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Introducing the New Gary Burton Quartet

The New Gary Burton Quartet, featuring guitarist Julian Lage, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Antonio Sanchez, is set to perform at Manhattan’s Blue Note jazz club on October 19-24. The week-long engagement will serve as the North American debut for the group, which made its world premiere at the Red Sea Jazz Festival in August.

For over five decades, Burton, a Grammy-winning vibraphonist and former Berklee College of Music executive vice president, has crossed musical barriers and generations with his innovative ensembles. His quartets have featured a mix of both established and relatively unknown, younger musicians. Artists such as Larry Coryell, Pat Metheny, Tiger Okoshi, John Scofield and Kurt Rosenwinkel began their careers in Burton’s quartet.

Lage, Colley and Sanchez represent the latest incarnation of that group. “These are all musicians I have played with in the past, though never in this combination,” Burton says. “Julian is a constant inspiration, and we have played enough now to have a very deep rapport once we are on stage and we get into the songs. And it just doesn’t get any better than having Scott and Antonio for your rhythm section. We all have carved out some time to put this new group together, and I am very much looking forward to playing with everyone.”

Burton plans to record the New Quartet on Concord and tour in 2011.

For more information, including additional upcoming appearances, go to

Photo courtesy of DL Media.

The Yellowjackets Sign with Mack Avenue

The label announced the signing recently during the 2010 Detroit International Jazz Festival, where the group headlined on the Carhartt Amphitheatre Stage. Comprised of saxophonist Bob Mintzer, keyboardist Russell Ferrante, bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Will Kennedy (who was a member of the group from 1986-1998 and returned this year), the group joins the Mack Avenue family during its 30th anniversary of making music.

“It certainly feels like a lifelong gift to have accomplished this milestone in one’s vast career,” notes Haslip, who, with Ferrante, is a founding member of the group. “I am both honored and humbled by it. We are very pleased and very proud to be signed to Mack Avenue.”

“The Yellowjackets represent the highest standard of contemporary jazz, with a distinguished track record and influence on the music,” says Mack Avenue President Denny Stilwell. “We look forward to documenting the next chapter of their career on Mack Avenue.”

The group’s forthcoming debut for the label is set for release in 2011, and will celebrate the 30th anniversary with a special guest appearance by another of the group’s founders, guitarist Robben Ford (whose last appearance with the band was on the 1994 GRP effort Run For Your Life). “I’m really happy to have him on this 30th anniversary recording,” Haslip says. “Robben is the perfect guest for this project. We are honored to have him on board and grateful to him for all the years of friendship and support.”

The Yellowjackets have released 20 albums on four record labels (Warner Brothers, MCA, GRP and Heads Up), with 17 Grammy nominations and two wins. For more information, go to

Photo credit: Jeff Neben

Poncho Sanchez Feted in L.A.

The Los Angeles Jazz Society’s (LAJS) 27th Annual Jazz Tribute Awards Dinner & Concert, honoring percussionist Poncho Sanchez (pictured above) with the organization’s Jazz Tribute Award, will be held Sunday, October 10, at the Los Angeles Marriott Downtown Hotel. Pianist and composer Mike Melvoin will also receive a Lifetime Achievement Award during the event, which raises money to promote music education and the legacy of jazz throughout Los Angeles.

Former basketball star and longstanding jazz connoisseur Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will present Sanchez with his award during ceremonies, which will also honor Dee Dee Bridgewater (Jazz Vocalist Award), Bill Cunliffe (Jazz Composer/Arranger Award), Anita E. Berry (Teri Merrill-Aarons Founders Award), John Mosley (Jazz Educator Award) and Chloe Feoranzo (Shelly Manne Memorial New Talent Award). Master of Ceremonies Leonard Maltin will preside at the event, for which Norman Lear is Honorary Tribute Chair and the Herb Alpert Foundation is Tribute Host.

Promoted as a “Night of Live Jazz Not to be Missed,” and featuring over 90 minutes of live music, many of the 2010 LAJS honorees will perform, including the Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band, Bridgewater, Feoranzo, Cunliffe and his big band, and the Mike Melvoin Trio.

Louis the Movie

Dan Pritzker has spent more than 15 years and millions of dollars trying to bring the story of a jazz singer of whom little is known to the big screen.

Then he decided to release another movie first. And not just any other movie, but a silent, black-and-white movie about Louis Armstrong.

“Since I finished the silent film first, it’s kind of like I finished my second film before I finished my first, which is a little ridiculous,” Pritzker acknowledged.

Pritzker, the billionaire son of the late Hyatt hotel magnate Jay Pritzker and a musician in his own right with the R&B band Sonia Dada, had intended to release “Bolden,” starring Anthony Mackie, as his debut film project. It’s about Buddy Bolden, the cornet player virtually unknown in most circles but credited with being one of the creators of jazz.

But while Pritzker was writing the script for that movie in 2001, he took his mother to see the Charlie Chaplin classic “City Lights,” complete with a live symphony, in Chicago. He decided it would be a challenge to make a silent film as well, one that was supposed to pick up where “Bolden” left off.

