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A nice write up about Posi-Tone Records….

Reviewing the guys behind the glass and a label. Posi-Tone under the looking glass!

Recently I reviewed an artist that is a producer. Now I want to review some producers that are also record executives with Posi-Tone Records one of the finest straight ahead and swinging labels with an exciting stable of talent! Marc Free of course is the producer and Nick O’Toole is the engineer and together they create consistent high quality straight ahead jazz tailored to the artist while always keeping the listener in mind In short…if you dig the Rudy Van Gelder sound these guys are off the hook!

Tell us something about the history and origin of Posi-Tone?

M.f.  – “Posi-Tone was founded in Los Angeles in 1994 by producer Marc Free and engineer Jamie Brunson as a vehicle to make records by artists of all genres that they felt needed to be heard.  In 2004 after releasing a live recording of the Sam Rivers trio, Posi-Tone changed gears by bringing in Nick O’Toole as the in-house engineer and started focusing on recording New York City area jazz artists. Through the last few years, Posi-Tone has expanded it’s production with steady growth and released a wide variety of small ensemble instrumental jazz groups. Posi-Tone now boasts a catalog of over 90 titles by some of the best musicians in the world.”

I think knowing the real “mission statement” of the label can help the record buying public once they get a handle on taste…With that in mind, How would you describe the label and it’s intent to the casual listener?

M.F. – “We are actively focused on building a large catalog of recordings that will succeed in demonstrating to the worldwide marketplace the company’s high standards of artistic aesthetic and audiophile quality music products. Our mission is to gradually create and present a consistent label identity/brand with the stated intent of building an audience of new listeners and accumulating a sufficient niche market of discriminating music lovers who recognize, prefer and rely upon us as their choice for purchasing new premium quality music products. Posi-Tone’s records are intended to simply deliver the finest artistic expressions of modern, mainstream, and straight-ahead jazz, and is focused on directing it’s audience towards the sound and message of the music, and not just the populist or commercial aspects of its presentation.”

Is there a litmus test so to speak for the type of talent you look to record and with the economy still flat lining,
does that put you in the same position as every other business of trying to work smarter not harder and  have sales remained steady?

M.F. – “Here at Posi-Tone we are serious jazz geeks first and smart businessmen second. We sincerely believe our intended target audience is comprised of a bunch of people very much like ourselves in age and tastes, so we keep our primary A&R focus on making the kinds of jazz records that we know that we would want to buy and listen to. If a potential new artist’s music doesn’t bring on some serious jazz geeking around the office then we are definitely going to take a pass on doing a project. All that being said, the record also has to make good business sense too in terms of projected budgets and revenues. We aren’t in a position to provide artists with patronage, and we depend on our record sales to continue production, so we certainly can’t afford to overspend or lose money on too many projects and actually hope to stay in business. This of course makes the calculus of finding artists and planning projects that are a good fit for Posi-Tone much more difficult.”

 Ive read several articles where there is a debate over the quality of say a downloaded file or mp3 and that of a CD. Most people saying the CD is vastly superior. What do you think and is the death of the compact disc on the horizon or is it still several years out?

Nick O’Toole – “The sound quality of Cd’s, compared to MP3s is superior, but the audience is speaking pretty loudly that they like the convenience of the MP3 and that the sound difference is not noticeable to them.  It’s the economics of the MP3 that is changing how record labels must think to stay alive in today’s world.  Though sales are declining pretty quickly, we believe the CD still plays an important roll in the music business.  People still enjoy holding a product in there hands, and the press and radio still demand it.  The CD is also the best way for a jazz artist to give adorning fans at gigs a way to continue to enjoy the music and support the artist. We have tried other means, like download cards or stick drives, and they haven’t worked. We don’t see the CD dying anytime soon, as it is arguably the sonic pinnacle of commercial music, but it will probably play the role of satisfying the audiophiles, like vinyl does now.”

I want to thank Nick and Marc Free who guide a label that is more of a collaborative or perhaps jazz collective by design with a specific mission statement. As a critic, Posi-Tone may be one of three of the very best in straight ahead jazz that as I like to say “Swings hard or goes home.” Based an amazing stable of talent, a sincere commitment to the consumer and a genuine enthusiasm in doing the job the right way each and every time Posi-Tone is a label that is literally money when it comes to dropping a new release. Great sound quality and some of the hottest up and coming talent in the business. This one is easy:

On a personal note just wrapped up October with up and coming drummer Jordan Young, a Posi-Tone artist as our spotlight artist of the month. Be sure and check out Ed Cherry’s “It’s All Good” because…well, it is!

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Dom Minasi interviews Ed Cherry for AAJ…

Guitar great Ed Cherry, who earned his bones working with Dizzy Gillespie, has something to say, too.

DM: The illusive “they” are always talking about moving the music forward. Do you think by adding electronics such as wah-wahs, loops, distortion etc. is helping do that?

Ed Cherry: If it’s done with taste, restraint and good sound, then I’m all for it.

DM: Is there a place for electronics in jazz?

EC: You mean like, when Charlie Christian showed up with an amp and electric guitar to the gig? Or when Miles put Keith Jarrett in front of a Fender Rhodes, or when Eddie Harrisplugged his tenor sax into a Varitone? Um, yes, I, I think there’s a place in jazz for electronics (to me this is similar to your first question)…


DM: Some musicians are using odd time signatures (7/8, 11/8/ 13/8); is that really what jazz is suppose to be?

