While he may be best known for his Grammy-award-winning music for Miami Vice, Jan Hammer’s roots have always been planted firmly in jazz. He was 14 when he formed his first jazz trio in Czechoslovakia, after which he came to the United States to study jazz at the Berklee College of Music. He spent a year as keyboardist/conductor for the inimitable Sarah Vaughan before joining forces in 1971 with John McLaughlin, Jerry Goodman, Rick Laird, and Billy Cobham in the Mahavishnu Orchestra, veering from the traditional jazz path into the then-burgeoning world of jazz rock.
On March 27, Hammer will release Sketches in Jazz, a collection of ten tracks that demonstrate the lasting influence of the musicians who enchanted him as he was coming up – musicians such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Bill Evans. “Although jazz has always ruled my world, I drifted farther and farther away from that passion as I began to work in TV, films and games,” says Hammer. “Regardless, I feel that jazz is inseparable from improvisation, and improvisation has always fueled my journey and so has brought me back full circle to this project.”
Improvisation and the workings of the creative process are the core of Sketches in Jazz, with some of the album’s tracks running shorter than the typical extended jazz performances. Rather than view these shorter pieces as incomplete, Hammer says they serve to illustrate how his work evolves, much as a visual artist creates sketches before beginning a painting. These brief tracks are indicative of Hammer’s ability to create cues and scores that convey a wide range of moods, a talent that also served him well during his four seasons working on Miami Vice.
Highlights of the album include a jazz version of “Magic Theater,” a song that originally appeared on Hammer’s album BEYOND The Mind's Eye, on which he adventurously ventured into the world of computer animation as the composer and performer of the original score for the chart-topping Miramar Productions video. On this version of “Magic Theater,” Hammer’s use of the muted sounds of a trumpet invoke a Miles Davis-like atmosphere. The tune “First Light” is an example of a more “contemporary” style of jazz driven by an R&B type of groove.
Perhaps the most straight ahead track on the album is “My Father’s Vibes,” which pays homage to Hammer’s father, a doctor who worked his way through school playing vibraphone and bass. The piano trio piece, “Deep Pool,” is an introspective piece in the spirit of Bill Evans. In an interview for Electronic Musician in 2018 (in support of Seasons: Part 1, his first release in nearly two decades) Hammer acknowledged that he’d been listening quite a bit to Evans’ The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, calling it a “mind-blowing beauty.” On “Deep Pool,” its influence is clearly felt.
Hammer’s 2018 release, Seasons: Part 1, received strong reviews internationally. Something Else Reviews called it, “fully orchestrated…springing from his fertile mind and creatively assisted by technology.” As he enters his fifth decade of creating timeless music, Sketches in Jazz, which is a digital-only release, again proves that Hammer is as comfortable revisiting his past as he is with journeying into the future.
Trio Will Tour Throughout the Bay Area in Support of the Album’s Release
On A History of Choro, their first recorded collaboration as Duo Violao +1, guitarist Rogério Souza, guitarist Edinho Gerber, and percussionist Ami Molinelli survey the musical history and evolution of choro, revealing its rhythmic and harmonic permutations and, in the process, create an album that is coherent in timbre and vision while marvelously varied in its nuances.
According to Molinelli, “The intention for this album overall was to ensure that each song reflects a different musical style within the genre of choro and to showcase reinterpretations of more recognized tunes as well as lesser known compositions.”
The album’s 12 tracks present choro’s history in three blocks: the first representing the foundational block of the late 19th century through the first decade of the 20th century; the second representing the intermediate range of the music from 1910 through 1940; and the third representing the modern range from the 1940s through to the present day. Selections by composers such as Henrique Alves de Mesquita, Joaquim Callado (by all accounts the verified creator of both the choro style and name), Pixinguinha, Heitor Villa-Lobos, and Jacob do Bandolim, are here performed alongside original compositions by Souza and Molinelli.
“I met Rogério in 2015 when he was an instructor at California Brazil Camp. Soon after, my band Grupo Falso Baiano invited him and Edhino to do some shows as Duo Violão in California,” says Molinelli. “We did some West Coast dates, and those sparked an ongoing collaboration that included talk of an album that would present a track by track exploration of the various genres, rhythmic styles and elements of choro. Rogério said he already had material for a similar concept that he had been preparing for years, but with all the coordination and travel, it took us three years to receive a grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission and record the album.”
