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Edition #14 – Javier Perez answers 7 questions

1. Why are you a musician?

I love to create new things, I like to share my ideas, my thoughts, and I have found in music the medium to express my self and share it with the world.

2. Who are your musical inspirations?

My musical inspirations are Thad Jones, Miguel Zenón, and Astor Piazzolla.

3. What is your practice routine?

I try to practice every day, sometimes I try to balance my practice time between composing/writing and my guitar.

4. Why did you make this album?

Big Band, Vol. 2
Carrera Quinta

Every time we are living different experiences that bring us ideas, inspiration to create new music and as musicians we like to share, from our music, how we see the world, and the things and situations that surround us, this album compiles almost 4 years of these experiences, and we like to share it with everyone!

5. What were the biggest obstacles in making this album? 

Making a Big Band album is really challenging, putting together a team of almost 27 people is not easy, also getting the resources to produce it; we organized really carefully each detail of the whole process, organizing everything knowing the strengths of each one of the team members, that’s our key to overcome the obstacles.

6. Who is featured on the album?

The jazz scene here in Colombia has grown significantly in the last decade, and we had the opportunity to record with a select group of musicians that are part of it, most of them are featured in our 2016 album.

7. Where may we find you online?

Samba Jazz Odyssey

Samba Jazz Odyssey
By Hendrik Meurkens & The WDR Big Band

Liner Notes
By Kabir Sehgal

Maestro Hendrik Meurkens isn’t just an acclaimed artist, whom we have all come to admire. He’s a man brimming with incandescent ideas which manifest into musical gold. What makes Meurkens so special is the singularity of his sound. A German-born, New York-based harmonica player who performs Latin Jazz. If there is a Venn diagram of these attributes, he would be one of the few in the middle. That he has carved such a niche over a storied career should put this album under a special light. Samba Jazz Odyssey is an adventure with seven pieces composed by Meurkens, which were undoubtedly informed by his trailblazing musical journeys around the world. The maestro pairs with the august WDR Big Band, from Cologne, Germany, with arrangements which were also conducted by Michael Philip Mossman, a Grammy-nominated arranger. “This project is very special to me,” said Meurkens. “It is everybody’s dream to record with the WDR Big Band, and I was honored to collaborate with them.” The resulting production is a vivid voyage through samba jazz in its many forms.

A Night in Jakarta isn’t just a get-up samba with feel good effect. It exemplifies the theme of this project, a veritable tour of samba jazz, which begins in the South Pacific. Meurkens wrote the piece as an honorific for the Java Jazz Festival organizers based in Jakarta. He and his Samba Jazz Quartet have played at this well-regarded festival many times. Meurkens has fond memories, particularly of the late-night jam sessions at the hotel. Paul Heller (tenor saxophone) and Raphael Klemm (trombone) deliver dazzling solos to get this album going.

Meurkens first recorded Manhattan Samba on his album Poema Brasileiro (Concord, 1996). It’s a tune of many layers, runs, and hits. The band plays as one, navigating the sections with aplomb. Pascal Bartoszak (flute) offers an uplifting and thoughtful solo. Meurkens’ harmonica solo is beautiful and buoyant, bright and bluesy. The maestro is at home at this piece because well…he’s at home. After all, he’s a New Yorker. And this piece is a musical dedication to the vibrant samba jazz scene in New York, as many terrific Brazilian artists live in the Big Apple.

Next stop, central Europe. Prague in March is one of Meurkens’ veritable hits, as many accomplished artists have recorded it over the years, including Claudio Roditi, the Brazilian trumpeter. This particular arrangement is by Carlos Franzetti for a project on which he and Meurkens collaborated. In fact, Meurkens wrote this masterpiece before he immigrated to the US, just one year after the Berlin Wall fell. The namesake of the song, Prague, is also its inspiration. Meurkens was fascinated with this beautiful city, and on this rendition, check out Ludwig Nuss’ refined trombone solo.

Sambatropolis is another of Meurkens’ popular compositions, recorded previously with English and Portuguese lyrics. It’s a terrific ode to the samba jazz scene of New York. The back-and-forth trades between Meurkens and Johan Hörlén (alto saxophone) are pure delight. This juxtaposition of virtuosity may spark memories or engender one to imagine the music geniuses found at many New York jazz clubs.