EC: Well, I guess it’s cool. I mean I really liked what Steve Coleman was doing with odd time back in the ’80s, but for me, I can’t listen to that all night, I want to tap my foot and dance if I want to. I think Milt Jackson said something like “it don’t mean a thing…if you can’t tap your foot to it.” It’s got to be swingin’ at some point during the night. My dad told me back his day, that he and my mom would dance to “Just Friends,” by Charlie Parker or “This Is Always,” by Earl Coleman. This is music for the people, let’s dance!

DM: Just because it’s improvisation, is it jazz?

 EC: Dizzy called it “our music.” If we are playing “our music,” there’s got to be swing, it’s got to be soulful, the feeling of the blues and the African American church has to be up in there somewhere, or else to me, it isn’t jazz (America’s classical music—another name Dizzy used in describing “our music”). Charlie Parker had all those ingredients in his playing whenever you heard him (and if you are a young non-African American student of this music, you have to understand and appreciate the full spectrum of Black Music in this country and be fully aware of the socio-political aspects that went into its formation). There are influences from other countries in the music all over the place now, and that’s great, but if the soloist is playing stiff and sounding like a classical musician playing what he thinks “our music” is supposed to sound and feel like, well, I shut down immediately on that. No matter how far out John Coltrane got, you always heard that “moan” or “shiver” in his solos. That’s the blues, that’s the church you are hearing (I think I heard Wynton say that somewhere).
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Greg Thomas on Orrin Evans “Flip the Script”…

Orrin Evans returns to  NYC to ‘Flip the Script’

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Orrin Evans is ready for his return to the East Coast.

Speaking from Japan via Skype, the pianist and composer reports that he’s been on the road a lot since February, performing and teaching. He misses his family in Philly, including his two sons, ages 14 and 19, and his wife of almost 20 years, Dawn Warren Evans.

Soon they’ll get to see him. And so will his fans in New York when Evans appears in “Three Shades of Orrin,” his three-night run at the Jazz Standard on East 27th St. next week.

 The gig will showcase the range of his artistic personality.

“It’s different bands, literally, each night, and different concepts,” he says. The first evening is a release party for “Flip the Script,” Evans’ most recent trio statement. Joining him will be Vicente Archer on bass and Obed Calvaire on drums.

Trumpeter Jack Walrath and tenor saxophonist Tim Warfield are special guests with the trio on Wednesday. Then on Thursday night, the Captain Black Big Band, a loosely structured, versatile group of cats in their 30s and above, will smoke the stage.

He views this career milestone as a “blessing,” a word that crosses his lips several times in our chat. He initiates a verbal jam session on topics like home and family, culture and the business side, with music as the consistent thread.

Evans walks with an attitude of gratitude. He has a serious demeanor, but he leaps and laughs with joy when playing music. He’s the kind of guy who will pause and look at you before cracking up at a joke.

His journey began in Trenton, N.J., when he was born in 1976 to Don and Frances Evans. “My father was a playwright,” he says, “and one of the members of the Black Arts Movement. He taught African-American history at Trenton State College for 25 years, and also at Princeton. My mother was a singer in Opera Ebony.”

Oscar Peterson and Phineas Newborn lit the piano flame early. Then teachers such as Kenny Barron, Joanne Brackeen, Ralph Bowen and Ted Dunbar at Rutgers University stoked the fire. Evans’ exciting piano flow owes debts to Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea, Mulgrew Miller, Kenny Kirkland and, perhaps, Marcus Roberts.

“I’m devoted to the history of this music,” he says, “to unadulterated swing, things that our elders saw as important.” That’s why a recent recording project was named Tar Baby, after the Uncle Remus character in the Brer Rabbit tales.

  Those cultural elements were “something that people didn’t want to hold onto for fear that they would get stuck to the history, or associated with something that they didn’t want to be.”

A shrinking violet he’s not. The CD “Flip the Script” bounds with exuberant agility. Bassist Ben Wolfe and drummer Donald Edwards ride curves of sound with Evans in the driver’s seat. The title refers to a sudden shift or even a reversal in course.

The song itself is like a “road map and roller coaster with different time signatures,” Evans says. The words also refer to the need to start anew in relationships, but while “keeping true to the things that I believe about this music. And playing in ways that some might not expect.”

Like the ballad “When,” a reflective piece in which Evans wonders, in a slightly sad way, about trying to keep one’s head up. There’s an especially fine arrangement on “Brand New Day,” a pop song from “The Wiz” with Michael Jackson and Diana Ross, which also serves as a tribute to Luther Vandross. The optimistic, well-lit “Clean House” points to how “every once in a while, you’ve got to reboot and clean your cache.”

The somber mood of the last number, Gamble and Huff’s “The Sound of Philadelphia,” is like a silent prayer for the deceased. Evans flips the script on those who think it’s a tribute to Philly. It’s actually in honor of Don Cornelius, who died three weeks before the recording session. The song was the theme of the black American music and dance series “Soul Train.”

To Evans, the players are not just a leader with some sidemen. His experience playing in a musical conversation with Bobby Watson taught him to think of his closest musical associates as family.

“The shades of Orrin Evans are all about my associations with my friends and with my family,” he says. “Come on out and see how we party. You’re gonna have a good time and hear some great music.”

Then he refers to one of this jazz joint’s secret weapons: the food provided by Smoke barbecue upstairs.

“I want you to feel like you came to a barbeque,” he says, “that happened to be at the Jazz Standard.