The first single available from the album is Jacob Do Bandolim’s “Remelexo,” a Choro-Samba hybrid that doesn’t adhere to traditional choro form. Do Bandolim brought many samba influences into the music of choro and “Remelexo” is indeed more samba-swing than choro. The trio’s performance here is an accurate representation of the ways in which the genre continues to evolve, as Souza’s arrangement is a re-interpretation of Do Bandolim’s composition, which is already included in the ‘modern’ block.
The first and last tracks on the album – the Tango-Habanera “Ali Baba” written in 1872 and Molinelli’s Afro Choro “Cecelia no Choro,” written in 2018 – provide a quick sense of the album’s trajectory and implications. The habanera rhythmic cell (which can be expressed as a 123-123-12 count across two measures) is the bedrock of several Afro-Atlantic genres that came out of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, including Cuban son and rumba, Argentine tango, Brazilian maxixe, lundu and choro—as well as strongly shaping U.S. ragtime, jazz and ultimately rock and roll. The trio’s rendition of “Ali Baba” revisits that moment when Brazilian musicians adopted the rhythmic cell of habanera and made it their own, blending it with local instruments and harmonic and compositional structures shaped by a Portuguese-Atlantic inheritance.
“Cecelia no Choro” explores the rhythmic feel of West African 12/8 bell and drum patterns that are represented throughout the African diaspora, including Brazil. “This particular choro,” explains Molinelli, is named after a West African woman, Cecelia, who was one of the first woman drummers and composers in Ghana. She fought to overcome cultural restrictions that had previously only allowed me to perform on the drums.”
Molinelli says that she is aware that there is a committed group and a growing American audience for choro and this album aims to highlight the nuances and evolution of the music. “We hope that this album serves as a contribution musically as well as a showcase for the various styles of choro,” she concludes. “When Grupo Falso Baiano formed in 2004/2005, there were a handful of choro groups in the US. That number has radically changed both here and throughout the world. I feel that this collaboration between me as an American, Rogério from Brazil and Edinho, who has lived in both the states and in Brazil, as well as the fantastic reception we’ve received on tours to the Southwest and Pacific Northwest reflects just how hungry people are to hear and learn about this music.”
Duo Violão Plus 1 will perform several shows in the Bay Area to showcase the music from the album, beginning with a CD release show on March 8 at The Sound Room in Oakland. The full itinerary is below; additional details can be found at http://www.amimo.com/calendar/
March 8 - The Sound Room/Oakland, CA
March 9 Bird and Becket/San Francisco, CA
March 10/California Conservatory of Jazz/San Francisco, CA workshop
March 10 Timnatal
March 13/San Francisco State/San Francisco, CA workshop and concert
March 15/Old First Church Concerts/San Francisco, CA
March 22 Community Music Center/San Francisco
March 23 Maybeck Concert Hall/ Berkeley, CA
March 24 Community Music Center/San Francisco, CA Workshop
SHERMAN OAKS, CA – It’s been over a year since Tom Petty’s untimely death. To pay tribute to the legendary rocker, Jon Scott, his long-time friend and former record label radio promo man, has published a new book, Tom Petty and Me: My Rock ‘n’ Roll Adventures with Tom Petty.
With a foreword by John Mellencamp, Scott’s book traces his history with Petty, beginning when Scott, as a radio promo man, was one of the main forces in helping to get Petty’s music heard on radio stations around the country.
Petty, himself, acknowledged this from the stage of the Hollywood Bowl on September 25, 2017, at what would become his last concert ever: “There’s one particular friend I want to dedicate this next song to. This is for Jon Scott. And six weeks before we were going to be dropped from ABC Records, he went to the radio stations…and got that sucker played and, on the charts, and we’re forever grateful to him.”
Although Petty is one of the greatest front men in the history of American rock ‘n’ roll, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers might never have achieved the fame they did without the passion and commitment of a few people in the music business, like Jon Scott, who worked tirelessly behind the scenes. In the book, Scott shares the series of coincidences and serendipity that brought him and Petty together, altering both of their careers. This is the story of an incredible talent realizing a seemingly once-impossible dream through the passion and commitment of one man who created a movement on Petty's behalf. In the process, the course of rock ‘n’ roll history was forever changed.
