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Rick Brau--esperanto


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If there's one key lesson that Rick Braun has learned from all his travels as both a sideman extraordinaire and one of contemporary jazz's most acclaimed and innovative artists, it's that music is truly the transcendent universal language.

The title of Esperanto , the trumpeter, composer and producer's long-anticipated follow-up to his wildly popular 2001 Warner Bros. Records debut "Kisses In The Rain," is a wistful reference to a language created in the late 19th century (by Dr. L.L. Zamenhof, who used the pseudonym "Dr. Esperanto") to facilitate communication between people of different lands and cultures.


In his colorful liner notes, Braun conveys the album's distinctive Euro-vibe influences (drawn from the realms of trance, electronica and acid jazz, including dramatic orchestral touches as well) with images of folks from various European countries sitting on an Italian portico, speaking different languages amongst themselves. Wafting over the conversations from inside the house is the music of Miles Davis, one of Braun's idols. "The idea is that music is a link between these people of varied backgrounds, a healing force that brings them together," he says. "It creates an atmosphere of mutual understanding."

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Michael Brecker is the most celebrated tenor saxophonist of his generation. His astonishing technical prowess and imaginative command of his instrument, and chameleon-like facility in any musical setting have given him uncommon scope. For the past 30 years a sought-after session player who has appeared on over 800 jazz, pop, and rock albums, he has also, simultaneously, become one of the most daring, impassioned solo artists in jazz, a peerless improviser and restlessly inventive composer. A nine-time Grammy award winner, Brecker’s previous recordings have all been muscular, highly-praised small-group outings dominated by his own compositions.

Wide Angles is a suite of compositions arranged for an ensemble of 15 players (a quindectet) that proves Brecker to be one of the foremost composers in jazz as well as a genius of his instrument. In these performances Brecker achieves an inspired fusion of virtuosity and lyricism, power blowing and evocative story-telling, edgy explorations and grooving earthiness, make Wide Angles Michael Brecker’s most ambitious and personal work to date.

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Following her Grammy-winning orchestral album "The Calling: Celebrating Sarah Vaughan," jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves wished to return to a simpler, all-acoustic setting. So in December 2002, Reeves entered Right Track studios in New York City with legendary producer Arif Mardin (Aretha Franklin, Norah Jones) to record A Little Moonlight, an intimate collection of ten tunes featuring her touring trio: pianist Peter Martin , bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Greg Hutchinson .

“Most of the songs are about the moment you’re ready to fall in love, and the record features one of my loves, my trio—up-close and personal,” says Reeves. “I’ve had great groups over the years, but there is really something special playing with Peter, Reuben and Greg. We’ve worked together for so long that sometimes all it takes is a look to make the music come alive—and this record captures the magic between us.” Besides the inspired trio, the album also features appearances by trumpeter Nicholas Payton and guitarist Romero Lubambo .

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As Kurt Elling knows, being a jazz singer in the truest sense requires skill at any number of interrelated roles. Not only does it take vocal mastery in musically swinging terms, but stretching beyond into the realms of bandleading, composing, arranging, and writing poetry. To this list, he has also added the role of musical matchmaker. For Man in the Air, Elling’s sixth release for Blue Note Records, the 35-year-old Chicagoan has created original lyrics for compositions by such giants as saxophonist John Coltrane, pianist Herbie Hancock, guitarist Pat Metheny and others close to his heart. By putting pen to paper, taking to the studio, and incorporating these works in his riveting live performances, Elling hopes that audiences will fall in love with music that he himself adores, or will rediscover some compositions they have loved and overlooked for a time.

The album provides a rare showcase for his lyric writing, featured on ten of the album’s twelve tracks. A six-time Grammy nominee, Elling has already earned a reputation as the contemporary writer of vocalese, the art of setting words to instrumental solos. As early as his debut recording Close Your Eyes (1995), these texts had assumed epic proportions. It was unavoidable: Elling ambitiously applied his literary talents to the music of hard-hitting, monster improvisers like saxophonists Wayne Shorter and Dexter Gordon, and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard.