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Phil Freeman interviews Orrin Evans…

Q&A: Orrin Evans On The Economics Of Trio Albums, Jazz Musicians’ Constant Reinvention, And Records That Are Too Long

Pianist Orrin Evans is a busy man. With nearly 20 albums out under his own leadership and a slew of impressive sideman performances to his credit, he’s built a sterling reputation on the modern, straight-ahead jazz scene. His music has melody and swing, with a dash of groove here and there, and he frequently pays tribute to Philadelphia, the city where he was raised and educated. His 2011 album Freedom featured Philly-based musicians exclusively, including saxophonist Larry McKenna, well-known at home but not exactly a household name nationally.

Evans’ latest release, Flip The Script, is a trio disc featuring bassist Ben Wolfe and drummer Donald Edwards. In addition to eight originals, the concise collection (10 tracks in 45 minutes) features the band’s interpretations of “Someday My Prince Will Come” and “The Sound of Philadelphia,” better known as the theme song to Soul Train. To celebrate its release, he’s playing three nights at the Jazz Standard starting Tuesday, July 17, with the band growing larger night by night. On Tuesday, he’ll play with a different trio, made up of bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Obed Calvaire. On Wednesday, that group will be augmented by trumpeter Jack Walrath and saxophonist Tim Warfield. On Thursday, the Captain Black Big Band, featuring four trumpets, four trombones and four saxophones in addition to the trio, will take over. This interview was conducted on July 9, while Evans was in Japan backing saxophonist Seamus Blake.

What gave you the idea to do three nights with three bands?

It’s basically an idea that stemmed a while ago, from wanting to do something consecutive at a club in New York, and since I’ve done all these different projects, if I had done it solely under [the auspices of] my own record label, the different records I’ve done on that label. But it ended up being based on my recent record, Flip The Script, which is on Posi-Tone, but I said, we can still do the same type of idea. Although I’ve never done a quintet record on Posi-Tone yet. So basically it was just an idea my wife and I had a few years ago, but I’d never been able to bring it to fruition, and we’re really excited to do it at the Jazz Standard.

How much overlap will there be in the set lists? Will people be able to hear three different versions of some tunes if they come every night?

Exactly. Probably about three or four tunes will overlap, but the majority of what the trio plays, I’m going to really stick to the present record. The quintet, we have some other tunes that we’ve been playing as a group, but there’s some overlap with the big band. And I know some people will actually think about that, and worry, “Well, I don’t want to go back and hear the same music,” but I think that’s kind of fun, actually, to see how it’s interpreted by a different ensemble. If it was another club, you’d go back and hear the same music and the exact same band. But now you get a chance to hear other cats interpret the same tunes, and that’s exciting to me and I hope it’s going to be exciting for the audience after Tuesday night, like, “Oh, let’s go back on Wednesday and see what they do.” So some overlap, but not completely. It won’t be the same exact set.

Is this trio—Vicente Archer and Obed Calvaire—is this a regular group for you, or a rhythm section you hired for this set of dates?

Well, I’ve always considered myself a little different than other leaders, because you tend to have what you described, a regular working trio. I’m blessed to have a family of people who I can call, and that could be five or six different people on bass, five or six different people on drums. We all are familiar with the same book of music, familiar with the same language, and when we get together we just see what happens with the tunes that might be different than the other bass player and drummer that had played it. So it’s not regular in the sense that we have always played together, but we have played together and we’ve played some of this music together. And they’re part of the family. In these times, unless you’re on the road at least 10 months out of the year, it’s pretty hard to have a regular working trio. So I try to just have people I’ve played with, and played this music with. So it’s regular in that they’re part of the family that I’ve been able to build over the past 17 years.

What’s the process of arranging a song for big band when it wasn’t originally composed for that size ensemble?

When I first put the [Captain Black Big Band] together, I actually hired two arrangers, one for the first record and another where I composed the tunes and a gentleman named Todd Bayshore did the majority of the arrangements. For the next record, we brought on Todd Marcus, another arranger, and David Gibson. And then I have a lot of conversations between them on ideas I have and they all come together, and they’re the main arrangers. But there are about three or four tunes that I’ve arranged [myself], and it’s no different than anything else. If you’re having a conversation with one or two people, hopefully the other person is listening and then they get their chance to talk. It’s just [showing] respect for when it’s your time to do something and your time not to do something. And that’s how I look at arranging, is it’s like building. You have your main theme and you just build on it to make it one big conversation. And we have a few tunes that I’ve arranged where that’s solely what I think about. How can we all participate in this conversation, but not talk over each other?

There are pianists whose style is immediately recognizable within a few bars—Thelonious Monk, Ahmad Jamal, McCoy Tyner, Cecil Taylor, Matthew Shipp. What do you think makes your playing immediately identifiable as yours?

The experiences I’ve had in my life, one of which is growing up in Philadelphia. There’s a certain type of approach that I’ve only heard coming out of Philadelphia pianists. I could be wrong, ’cause I know it’s me ’cause it’s me, but other people, I think they listen and hear what they think is my touch, that is similar to what some other pianists might play. And also how you interpret time. I think I have a really different approach to time, touch and feel. And I base a lot of that on my life experience—the music I grew up listening to, the people I checked out like Shirley Scott, Trudy Pitts, McCoy Tyner, Sid Simmons, all these people who are from Philadelphia. Sid Simmons was a great pianist from Philly who didn’t blow up to international fame but still recorded a lot, and in two notes I could tell it was him, and that’s because of that Philly sound that I heard resonating from the piano. So although I was born in New Jersey, I was raised in Philadelphia, and I think people can really tell where I’m from in how I play.

You’ve made a lot of trio albums. What draws you to that format?

