(photo by John Rogers)
“An impeccably trained multireedist, with an emphasis on multi” — he plays clarinet, bass clarinet, oboe, English horn and flutes, along with saxophones…” - The New York Times
(photo by Corey Warner)
“Knotty, patiently developing pieces that can sound reminiscent of classical music or moodily unsettled free improvisation.” - Los Angeles Times
(photo by Mary Merriman)
"Russ Johnson is simply amazing. His melodicism, energy and tone make him sound like the best new trumpet voice since Dave Douglas." – cadence magazine
"Johnson's sterling sound and quicksilver mind place him firmly in the modern jazz tradition." – Down Beat
"Johnson is a player with crisp articulation and intriguing ideas." – JazzTimes
(photo by Bryan Murray)
“There is great depth in the leader’s writing and arranging that imbues this set with a real gravitas...a superlative example of how to create and sustain an emotionally charged mood that loosely recalls a Coltrane or Dolphy fanfare without falling into cliché...her compositional style has its own signature.”
— Kevin Le Gendre, Jazzwise
(photo by Michael Wilson)
“Myra is the genuine article, the most gifted pianist/composer to emerge from jazz since Anthony Davis.”
— Francis Davis, Philadelphia Inquirer
“...a visionary bandleader with a singularly expansive sound embracing a global array of influences. While she’s known for her percussive attack and roiling keyboard technique, Melford is also a deeply soulful player with a passion for Afro-Caribbean grooves, the blues and classical Hindustani music.”
— Andrew Gilbert, Berkleyside
Melford also currently is one-third of the collective Trio M with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Matt Wilson; their most recent CD, The Guest House, was one of 2012’s most acclaimed releases. She also performs in the duo ::Dialogue:: with clarinetist Ben Goldberg and will release her first solo album in October 2013, a collection of work inspired by the paintings of the late visual artist Don Reich.
Melford’s musical evolution has long run in parallel with her spiritual search, a personal journey that has led her to Aikido, Siddha Yoga, and the wisdom traditions of the Huichol people of Mexico’s central highlands. Sonically, that quest is expressed via her wide-ranging palette, which expands from the piano to the harmonium and electronic keyboards or to amplifying barely audible sounds in the piano’s interior. Her playing can build from the blissful and lyrical to the intense and angular, with accents from Indian, African, Cuban and Middle Eastern musics or the cerebral abstraction of European and American jazz and classical experimentalism.
While Melford’s music continually reaches toward a state of transcendence, it still remains deeply rooted in the blues traditions she heard growing up in the Chicago area. In 1978, she first encountered violinist Leroy Jenkins, her introduction to the AACM, whose boundary-free, adventurous approach to jazz remains an influence. She would go on to study with Jenkins, together forming the collective trio Equal Interest with multireedist Joseph Jarman in 1997.
“Melford's intrepid virtuosity is consistently breathtaking...”
— Troy Collins, AllAboutJazz.com
“Melford is an explosive player, a virtuoso who shocks and soothes, and who can make the piano stand up and do things it doesn't seem to have been designed for.”
— David Rubien, San Francisco Chronicle
(photo by Andrea Feliziani)
CD Review - For We Have Heard
"Steven Lugerner made a hell of a splash by releasing co-debut albums to lead out the 2011 year, utilizing two different ensembles and presenting two divergent sounds. One of those recordings, Narratives, was a lesson in potent melodies and story-like song construction. The second of those two simultaneous debuts was These Are the Words, an album of sharp angles and clipped conversations… a perfect counterbalance to its partner album.”
"With his new release For We Have Heard, Lugerner returns with the same quartet from These Are the Words, and builds on that album’s pricklier nature. Basing this album’s compositions on a numeric approach to biblical text, Lugerner presents music that challenges the ear, just as it must have challenged the composer as he went about the task of crafting the songs. And as it is with any challenge, the effort to engage comes with its rewards.”
"The album opens with “Us and Our Fathers,” a contemplative piano-led piece with some saxophone accompaniment. It channels the stillness of the morning.”
“When a Long Blast Is Sounded” begins with a strong martial cadence. This holds fast, so that when the ensemble strays from a tight formation, there remains a sense of marching straight ahead. Drummer Matt Wilson, who brings a joyful swing to many of his own projects, displays yet again the breadth of his talent by contributing essential parts to an album with an acerbic disposition and one that employs an unconventional geometry in shaping songs. On subsequent track “Drove Out Before Us,” Wilson picks up right where he left off on the previous track, driving the tune with a cadence that crackles and pops with electricity, and partners with Lugerner’s sax in raising up and calling out into space.”
"There are several themes that act as threads throughout this recording, but it may be Wilson’s drums that serves as the unifying force."
