Guitarist, composer and bandleader Mark Whitfield’s guitar is a joyful sound. His clarity has long shone through in ballads and burners. Whitfield takes the language of guitarists George Benson, Grant Green and Kenny Burrell and has emerged with something of his own – a sound that is unique, powerful and far reaching. He has been featured with a diverse group of players and singers including Chris Botti, Gladys Knight, Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Smith, Burt Bacharach and many more. However, Whitfield is especially proud of his latest project – a stellar band that includes son Davis Whitfield on piano and son Mark Whitfield Jr. on drums. Whitfield reveals that the group has a new recording in the can. Look for its release soon. In the meantime, they’ll be road-testing the material on the road in the months to come.
Born in Detroit, saxophonist and composer JDAllen has risen to prominence through a string of critically acclaimed recordings featuring various ensembles. He’s also been featured as a dynamic sideman with acclaimed bandleaders such as George Cables, Cindy Blackman, Winard Harper, Lester Bowie and Betty Carter among others. His current trio with drummer Rudy Royston and bassist Gregg August displays their unique concept of songs within songs on their latest project, “Graffiti” for Savant Records. It was great to speak with JDAllen who’s an exciting improviser and is is a force for good in the continuing cause of advancing creative music.
As an improviser and composer saxophonist Dayna Stephens has risen to prominence due to his unique sound and conception. His collaborations with stellar musicians such as Ambrose Akinmusire, Brad Mehldau, Taylor Eigsti, Kenny Barron and Walter Smith III reveal a patient player comfortable among a wide variety of expressions. It was great to talk with Dayna about his life in and outside of the music. He also happened to be weeks away from a kidney transplant that has now been re-scheduled for late September. Although he says he’ll break from public playing for just a couple of months to recuperate, Dayna has an unmatched ethic and we’re anxious to see what he will reveal musically in the year ahead.
Alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa’s recording “Bird Calls” isn’t a tribute, but rather a “devotion” to the energy and spirit of Charlie Parker. His incredibly energetic quintet featuring pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist François Moutin, drummer Rudy Royston, and 20-year old trumpet prodigy Adam O’Farrill executes the project’s vision expertly— to play distinct, original compositions directly based on a Parker solo or composition that are never imitative. It seems as though it’s almost the perfect setting for Mahanthapa’s sound and conception. He’s blazing here. As “Bird Calls” is already earning critical praise, it should prove to be a landmark in Mahanthappa’s evolving catalog and career as he continues to earn diverse distinctions and acclaim from groups such as the Rockefeller Foundation, Downbeat Magazine, Doris Duke Foundation and Chamber Music of America.
Most noted for his work with the groups Lettuce and Soulive, guitarist Eric Krasno has been touring the world since 1999 with his grooving blend of agility, grit and spirit. With Soulive, Krasno has released over fifteen CDs and collaborated with an extensive variety of artists including Dave Matthews, Chaka Khan, George Porter, John Scofield, Melvin Sparks, Charlie Hunter and Derek Trucks. Krasno just formed a new label, Feel Music Group, and launched a new signature series instrument with Ibanez Guitars. In this conversation, he shares some great stories about the beginning of Soulive, the influence and mentorship of the late Yusef Lateef as well as a preview of this year’s annual Bowlive concert residency in New York’s Brooklyn Bowl.
Guitarist Matthew Stevens is one of the most impressive voices on guitar to emerge on the international music scene in the last decade. As a player and composer , Stevens blends the visceral and cerebral elements of modern music in a distinctive blend that has been sought by such players as drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, bassist Esperanza Spaulding, drummer Jamire Williams and trumpeter Christian Scott. On “Woodwork,” Stevens is out front and at the helm of an amazing group of like-minded players including long-time collaborator, drummer Eric Doob, percussionist Paulo Stagnaro, bassist Vicente Archer and pianist Gerald Clayton. Stevens’ “Woodwork” is a dynamic release and is sure to be among the best recordings of 2015.
Alto and soprano saxophonist Jaleel Shaw is a gifted band leader, educator and all-star sideman. Hearing Jaleel with the legendary Roy Haynes, the Mingus Big Band or as the front man in his critically acclaimed groups will reveal a player well-versed in tradition with a commitment and dedication to the present. In our conversation, Shaw shares with us his musical roots in Philadelphia, his evolution as a independent musician and how composition can be a foreshadowing of things to come. All three of his CDs as a leader have been praised critically and popularly. If you haven’t heard his latest, “The Soundtrack of Things To Come,” be sure to investigate it. It captures Shaw’s working quartet in several transcendent moments investigating the music at hand with an integrity that is not easily matched or attained.