I can’t stand the trio format. Economics have drawn me to that format, where this is what the record producer wants. The first couple of times I did trio, I just went, aw, man, I can’t wait to bring some horn players in, and Meant to Shine, which I did on Palmetto, was an all-quintet record, but economically it seems like I can keep a trio performing a little easier, because you can all fit in a Honda Accord and get to the gig. [laughs] But with a quartet or a quintet, sometimes economically it’s not always easy to keep it going. But the one thing I do like about doing trio is that I’m in full control of the direction of where the band is going. I don’t have to communicate to one more person, “OK, we’re gonna play the melody right here.” There’s a sense of freedom that I do enjoy about playing trio, but there’s also a sense of vulnerability that is extremely intimidating. And that’s something I’ve always shied away from in performing and recording with just a trio. It’s intimidating. You’re out there, and you have to pull the cats along. But the same thing that intimidates me also intrigues me.

Have you ever considered making a solo album?

You know what? It’s probably the next thing I do, in the next three or four years. I just—that’s another thing that’s even more intimidating. But when I do it live—and I’ve done two or three—it’s so much fun. Or when I do an intro to a tune. The possibilities are limitless, harmonically, lyrically, and it took me this many years to be comfortable playing solo, because you go through this thing where you’re like, “All right, is this what So-and-so would have done? Are they going to like it?” It takes a while to truly become comfortable with how you play. Always striving to get better, but just to feel comfortable with, OK, this is where I’m coming from. I’m a lot closer to that now, and I think now is the time to do a solo record. But for years, that was extremely intimidating for me.

Tell me about your relationship with Posi-Tone. You’re one of the few African-American artists on the label—what are your feelings about what they’re doing, and what it says about or does for jazz in 2012?

Well, first of all, I admire you for even realizing that. It’s something I’ve had a conversation with them about, and it’s not the first time. When I was on Palmetto, I was one of a very few African-American artists on that label. Then Bobby Watson came in—or was it the other way around? And then Javon Jackson. Now to be honest, this is probably the last project I’m doing on Posi-Tone, and that’s because we’ve reached a point where I’m seeing things [in terms of] the next step, and they’re comfortable with where they are now as a label. And they’ve done some great things for me. Great things. As far as [label owner] Marc Free and his ability to really get the word out and promote the records, he’s done a great job. Their radio campaigns have been great. But moving projects to the next level is where I’m at. And by that I mean the musicians you perform with on your projects, the budget, taking the label to like what Blue Note was—the Blue Note of Wayne Shorter and all those guys, back in the day. Or even the Blue Note of now, but just taking things to the next level. A lot of things that have happened since I’ve been on that label, things I’ve done as a financial investment.

What’s going on at the Standard, we’re doing a meet and greet happy hour before the gig, and that’s out of my pocket, putting that together. And I guess where I’m at now is, if a label doesn’t see that as important, communicating with the outside world, communicating with the press on another level, not just the level of “Hey, I’ve done a record, would you review it?” or “Hey, I’ve done a record, do you like it?” but “Hey, I’ve done a record, come on out, thank you for your support”… My wife was a realtor for years, and one of the things we talked about was an appreciation party. “Thank you for suggesting me to your friends as a realtor.” And you do happy hour, or whatever. And that’s how I feel we should get back to with the music. But a lot of labels don’t go that extra step anymore. I remember when Eric Reed had his record on Impulse!, and he had a listening event at some penthouse in New York, where he invited press and just made people feel good for supporting him. And those are the kinds of things I have in mind, and that’s probably why I want to do the next project on Imani Records, which is my label. Because if I’m going to invest anything other than my time in a label, I want to see a return. Not so much financially, but in terms of respect. I appreciate and really enjoyed the time I did spend on Posi-Tone, but I see Flip The Script, ironically, as a time to flip the script all across the board.

Flip The Script is your 13th album as a leader, right?

Nineteenth. There’s two or three of them, four of them, that are collectives. You’re right, but I’m including Captain Black Big Band and Tarbaby and another ensemble called Luvpark, an electric band that I put out a few years ago, back in 2006. And those are collectives, but I was on those records.

Do you ever worry about the fact that jazz artists have such deep discographies compared to rock artists, that it makes it difficult for a new person to begin listening?

No, because the one thing that’s different between jazz and other genres is, you’re not doing a year-long campaign to support that one record. There was a time when it was like that, but you almost have to be reinventing yourself every three or four months. So it doesn’t matter where you enter, as long as you go back and do your history. When I first got into this music, I got into jazz through Steely Dan. My brother listened to Steely Dan, and I was like “Who’s that saxophonist? Oh wow, that’s Wayne Shorter. Oh, that’s Michael Brecker.” So I got into it like that, but then it’s on you as an audience member, if you’re really into this music, to do the research and go back and connect the dots. I do that with acting too. My wife laughs, because I can’t watch a movie without going to IMDB in the middle, to see what other movies the actors were in. “Hey, maybe I’ll like them in this other movie. What was their first movie?” So that’s me, and I just hope and pray that other audience members do the same type of research, and go back. “Oh, wait a minute, I’ve got Orrin’s fifth record—he did some others before this?” It keeps you fresh in their minds, and I think that’s something important, because these are the times.

It’s not like the Flip The Script band is gonna go on the road and tour for an entire year, and then take a couple of months off and do the next project. It’s different in jazz. It would be great if we were on the Beyonce budget, to go promote the record and then have everyone anticipating the next Orrin Evans record, which I hope will come around one day, but we’re not there now. So not oversaturating, but making sure you’re on people’s minds and the tip of their tongues.

Do you think it’s up to jazz musicians to reach out and actively seek new audiences—not just through social media, but even through the way they compose? I’ll give you a specific example—JD Allen, who writes these very short tunes which he says reflect modern, short attention spans. How do you feel about that attempt to meet people on a middle ground?

