Guitarist Liberty Ellman leads a sextet with Steve Lehman (alto sax), Jose Davila (tuba), Stephan Crump (bass), Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet) and Damon Reid (drums) in a diverse collection of eight original compositions of energetic, lyrical and informed NY jazz.
Ellman, Liberty Sextet
Label: Pi Recordings
Released in: USA
"Radiate is the long-anticipated new release from guitarist Liberty Ellman, his first since 2006's critically acclaimed Ophiuchus Butterfly. One of New York s most imaginative and unorthodox guitarist/composers, he has chiefly been known in recent years as a key member of Henry Threadgill s Zooid, a collaboration that has been ongoing for almost 15 years. Ellman has worked with a number of the most original figures in jazz, such disparate artists such as Vijay Iyer, Joe Lovano, Myra Melford, Jason Moran, Greg Osby, Wadada Leo Smith, and Butch Morris, and the standout vocalist Somi. Now, nine years after his last release, Ellman finally steps into the leaderÕs role again with a stunningly visceral release that puts his multifaceted artistry in full view.
Ellman spent his youth and most of his 20s in the Bay Area, a free-wheeling scene where he was able to develop his own distinctive approach to playing. There he also formed deep, lasting relationships with pianist Vijay Iyer, alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, and a close-knit circle of other like-minded players. Since returning to his native New York in 1998, he has staked out his own turf with uncompromising vigor. His first release on Pi, Tactiles (2003), which featured Osby as well as tenor saxophonist Mark Shim, was proclaimed by Gary Giddins in The Village Voice as original and subtle At once highly controlled and recklessly inventive. Its follow-up, Ophiuchus Butterfly (2006), was called complex, meticulous and challenging but also groovy, contemporary and sleek by The New York Times. In recent years Ellman has also become one of the busier mixing engineers on the scene, working on projects with Steve Coleman, Henry Threadgill, Sam Rivers, Steve Lehman, Vijay Iyer and Mike Ladd, Gregory Porter (Grammy Nominated), Wadada Leo Smith, Tyshawn Sorey, and many others.
Still, nothing has occupied more of his artistic output than his ongoing collaboration with Henry Threadgill in the band Zooid, the longest running ensemble in the alto saxophonist/flutist/composer s long and illustrious career. Ellman has been Threadgill s main foil in a band that is no less than an attempt to completely deconstruct standard jazz form. Working within a construct that is based on mastery of a language completely of Threadgill s device, Ellman weaves masterful yarns in and out of Zooid s complex, contrapuntal web. Threadgill says of Ellman: I have admired Liberty s compositions from the time I first heard his trio back in 2000. From the time that I started Zooid, his artistry as a guitarist has been most evident and it has continued on an extremely high creative level. It has been my great fortune to have someone of Liberty s stature take part in so many memorable musical moments.
The diverse collection of eight originals on Radiate display a broad versatility. The opener, Supercell, is hard hitting and infectious, whereas the empathetic, lush trio play of Moment Twice betrays delicate communication and suspense. Enigmatic Runner engages Ellman s ongoing interest in the electro acoustic world, mixing the live performance to create the illusion of programmed material. Ellman s own playing is conversational, melodic, and rhythmically charged. He favors warm and subtly changing tones on his instrument, and his solos tumble forth beautifully while remaining remarkably free from clichˇs. He uses both acoustic bass and tuba giving the music a strong bottom, which helps emphasize the groove, but also offers expanded textural possibilities. Each piece has its own personality but EllmanÕs signature designs are present throughout. It s likely that it is his long association with Mr. Threadgill that gives Ellman such an uncommon ear for polyphonic counterpoint and rhythmic convolution.
Ellman s supremely accomplished band is made up of some of the top musicians on the New York scene, each of whom he has played with in various contexts for over a decade: Steve Lehman on alto saxophone, who was voted #1 Rising Star in the 2015 Downbeat Critics Poll, and whose own release Mise en Abime was voted the #1 album of the year in the NPR Jazz Critics Poll; Jonathan Finlayson, a long-running member of alto saxophonist Steve Coleman s Five Elements, who was himself voted #1 Rising Star Trumpeter in the 2014 Downbeat Poll; Jose Davila on tuba and trombone, a partner of Ellman s in Zooid; Stephan Crump, who is perhaps best known as the long-standing bassist in pianist Vijay Iyer s Trio; and drummer Damion Reid, who plays in the bands of Steve Lehman and Jonathan Finlayson in addition to pianist Robert Glasper s Trio. Together the band tackles the music s interlocking melodies with aplomb.
