Smoke Sessions Volume 1 is a collector’s edition sampler of our first four titles. Pressed on 200 gram vinyl by Quality Record Pressings, it is destined to be a rare collectors item as it is limited to only 500 hand numbered copies. The packing is a classic “tip-on style” gatefold jacket featuring original artwork and liner notes, as well as photography by noted jazz photographer Jimmy Katz. All Smoke Sessions releases are produced using vintage techniques and audio paths—i.e. Rupert Neve-designed mixing consoles (Amek-Angela), Studer mastering decks, and Manley tube equalization—in combination with modern high definition recording techniques. Mastered by celebrated vinyl mastering engineer Kevin Gray, these carefully selected tracks include: Vincent Herring’s exhilarating “Elation” from his own The Uptown Shuffle; a classic reading of Kurt Weill’s “My Ship” from David Hazeltine’s For All We Know; George Cable’s jazz-rock classic “Think on Me” from Javon Jackson’s Expression; and Thad Jones’ beautiful ballad “To You” from Harold Mabern’s Right On Time.
Available September 9, 2014
ERIC REED DIDN’T WANT TO MAKE A GOOD RECORD, he wanted to make a great one. The celebrated pianist and musician says, “I could have called guys who play exactly what I want; it would have been good and not very interesting. It would have been swinging or it would have sounded nice—there wouldn’t have really been a spark. You don’t just want to sound good. You want it to be amazing.” And, his Groovewise is that killing record. It features a memorable quartet with Seamus Blake, Ben Williams, and Gregory Hutchinson and is the first recorded meeting of Reed and Hutchinson in over 15 years. They are clearly inspired performing in front of a live audience and the creative energy flies off the bandstand. They open with an impromptu rendition of “Powerful Paul Robeson” for Clifford Jordan whose wife, Sandy, who was in attendance and they close with the extended title track “Groovewise” bracketing a thrilling set of live jazz. Several of the compositions are dedicated to the memories of Mulgrew Miller, Cedar Walton, and Marian McPartland and Eric’s “Until the Last Cat has Swung,” is a declaration that jazz remains alive and well in the hands of a new generation. Although Eric might not feel ready to be a “keeper of the flame,” jazz music is much better off that he already is. Groovewise is available for purchase as an 8-panel CD-Deluxe Album complete with liner notes, interview and additional photos or as a high resolution download mastered for iTunes.
Available August 12, 2014
ORRIN EVANS—PIANIST, BANDLEADER AND NOTORIOUS MUSICAL CATALYST—is a bona fide, jazz original. Brimming with music and ideas, Orrin’s Liberation Blues debuts one of his most impressive projects yet, a new quintet lineup that includes Sean Jones, JD Allen, Luques Curtis, and Bill Stewart. The recording, made live at Smoke Jazz Club in New York City, occurred immediately following the passing of bassist Dwayne Burno, and the opening selections comprise the “Liberation Blues Suite” dedicated to his memory. Orrin explains, “In my eyes, Burno is now a ‘Free Man’ … but with that freedom, we’ve lost a great man right here on earth. So, there’s still a blues we feel missing our brother and friend.” Simply put, the playing is inspired. Sean Jones and JD Allen are a brilliant pairing and it is hard to miss Bill Stewart’s presence. Orrin says, “Let me do something that people wouldn’t expect, somethin’ that I wouldn’t even expect. Listen … now is the time for Bill Stewart.” After mining the compositions of Paul Motian, Trudy Pitts, Miles Davis, and, of course, Orrin Evans, the night concludes with a memorable encore visit from Philadelphia vocalist Joanna Pascale for a sultry version of “The Night has a Thousand Eyes.” Liberation Blues is available for purchase as an 8-panel CD-Deluxe Album complete with liner notes, interview and additional photos or as a high resolution download mastered for iTunes.
THIS NEARLY PERFECT PIANO TRIO SET BY CYRUS CHESTNUT, captured at Smoke Jazz & Supper Club in New York, is his first live recording date. It retains all of the feeling and power of his thrilling live performances but also benefits from Smoke’s Steinway B that Cyrus claims is the best piano in the city. “It’s just my ticket. We connect. It’s warm and it’s sharp at the same time with a lot of earth in it. I like clubs like the Jazz Standard or Smoke, where you can sit down at the piano and get down-home, because that’s the kind of audience they attract.” Joining Cyrus are bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Victor Lewis who both worked with the late John Hicks who was an important mentor and friend to Chestnut. Together, they take listeners on a musical odyssey that includes the music by Billy Strayhorn, John Coltrane, and, of course, John Hicks. There are also originals by Victor Lewis and Cyrus culminating in an impressive extended version of “Naima’s Love Song.” Cyrus is one of the great piano voices of his generation—or any generation—as he proves again with this rewarding live debut. Midnight Melodies is available for purchase as an 8-panel CD-Deluxe Album complete with liner notes, interview and additional photos or as a high resolution download mastered for iTunes.