I think as long as you don’t dumb down or bastardize your music, it’s a great idea. And knowing JD like I know him, that’s something he’ll never do. But he will make it accessible, and that’s great. Sometimes you gotta fool ’em—it’s almost like when you want to get a baby to eat something. Some parents will just leave the peas right there, like, you gotta eat these peas. But another parent will mash ’em up and mix ’em in with some mashed potatoes, so they’re still eating the peas, but they’ve put them in with something else to make it more desirable to that baby. And as long as you don’t put things in it that dumb it down, I am for finding new ways to find new audiences, and I definitely agree with making not only the tunes shorter, but making the albums shorter. We’re a very excessive culture—like, if you can make more, then I want more. If you can supersize it, we want it supersized. So the minute CDs came out and you could get 75 minutes on this CD, everybody did that, and to be honest, I can’t stand listening to records now. I’m so bored by the end. Because you’ve had my attention for an hour and 15 minutes, and you really only had 40 minutes worth of shit to say. So that’s where I’m at as far as—Tarbaby got me into that. Yeah, we can do a 75 minute long record, but man, why? Look at those early Blue Note records; none of ’em were over 40 or 45 minutes. So that’s one way of getting new audiences, is just keeping their attention. Here, check it out. Because we are in an ADD culture, so why give them too much when they can’t focus in on it? And I’m always about trying to find new audiences, and the main reason is if you go check out most jazz, you don’t see a future in the audience. You’re seeing it more and more, but I’m really interested in seeing the future in the audience. Seeing grandparents bringing their grandsons and granddaughters out to the gig, seeing parents bringing their sons and daughters, so they can be the new audience. That happens in Europe and Japan all the time, but we don’t do it that much in the States, because our culture’s different. We’re afraid that our kids might not behave and blah blah blah. But we really need to get back to bringing kids out so this music will continue.

I interviewed Matthew Shipp a while ago, and he said at that time that he’d never played before a majority black audience. Have you?

Well, growing up in Philadelphia, yes, and that’s probably why I’m so confused right now, because I thought they existed. [laughs] And then when I first moved to New York, I moved to Brooklyn and was playing sessions for the first year or so I was in New York [that were] full of young African-Americans. And then going up to Harlem. But then, when I really started touring and performing, I realized that that’s a rare thing. And that’s something I’m really trying to figure out how to crack. Whatever that code is to get ’em to come out. So many things have circulated on Facebook—economics keep ’em out, which I would agree, but I look at it like, people will spend money on what they want, no matter how expensive it is. Black and white.

So although the clubs are expensive, I think the question is how do we get them to want to spend their money on that? Because let’s say you wake up, and you’ve got a taste for some crab legs. Now I know some people that will run to the grocery store and get seven, eight, nine pounds of crab legs and steam them up. Seven, eight, nine pounds of crab legs at $9.99 a pound if they’re not on sale, you just dropped about a hundred dollars. Then you get a case of beer—so how do you get them to want to spend that same hundred dollars on an evening of entertainment and cultural enrichment? That’s hard. I’m really trying to figure out how to get African-Americans and the black audience to want to do that. Even if you think about people going out to a club, the reality is that most of the clubs, to get guys coming in, women get in free from 10 to 12. And I’ve talked about that happening in jazz. ‘Cause where do guys go? Guys go where the women are. I don’t have solutions or answers, but I definitely have a bunch of different ideas on how to get more African-Americans out to check out this music, and a lot of them are based on marketing. Open Ebony or Jet or Essence, and it’s rare. You see it more now, but how can you get your face on the cover of those magazines, and still swing? And not feel like you have to play a different type of music to gain the audience? To do it while playing the music you’re playing now?

One of the big problems I see with the marketing of jazz is that nobody likes broccoli. And jazz is sold as something that’s good for you, not something that’s entertaining and fun. I feel like jazz musicians need to embrace the idea of being entertainers.

Right. I hear you. That’s a good point. My father was a playwright, my mother was an opera singer, so I grew up in a very performance-oriented family. Jazz musicians are sometimes in my opinion—some of them really don’t get it. “Yeah, I think the audience is really gonna like this song.” There are people, and I love these people, who sit in the audience and really listen to your tune. And they hear that bar of 5/4, and that harmonic progression. But there are some other people that really just want to know you. When you think about Facebook or any other social media… let’s say you do a gig and one of your old friends that you went to college with comes out, and they’re really not into the music—they’re into you. They want to leave feeling that they connected with you, not just your music. So how can you do that? And you don’t have to be on the mic, talking all the time. But there’s a way you can entertain and play your music without feeling like you’re, for lack of a better word, Sambo-ing it. [laughs] “This is who I am. Hi, my name is Orrin Evans. This is who I am as a person, this is who I am as a musician. Welcome to my world.” This is how I see it—they’re coming to your gig, and they come into your living room. And so many jazz musicians are horrible hosts.