“It doesn’t matter how good your record is, you gotta have somebody behind it, a believer who is ready to work before the glory of it all kicks in. When it mattered most Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had Jon Scott. For that, we all should be grateful.” - Warren Zane, author of Petty The Biography
“We would not be listening to Tom Petty on the radio if not for you (Jon Scott), back in 1977.” -
Mark Felsot, producer of Tom Petty Radio, Sirius XM
The story put forth in this book is true, and it details the trials and tribulations of being a promo man and the exhilarating feeling of being a part of rock ’n’ roll history.
ABOUT JON SCOTT
Scott was raised in Memphis, Tennessee, and like many young Memphis kids growing up in the ’50s, he was exposed to all types of music, including gospel, blues, and rock ’n’ roll. He had music running through his veins and so dropped out of college to pursue the radio career that he longed for. To pay his tuition, he worked at a local movie theater, where he had the good fortune one night to get to meet Elvis Presley – coincidentally Petty, too, set his sights on becoming a rock ‘n roll star when, as a child, he met Elvis on a film set.
Scott began his career working a WMC-FM100, a progressive rock station a station, where he developed a huge nighttime audience. In 1973, when he went to work for MCA Records, first as a local promo man in the mid-South, then as a regional promo man in Atlanta, and finally as head of national album promotion in Los Angeles. Soon after, he was offered his dream job at MCA as head of national album promotion.
He moved on to ABC Records, again as national head of album promotion, in 1977. This was when many serendipitous, cosmic coincidences would take place, especially with a then-relatively unknown band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Fate stepped in when Scott’s belief in the band and its music resulted in increased airplay and international touring. The rest, as they say, is history. He went on to work with Petty and the band for more than forty years.
Tom Petty and Me can be ordered at www.tompettyandme.com.
On July 20, after a nearly 10 year-long hiatus, Jan Hammer – whose extensive body of work has spanned the musical spectrum from jazz to prog to classical to pop – released Seasons Pt. 1, a compilation of existing musical sketches that Jan developed into full length compositions and selections that were created just for this album. Why the delay? Laughing, Hammer emphatically says, “It’s about time.”
“I’ve actually been thinking about releasing something new for 6 or 7 years,” he continues. “This is what happens – musical ideas had accumulated in my head over time until I suddenly realized that I had more than enough for an album.” In fact, Hammer says that he’s already at work developing what now only exist as sketches for a follow up album, which will be aptly titled Seasons Pt. 2. .
Seasons Pt. 1 features 13 tracks that range in style from the dynamic “April” to the majestic, classically tinged “Suite European.” Hammer cites influences as far ranging as the varied strains of the music he grew up with to what he calls “the elephant in the room” – his four seasons scoring Miami Vice. “I really had these residual feelings of unfinished business,” say the two-time Grammy winner. “I’m proud of the work I did for the show, and there are echoes of that music that continue to resonate for me.”
Obviously, Jan’s music for Miami Vice continues to resonate with a large audience. “Crockett’s Theme” and “Miami Vice Theme” together have over 14 million streams on Spotify. Collectively, videos using his music from Miami Vice have well over 100 million views on YouTube.
Hammer’s work during his five decades-long career alongside such critically acclaimed artists as the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Neal Schon, John Abercrombie, Al Di Meola, Tony Williams, Mick Jagger, and Jeff Beck (with whom he recently performed, for the first time in 10 years, at Beck’s 2016 concert at the Hollywood Bowl) seasons the album with flavors of rock and jazz. His background as a classically trained composer is also evident throughout.
While no single style can define the album. Hammer himself describes it as “cinematic,” and as a collection of “pop songs without words.” The opening track, “Miami – Night,” was inspired by Miami Vice director Michael Mann’s technique of spraying the streets with water when taping at night to set the mood for a scene. “When I wrote ‘Miami – Night,’ explains Hammer, it felt like I was creating an opening scene in a screenplay.” Hammer has created scores for film, television shows, commercials and video games both in the US and internationally, and it’s obvious that his ability to paint pictures with sound has served and continues to serve him well.
