The Avatar Sessions: The Culmination of an Artistic Journey


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The Avatar Sessions (Fuzzy Music 2010) features Tim Hagans, Peter Erskine, Dave Liebman, George Garzone, Randy Brecker, Rufus Reid and the Norrbotten Big Band performing the music of Tim Hagans.

Trumpeter and composer Tim Hagans has served as soloist and Artistic Director for the Norrbotten Big Band since 1996. Hagans writes: “The Norrbotten Big Band is known all over Europe for their innovative projects and creative energy. Together with these amazing guest soloists who have performed with the Norrbotten Big Band on tour and on this recording, The Avatar Sessions is the culmination of a very special artistic journey. “

The Avatar Sessions is the second recording project from Tim Hagans and drummer Peter Erskine. Hagans explains: “I've been a fan of Peter Erskine's magical interpretive powers since we played together in the Stan Kenton Orchestra. When we worked together again on the CD Worth the Wait (Fuzzy Music 2006), I knew this collaboration had to continue. When I wrote the music for The Avatar Sessions, it was with Peter's formidable talent in mind. He has the uncanny ability to dig deep into these multilayered compositions and, like no one else in the world, bring out the suspense and drive in the music. “

Peter Erskine exclaims: “Tim Hagans is left of center and brilliant and hard to categorize!" Erskine describes the role of the drummer in this big band as being “in a lot of ways like the man driving the bus. 'Everybody sit down and relax, you're in for a good ride.' But like Puck from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, you create mischief, too."

The Avatar Sessions' seven tunes by Tim Hagans all derive from his improvisational melodic language. Hagans writes: “If you are truly an improviser, everything that you do, from the time you are born forward to that creative movement in which you find yourself, influences what you play. Then that statement becomes part of your creative history and influences the next thing you do. When I compose I draw from the mix of my musical experience. In writing for Big Band I have incorporated and orchestrated many events from my small group ensembles that have inspired me. My goal is to take that vibe -- that energy and immediacy - that one associates with a small group into my big band writing."

Randy Brecker characterizes Tim Hagans: “He is not only great, but completely unique and that's hard to find in the jazz world." Dave Liebman expresses his thoughts on the music of The Avatar Sessions: “Tim Hagans has written tunes that are perfect for the Norrbotten Big Band, so its kind of like Duke Ellington used to do, he could really write for the particular people in his band and know what it would sound like before hand, and that's an advantage, for the band and for the people who listen."

The Avatar Sessions takes its title from Avatar Studios, where it was recorded in May 2009. The liner notes by Peter Josyph extol the energy and vibe of these studios and their NYC street location as the focal point to which these celebrated American soloists and the Norrbotten Big Band, based in Lule, Sweden, have journeyed to make music. Josyph concludes: “They are a proof and a promise: jazz has endured as one of the highest art forms, and its future is unlimited, unstoppable."

The knockout hi-fi sound quality of The Avatar Sessions is the result of a collaboration between the stellar team of producer Bob Belden, recording engineer James Farber, and mixing and mastering engineer Rich Breen.

About Tim Hagans:

Composer and Trumpeter Tim Hagans is one of the most unique and influential modern voices on trumpet. His distinct tone was described by the Village Voice as “powerfully expressive" and Gary Giddins professed him to be a “swarming, spirited tour de force." Recent CD releases include Alone Together (Pirouet 2008), featuring pianist Marc Copland, and Worth the Wait (Fuzzy Music 2008) featuring Peter Erskine. In May 2009 he recorded with Erskine, Dave Liebman, Randy Brecker, and Rufus Reid, a CD of his compositions for the Norrbotten Big Band (Fuzzy Music 2010).

Tim Hagans performs and records with his own ensembles. During his July 2009 weeklong engagement at Birdland, Jim Macnie wrote in the Village Voice: “chop-wise, his poetry with standard ballads might hush this room," and Nate Chinen of the New York Times wrote “Tim Hagans is a firecracker of a trumpeter." Mr. Hagans also performs and records with Joe Lovano, Blue Note All-Stars, Gary Peacock, Yellowjackets, Bob Mintzer, Marc Copland, Bob Belden and Maria Schneider. He was nominated for Grammy awards for Best Contemporary Jazz CD for his Animation*Imagination (1999 Blue Note) and Re: Animation (2000 Blue Note).

He has performed with Thad Jones, Ernie Wilkins, Dexter Gordon, Ed Thigpen, Kenny Drew, Danish Radio Big Band, and Swedish Radio Jazz Group. For three years he was a member of the Stan Kenton Orchestra. He is the featured soloist on the soundtrack by Howard Shore for the movie The Score, starring Robert DeNiro and Marlon Brando. He has been the Artistic Director and composer/arranger for and the Norrbotten Big Band in Lule, Sweden since 1996.

In 2001 he was the subject of an hour-long documentary made for Swedish television entitled Boogaloo Road. He was the recipient of the 2008 IAJE/ASCAP Established Composer commission and was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant for music composition. He has been a guest soloist/composer with UMO Jazz Orchestra (Helsinki) and NDR Big Band (Hamburg). Other commissions include music for Christer Engberg's play The Hostage, the Norrbotten Chamber Orchestra and Jazz Baltica. He recently won the Best Trumpet category in Brazil's Annual Jazz Station poll published in Tribuna da Imprensa; Alone Together was also named as one of the top ten jazz recordings in 2008.

About The Norrbotten Big Band:

The Norrbotten Big Band is an innovative and adventurous jazz ensemble that specializes in commissioning new music. Based in Sweden, the Norrbotten Big Band is well known in Europe through their regular performances as part of the European Broadcasting Union and a year-round schedule of concerts in Sweden and abroad. The American trumpeter and composer Tim Hagans has been the Artistic Director of the Norrbotten Big Band since 1996. Mr. Hagans has brought international recognition to the Norrbotten Big Band through many collaborations and projects with guest artists from around the world.

Downbeat described the Norrbotten Big Band's CD Worth the Wait (Fuzzy Music 2006), featuring the music of Tim Hagans and drummer Peter Erskine, as: “one of the best big band recordings in many years." Guest soloist and composers who have performed with the Norrbotten Big Band include David Liebman, Randy Brecker, Joe Lovano, Scott Kinsey, Rufus Reid, Peter Erskine, Bob Brookmeyer, Toots Thielemans, Maria Schneider, Chris Potter, Carla Bley, Steve Swallow and Tomasz Stanko.

In December 2009 the Norrbotten Big Band and the Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble premiered Get Outside, a full-length multidisciplinary work that integrated the musicians into the visual stage imagery and included a film project that featured the musicians on camera. In May 2009 the Norrbotten Big Band traveled to New York City to record The Avatar Sessions (Fuzzy Music 2010), their second CD with drummer Peter Erskine, featuring the music of Tim Hagans. The recording included soloists Tim Hagans, Dave Liebman, George Garzone, Randy Brecker, and Rufus Reid along with the great soloists of Norrbotten Big Band. Music from The Avatar Sessions was performed and recorded by Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) in Hamburg in December 2009 and will be broadcast throughout Europe in 2010. The Norrbotten Big Band's 2010 Season of Performances will feature music from The Avatar Sessions with guest artist Peter Erskine.

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