Munich-based ACT Music+Vision released on February 21st in the US Notes From The Heart (ACT 9435), a tribute to Keith Jarrett by the Swedish guitarist Ulf Wakenius; Creole Love Call (ACT 9707), a soulful vocal project by Swedish trombonist Nils Landgren and keyboardist Joe Sample devoted to the classic pop songs associated with the American South; and Open Range(ACT 9752), a solo outing by American pianist Kevin Hays that is Volume III in ACT's Piano Works series. The award-winning German label is represented in the US by HighNote Records and distributed by Ryko.
The genesis of Creole Love Call can be traced back to 2005 when Sample, a founding member of The Crusaders, invited Landgren to join him on a major tour of Japan and the two agreed to collaborate on a project dedicated to songs associated with the American South. The two had first met in L.A. over 20 years ago when the trombonist found himself at one of the legendary funk-jazz band's recording sessions. Recorded in May 2005 at the renowned Piety Street Studio in downtown New Orleans where The Neville Brothers, Dr. John, Lenny Kravitz, Alanis Morissette and others have also produced albums, the project features guitarist Ray Parker, Jr., bassist Chris Severin, drummer Waymond Wever, percussionist Lenny Castro and singer Charmaine Neville as a special guest. Landgren displays his skills as a vocalist as well as a trombonist on a set of songs that includes his and Sample's arrangements of such timeless tunes as Otis Redding's (Sittin' On The) Dock Of The Bay;" Allen Toussaint's With You In Mind" and Get Out Of My Life Woman;" Willie Nelson's Night Life;" Ray Charles' The Brightest Smile In Town;" Steven Stills' Love The One You're With;" Sample's Soul Shadows," Don't Take Your Love To Hollywood," One Day I Fly Away," I can't Get Enough Of Your Love" and Same Old Story; and the title track, a masterpiece by Duke Ellington.
Notes From The Heart, the tribute by Wakenius (pronounced Vakenius) to the music of Keith Jarrett, was inspired in 2003 when the guitarist was invited to play with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra at the ceremony in Stockholm when Jarrett received Sweden's prestigious Polar Prize. Wakenius cites Jarrett, along with Herbie Hancock and Oscar Peterson (in whose Quartet he has held down the guitar chair once occupied by Barney Kessel, Herb Ellis and Joe Pass for the past eight years), as the three foremost pianists/composers in his playbook and enlisted Lars Danielsson on bass, cello and piano and drummer Morton Lund for this program of timeless Jarrett melodies the acclaimed pianist once performed with his Scandinavian and American quartets and Standards Trio that he no longer plays at his own concerts. Highlights include Memories of Tomorrow," Dancing," The Windup," My Song," The Cure" and U-Dance."
Hays' Open Range contains written or improvised music inspired by the pianist's move to Santa Fe after a 15-year tenure in New York City. As its title implies, the CD explores borderless musical vistas made possible after trading in the concrete canyons of Manhattan for the mountains of New Mexico and the endless horizons of the Southwestern desert. Hays has taken full advantage of the many opportunities to explore sounds and play with form, harmony and rhythm a studio-based solo performance offers by adding sampled string sounds and layering tracks played on both the acoustic piano and the Fender Rhodes electric piano. He also sings on what, in effect, is not a solo piano album but rather a solo album by a pianist. The result is a wide-ranging musical self-portrait that reflects and reveals new facets of Hays' talent as an instrumentalist and composer. Born in 1968 in New York, Hays began performing professionally at 15 and by 17 was playing with baritone saxophonist Nick Brignola. During the course of his career the pianist has worked with saxophonists Sonny Rollins, George Coleman, Benny Golson, Joe Henderson, Vincent Herring and Joshua Redman, drummer Roy Haynes and guitarist John Scofield among others. Notable among his previous recordings as a leader is the album Andalucia recorded in 1997 with bassist Ron Carter and drummer Jack DeJohnette that received a 4-star review in Downbeat.