While the phrase “diamond in the rough” often describes burgeoning talents brimming with potential, Fuller has exhibited impending greatness since emerging on the international jazz scene more than a decade ago.
Now, her artistic capacity has blossomed tremendously, resulting in her fourth Mack Avenue Records release – the aptly titled Diamond Cut. In those six years, she’s transitioned from being a member of Beyoncé’s touring band to becoming a full-time professor at Berklee College of Music, while still juggling a demanding career as a solo artist and touring with the likes of drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, bassist Esperanza Spalding, and Ralph Peterson Jr., among others.
"…she’s one of the most gifted jazz musicians of her generation." – Ebony
"At this point in her career, Fuller finds herself amid a tight circle of the most accomplished female musicians in the business … she continues gracefully on her own path, all while forging new ground for women in jazz." – The Washington Post
Celebrated jazz pianist/composer Fred Hersch releases luminous new trio recording Live in Europe
May 11, 2018 via Palmetto Records
"One of the major jazz ensembles of our times." – Will Friedwald, The Wall Street Journal
“Hersch leads one of the most sensitive and nimble trios in jazz.” – Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune
“An imposing level of collective empathy.” – Nate Chinen, The New York Times
Live in Europe (May 11, 2018, Palmetto Records) crowns what was a momentous year for pianist Fred Hersch. Capturing his trio–with longtime associates, bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson–in peak form, the new album signals a high level mark for an ensemble that has been garnering critical and popular praise for nearly a decade. Consisting of six Hersch originals and two significant compositions apiece from Thelonious Monk (“We See,” “Blue Monk”) and Wayne Shorter (“Miyako,” “Black Nile”), Live in Europedemonstrates how a working trio breathes as one.
“The trio has a shared language; by now we each contribute an equal part in what goes on musically during a performance,” Hersch says. He has made a dozen trio albums over the last 30 years, and he states that “This is the best trio recording we’ve yet made, and pretty much as well as I can play in terms of energy and technical command.”
Serendipity played its role in the birth of the album. The penultimate engagement of the band’s three-week European tour in November of 2017 was held at Flagey Studio 4, in Brussels’ former National Institute for Radio Broadcasting. “After the show, I realized that this was one of the two or three best performances we had given. The band was in terrific playing form, the acoustics were perfect and the piano was outstanding,” Hersch recalls. “On returning to New York, I thought about the show and was then pleasantly surprised to find out that it had indeed been recorded. On hearing it, I was again struck by the level of creativity, content and energy.”
Live in Europe finds the trio in near telepathic communion. While each band member is a virtuoso player, individual bravura is always subordinate to group interplay. Lyricism, open-eared interaction and a respect for the power of space are all invaluable components of the trio’s identity. In such performances as the frisky “Skipping,” the affecting ballad, “Bristol Fog” (dedicated to the late British pianist John Taylor), the joyous “Newklypso (dedicated to Hersch’s hero Sonny Rollins) and the bluesy tribute to New Orleans “The Big Easy,” Hersch, Hébert and McPherson give a master class in ensemble communication, uniting as one yet allowing each other to freely react with spontaneous invention. A masterful solo encore of “Blue Monk” spotlights the depth of Hersch’s undiminished improvisational skills and expressive powers.
2017 was as a particularly bountiful period for the always-productive Hersch. Highlights included the publication of Hersch’s acclaimed autobiography Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In and Out of Jazz (named one of the Five Best Memoirs of 2017 by both The Washington Post and The New York Times) and two Grammy Award nominations for his revealing solo album Open Book on Palmetto Records: Best Jazz Instrumental Album and Best Improvised Jazz Solo (Benny Golson’s “Whisper Not”). In addition, Hersch was awarded the 2017 Prix in Honorem Jazz for the entirety of his career from l'Académie Charles Cros in France. Hersch also opened the Jazz At Lincoln Center 2017 Season with his "Leaves of Grass," a full-evening setting of Walt Whitman's words for vocalists Kurt Elling, Kate McGarry and an instrumental octet.
Add to that such recent accolades as the 2016 Doris Duke Artist award and the 2016 Jazz Pianist of the Year award from the Jazz Journalists Association–not to mention the release of the feature documentary The Ballad of Fred Hersch, premiered at the prestigious Full Frame Film Festival in March 2016 to rave reviews and now streaming on Vimeo–and you have that most auspicious of times when an artist is being rightfully acknowledged for attaining new pinnacles of ability and inventiveness.
That Hersch is reaching such artistic heights after his well-publicized battle with HIV and a subsequent 2-month coma in 2008 is extraordinary. “The release of this album is also a personal triumph in that it once again reminds me of how lucky I’ve been,” Hersch states. “It’s been nearly ten years since my coma and to find that I can play with the focus and energy that I have now is remarkable to me.”