Hammer is also widely acclaimed as a pioneer in electronic music. He was among the first musicians to play the Minimoog Moog synthesizer in a live setting. He also explored the world of computer animation as the composer and performer of the original score for the triple platinum Miramar Productions video album, BEYOND The Mind's Eye, which critic Leonard Maltin lauded as “a dazzling showcase for computer animation... mesmerizing... BEYOND The Mind's Eye reflects a maturing of the [computer animation] art." Seasons Pt. 1 is evidence that Hammer’s own musical evolution is keeping pace with the evolution of virtual instruments. While he is constantly impressed by the way synthesized music continues to evolve, he also acknowledges tradition. “Of course, I still have Korg, Yamaha and Kurzweil keyboards in my studio and I am always drawn to where it all started, on my grand piano,” he says.
As he enters his 5th decade of creating music that endures the test of time, Hammer is excited about being back on the scene, gratifying his loyal fans and bringing new fans into the fold.
For more information, visit www.janhammer.com
Monique DeBose has never been one to shy away from life’s challenges. The Sovereign One, which drops on September 27, encapsulates a wealth of experience into seven songs in which the LA-based songwriter and vocalist offers up messages that are both personal and universal, messages of acceptance, of empowerment and of pride.
The journey to this time and place – emotionally and stylistically – has been a rather circuitous one. The daughter of a mixed-race couple, Monique realized at a very early age that she was destined to be a performer. Music was her constant companion throughout her early years in LA. At home, she was exposed to artists such as Marvin Gaye and Elvis. “My uncle Chuck would be Elvis at family get-togethers, and my younger sister and I would be his background singers – The DeBose-ettes,” she remembers. Unfortunately, that attraction to performing was dampened by an incredible shyness. While attending Hamilton High School’s Music Academy, Monique took up the violin. A far cry from her desire to be part of the school’s performing crew, playing the violin allowed Monique to remain in the background even as her soul strove to stride to the front of the stage.
It was during her high school years that Monique heard a record that would ultimately change the course of her life. “I sat and listened to Ella Fitzgerald’s Nice Work if You Can Get It for hours, she remembers. “At some point my brain and heart synched up and it made sense.” The teen-aged Monique was fascinated by Natalie Cole’s Unforgettable, intrigued by the orchestration and singing every note.
In life, especially in one’s younger years, the direction that we take is often not up to us. Raised to defer to the desires that our parents have for our future, we bury our own dreams in deference to theirs. And so, Monique entered UC Berkeley to study applied mathematics. While her vision of a career in music took a back seat to her studies, it was at Berkeley that Monique first truly embraced her blackness, resulting in her ongoing bold and frightening mission to initiate conversation and to help heal race relations in America. Although she was deeply involved in her studies, Monique’s desire to perform would not stay buried. She enrolled in an improvisational singing workshop, took to it immediately and continued to perform in that style throughout her years at Cal.
The message of transcending your own stories is a theme that runs throughout Monique’s songs on The Sovereign One. This is an album about charting your own course, following your dream and reclaiming the parts or yourself that you’ve given away. Through the sultry opening track, “Damaged Goods,” to the powerful, rallying call of the appropriately titled “Rally,” to the lush romantic ballad “Let You Love Me” – Monique uses the prism of her own life to convey messages that are both pointed and poignant. She claims her own rightful place as a strong, powerful woman, using the power of music to empower all women to do the same, to revel in their desire with no apology (on "New Wine, Old Skin") and to allow themselves to simultaneously experience freedom and belonging (“Valentine.")
Back in LA, Monique deepened her commitment to developing her talents as a singer. She honed her craft at Billy Higgin’s famous World Stage jazz club in Leimert Park, as well as in various jazz bands. In 2005 and 2007, she quietly released two albums – Choose the Experience (which featured Kamasi Washington) and Choose the Experience 2 – and performed internationally, in India, China, London, and Amsterdam. After taking a bit of time off to raise her family, Monique returned to performing in 2017 with her edgy, raw and funny one-woman show, Mulatto Math: Summing Up the Race Equation in America, which won the Producers’ Encore Award at the Hollywood Fringe Festival and which Monique is taking to New York City in September as part of the United Solo Theater Festival, immediately prior to the September 27 release of The Sovereign One.
