Joe McCarthy and The New York Afro Bop Alliance Big Band continue to impress with their new CD, the first after the band’s relocation from Washington, DC to New York City. It is leader Joe McCarthy’s second release on ZOHO after the Afro Bop Alliance’s critically acclaimed 2014 release Angel Eyes (ZOHO ZM 201408). The new album’s title and opening number, Upwards, appropriately signifies Joe’s ongoing quest as a bandleader to present vibrant, colorful music that blends cultures and musical styles into an exciting package.
Upwards has a strong drive and insistence built within its composition. The limelight is focused on the ensemble with some intricate writing – all generated by the band’s pianist, Manuel Valera. The alto sax solo by Matt Hong seems to signal that the chart has achieved “liftoff” to an upper atmosphere. The intricate ensemble passage that follows adds “weight” that creates a desire to move “upwards” again where trombonist John Yao gives the chart more “lift”. Manuel gets to express some solo comments on piano during the chart’s final moments. I hope you enjoy the ride during this track and throughout the entire presentation of music on this CD. – Rich DeRosa
This album is unbridled energy. From his place on the drum “throne,” Joe McCarthy leads his impressive large ensemble through the warp and weft of vintage jazz numbers, as well as more contemporary pieces. While there are many big bands on the scene, there are none quite like his, which can navigate between bebop and clave with dexterity and aplomb.
That the band can move from angular, intervallic runs to lush, more pensive moments is a testament to the virtuosity of its performers and the artistic suppleness of its leader. Throughout each number is a “time certain,” a precision of rhythm from “Chief Joe” who was a member of the US Navy and led one of its bands. And if you ask members of band, they will commend him for his professionalism and unwavering commitment to get the most (and the best) from each performer. As a Navy man myself, I say to my shipmate “Bravo Zulu!” It has been a privilege and honor to produce this album with Paul Avgerinos for McCarthy, who has given us an exquisite vessel of craft and care. – Kabir Sehgal
Thank you for listening to our latest offering. Upwards is not only a masterful composition, it is the trajectory of this project. As The Afro Bop Alliance closes in on twenty years of existence, it has been an evolving journey in all aspects. Upwards is the debut recording of The New York Afro Bop Alliance Big Band, the city I had always envisioned as this band’s home. The NYC musicians on this recording have so beautifully showcased this new chapter with the sound and feel I have been striving to achieve. My deepest gratitude to everyone in the band, past and present.
Nick Marchione and Vinny Valentino have played keys roles with this band since my arrival to NYC, thank you for your friendship, guidance and trust. Thank you Rich Lamb, Kostadin Komcev and Vinny Valentino for capturing the beautiful sound and presentation. To Jochen, Kabir, Paul and Rich, thank you for everything. Thank you to my family and friends, who continue to inspire me everyday. My sponsors: Yamaha, Zildjian, Vic Firth, Remo and Lp, thank you for your continued support. To my wife Angelica, you have given me new life and this recording never would have happened without you, I Love You. – Joe McCarthy
1. Upwards 7:31
2. J Ben Jazz 8:51
3. Caravan 10:20
4. Five For Elvin 9:54
5. Nostalgia in Time 8:20
6. Isabelita 10:37
7. Afternoon in Paris 6:44
8. Positano 7:59
The New York Afro Bop Alliance Big Band
Joe McCarthy – drums, band leader
Saxes: Matt Hong, Kristy Norter, Ben Kono, Dave Riekenberg, Eden Bareket
Trombones: Sara Jacovino, John Yao, Sam Blakeslee, Jen Hinkle
Trumpets: Nick Marchione, Raul Agraz. Bryan Davis, Dave Smith
Guitar: Vinny Valentino
Piano: Manuel Valera
Bass: Boris Kozlov
Percussion: Samuel Torres
*Source: Zoho Music