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Amba, Zoh (w/ Micha Thomas / Tyshawn Sorey / Matt Hollenberg): Bhakti (Mahakala Music)

Signifying a devotional worship, Bhakti is tenor saxophonist Zoe Amba's expression of heart-felt commitment to the music of free jazz that changed her life at a young age, heard in three energetically passionate improvisations performed with the exceptional quartet of New York improvisers, Micah Thomas on piano, Tyshawn Sorey on drums and Matt Hollenberg on guitar.

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product information:

Label: Mahakala Music
Catalog ID: MAHA-032
Squidco Product Code: 32442

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2022
Country: USA
Packaging: Digipack
Recorded at Park West Studios, in Brooklyn, New York, by Jim Clouse.


Zoh Amba-tenor saxophone

Micah Thomas-piano

Tyshawn Sorey-drums

Matt Hollenberg-guitar

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Artist Biographies:

"Zoh Amba is a saxophonist from Kingsport, Tennessee who since moving to New York in fall 2021 has quickly emerged into a notable presence in the avant garde scene. Zoh has spent considerable time studying with David Murray in New York, and also at the San Francisco Conservatory Of Music & New England Conservatory. The endorsement and collaboration with the creative music world's most notable sound painters means Zoh is poised to continue her ascent in New York and beyond. She has her debut record O, Sun releasing on Tzadik March 18th, 2022. With Micah Thomas, Thomas Morgan, and Joey Baron. Produced by John Zorn."

-All About Jazz (

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"Micah Thomas was born in 1997 in Columbus, Ohio. He started playing songs on the piano by ear at the age of 2, and shortly afterwards he started private piano training. From his sophomore year of high school onwards, Micah began gigging regularly with violinist Christian Howes, and was a regular faculty member at his annual Creative Strings Workshop from 2015-2018. He also has appeared several times with Byron Stripling and the Columbus Jazz Orchestra as a guest artist, performing with John Clayton and Joshua Redman for their 45th anniversary concert series in 2017. He has also performed throughout Ohio with other musicians including JD Allen, Billy Contreras, Eddie Bayard, George Delancey, Cedric Easton, and Bobby Floyd.

In 2015, Micah Thomas received the Jerome L. Greene Fellowship from the Juilliard School, and received his Master of Music (M.M.) degree in 2020. He is now touring and performing locally and internationally, both as a leader of his own trio, a steady member of the Immanuel Wilkins Quartet and the Giveton Gelin Quintet, and as a sideman for Ambrose Akinmusire, Lage Lund, Billy Drummond, Zoh Amba, Stacy Dillard, Joel Ross, Nicole Glover, Joshua Redman, Melissa Aldana, Etienne Charles, Harish Raghavan, Gabe Schnider and others.

In June 2020, Micah Thomas released his first album, "Tide", which received positive reviews from the New York Journal, The New York Times, JazzTimes, and Financial Times, among others. He also has appeared on several albums as a sideman for Immanuel Wilkins, Billy Drummond, Zoh Amba, Giveton Gelin, and Walter Smith III."

-Micah Thomas Website (

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"Tyshawn Sorey (born July 8, 1980 in Newark, New Jersey) is an American musician and composer who plays drum set, percussion, trombone and piano.

Since graduating from William Paterson University, Sorey has been a sought-after musician in many different musical idioms. He is both a performer and composer, and has had works reviewed in The Wire, The New York Times, The Village Voice, Modern Drummer and Down Beat. In August 2009, Sorey was given the opportunity to curate a month of performances at the Stone, a New York performance space owned by John Zorn. He was selected as an Other Minds 17 (2012).

Sorey recently completed a Master of Arts in composition at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. In the fall of 2011, he began pursuing doctoral work in composition at Columbia University.

To date, Sorey has released four albums as a leader: That/Not (2007, Firehouse 12 Records), Koan (2009, 482 Music), Oblique (2011, Pi Recordings) and Alloy (2014, Pi Recordings). He has recorded or performed with musicians including Wadada Leo Smith, Steve Coleman, Anthony Braxton, John Zorn, Steve Lehman, Joey Baron, Muhal Richard Abrams, Pete Robbins, Vijay Iyer, Dave Douglas, Butch Morris and Sylvie Courvoisier, among many others."