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Angelika Beener on “Flip the Script”…


Orrin Evans ‘Flips the Script’ With 19th Release As Leader

Posted on by Angelika Beener

At an impressive nineteen albums in, pianist Orrin Evans sets out to do exactly as the title of his latest suggests.  Flip The Script (Posi-Tone), out this month, refers not only to a last-minute repertoire overhaul just before the recording date, but the turning of a new leaf in his career and personal life.Orrin EvansOne of the boldest voices in the BAM (Black American Music) discussion, Evans is helping transform what he describes as, “this vision that certain people have in terms of what this music is supposed to be or who I’m supposed to be.”  It’s hard enough keeping up with the Philly-bred pianist, let alone pegging him, which I wouldn’t recommend.  Evans is a hard working composer and band leader — of both his trio and distinguished big band, Captain Black — a teacher, and a member of the group Tarbaby with bassist Eric Revis and drummer Nasheet Waits.  The husband and father of two, Evans is also reveling in the next phase of life with his wife, Dawn, as their children approach nest-leaving age. “Dawn and I are finally like, ‘Hi, hey what’s your name?’” Evans jokes of their increased freedom, “because we spent the first seventeen years of our lives raising kids, and it’s now like wow, let’s go out!  Let’s hang!  I’m ‘flipping the script’ in all aspects of life.”On his sixth trio record, Evans, with bassist Ben Wolfe and drummer Donald Edwards, puts forth a gutty, undaunted project.  Flip The Script comes out swinging — both literally and figuratively — with a refreshing collective intensity, which Evans contends is a lacking component in some of today’s piano trios.

“I’ve always ran from trio records,” admits Evans, “and my goal is never to sound like all these other trio records.  They can be a little boring.  So my goal is to basically figure out how to do it and get a different vibe from it.  I used to listen to Keith Jarrett’s trio all the time, then I started checking out Jaki Byard, and Herbie and McCoy… all of them sound different, and my goal was to sound more like that versus some of these newer trios that can sound like background music. They can be very contrived.”

Edwards and Wolfe are beyond formidable on this record, and despite never recording together, their sound is as tight-knit as a most established group.  “Donald, I met almost 13 years ago, and he was a recommendation from Tim Warfield,” explains Evans.  “Ever since then, we have been playing together.  He ended up playing with the Mingus Big Band, and we just ended up playing in many different surroundings together.  The thing is, we’d never had the opportunity to document together; the opportunity never presented itself.  We played together on other people’s records, but this is the first time we’ve done a project together as a group.  With Ben, I played a gig at [the jazz club] Smoke and I called Donald for it, and I said, you know what, I am going to use Ben Wolfe, who I had never played with.  We knew each other but I never played with him.  Through the wonderful world of Facebook, I said, ‘We should do something.’  Not only has he become someone I really enjoy playing with, but he’s become a very good friend.”  Wolfe has also positioned himself as one of the prominent pro-BAM movement voices, and sat alongside Evans on a panel at Birdland earlier this year.

The range of music in this collection is a window into the various driving forces behind the passionate pianist.  “All these songs are pretty much about starting over,” he says.  Evans contributes six standout originals, with “Flip the Script” being among those written just days before recording.  “The Answer” is a gorgeous waltz which shows a more tender side of Evans’ compositional spectrum.  The Luther Vandross-penned “Brand New Day” from the 1978 movie classic The Wiz, is an example of Evans’ exploration of the R&B songbook and an aptly titled declaration, which is reconstructed into a modal exaltation, as inspiring as the original.

Among many impressive moments, Evans also performs a solo piano “homegoing” take on the Gamble & Huff R&B anthem “The Sound of Philadelphia”, otherwise known as the Soul Train theme song.  Slow, somber and haunting, Evans closes the album with a powerful reminder of the indelible influence of Don Cornelius on Black music.  “It was ironic that both Dick Clark and Don Cornelius passed right next to each other,” says Evans, “and then also how Don checked out and there was nothing really being said to me about it…there wasn’t enough. I mean, how many magazine covers do you remember with Don Cornelius’ face on it when he passed?  How many featured articles can you remember?  But the real deal is, without Don Cornelius, none of this other shit would have happened.  Like, you really want to get into BAM?  We wouldn’t even be having an argument about BAM without Don Cornelius, and we kind of just swept him under the rug, in my opinion.  It’s like, that’s all you’re going to say?  Oh, ya’ll are done?  And so basically I just wanted to do my little tribute to him.”

Increasingly, Evans’ statements away from his instrument are proving just as illuminative as those across the span of his fifteen year recording career, and after nineteen releases, he seems more assured than ever — both in his music and his individuality.

“Thank God, honestly, that all the gigs I’ve had have been gigs where I’m not on the road for two years straight or something,” Evans reflects.  “I’ve had the weird blessing of not working at times, which has given me time to focus on Orrin Evans.”

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Brandon Wright on The Pace Report…

The Pace Report: “Outward Journeyman”

In a very short time, saxophonist and bandleader Brandon Wright has gained the respect and accolades from the jazz and rock circles over the last decade. His sophomore project “Journeyman” on the Posi-Tone record label has gotten lots of critical acclaim as well as being hailed as one of the best jazz recordings so far in 2012. The disc features six of his own compositions and continues to expose his love and passion for playing jazz standards. Brandon also plays music of his generation from bands like Pearl Jam to Oasis.

The Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey native was inspired to play the saxophone as a child by watching a episode of the classic animated series “The Simpsons” in which the daughter, Lisa Simpson, encounters the Springfield, Illinois sax legend, ‘Bleeding’ Gums Murphy. He eventually took up the sax enrolling in a jazz workshop for teens hosted by the legendary bassist Rufus Reid. From there Brandon studied and listened to the greats and decided to study and play the music as a profession. Brandon studied at both the University of Michigan and Miami and earned four Downbeat Student Music Awards.
Over the last decade he’s backed the likes of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, The Mingus Big Band, Fred Wesley, Doc Severinsen, and Chuck Mangione. In fact, he met his current band members: David Kikoski, Boris Kozlov, and Donald Edwards while playing in the Mingus Big Band.