"On “Be Strong and Resolute,” the quartet’s development of an edgy groove breaks suddenly into a mesmerizing piano solo, which marks one of several occurrences of Myra Melford infusing a song with an austere beauty, providing a lightness to counteract the music’s tendency to go heavy and hard. Later, on the title-track, Melford adds some gentle accompaniment, partnering with the whisper of Wilson’s drums as Lugerner and Johnston work a melodic line that is about as fluid as any on this album of unpredictable motion. A musing ballad, the title-track is a bit of a throwback to Lugerner’s previous albums.”
"Trumpeter Darren Johnston fits in with this project easy-peasy. Whether it be with his quintet on a recording like the Clean Feed Records release The Edge of the Forest or a collaboration with top-tier players from the Chicago free-improv scene on an album like The Big Lift, Johnston is right at home with compositions that demand an aggressive expressiveness within an atypical framework of genially displayed ferocity. On “All Those Kings,” Johnston punches woozy notes through the spaces in between Lugerner’s flailing sax lines, giving illusory form to a song that presents an illusory dispersion.”
"Half of the album’s ten tracks clock in around two minutes in length each. They behave as vignettes, rather than simple interludes between songs, and as a result, express themselves as flash fiction… glimpses of imagination, with a brief life and an evocative punch. They have the added feature of being the most effective doorways into connecting with this album."
"Of all of Lugerner’s work to date, this is easily the most challenging. But patience brings familiarity, and that leads to changes in how the album is perceived. It’s one of those albums that rewards effort. And considering Lugerner’s relative newness to the recording scene, it marks an intriguing chapter in his development."
written by David Sumner of BirdIsTheWorm
Multi-instrumentalist /Composer, Steven Lugerner maintains an active bi-costal schedule between San Francisco & New York City. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Steven Lugerner is the product of a multicultural, artistically nurturing family. In his youth, Lugerner performed on clarinet, oboe & saxophone with college orchestras & professional pit orchestras while simultaneously organizing and performing local jazz performances. In 2006, Lugerner moved to New York City to attend The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music where he graduated with honors four years later. Since relocating to Brooklyn, NY in 2010, Lugerner has maintained an active schedule recording & performing throughout the country with ensembles under his own name as well as being a touring member of experimental-pop group In One Wind, jazz-trio-collective CHIVES & post-core quartet killerBOB.
As a band leader, Lugerner has released multiple albums to critical acclaim - Narratives (2010) These Are The Words (2010) & Live at The Bunker (2012). In 2013, Lugerner will begin performing his Gematria-based music as solo act in addition to usual performances with his quartet. The solo act will consist largely of pre-recorded stems from the original For We Have Heard sessions plus other sessions Lugerner has been a part of over the past three years of living in New York City. New compositions will be both composed and improvised utilizing pre-existing recorded material, thus continuing the evolution of his compositional thought process. In his previous work, Steven Lugerner has used various selections of Biblical text as raw material for his musical compositions. For We Have Heard is Lugerner’s sophomore release with his quartet and focuses on the biblical Book of Joshua. Instead of releasing a live jazz recording, Lugerner’s compositional approach on this new record incorporates the usage of overdubs, splices and edits. This music is lodged in the dichotomy between acoustic material juxtaposed against music that is made virtually entirely in post-production. Lugerner strives to blend the sonic layers between what is improvised vs. what is pre-thought and composed.
Trumpet & Flugelhorn.
Brooklyn based trumpeter Russ Johnson is an active performer in the jazz, improvised, and contemporary classical music scenes throughout the U.S. and abroad. In addition to leading his own groups, and co-leading The Other Quartet and New Math, Russ is currently touring as a member of Lee Konitz' new nonet and the Steve Swallow/Ohad Talmor "L'Histoire du Clochard" sextet, and has toured with the Michael Musillami Trio. In addition, Russ has performed with a long list of musical heavyweights including; Kenny Wheeler, Bill Frisell, Joe Lovano, Richie Beirach, Mark Ribot, Charles Earland, David Liebman, Joe Maneri, The Jazz Passengers, Oliver Lake, Myra Melford, Anthony Davis, Mick Rossi, Elvis Costello, Debbie Harry, Michael Bublé, Curtis Fowlkes, Roy Nathanson, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Brian Blade, Dick Oatts, Aretha Franklin, Tony Malaby, Jenny Scheinman, and Mat Maneri.
Russ is also active as an educator/clinician, having taught at colleges and universities across the U.S. and in Europe. He is currently teaching at The Center for Preparatory Studies in Music (CPSM) at Queens College, and is a member of the faculty at the Maine Jazz Camp.
His new recording, Save Big has recently been released on the OmniTone label to enthusiastic reviews. It is available online at OmniTone and amazon.com, as well as at Tower Records and other jazz outlets.
Russ Johnson is an Endorsing Artist for New York Trumpet Company, and plays NYTC by Possegger Bb trumpet exclusively.