Joining Monique on The Sovereign One are Isaac and Thorald Koren of The Kin (who have also performed with Coldplay, Rod Stewart, and Pink), Dylan Meek on piano and organ, Edwin Livingston on upright bass, Shakerleg on drums and Fatima Williams on vocals.
A singer, a poet, a messenger – Monique DeBose is all this and more. Stepping into the spotlight with The Sovereign One, she radiates love and acceptance, pride and bravery, in each of her songs.
For more information, visit https://www.moniquedebosemusic.com
New Album Fuses Middle-Eastern Music with Avant Jazz and Features Mark Helias on Bass, Hank Roberts on Cello, Hamin Honari on Tombak, Daf, and Frame Drum
and Grdina on Oud
“Grdina continues to passionately explore the depths of jazz improvisation, cross-cultural fusions and the fun that comes with cutting loose. Lately, he’s been tearing it up in a new combo from New York City.” – Stuart Derdeyn, Vancouver Sun
This wild, eclectic project combines intricate counterpoint with the ebb and flow of dynamic yet focused improvisation. Grdina takes inspiration from the complexity of Bartok, the freedom of Ornette Coleman, the energy and logical construction of ideas in Soundgarden, and the delicacy of Webern.
Grdina’s debut recording, Think Like the Waves (Songlines, 2006) was a trio with his mentor Gary Peacock and Paul Motian, and there is something of that group’s deep improvised jazz roots at work here, along with the compositional, classical music bent of his East Van Strings project (The Breathing of Statues, Songlines, 2009). It’s also a reaction to his rock playing in recent years in Dan Mangan’s band and his own instrumental duo Peregrine Falls. Says Grdina, “I felt a strong inner urge to write music that was more unexpected, that didn’t repeat itself so much and was more challenging than what I had been playing. Forms can sometimes feel like you’re being strangled and talked down to. I wanted the music to continually move, feeling free but clearly directed.
“Compositionally this also came out of the work I’d done with Gary Peacock but in a very different way. We worked a lot on composition being a distilled idea that is the germ that sparks improvisation. I wanted to see what would happen if I composed the development of the ideas, keeping the same focused writing style, asking the same questions…The process of writing was similar to what I went through with East Van Strings, which was informed by listening to a lot of Webern and the second Viennese school. Ornette always being present is a given but Soundgarden came up while on the road with Dan Mangan. When I was young I was a fan but didn’t really dig into it, as I was too interested in jazz at the time. I started listening to them again and was really excited and inspired by the energy and careful construction of ideas, intricate yet logical. I was also listening to a lot of Tim Berne and started to feel a connection between the two. So there was something between that intricacy and energy that I was really inspired by.”
“The musicians came together over a two-year process of getting more involved in the NY scene. Oscar [a member of Berne’s Snakeoil], Russ and Satoshi are all amazing, incredibly well rounded, multi-faceted musicians with unique voices. They are also master improvisers, but the chemistry of the band wasn’t apparent at the start. We had a lot of short rehearsals, a gig and then not seeing each other for two months. We did that for about a year. We then went on the road for a string of dates and everything changed. The band just solidified, everyone’s unique voice began to shine and the compositions started to click. It’s not easy music to grasp fully while you’re playing it, as it is very contrapuntal. Each instrument is focused on their own part and it takes a while before you hear it click with the other lines and the logic becomes apparent.”
“Over the course of the last few years I've started to connect some disparate directions musically. The oud and the guitar are starting to become interchangeable in a way…How I'm approaching each instrument is becoming more and more similar. I'm moving further away from the original Arabic sound of the oud and starting to push my own voice through its history. “Fragments” is a departure for me and is a path I would like to further develop with this band. Oud and piano in particular work so well together but are fundamentally opposed instruments. It really is like the meeting of two completely different worlds. The clash of ideologies is exciting to me.”
“I hear so many connections to so many genres in this music and from these musicians that I feel it has an extremely broad appeal…I’ve gotten compliments from folk, jazz and classical music fans both young and old, as well as fans of Soundgarden…What it demands though is deep listening. There are moments where it is energetic and in your face, bringing the music to you, but it always goes back in, requiring the listener to come closer and bring their own experience to it.”
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