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Pianist Alex Brown Releases “The Dark Fire Sessions”

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Alex Brown

Pianist and Composer Alex Brown Captures the Vibrant, Transformative Power of Musical Camaraderie on New Album, The Dark Fire Sessions, Due Out on October 15, 2021

NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. – Alex Brown is an electrifying rising artist in the New York Jazz scene, whose vision, musicality, and abilities as both a pianist and composer have aptly lauded him with praise from Downbeat Magazine, the New York Times, and both the Latin and mainstream GRAMMY Awards. Above all, however, Brown is a musician who knows that music reaches its greatest potential in companionship, collaboration, and shared creativity. With The Dark Fire Sessions, Brown pays homage to the transformative process of regularly performing music with a group of companions who have become closer than blood, and documents in ebullient technicolor the brilliance of three minds creating seamlessly together.

Album cover: Alex Brown - The Dark Fire Sessions
Album cover: Alex Brown – The Dark Fire Sessions

Alex Brown has been collaborating with his biological brother, bassist Zach Brown, and de facto brother, drummer Eric Doob, for a plethora of years. From beginning the writing process together, to performing live and taking that music on the proverbial road as they toured overseas, this core trio have worked together, sweat together, and made miracles together. It is this camaraderie and relationship irrevocably intertwined in music that led Alex to take the steps towards the studio. More than recording mere music, he desired to create something that would honor the vivacious energy and evolution of their compositions and performances spurred on by their brotherhood.

A key factor leading up to the birth of The Dark Fire Sessions was the establishment of Dark Fire Studios, an independent rehearsal and recording studio founded by Alex and Zach in Harlem that they operated over the course of a year. Building from scratch, the brothers rented a commercial space and began their venture, with Zach taking the reins as foremost audio engineer. “All of the credit goes to Zach,” Alex says. “He did an incredible job handling every aspect of this, from building his own acoustic panels to creating the perfect studio atmosphere.”

The title of the album is taken directly from the name of the brothers’ studio, and bears witness to more than just the existence of their studio. Beyond the surface, The Dark Fire Sessions stands as a testament to the strength of brotherhood in a tangible way, a stoic memoriam of what can be achieved and what can be learned. In so doing, both the legacy of their studio and the metamorphosing history and development of their music itself are captured through this album. 

Musically, The Dark Fire Sessions tastefully blends a variety of authentic Latin American folk rhythms with Alex’s eclectic musical personality. One such example is “Chacarera,” a through-composed piece based on the traditional Argentinian rhythm of the same name. This piece features a freer, open piano introduction derived from the main theme, and a groove section that eventually shifts into a funk-driven, soulful groove inspired by Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters band. The melody on this piece is passed between guitar, played by Matt Stevens, and bass, underpinned by traditional chacarera comping by guitarist Eric Kurimski and traditional bombo leguero played by percussionist Franco Pinna. Most notably, “Chacarera” features a field recording from the jungle of St. John, in the US Virgin Islands, taken by Zach while the trio was touring there. Another jubilant example of Alex’s musical blending ability is found on “Anthem,” loosely inspired by tumba music, a six-eight groove form from the island of Curacao. “Anthem” was originally written by Alex with the musical personality of long-time friend and collaborator Warren Wolf in mind, but ended up growing into something larger than any one individual musician. “Anthem” features a pseudo metric modulation: while the groove remains in six-eight, it is divided over a two-bar cycle into a bar of five-eight and a bar of seven-eight. The end result is a playfully disorienting but irreparably fun piece with a unique interaction between melody and groove. In addition to the jovial, celebratory rhythms found on The Dark Fire Sessions, the album also features introspective writing, found on the track “See You Again.” “[Some of my writing] is based on deep emotions that I sometimes have trouble expressing with words,” Alex says. “Often when I’m feeling a bit blue, I’ll sit down at the piano and try to come up with a tune that really expresses how I feel, and definitely some of this music was that.” On “See You Again,” listeners experience a deep sense of raw longing and melancholy that aches as it strikes one’s heartstrings. “I generally tend to keep these emotions to myself and try not to be too blatant about them…hence why I write the music.”

In addition to Alex’s long standing trio of Zach Brown and Eric Doob, The Dark Fire Sessions also features long-time collaborator and friend, percussionist Paulo Stagnaro. “We’ve been playing together for so many years that I think we really have a special connection,” Alex says of Paulo. Alongside these four, The Dark Fire Sessions invited a host of guest artists, including guitarist Matthew Stevens, drummer and percussionist Franco Pinna, guitarist Eric Kurimski, Lucas Apostoleris on steel guitar, multi-instrumentalist Sebastian Natal on candombe drums, and Sergio Martinez, who recorded flamenco percussion remotely from Spain for the track “New Flamenco.”

Long after the studio itself has closed its doors, Alex Brown’s The Dark Fire Sessions remains as a poignant reminder of the legacy of collaboration, determination, and the beauty of creativity. With a flawless execution that can only be achieved when multiple masters work together to make something greater than themselves, The Dark Fire Sessions steps beyond genre conventions, ensemble expectations, and confines of the normative to celebrate brotherhood and expression in a way that lasts long after the playback stops.