THERE’S NO ONE ELSE LIKE JIMMY COBB now in his seventh decade in music and swinging as hard today as he did when he started in 1950 with Earl Bostic. His surgical skill at the drums and his artistic genius generally is the stuff of legend from his work with Dinah and Cannonball to Sarah and Wes. Jimmy is best known for his time with Miles Davis that included the recording of several history making albums including the classic Kind of Blue. His new release, The Original Mob, features three former students who have all become successful artists themselves. Brad Mehldau, Peter Bernstein, and John Webber were just getting their own careers started when they approached their teacher, Mr. Cobb, about working together as a quartet. It wasn’t a hard sell, as Jimmy knew from experience that they were special talents. Soon after, they got some gigs as Jimmy Cobb’s Mob and the rest is history. The Original Mob is the first recording of this particular lineup in many years and their first recording together under Jimmy’s leadership. It’s a swinging affair that includes two of Jimmy’s original compositions, and one each by Brad, Peter, and John. The opening standard, “Old Devil Moon,” was spontaneously arranged at the date when Brad suggested this novel introduction. Other highlights include the standards “Stranger in Paradise,” “Sunday in New York,” and “Nobody Else but Me.” The Original Mob is the first Smoke Sessions Records release to be recorded using Smoke Jazz Club as a traditional recording studio—a process that Jimmy compared to recording in master engineer Rudy Van Gelder’s living half a century earlier. He adds, “it just sounds like us…like when we first started to play together years ago, but I remember like it was yesterday. I always enjoyed the way we played together.” The Original Mob is available for purchase as a 8-panel CD-Deluxe Album complete with liner notes, interview and additional photos or as a high resolution download mastered for iTunes.
DRUMMER LOUIS HAYES, one of the chief architects of modern jazz drumming, was the rhythmic drive for historic recordings by Horace Silver, Cannonball Adderley, Oscar Peterson, Joe Henderson, Dexter Gordon, and McCoy Tyner. His playing has a rhythmic intensity that is as subtle as it is complex creating a musical feel and vibe on every track that is unmistakably Louis Hayes. When he reformed this band that he co-founded in the late ’60s with Freddie Hubbard and Joe Henderson—which Freddie dubbed the Jazz Communicators—Louis purposefully deviated from a conventional quintet lineup by featuring a vibraphone / tenor saxophone out front. It’s the esteemed pair of Steve Nelson and Abraham Burton, respectively, and their chemistry with Louis, pianist David Bryant and bassist Dezron Douglas makes The Return of the Jazz Communicators an inspired and rewarding set of music. The selections include a nice balance of standards and originals such as a ballad-feature for Nelson, Lush Life, and one for Burton, A Portrait of Jennie as well as the deep, loose groove of Mulgrew Miller’s Soul-Leo, which opens the record. Return of the Jazz Communicators captures this important jazz quintet in front of an enthusiastic and appreciative live audience. In the words of Louis Hayes, “I try to do what I do best and what makes me feel good…I guess I might as well keep on swinging. And, that’s basically what I’m going to do.” Return of the Jazz Communicators is available for purchase as a 8-panel CD-Deluxe Album complete with liner notes, interview and additional photos or as a high resolution download mastered for iTunes.
PIANIST DAVID HAZELTINE, a musician’s musician known for his harmonic sophistication and elegant pianism, delivers a thoroughly beautiful recording with his latest For All We Know. His rich sound and comping is often reminiscent of the late, great Cedar Walton and Hazeltine honors the piano master with several original compositions including “Et Cedra,” “Lord Walton,” and “Pooh,” as well as Kurt Weill’s “My Ship.” For All We Know also captures the first meeting between tenor saxophone sensation Seamus Blake and Hazeltine. It is abundantly clear on tracks like Charlie Parker’s “Cheryl” and Hazeltine’s “Eddie Harris,” that this collaboration is one worth returning to again and again. For All We Knowis available for purchase as a 8-panel CD-Deluxe Album complete with liner notes, interview and additional photos or as a high resolution download mastered for iTunes.
SOULFUL TENOR SAXOPHONE great Javon Jackson makes a crowd-pleasing statement with his new, Expression, featuring the Javon Jackson Band with Orrin Evans, Corcoran Holt, and McClenty Hunter. Expression is serious jazz music at its accessible best. Javon and company rework Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ’Bout a Thing,” Hathaway and Flack’s “Where is the Love,” and Nat Cole’s “When I Fall in Love.” Actually, every track aims to please including George Cable’s ’70s classic “Think on Me,” Wayne Shorter’s “One by One,” as well as several Jackson originals. It’s a set you’ll return to again and again. Expressionis available for purchase as a 8-panel CD-Deluxe Album complete with liner notes, interview and additional photos or as a high resolution download mastered for iTunes.
PLAYING ALTO SAXOPHONE that Cannonball, Stitt and Woods would love, not to mention Bird, Vincent Herring shows again on his new record The Uptown Shuffle why he belongs in their company. Like his heroes, he doesn’t rely on gimmicks or tricks, he just flat out swings. It’s a timeless approach that is paired perfectly with the incomparable comper Cyrus Chestnut who contributes several powerful solos of his own. This entertaining record includes classics like, “Love Walked In,” “Tenderly,” and “Strike Up the Band” and originals like Herring’s “Elation,” and Chestnut’s “Uptown Shuffle.” Herring has himself a thrilling straight-ahead record propelled in no small part by Brandi Disterheft and Joe Farnsworth. The Uptown Shuffleis available for purchase as a 8-panel CD-Deluxe Album complete with liner notes, interview and additional photos or as a high resolution download mastered for iTunes.
ANY DAY THAT YOU GET to hear jazz pianist Harold Mabern is a great day, and on his new release, Right On Time, you get two of those days with his trio distilled into one irresistible record. The recording weekend was a 77th birthday party, after all, and the extra energy on these tracks is unmistakable showcasing the complete Mabern experience. Right On Time delivers everything from classic blues and swinging standards to delicate ballads and modal tempests. There are definitely all the makings of a new classic here, an important addition to the Harold Mabern discography. Right On Timeis available for purchase as a 8-panel CD-Deluxe Album complete with liner notes, interview and additional photos or as a high resolution download mastered for iTunes.