That’s where the inspiration for “Louis” was born. It tells a fictional story of a 6-year-old Louis Armstrong (played by Anthony Coleman), whose dreams of playing the trumpet are intertwined with the seedy, corrupt underworld of early 20th century New Orleans. Jackie Earle Haley plays an evil, corrupt politician with more than a passing interest in a brothel, and Shanti Lowry stars as the beautiful prostitute who captures the heart of the politician and young Louis.

Lowry, who stars in both movies as the same character, said she didn’t know what to expect while filming the silent “Louis,” but she wasn’t at a disadvantage because neither did anyone else, including Pritzker.

“Dan was in the same boat with us. He’d never done it before,” Lowry said. “And every day we got on the set and created the scene. It was not always exactly what was on the page. … It was an adventure every day.”

The movie, photographed by Academy Award-winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, opened Aug. 25 in Chicago, played in Detroit, and is scheduled to be screened in Bethesda, Md., New York and Philadelphia over the next few days. Each showing will feature live accompaniment by jazz great Wynton Marsalis, the film’s executive producer, his 10-piece ensemble, and pianist Cecile Licad.

Right now, there are no plans to show “Louis” in other theaters after its initial dates. But Pritzker said he’ll figure out how to bring “Louis” to a wider audience, even if it means showing the movie with recorded music instead of a live orchestra.

“I’ve been showing it to people with music just attached to it,” he said. “Humility aside, it came out really well, and it plays completely.”

Lowry agrees, saying she doesn’t care if it’s a commercial success but only hopes those who do see it “Louis” love it as much as she does.

“It’s like a museum piece,” she said. “You could freeze frame any piece and put it on a wall.”

Now that “Louis” is out, Pritzker can concentrate once again on his first love, the movie “Bolden.”

Bolden was institutionalized in 1907 and died in 1931 without leaving behind a single recorded note of music, but is considered by many historians as an integral figure in the creation of jazz.

“It’s the poetry and the tragedy — an anonymous black guy who created this music that’s incredible,” Pritzker said. “Jazz is the American art form.

Scanner teams up with The Post Modern Jazz Quartet to deliver "Blink of an Eye" Available November 2, 2010 on Thirsty Ear Recordings.

The blending of jazz and electronics has been one of the more difficult musical challenges, as it attempts to humanize the machine or mechanize the free spirit of improvisation. It's a very tricky balance to get right, as they can be on a collision course with each other.

British artist Robin Rimbaud traverses the experimental terrain between sound, space, image and form, creating absorbing, multi-layered sound pieces that twist technology in unconventional ways. From his early controversial work using found mobile phone conversations, through to his focus on trawling the hidden noise of the modern metropolis his restless explorations of the experimental terrain have won him international admiration from artists such as Bjork, Aphex Twin and Stockhausen.

As an electronic artist, he truly understands the broader cultural context from which he works.

On the jazz side we were looking for inspiration from a great seminal jazz ensemble. We all have the greatest respect for The Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ) as their approach, musical language and inspired ideas are a permanent part of the lexicon of jazz. Within the Thirsty Ear family of artists on the Blue Series, we felt we could call forward the spirit of MJQ, with our own special twist.

So we got thinking; what if MJQ was reinvented for the 21st century but stayed true to its instrumental configuration and repurposed to deal with some post modern issues? As Scanner has collaborated with artists from every imaginable genre: musicians Bryan Ferry, Radiohead and Laurie Anderson, to The Royal Ballet, we thought what a perfect fit.
“This project has been a unique starting point for me; a fresh look at a world of contemporary jazz playing that has in turn led to a fresh look back at my own ideas and approach."

The results are unparalleled. Scanner becomes part of the PMJQ, creating cinematic textures that take a familiar jazz quartet sound and transforms it into a modern day experience in this world of bits and bytes.

“My approach was principally to set a foundation for the explosive playing and performances and remain faithful to the idea of improvisation so I frequently played within the recordings themselves, rarely retreating to tidying up and quantizing, a tricky balancing act to achieve indeed! I hope that these subtle interventions and playful twisting of the performances remain transparent so that listeners familiar with either the players work or my own, or ideally both, might reap pleasure and have an insight into the possible future of music."

For more information and to schedule interviews, contact: Thirsty Ear Recordings / 203-838-0099 /

Celebrating Sonny Rollins

Saxophonist celebrates 80th in NYC with concert at Beacon Theatre and in-store at Barnes & Noble

This week is a big one for Sonny Rollins fans. He returns to the Beacon Theatre for his annual NYC concert on Friday, September 10, in celebration of his 80th birthday. Rollins will also be appearing at an in-store with longtime JazzTimes contributors John Abbott and Bob Blumenthal, who have published a book, Saxophone Colossus: A Portrait of Sonny Rollins, that is excerpted in the October issue of JT. Abbott, Blumenthal and Rollins will be at the Barnes & Noble in Tribeca (97 Warren Street) on Tuesday, September 14 at 7 PM. They’ll give a talk and slide show and sign books. For more information about that appearance, you can call the store at 212-587-5389

Sonny Rollins Appears at Book Signing in NYC

Saxophonist appears with authors John Abbott and Bob Blumenthal at Barnes & Noble store in New York City

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