-Wikipedia (

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Guitarist Matt Hollenberg was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is a member of iNFiNiEN, Cleric, Cetus, and has performed with John Frum. He studied Liberal arts at Community College of Philadelphia, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

-Matt Hollenberg Facebook page (§ion=education&pnref=about)

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track listing:

1. Altar-Flower 29:05

2. The Drop And The Sea 10:09

3. Awaiting Thee 20:54
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"Silence may be the real root of her wellspring, one she's drawn from over and over again, coaxing from her horn a music unburdened by mere convention or habits of mind. And at times, as in the opening notes of Bhakti, her new album on Mahakala Music, that wellspring gives rise to the very opposite of silence, the beguiling, stuttering phrases of her solitary horn seeming to speak a lost language as if her survival depended on it on like the frenzied incantations of one trying desperately to roll back a looming stone.

Less than a minute into the track, titled "Altar on Flower," on Micah Thomas on piano, Tyshawn Sorey on drums on are plunging deeply into the sound. The textures and rhythms that follow tell a gripping tale, seeming to reinvent music itself. Perhaps that's why many call it free jazz, but Amba won't pigeonhole her experience. "It's not spontaneous. It's not free jazz," she says. "It's none of those things. It's from the heart."

That, ultimately, is the key to Bhakti. The tale told by every saxophone cry or sigh, every shuffling snare, every pianistic cascade, isn't fiction. It's autobiography. A youth spent in the silence of the forest gave Amba a sure on footed sense of where she was coming from, and where she was going. Now she's sharing the blossom of her forest's altar on flower with the world.

"When I was young and I was playing," she recalls, "I didn't know about community and jam sessions and all those things, because here there's none of that at all. I didn't even know about chord changes. When I would practice, I would practice outside. People ask me how I got my sound. Well, playing outside and wanting nothing else in this world but God on it makes you have this longing. I never felt like I was without anything when the horn entered my life. I feel very blessed."

For Amba, feeling blessed is not a mere figure of speech, but a way to express her connection to forces greater than herself. "When I was 12 or 13 years old," she says, "I begged on my hands and knees to go to heaven. And then I got the saxophone."

She quickly discovered artists who shared similar journeys. "In middle school," she remembers, "I got randomly put in this band class. They showed a documentary and it used Charlie Parker's music. It touched me. And even though I heard Bird at such a young age, and it touched my heart, I wanted to play tenor. I was always searching for players with a dark sound that nobody ever talks about such as Frank Wright, Kaoru Abe, Arthur Doyle, and Frank Lowe. They completely changed my life."

"But so many things have changed my life," she adds. "I listened to Albert Ayler when I was 13 years old. And listening to others' music made me appreciate being alive and having a beating heart in my chest. All these people taught me fearlessness. T hey didn't just show me how to play music, they made me feel like it's okay to exist, to be yourself, to plunge deep into your heart, and not be fearful of anything. David S. Ware did that for me."

Indeed, the players' sense of openness is palpable on this recording. "None of us had played together as a group before, so we were all longing to come together. There was no sound check. The beginning of the record is the beginning of when we first played together. Every single moment on the record is what we did. Nothing was cut, nothing was added."

Including Matt Hollenberg on the album's final track is a testament to Amba's reliance on inspiration over any formal preconceptions. After she met John Zorn, on whose Tzadik label she released O, Sun earlier this year, he agreed to set her up with a group for a show at The Stone in New York. "When I showed up, that's when I met Matt Hollenberg and Kenny Grohowski. That was John's plan. And it was like Matt and I had known each other our whole lives. I wasn't planning on having anyone else on this recording date on just me, Tyshawn, and Micah. But the night before I was supposed to go to New York, I had a dream about the sound of it all."

"The second track on the record is called 'The Drop and the Sea,' about this drop that's supposedly separate from the sea, but is not really separate. It's all one. That's how it is in the music, too. And it's an everlasting journey to realize that oneness, to be submerged into that oneness. It's all God's grace, whether we realize it or not. In the music, I'm able to get glimpses, little tastes of this divine nectar. And it keeps me going." on Mahakala Music

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