On Mountain Drive, we find ourselves somewhere in the American West, driving amid the Rocky Mountains. Meurkens named his piece after a car ride from Denver to Aspen. The natural beauty of the jagged mountains and greenery enveloped Meurkens’ mind. For this particular rendition, Andi Haderer (trumpet) goes to work with a terrific solo. “I love the groove that Mossman found for the band. He added a totally new perspective with his arrangement,” reflects Meurkens.

Beginning with pulsing drum hits, You Again is Mossman’s composition, and it unfolds with a steady groove and blooming harmonies. The band is put through the paces, and it’s clearly up to the task as the full sonic and dynamic range is on display. Meurkens contributes an epic harmonica solo that demonstrates his effortless mastery. Joining him with remarkable solos: Jens Neufang (baritone sax), Andy Hunter (trombone), Mattis Cederberg (bass trombone), Hans Dekker (drums), Paul Shigihara (guitar), and Rob Bruynen (trumpet). This piece is a jam session.

Meurkens wrote Bolero Para Paquito for Paquito D’Rivera, the legendary jazz saxophonist and clarinetist. “Paquito remains one of my main inspirations in Latin Jazz, and he has so much positive energy,” said Meurkens. In fact, Paquito recorded the piece, too. And this particular arrangement by Franzetti is a thoughtful and well-placed work. One highlight is indeed Billy Test’s piano solo.

The premiere recording of Samba Tonto is a high point of this album. A samba in seven with a bridge that undulates between 2/4 and 3/8 could make your head spin. But the move among meters is handled gracefully, with colorful woodwinds and lush harmonies. Paul Shigihara (guitar) adds his stamp with a modern and soulful solo. The album ends with Choro, the well-known piece composed by A.C. Jobim. But you’ve never heard it like this before. Mossman’s cinematic arrangement frames the number in a special manner, giving space for solos by Billy Test (piano), Ludwig Nuss (trombone), Ruud Breuls (trumpet), and Meurkens (harmonica).

Jazz Samba Odyssey exemplifies basic addition. One plus one equals two. But the combination of Meurkens, Mossman, and the WDR Big Band have given us something ever more. This album is a calculus of creativity, a diagram of distinction, and a watershed work for the jazz and samba communities. It has been a distinct honor for Doug Davis, Matthew Mayer, and I to help produce this album for maestro Meurkens and the entire group. The project has indeed been an odyssey – into the music, from the heart, and out of this world.

Edition #13 – Claudio Ragazzi answers 7 questions

1. Why are you a musician?

I am one who believes that you don’t choose music and that  Music chooses You. In order to become a musician you need to have an obsession and need to live your life through rhythm,  phrases and harmonies, it is a constant state of being and very hard to turn off.

2. Who are your musical inspirations?

My two main musical references are Astor Piazzolla and Miles Davis. They both personalize two very important things to me as artists: Originality and Musical Legacy. They were both, in different styles of music, real fighters and true to their vision creating a new and unique style, one in Jazz and the other in Tango. They were also able to create a Musical Legacy consisting of a generation of musicians that followed and were influenced by their music and their path.

3. What is your practice routine?

I am a composer and a guitar player, so my routine is always divided into these two main activities, one informing the other. Every day my musical activities include: writing, composing, arranging, listening, analyzing as well as learning new repertoire and practicing my instrument. I also teach composition and that is very important to keep you on your toes.

4. Why did you make this album?

Tributes & Tangos
By Claudio Ragazzi Quartet

​In part I made this album to pay Tribute to my “Masters” and also to create and express new sonorities both in Jazz as well as in the world of Tango and Latin music. The reason or the need to become a composer is to create sounds that you hear inside you but that doesn’t exist in reality.

5. What were the biggest obstacles in making this album? 

​Both a challenge and a blessing in disguise was the pandemic. A challenge because it made everything harder and everything took longer than usual. A blessing because it gave me the time to be by myself working, focusing and writing the new repertoire that makes this album.

6. Who is featured on the album?

  • Claudio Ragazzi – guitars and compositions
  • Zahili Gonzalez-Zamora – piano
  • Dan Greenspan – bass
  • Steve Langone – drums

7. Where may we find you online?

Edition #12 – Heidi Breyer answers 7 questions

1. Why are you a musician?

Being a musician is my small way of making the world a better place and we need more music than ever right now. I write music that hopefully will allow people to see a little of themselves in when they listen. A reflection of their own beauty and light. That in turn, will hopefully lead to good feeling and emanate out into the world. It is a slow, incremental but conscious process but enough musicians do it, I believe it can be transformative in the times we are living in.

2. Who are your musical inspirations?

Arvo Part, Bach, Mendelssohn and several contemporary composers/musicians… Rutter, Richter, Horner, Zimmer and more.