A select member of jazz’s piano pantheon, Fred Hersch is a pervasively influential creative force who has shaped the music’s course over more than three decades as an improviser, composer, educator, bandleader, collaborator and recording artist. Hersch has earned a total of twelve Grammy nominations since 1993 in the categories of Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Best Instrumental Composition and Best Improvised Jazz Solo. Nine of his nominations have come since his recovery from a coma in 2008.
Hersch has long defined jazz’s creative edge in a wide variety of settings, from his breathtaking solo recitals and exploratory duos to his extraordinary trios and innovative chamber settings. With some three dozen albums to his credit as a leader or co-leader, he consistently wins an international array of awards and lavish critical praise for his albums. Hersch has earned similar distinction with his writing, garnering a 2003 Guggenheim Fellowship in Composition. He’s collaborated with an astonishing range of artists throughout the worlds of jazz (Joe Henderson, Charlie Haden, Art Farmer, Stan Getz, Bill Frisell); classical (Renée Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Christopher O'Riley); and Broadway (Audra McDonald). Long admired for his sympathetic work with singers, Hersch has joined with such notable jazz vocalists as Nancy King, Janis Siegel, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Norma Winstone and Kurt Elling.
For two decades Hersch has been a passionate spokesman and fund-raiser for AIDS services and education agencies. He has produced and performed on four benefit recordings and in numerous concerts for charities including Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. To date, his efforts have raised more than $300,000. He has also been a keynote speaker and performer at international medical conferences in the U.S. and Europe.
A committed educator, Hersch has taught at New England Conservatory, The Juilliard School, The New School and The Manhattan School of Music. He is currently a Visiting Artist at Rutgers University. He holds honorary doctorate degrees from Grinnell College and Northern Kentucky University. Hersch's influence has been widely felt on a new generation of jazz pianists, from former students Brad Mehldau and Ethan Iverson to his colleague Jason Moran, who has said, "Fred at the piano is like LeBron James on the basketball court. He’s perfection."
The midle of March was a wonderful time in New York for august gentlemen of jazz who still perform with strength, accuracy and charisma. The enduring skills of 93-year-old saxophonist Marshall Allen, at Brooklyn’s Elsewhere, and pianist Harold Mabern, 82, down in the wild basement den of Fat Cat, were on display.
Photo by Dino Perruci
Just as energetic, focused and supple was drummer Roy Haynes, also 93, who triumphed during a four-night birthday celebration at the Blue Note club.
Haynes’ past includes work with luminaries like Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Bud Powell and Stan Getz. And that was all before hitting the age of 30. At his second set on March 16, Haynes was a dapper, nimble figure, crouching at his kit with a wiry, coiled aspect, his shirt-cuffs unbuttoned and folded back. He sported one of the biggest ties known to mankind, very loosely knotted to allow maximum freedom of movement. He was joined by long-serving quartet comrades bassist David Wong, pianist Martin Bejerano and alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw.
Haynes is sensitized to tones, concentrating on the musicality of his tuned skins. He favors intricate rhythmic patterns that closely reflect the melodic structure of a composition. The set opened with him playing solo, establishing a feel for his bandmates to follow. Shaw reeled out his slick alto sweetness, while Bejerano poured out an uninhibited gush of notes, embellishing with great detail and finesse. Haynes still possesses a strong attack, but remains one of the most subtle percussionists around, starting with tiny rolls and building toward a rumbling onslaught.
Shaw switched to soprano for “Bemsha Swing,” penned by Haynes’ old bandleader, Thelonious Monk. Even though his touch frequently was light, Haynes still can drop a deep bomb, surprising with its sudden intensity. He held his snare-stick loosely, as though it had a life of its own, powering itself via gravity. Haynes displayed a rogue, unpredictable influence on this otherwise fairly straight-ahead quartet. His patterns were constantly bouncing in directions that listeners couldn’t anticipate and finding fresh accents. During “These Foolish Things,” Wong took a bass solo and Haynes went for a short wander, occasionally leaning back to make brief hits on a cymbal or a skin.
The bandleader used soft mallets to explore yet another palette, damping his hits and then began an extraordinary solo, which stretched into a seemingly endless eternity of magical minimalism. The entire club was completely hushed—which is a considerable achievement on a Friday night—as Haynes repeatedly snicked his hi-hat, finding slight shifts of emphasis and subtle variations. Haynes has a daring fascination for such extremity.
At the set’s close, the drummer passed his microphone to his colleagues, urging them to announce their names, as well as how many Haynes birthdays they’d been in his band for: Wong, 10; Shaw, 11; and Bejerano, 15.