"beautifully melodic and yet harmonically challenging" — AllAboutJazz
For pianist, composer and Guggenheim fellow Myra Melford, the personal and the poetic have always been intimately and deeply connected. Raised outside Chicago in a house designed by the renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Melford grew up literally surrounded by art. Where most of us find the beauty in our childhood homes through the memories and associations we make within its four walls, Melford saw early on that aesthetic expression could both be built from and be a structure for profound emotions.
Over the course of a career spanning more than two decades, Melford has taken that lesson to heart, crafting a singular sound world that harmonizes the intricate and the expressive, the meditative and the assertive, the cerebral and the playful. Drawing inspiration from a vast spectrum of cultural and spiritual traditions and artistic disciplines, she has found a “spark of recognition” in sources as diverse as the writings of the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi and the Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano; the wisdom of Zen Buddhism and the Huichol Indians of Mexico; and the music of mentors like Jaki Byard, Don Pullen, and Henry Threadgill.
The latest incarnation of this ever-evolving cross-disciplinary dialogue is Language of Dreams, which will premiere in November 2013 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The multi-media work is inspired by Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano’s Memory of Fire trilogy, a history of the Americas told through indigenous myths and the accounts of European colonizers. The piece will combine music for Melford’s quintet Snowy Egret with narration by a multi-lingual actor, dance by Los Angeles-based choreographer Oguri, and video by Bay Area filmmaker David Szlasa.
While Language of Dreams is her most ambitious project to date, it is not the first time that Melford has constructed a piece from such a wealth of disciplines. In 2006, the Walker Arts Center premiered Knock on the Sky, a piece inspired by Albert Camus’ essay “The Myth of Sisyphus” and Kobo Abe’s novel Woman in the Dunes, in which Melford collaborated with New York City–based choreographer/dancer Dawn Akemi Saito and Austrian architect Michael Haberz.
Snowy Egret, Melford’s latest working group, made its debut in 2012. The quintet comprises some of creative music’s most inventive and individual voices: trumpeter Ron Miles, guitarist Liberty Ellman, bassist Stomu Takeishi, and drummer Tyshawn Sorey.
Melford’s spacious, contemplative, exploratory compositions have long attracted and almost demanded such forward-thinking artists. Her past ensembles have included Be Bread, with Cuong Vu, Ben Goldberg, Brandon Ross, Stomu Takeishi, and Matt Wilson; The Same River, Twice, with Dave Douglas, Chris Speed, Erik Friedlander, and Michael Sarin; Crush, with Takeishi, Vu, and Kenny Wolleson.
Melford moved to the east coast in 1982 and began performing in New York City’s thriving Downtown scene, making her recorded debut as a leader in 1990; she has since released more than twenty albums as a leader or co-leader and appeared on more than 40 releases as a side-person. In 2000, she spent a year in North India on a Fulbright scholarship, immersing herself in the region’s classical, devotional, and folk music. Melford relocated to the west coast in 2004, joining the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley as an associate professor of contemporary improvised music. There, she engages students in the theory and practice of improvisation, employing diverse creative strategies.
Her work has earned Melford some of the highest accolades in her field. In 2013 alone, she was named a Guggenheim Fellow and received the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Performing Artist Award and a Doris Duke Residency to Build Demand for the Arts for her efforts to re-imagine the jazz program at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. She was also the winner of the 2012 Alpert Award in the Arts for Music. She has been honored numerous times in DownBeat’s Critics Poll since 1991 and was nominated by the Jazz Journalists Association as Pianist of the Year in 2008 and 2009 and Composer of the Year in 2004.
Over the past twenty years, Michael Sarin has been at the center of New York genre-bending jazz and improvisation community. His versatility and musical wit helped forge long associations with forward-looking artists Thomas Chapin, Dave Douglas, Myra Melford, Ben Allison, and David Krakauer.
Born in 1965, Michael was raised on Mainbridge Island, WA - a ferryboat ride from Seattle. His interest in music and the drums came early, nourished by both the record collections of his parents and older sister, and by the AM radio he received at age seven.
His formal music education began during high school with drummer Dave Coleman, Sr. He went on to study with Tom Collier at the University of Washington, and later with Jerry Granelli at the Cornish College of the Arts.
Since moving to New York in 1989, Michael's unique style and approach to the drum set has been highly sought after by NYC and European musicians looking to expand the definitions of jazz and improvised music. He has contributed to recordings by the aforementioned artists as well as those of Frank Carlberg, Anthony Coleman, Mark Dresser, Marty Ehrilch, Mark Helias, Denman Maroney, Simon Nabatov, Mario Pavone, and Ned Rothenberg - recordings found on numerous music critics Top Ten CD year-end lists.
Michael performs all over the world in major and minor festivals, concert halls, famous and infamous, big and small. He can be heard on recent recrdings of Ben Allison, Frank Carlberg, Erik Friedlander, and David Krakauer.