Perhaps Steve Lehman sums it up best: I canÕt think of anyone else from LibertyÕs generation with such an ultramodern concept of lyricism and melodic line. He has that rare ability to write a beautiful melody that somehow manages to surprise and also stay with you, without having to resort to clichˇs. And because Liberty has played such an integral role bringing a wide variety of musical settings to life, he knows exactly how to get the most out of his own music and his own band Ń challenging players to make new discoveries, while still setting them up to feel comfortable and inspired. The language heÕs developed on the guitar is totally unmistakable truly one of a kind. Everything he plays is hip and shows remarkable taste and restraint. Over time, the composite of that has set him apart from the pack in an undeniable way. It is indeed great to have Ellman back."-Pi Recordings
• Show Bio for Liberty Ellman
"Based in Brooklyn New York, guitarist / composer Liberty Ellman has performed and or recorded with a host of stand out creative artists including: Joe Lovano, Myra Melford, Wadada Leo Smith, Butch Morris, Vijay Iyer, Steve Lehman, Greg Osby, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Nels Cline, Somi, Matana Roberts, Ledisi, Michele Rosewoman, Adam Rudolph, Josh Roseman, Barney McAll, Okkyung Lee, Steven Bernstein, Ben Goldberg and John Zorn. In 2014 Ellman worked with Jason Moran on Luanda Kinshasa, a video installation by visionary filmmaker Stan Douglas.
Mr. Ellman is perhaps best known for his long tenure in Henry Threadgill's groundbreaking ensemble, Zooid. The group has recorded several critically lauded albums. Their most recent recording "In For A Penny, In For A Pound" earned a Pulitzer prize for Mr. Threadgill. In addition to playing guitar, Mr. Ellman is credited as producer and mixing engineer on that recording. He has mixed and mastered many other recordings as well, including Gregory Porter's "Be Good," which was nominated for a Grammy.
Ellman has released 4 of his own critically acclaimed albums: Orthodoxy, Tactiles, Ophiuchus Butterfly, and 2015's Radiate on Pi Recordings. His compositional style has been described as "At once highly controlled and recklessly inventive," and the Wall Street Journal said: "Ellman, along with his peers, is helping to define post millennial jazz." Voted #1 Rising Star Guitarist in the 2016 Downbeat Critics Poll, he was also honored in the 2015 Jazz Times expanded critics poll, as one of the four guitarists of the year alongside Bill Frisell, John Scofield and Julian Lage.
Liberty Ellman has also worked beyond the jazz world: hip hop artists Midnight Voices, and The Coup, dance producer DJ Joe Claussell, and worked on remixes of N'Dea Davenport, Chico Freeman, Ann Dyer, Ayo and others. He also made an appearance on the Grammy nominated Groove Collective record, People People Music Music."-Liberty Ellman Website (http://www.libertyellman.com/bio/)
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• Show Bio for Steve Lehman
"Described as "a state-of-the-art musical thinker" and a "dazzling saxophonist," by The New York Times, Steve Lehman (b. New York City, 1978) is a composer, performer, educator, and scholar who works across a broad spectrum of experimental musical idioms. Lehman's pieces for large orchestra and chamber ensembles have been performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), So Percussion, Kammerensemble Neue Musik Berlin, the JACK Quartet, the PRISM Saxophone Quartet, and the Talea Ensemble. His recent recording, Mise en Abîme (Pi, 2014) was called the #1 Jazz Album of the year by NPR Music and The Los Angeles Times. And his previous recording, Travail, Transformation & Flow (Pi, 2009), was chosen as the #1 Jazz Album of the year by The New York Times.
The recipient of a 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship and a 2014 Doris Duke Artist Award, Lehman is an alto saxophonist who has performed and recorded nationally and internationally with his own ensembles and with those led by Anthony Braxton, Vijay Iyer, Jason Moran, Meshell Ndegeocello, and High Priest of Anti-Pop Consortium, among many others. His recent electro-acoustic music has focused on the development of computer-driven models for improvisation, based in the Max/MSP programming environment. Lehman's work has been favorably reviewed in Artforum, Downbeat Magazine, The New York Times, Newsweek, and The Wire, and on National Public Radio, the BBC, and SWR.
As a Fulbright scholar in France during the 2002-2003 academic year, Lehman began researching the reception of African-American experimental composers working in France during the 1970s. His article in the journal Critical Studies in Improvisation, "I Love You with an Asterisk: African-American Experimental Composers and the French Jazz Press, 1970-1980," is based on his Fulbright research. More recently, Lehman has published writings and presented lectures on a wide range of topics, including jazz pedagogy, rhythm cognition, and European notions of American experimentalism. His current scholarship, including a forthcoming contribution to the Oxford Handbook of Spectral Music, examines the overlapping histories of spectral composition and jazz improvisation.
Lehman received his B.A. (2000) and M.A. in Composition (2002) from Wesleyan University where he studied under Anthony Braxton, Jay Hoggard, and Alvin Lucier, while concurrently working with Jackie McLean at the Hartt School of Music. He received his doctorate with distinction in Music Composition from Columbia University (2012), where his principal teachers included Tristan Murail and George Lewis.
