Richie Beirach, and later studied briefly with Sofia Rosoff.
Roberta’s trio has toured Japan and Spain as well as the U.S. She has performed her music at the Kennedy Center (Washington, D.C.), at the Earshot Festival (Seattle), at the Rochester (NY) Jazz Festival, and in New York at Small’s, the Blue Note, Birdland, and Dizzy’s at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Roberta’s CDs frequently make the “best of” lists of the major jazz magazines. Whether performing her original compositions or highly personalized reworkings of standards, Roberta’s daring rhythmic modulations and harmonic expansiveness set a new standard for the piano trio. “September of Tears”, released in Japan, finds Roberta joining forces with Rufus Reid and Billy Hart. The 2006 release, Love and Beauty, features bassist Ratzo Harris and drummer Billy Mintz. A confessed “closet singer”, Roberta also made her vocal debut on Love and Beauty. An upcoming release, Sides, Colors, features herself and Mintz with bassist Johannes Weidenmueller in settings for winds and strings. The new CD offers other surprises, including another vocal and Roberta on B3 organ.
Roberta’s Nabokov Project sets five poems by Vladimir Nabokov to music for piano, violin, mezzo-soprano with percussion, and speaker. It blends neo-classical harmonic concepts with lush melodies and free improvisational sections.
Roberta’s recordings have earned rave reviews in JazzTimes, downbeat, the Washington Post, and Jazziz. A musical pioneer in several ways, Roberta is the first and only woman leader with a release on the prestigious Criss Cross label (the 1997 Unbroken Line).
Roberta maintains an active schedule as an educator. She has held master classes at the Eastman School of Music (where she performed solo and in duo with Marian McPartland), Rutgers University, Cal Arts, Duke University, the Northwestern University Composers’ Colloquium, and many others in the U.S., Europe and Japan. She has coached ensembles at Long Island University, has several private students, has served as a panelist for the Queens Council on the Arts grant review process and has taught at the Litchfield Jazz Camp and the Vermont Jazz Center. She is also the author of the Jazz Piano Vocabulary series of workbooks (Muse-Eek Publishing).
Roberta occasionally performs on B3 organ, playing at clubs such as the Harlem landmark Showman’s. She has written several big band compositions, three of which are in the repertoire of the Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra. In recent years she has toured Europe several times, including France, Germany, Luxembourg, Ukraine and Spain.