The Dark Fire Sessions is due out October 15, 2021.

Source: Lydia Liebman Promotions

Founder, Editor, Webmaster: Latin Jazz Network, World Music Report, That Canadian Magazine. A passionate and committed communicator with a sensibility for the arts based in Toronto, Canada.

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Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band to release new recording: “Vox Humana”

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Drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, bandleader, educator, Bobby Sanabria
Drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, bandleader, educator, Bobby Sanabria

Celebrating 25 years! The multi-Grammy nominated Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band is set to release their new recording: “Vox Humana” featuring vocalists Janis Siegel, Antoinette Montague, Jennifer Jade Ledesna.

Recorded Live at Dizzy’s Club Cola in NYC
Release Date: Spring 2023
Record Label: Jazzheads

New York – January 18th – On the heels of their Grammy nominated and 2019 Jazz Journalists Association Album of the Year Award winning critically acclaimed masterwork, West Side Story Reimagined, and in celebration of their 25th anniversary – drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, bandleader, educator, Bobby Sanabria and his Multiverse Big Band return with their most ambitious work to date, VOX HUMANA.

Bobby states, “Over the course of our many Grammy nominated albums we’ve occasionally featured tracks with vocals. But I’ve always envisioned doing an entire vocal album framed by the Multiverse Big Band. Now with three of today’s greatest contemporary singing talents – multi-Grammy award winner Janis Siegel from the Manhattan Transfer, blues and jazz Queen Antoinette Montague, and the multilingual powerhouse, Jennifer Jade Ledesna, today that vision has finally become a reality.

The individually distinct voices that Janis, Antoinette, and Jennifer possess make them each unique. But the X factor they all have is they are all masterful improvisors in the best sense of the jazz tradition. Added to the mix is our great conguero, Oreste Abrantes, who also sings lead on two tracks. Having that multi- dimensional vocal talent framed by the power, nuance, and tonal variety that only a big band can provide, combined with the repertoire I’ve chosen to showcase them and the band and the incredible variety of Afro- Latin, straight ahead swing, funk, R&B, and rock rhythmic vocabulary that we are masters of and readily have at our disposal in the Multiverse, I believe VOX HUMANA will prove to be our greatest achievement. 

Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band: "Vox Humana"
Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band: “Vox Humana”

That repertoire has a personal meaning to me as I see VOX HUMANA as a biographical work. I’m a product of my environment. I’m a Nuyorican, a person of Puerto Rican descent growing up in New York City. In my case the South Bronx during a time period when pop, jazz, R&B, rock, funk, and Latin music of all kinds all co-existed as equals. It was the last era when the big bands of masters like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Machito, Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, Don Ellis, and more were in the public eye, and they became my heroes. Vocalists who could deliver a message with subtlety, nuance, and when needed, power, were called upon to deliver poetry crafted by genius song writers. You’ll hear all that and more through the soaring vocals and improv talents of Janis, Antoinette, and Jennifer, along with Oreste, as well as the incredible jazz-oriented arrangements and exciting Pan Afro-Latin rhythms played by a big band that literally takes no prisoners when it hits the stage.”

The repertoire Bobby speaks of includes 1 original and 12 unique re-workings of pop hits like Spooky, Christine Aguilera’s Genie In a Bottle, and Steely Dan’s Do It Again; NEA Jazz Master Eddie Palmieri’s, Mi Congo and Puerto Rico along with the island’s greatest composer, Rafael Hernandez’s, Capullito De Aleli; the classic Joe Cuba R&B bolero, To Be With You; Brazilian standards Partido Alto and Amazonas; and from the world of Broadway theater, I Love You Porgy, and the iconic jump blues, Let The Good Times Roll. The CD also includes an original message bearing piece, Who Taught You That, as well as what may possibly be the most exciting interpretation of the Ellington associated classic, Caravan, and that has ever been recorded. 

Adding to the excitement of the performance, VOX HUMANA was recorded in front of a live audience. Bobby states, “As with our previous work, we recorded VOX HUMANA live at NYC’s Dizzy’s Club Coca – Cola. My musicians represent NYC’s finest. That means they’re the greatest in the world. The added level of excitement created by the audience inspired us in the MULTIVERSE Big Band to a heightened new level of performance virtuosity that listeners will hear explode out of the speakers just as the audience at Dizzy’s experienced in person.”

The history of the Bobby Sanabria MULTIVERSE Big Band is indeed one based on his rich multi-cultural heritage as a Nuyorican growing up in New York City’s South Bronx. His concept of having a big band that has no genre boundaries with limitless possibilities was forged 25 years ago back in 1998. It has yielded a series of groundbreaking, critically acclaimed albums that have all been Grammy-nominated with the band thrilling audiences worldwide at venues like the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, The Ravinia Festival, Verona Jazz Festival in Europe, and more.

Content Source: Two for the Show Media

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