By comparison, the challenges of the repertory on Man in the Air are subtler. Rather than pyrotechnics, the success of these pieces tends to hinge on vocal control, sonic atmosphere, and use of space. Their lyrics follow suit. Elling wrestles with themes of love, life, loss, and the indefatigable human spirit in all of their

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Do not attempt to adjust your sound system. Nicholas Payton and his freshly reconfigured band have fattened the bass, tweaked the treble and phase-shifted the balance for an unforgettable aural experience... one that goes beyond the realm of jazz as this world class trumpeter/composer has presented it in the past. Utilizing groove and hip-hop, electric keyboards, upright bass, drums, percussion and a mystical bag of special effects for trumpet, Payton & Co. plunge listeners into an underworld of intoxicating self-discovery and hedonism. This pulsing new soundscape was designed to send imaginations on a liberating journey. Think of it as 68 minutes of a sublimely musical mind-altering substance which Payton has dubbed...Sonic Trance.

Sonic Trance is Nicholas Payton's seventh album and first for Warner Bros. Records. It features Payton along with two members from his previous quintet: Tim Warfield on tenor and soprano saxophones, and Adonis Rose on drums. Payton then recruited Kevin Hays on electric keyboards and piano, Vicente Archer on upright bass, Daniel Sadownick on percussion and Karriem Riggins on sampler and synthesizer. They played live between September and December of 2002, then recorded over five heady days in January.


Some may see it as a bold and bracing departure, but for the nearly 30 year-old artist who has risen to the top ranks of jazz trumpet, the project is a natural progression and a timely reflection on life in the modern world.


In a sense, Sonic Trance is like a trippy art house film, only played in 18 musical variations that usher the listener from the Harpo Marxian sunshine to the Akira Kurosawan shadows of our existence. "I approached this album like cinema," Payton states. "Certain recurring melodies are like characters that appear and reappear in different incarnations...one minute wholesome, the next evil. Some things just appear out of the blue like the Jamaican rap ("Shabba Unranked"), then phase into something subtle ["Seance (Romantic Reprise)"]. We go from rap to a tone poem on this album because that's how life can be. One minute we're involved in the most buffoonish of escapades and the next, something beautiful."


The philosophical concept lurking within the psychedelic strains of Sonic Trance hinges on self realization, which can theoretically lead to a universal order. "Everyone has a voice," Payton states. "I believe there is a way we can all co-exist--truly be who we are--without stepping on each other, though with the current state of affairs, it plays better in theory than in execution. In that way, I feel this record is very timely. All of the musicians come from different racial, cultural and spiritual backgrounds, yet we were able to create a unified body of work. We need more of that in the world right now."

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T.S. Monk returns with the release of his first new album in four years entitled Higher Ground. While it might seem as if the venerable drummer has been missing from the jazz scene for far too long, he's actually been hard at work on a variety of projects that includes developing and launching his own record company, Thelonious Records. The release of Higher Ground will mark the label's national debut.

""It's not often that one gets the opportunity to fulfill a dream for both yourself and that of your father. Thelonious Records is that opportunity for me. My dad dreamed of one day owning his records, and that is what Thelonious Records is all about-family. It begins with Monk and Monk, and one day it will be, Monk and Monk and friends," states T.S.


If the title Higher Ground evokes a sense of confidence and self-fulfillment, it's not without good reason. With his new record, T.S. Monk has settled into his sound, and is finally making the type of records that reflect his own sensibilities as an artist who's spanned a wide spectrum of styles over his career-from R&B to funk to traditional jazz.


"On 'Higher Ground' is where I want to be-where the free thinkers of jazz reside close to the people," declares Monk. "For me that place is somewhere between Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, and tomorrow's sound. It's really smooth, and it's really jazz."


T.S. Monk will hit the road in support of Higher Ground with dates planned across the country for the remainder of summer and fall. With a new album, his own record label, a national tour and his ongoing work as Chairman of the Board for The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, T.S. Monk is back in full swing, and indeed, hitting Higher Ground.

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