Hopefully, there’ll be quite a few more for them to experience together. DB
Record Store Day (RSD) is the annual internationally celebrated day of vinyl records dedicated to supporting local independent record stores. This year’s edition will take place on April 21. Here are ten jazz RSD 2018 releases you need to know about.
This record was requested for release by fans. “Shark Tank” is the bonus track from Snarky Puppy’s 2016 album, Culcha Vulcha. It has never been released and has only been played by the band at live shows.
WYNTON MARSALIS SEPTET – “Night Life” b/w “I’m Gonna Find Another You” Label: Blue Engine Records; Quantity: 1000
This RSD Exclusive captures two performances by the Wynton Marsalis Septet at two different Lincoln At Jazz Center annual galas, the project in support of the Center’s education programs: a 2003 rendition of “Night Life” featuring Willie Nelson and a 2006 take on “I’m Gonna Find Another You” with John Mayer.
Closing the centenary of pianist Thelonious Monk, the reissue of one of his overlooked gems: his fourth album for Columbia Records, originally released in 1964, newly remastered at high resolution from the original master tapes.
MILES DAVIS – Rubberband Label: Rhino Records; Quantity: 2300
A 4-track EP of previously unheard Miles Davis music, originally recorded in 1985. The music originates from a project titled “Rubberband of Life,” which remained unfinished until its original producers, Randy Hall and Zane Giles, recruited Davis’ nephew, drummer Vince Wilburn Jr., and vocalist Ledisi to complete it.
ORNETTE COLEMAN – An Evening With Ornette Coleman, Part 2 Label: ORG Music; Quantity: 1600
The second of a two-part series, this record documents an Ornette Coleman concert from 1965 at Fairfield Hall in Croydon, England. At this time, the saxophonist experimented with contemporary classical forms. The recordings on this collection have been previously released in various forms, though their last U.S. vinyl pressing is now over forty years old.
ROBERT GLASPER x KAYTRANADA – The ArtScience Remixes Label: Blue Note; Quantity: 1200
Pianist and composer Robert Glasper and producer KAYTRANADA join forces to reimagine ArtScience, the 2016 album by the Robert Glasper Experiment. The set features cameos by Don Cheadle, Talib Kweli, Alex Isley, and Iman Omari.
VAN MORRISON – Alternative Moondance Label: Rhino; Quantity: 5300
An alternative version of Van Morrison’s 1970 album, Moondance. It features alternative versions from its 2013 deluxe edition and unreleased alternative mixes of the tracks “And It Stoned Me” and “Crazy Love.”
BUNK JOHNSON – Rare and Unissued Masters: Volume One (1943-1945) Label: ORG Music; Quantity: 1000
A collection of over a dozen rare and unissued tracks by trumpeter Bunk Johnson. The music presented here is of surprisingly high-quality thanks to the digital technology employed to rid it of the imperfections that prevented it from being released seventy years ago.
JOHN COLTRANE – “My Favorite Things” Label: Atlantic; Quantity: 1000
Only previously available in the Coltrane Mono box set, this replica of the original “My Favorite Things I & II” hit single from 1961 comes in a reproduction of the original Atlantic Records sleeve and with remastered mono audio from the Atlantic Records vaults.
SUN RA – Astro Black Label: Modern Harmonic; Quantity: 1350
The rarest of four Sun Ra RSD 2018 releases and the first proper reissue of Astro Black, one of a handful of albums the bandleader released on the Impulse! label in the 1970s. Here, the Arkestra draw to the end of their ultra-free period and begin to investigate more traditional jazz forms, even on the fringes of funk.
Verve Records is releasing two box sets of Louis Armstrong music in April: Cheek To Cheek: The Complete Duet Recordings, on April 6, and Pops Is Tops: The Verve Studio Albums, on April 13.
Cheek To Cheek: The Complete Duet Recordings is a four-CD and digital set that collects Armstrong’s iconic duets with vocalist Ella Fitzgerald. The 75-track collection gathers their three Verve albums: Ella and Louis (1956), Ella and Louis Again (1957), and Porgy and Bess(1958), along with all their Decca singles and several alternate and false starts from the Decca and Verve eras, along with other rare and previously unreleased material.
Pops Is Tops: The Verve studio Albums is a four-CD and digital set showcasing Armstrong’s singing on classic sets with the Oscar Peterson Trio and the Russ Garcia Orchestra. It includes I’ve Got The World On A String (1960), Louis Under The Stars (1958), both recorded with the Russ Garcia Orchestra, and Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson (1957), plus the previous digital-only release A Day With Satchmo (originally recorded in 1957). The albums are presented in their original mono masters for the first time since their original vinyl releases and include the original liner notes as well as extensive liners, recording, and track info by Ricky Riccardi, Director of Research Collections for the Louis Armstrong House Museum and author of What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong’s Later Years.