Brandon is currently playing selected club dates across the country in support of the latest disc. For more information on him or to order his latest disc “Journeyman” please visit him online at

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Brandon Wright on The Jazz Session…

The Jazz Session #386: Brandon Wright

Saxophonist Brandon Wright’s new CD is Journeyman (Posi-Tone, 2012). In this interview, Wright talks about what he learned from playing with Chuck Mangione, Doc Severinsen and Fred Wesley; why he’s chosen to arrange tunes by Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam and Oasis; and how improv comedy classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York have made him a better jazz musician. Learn more at

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JazzTimes interview with Brandon Wright….

It is always exciting when the work of a young, talented musician surfaces into the spotlight. Tenor saxophonist Brandon Wright has already accelerated into the big leagues with his ripe, flavorful sounds and technique. His playing is highly respected among leaders in the industry such as Eric Alexander, Chuck Mangione and many more. Wright has already earned the respect of fellow musicians and attracted a following through his performances at Jazz At Lincoln Center and The Kennedy Center. For more information about Brandon Wright, visit his website.

Last week, I had pleasure of sitting down for a one on one with Wright to talk about his life in music and what inspired him to create his sophomore release,Journeyman (Posi-Tone 2012), which is full of rich, rhythmic concepts and fresh interpretations. It is climbing the charts as we speak! His CD Release party is scheduled to be held at Jazz At Kitano in New York City on June 1, 2012 at 8p.m. and is open to the public.

Here is what this incredible, young saxophone player told me about his life and love of music and the saxophone.

Gigi Brooks: Listening to your style of playing and reading about your formal training at the University of Michigan and studying the saxophone, I have to ask which saxophonist influenced you to the point of choosing the saxophone as an instrument? You could have chosen the piano, trumpet or any other instrument.

Brandon Wright: Well, the funny story there is when I was eight years old The Simpsons was just being aired in its first season and the character Lisa Simpson, who they made a saxophonist…in the very first season they had her paired up with the jazz musician “Bleeding Gums Murphy”; this is over twenty years ago now. They sing this Blues song together and in the lyrics she says that she is in the second grade and I was in the second grade when The Simpsons came out and I just found her extremely relatable because she could have been my peer in real life and at eight years old you just have such an imagination that I just thought she could be my friend ‘cause she plays the saxophone and it would be so cool. I just knew when band came around that I would want to play the saxophone.

You have no idea how unique that story is!

I still need to write Matt Groening and all of the creators of the show. Thank you. I keep saying I am going to do it and then I put it off, so that’s something I need to do. I did meet the composer, Alf Clausen of the show as well as Terry Harrington, who plays the baritone sax. Everything was great for me then. So that’s what set the bar for choosing the saxophone. Then in middle school the Dave Matthews Band was pretty popular and I really wasn’t exposed to jazz through my family, it wasn’t really listened to in the house. My exposure to the saxophone came through more like pop culture like The Simpsons, then also The Dave Matthews Band’s, saxophonist LeRoi Moore. That was my basic awareness was Lisa Simpson and whatever recordings on The Simpsons albums and the Dave Matthews Band is where it started. Then my sophomore year of high school, my uncle gave me a recording of Joshua Redman’s CD Moodswing. That was my first introduction to jazz.

Unbelievable! Your start is so different from that of many jazz artists. 


A lot of things happened for me at that same time…all within a six month time period during my sophomore year of high school, I also auditioned for this program in Newark, New Jersey called Jazz For Teens, which Rufus Reid, the great bass player founded and became my mentor for a while at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. So, I auditioned for this program, because I thought it would look good on my college application, I had an extreme curiosity of the music, but I was just looking for another extracurricular activity, so I auditioned for this program. So, that happened and I don’t know how I got in…I think I just played with enough conviction and I really just knew a handful of scales. I still didn’t know who Miles Davis or Charlie Parker was, but I got into the program, was in the first section. I was really amazed by the level of talent. I mean there were kids much better than me that really took me out of my world of high school where you think you’re good just because you happen to be one of the more talented players in your school, but now when you’re exposed to everyone in the entire state of New Jersey it’s a whole new ball game. I was so inspired by kids who seemed to know a lot more about the music than I did which was a little confusing, because I felt like they were my peers. You start to realize that people have started to learn about this music much earlier and also what type of teacher there was and what they were exposed to.

So that happened and I went to my first jazz club with my family. I heard my private teacher, Walt Weiskopf play with a sextet. There was a combination of going to Jazz for Teens and then going to hear Walt play with his band that night, I was just hooked on the music from that point on. Even though I didn’t know that much about it and it was very much a mystery to me, it was just magic and I fell in love with the art form and just decided that I wanted to learn as much as I could and get as good as I could as a saxophonist and as an improviser, become familiar with the music and hopefully one day I too could be on the stage.

Again, I will say your story is unique to that of a jazz artist. Most musicians will tell you “I saw John Coltrane”; “you know I saw Miles Davis do such and such”; or “I listened to Wayne Wallace play at a festival”. I find it incredible that you picked up the interest for the saxophone from a television show and then took it further and made a career out of it; and a successful one at that.

I got bit by the performance bug when I was young and it just made sense.

I read the comment by trombonist, Fred Wesley, where he said your playing “sounds like an old black man.” How do you attribute the ability to get that mature sound that you have in your approach to your music? You sound as if you have been playing for thirty years. 