Lehman has taught undergraduate courses at Wesleyan University, the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, New School University, and Columbia University, and has presented lectures at Amherst College, UC Berkeley, The Berklee School of Music, The Banff Centre, The Royal Academy of Music in London, and IRCAM in Paris, where he was a 2011 research fellow.
Beginning in September 2016, Lehman will join the music faculty at The California Institute of the Arts."-Steve Lehman Website (http://www.stevelehman.com/bio)
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• Show Bio for Jose Davila
"Tuba player and trombonist Jose Davila is a versatile New York-based musician whose work spans across a broad spectrum of musical genres; everything from traditional to cutting-edge jazz, to salsa and classical music. He is currently a member of Henry Threadgill's Zooid and bands led by guitarist Liberty Ellman and alto saxophonist Steve Lehman. His work with both Threadgill and Ellman extends the tuba from its traditional role as part of the rhythm section to a front-line solo voice. His playing can also be heard on the Grammy-nominated salsa recording "Un Gran Dia en el Barrio from the Spanish Harlem Orchestra and "Remembranzas and "Siguendo la Tradicion from Soneros del Barrio.
Davila has also worked in the bands of Ray Charles, Andrew Hill, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Marc Anthony, Eddie Palmieri, Ray Anderson, Butch Morris, Ted Nash, along with the Lincoln Center Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra and the American Symphony and New York City Opera Orchestras.
A native of Puerto Rico who was raised on the East Coast, Jose received his formal musical training from the University of Connecticut and Mannes College of Music."-Pi Recordings (https://pirecordings.com/artist/Jose_Davila)
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• Show Bio for Jonathan Finlayson
"Jonathan Finlayson has been recognized by the New York Times as "...an incisive and often surprising trumpeter," who is "...fascinated with composition." Born in 1982 in Berkeley, CA, Finlayson began playing the trumpet at the age of ten in the Oakland public school system. He came under the tutelage of Bay Area legend Robert Porter, a veteran trumpeter from the bebop era who took Finlayson under his wing; he was often seen accompanying Porter on his gigs about town and sitting in on the popular Sunday nights jam session at the Bird Cage. He subsequently attended the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music where he studied with Eddie Henderson, Jimmy Owens and Cecil Bridgewater.
Finlayson is a disciple of the saxophonist/composer/conceptualist Steve Coleman, having joined his band Five Elements in 2000 at the age of 18. He is widely admired for his ability to tackle cutting-edge musical concepts with aplomb. Finlayson has performed and recorded in groups led by Steve Lehman, Mary Halvorson, Craig Taborn, Henry Threadgill and played alongside notables such as Von Freeman, Jason Moran, Dafnis Prieto and Vijay Iyer."-Jonathan Finlayson Website (http://jonathanfinlayson.com/biography.html)
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• Show Bio for Damion Reid
"Damion Reid hailing from West Covina, California a city east of Los Angeles. He is the son of well-respected bassist and astute operatic singer and teacher. By the age of three, Damion was already playing in church. It was around the age of twelve that Damion began being mentored by the world-renowned drummer Billy Higgins. During these formative years Billy's spirit for life and music was deeply seeded in Damion's fertile mind. Seeing Damion's ability to grasp the music both, analytically and conceptually it wasn't long before Billy invited him to be a part of his drum collective. As he began to mature musically he found himself frequenting Billy's club "The World Stage," learning and playing with the likes of Billy Childs, George Bohanon and Oscar Brashear.
As Damion continued to cultivate his love for music through his high school years, he managed school life with professional obligations. Damion graduated High School and made the move to Boston, Massachusetts New England Conservatory of Music where he spent time with Cecil McBee, Danilo Perez, Fred Buda and George Russell as well as his musical peers. It was while in Boston between the years of 1998 and 1999 that he received the prestigious Alan Dawson scholarship. He then was accepted into the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at the University of Southern California. Soon finding himself trekking to New York City to attend The New School. He then began performing and touring alongside Greg Osby, Terence Blanchard, Robert Glasper, Steve Lehman, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Jacky Terrasson, Ravi Coltrane, Reggie Workman, Marcus Belgrave, Lauryn Hill, Robert Hurst, Bilal, Meshell Ndegeocello, Jason Moran, Mark Shim, Mark Turner, Chihiro Yamanaka, Steve Coleman, Bunky Green and many others."-Damion Reid Website (http://www.damionreid.com/damionreid.com/biography.php)
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Label: Pi Recordings
Catalog ID: Pi60
Squidco Product Code: 21083
Recorded at Systems Two Studios in Brooklyn, New York on November 3rd and 4th, 2014 by Mike Marciano.
Steve Lehman-alto saxophone
Jose Davila-tuba, saxophone
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1. Supercell 5:14
2. Furthermore 5:58
3. Rhinocerisms 8:51
4. Moment Twice 1:48
5. A Motive 5:03
6. Skeletope 4:19
7. Vibrograph 6:30
8. Enigmatic Runner 4:45