3. What is your practice routine?

Currently when working towards a concert or tour, three hours minimum daily starting with scales 30-45 mins and diving into memory work or whatever is calling. If I’m composing I can be absent from my family for a whole day and night and again the next day before I surface!

4. Why did you make this album?

Amor Aeternus: A Requiem for the Common Man
By Heidi Breyer

This music became an album, but was not an album made for the sake of being an album. It is music that is meant to be shared live for any sized group no matter how large or small to immerse themselves in an emotional and spiritual musical experience that connects them to one another. It was written (and subsequently recorded) over the course of almost a decade as a tribute to our humanity to acknowledge the grit, deep faith and moral fiber that we have demonstrated throughout a myriad of tumultuous times…from migration of refugees from war-torn countries, to the aftermath of mass shootings, to racial inequalities and of course latterly Covid.

So much has tested us and many times it has been the ordinary citizen, the common man who has helped his neighbor or stepped up when the systems and resources have not been available. This is a testament to our humanity. It is the beauty in us all that shines through despite our collective, continual hardship. It is my belief that we are reinventing ourselves and experiencing the evolution of mankind where intuition refines our logic and reason. It is for the everyday people, the unsung heroes up on whose back our world so often now depends. It is for them I wrote this Requiem.

5. What were the biggest obstacles in making this album? How did you overcome?

Learning Finale software on a more advanced level than I had ever needed to before Learning how to set liturgical text accurately, moreover Latin, which has definite inflections and syllabic treatments. Recording the WHOLE WORK remotely during Covid. I do believe this is an unprecedented feat.

I have never heard of a composer (and team of producers) collecting 100’s of lines of vocal tracks, instrumental tracks and literally putting them altogether. A collaborative work of this magnitude would usually only be done in a large setting with choir and orc together…and perhaps soloists brought in at different times to track.

6. Who is featured on the album?

  • Composer and Piano Centric narrative by – Heidi Breyer
  • Sopranos – Elizabeth Rogers, Barbara Hill
  • Baritone – Nathan Halbur
  • Eugene Friesen – conducting Carnegie and managing the string players
  • Charlie Bisharat – Violin
  • Jill Haley -English Horn

7. Where may we find you online?

My New EP — Unfolding drops today!

Producer/Artist Kabir Sehgal Releases New EP, Unfolding, In Celebration Of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2022

Multi-GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY Award-winning producer/artist Kabir Sehgal celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2022 with a new collection of pop songs on his latest EP, Unfolding (Tiger Turn, MNRK/Release Date: May 6, 2022).

Unfolding features the Indian-American producer Sehgal in collaboration with BIPOC women vocalists including GRAMMY-nominated Nicole Zuraitis, founding member Ariana Savalas of Postmodern JukeboxSonna Rele (featured on Disney’s Cinderella movie soundtrack), and soul-singer Leah Harris.

Sehgal releases four singles leading up to Unfolding with each showcasing the complexities of finding love and discovering one’s identity in modern times.

Kabir Sehgal is leading the movement for more Indian-American producers to break through in the pop music world with an inclusive mix of diverse voices represented on Unfolding.

Few Indian-American producers are working in the pop genre, and Sehgal wants to change that.

He comments, “Indian-Americans can often be pigeonholed and not considered part of the mainstream. But the Indian-American experience is part of the American experience. Unfolding is one step towards bringing Indian-Americans and BIPOC artists into the spotlight.”

Sehgal recently won a GRAMMY for the book he wrote (and audio book he produced) with Congressman John Lewis: Carry On: Reflections for a New Generation (“Best Spoken Word Album”).

He is also hard at work as an activist/writer advocating for the Indian-American community. He has written for MarketWatch on the importance of registering Asian-Americans to vote; written several books on immigration including Home: Where Everyone Is Welcome (with Deepak Chopra), a book of 34-poems inspired by immigrants and first-generation Americans; released four albums with Deepak Chopra as an artist; and has collaborated with Anoushka Shankar and produced works featuring Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa.

On Unfolding, Sehgal teams up with songwriter Greer Baxter on three of the four pop songs. Unfolding includes four singles: “When We Fight” with Ariana Savalas (Release Date: April 7), “Out of the Blue” with Sonna Rele (Release Date: April 14), “Big City Pipe Dreams” with Nicole Zuraitis (Release Date: April 21), and “Collateral” with Leah Harris (Release Date: May 5).

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This is a press release.