Thank you. I think…well all I can say is that I really immersed myself in the music. When I got involved with Jazz For Teens and they recommended a lot of CDs and then I started listening to WBGO, the New York jazz radio station. I became obsessive with the music where probably a good seven, or eight years my listening diet was nothing but straight ahead jazz music, mostly instrumental. I really paid attention to not only the notes that they were playing and doing a transcription, but really getting deeper into the intent of how they were playing the music. You may want to call it “the vibe” or “energy”. To me, that’s what made the music more than the notes, was how it was being played and I really worked hard to try to imitate that and immerse myself in it. Other than that I developed a sound in my head that came from all my different influences, the traditions, I definitely love a lot of the great early saxophone players and I have as much respect for the modern players, I just kind of put that all together, put the horn to my face and just wanted to make great music. It really is an honor. Fred wasn’t the first person to tell me that, when I was playing down in Florida, my nickname was “Tyrone” and I was only 22 years old, whoever gave me that nickname. [laughs] When I met Fred, we did a tour of Japan together with Gregg Field’s Big Band and I was such a huge fan of Fred Wesley before we even played and met and I we became friends and after that first gig he came up to me and said, “You sound like an old man!” So I guess it’s just something that comes from within, you know I love the music and I want to treat it with the utmost respect and authenticity.

I understand what you mean. The fact that you play so melodic, I listened to that. You really know how to space and carry your notes into a beautiful style and I’m wondering if it has to do with the time you spent with Chuck Mangione, because his playing has always been so beautiful and so melodic and I hear that same pattern in your playing on the saxophone. Am I correct?

I appreciate the complement and it’s funny that’s what I was going to bring up before you said it. You’re one-hundred percent correct, Gigi. Chuck Mangione’s mentorship directly affected me that way. That was probably…there was a big shift in the way I was playing after I joined his band and I’ll be honest you know… when I first joined the group I was very excited for the opportunity and his music can be played in such a way that it’s easy to just let it rip and show of a lot of saxophone chops, because it’s more diatonic-based. It’s not as harmonically adventurous. You’re not going into this unchartered territory like Wayne Shorter, or Herbie Hancock, or major, minor, bluesy, pentatonic stuff. It’s very easy for me to go into that Tower of Power saxophone mode and unleash a lot of notes and it did get me a lot of applause. I like telling this story…I remember I was playing at the Blue Note for a week and maybe it was the second night… and it was the closest feeling I had felt to being a Rock Star, in the jazz context. A lot of people go to the Blue Note, because it’s a touristy spot, people just know that name and they know Chuck and we were playing to a packed house every night and it’s a very intimate club and elite stage and you’re right there with the audience and people wanted autographs and wanted to know more about me…it was very exciting.

So, I guess the point of this story with Chuck and how he changed my playing is he pulled me into the dressing room after the second set and he said, “my favorite part of the night when you played and really performed the ballad, because you leave a lot of space and you’re melodic. Let that be the lesson that you apply to the rest of the show. That’s how I would like to hear you play.” I’ll be honest, Gigi, when I first heard that I was a little sensitive and a little frustrated, because someone was telling me to tone it down and at first when you hear stuff like that as an artist it’s easy to get a little bit touchy, or to take it personally, but what I’ve come to realize is that once I started to adapt a ‘less is more’ approach and be more melodic, I felt that I was really getting more to the essence of who I wanted to be as a player. It started to give me more of an identity and I felt that I was saying more with less. If you think of music as a conversation, it is very difficult to listen to someone who’s speaking rapid fire all the time without leaving space. So even when I recorded Boiling Point, I had made that choice based on what Chuck Mangione had told me which was “be more melodic, leave space, don’t go for everything right away”.

Including the “egg scrambling.”

[laughs] Right! And he was absolutely right!

Let’s talk about your new release Journeyman. What is the meaning of the title?

Journeyman came through…was the idea of the producer of the CD, Marc Free. We were brainstorming ideas. The band that is on the record…we’d just performed at the Kitano, maybe a month and a half before I pitched the idea to Marc and I just loved the group and it was exciting to play with them. It was the first time we all played together live and I pitched the idea to Marc. I said I really want this album to be about my time and experience here in New York. I said I really want it to be about my journey and he said, “Journeyman!” The words popped right out and I was familiar with the term, because I had been called that a couple of years ago when someone was asking me what I was up to and I would go up and down the list of different bands I’d played with and freelancing. So it seemed to fit. It tells the story of how I got to where I am right now.

It is a wonderful band by the way. You’ve got David Kikoski on piano, Boris Kozlov on bass and Donald Edwards on drums. You vibe together so well! And I want to add that six of the ten songs are written by you.

It’s an important part of the process and also how I’d like to present music and myself as being improviser and interpreter of jazz standards. There is a need for me to compose and write my own material which I think at the end of the day I sound more like myself playing my compositions and the way I write and promote melodies an harmonic landscapes I feel it allows me to get to the essence of how I like to play. I am most free to roam in my compositions.

Transcribed by Noel King

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North Country Public Radio interview with Tom Tallitsch…

Tenor Saxophonist Tom Tallitsch’s new CD, Heads Or Tales, blends classic sounds with contemporary compositions

Tom Tallitsch

Tom Tallitsch

(05/05/12) Tom Tallitsch has just released a new CD for Posi-Tone Records, and has tapped three great players to interpret his modern compositions with an old school sound. He talked about it with Joel Hurd on The Bridge.
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WGLT podcast interview with Spike Wilner…

Publish Date: 06/08/2012 10:46 AM
Run Time: 10:05
Growing up in NYC, Wilner played piano at a young age. His inspiration also came at a young age when he saw a television program on Scott Joplin. Today Wilner is one of the top pianists in NYC, and is co-owner of “Smalls”, one of the top jazz clubs in NYC. Wilner’s new CD on Posi-Tone records is titled “La Tendresse”, and is available at: — produced by Nick LeRose