The Squid's Ear Magazine

Zankel, Bobby & Wonderful Sound 8: A Change Of Destiny (Mahakala Music)

Written in response to the excavation of slave quarters on the site of George Washington's President's House, Philadelphia saxophonist and former Cecil Taylor sideman Bobby Zankel presents a 6-section suite performed with Philly luminaries Jaleel Shaw (sax), Robin Eubanks (trombone), Diane Monroe (violin), Ruth Naomi Floyd (voice), Sumi Tonooka (piano), Lee Smith (bass) and Pheeroan AkLaff (drums).

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Bobby Zankel-alto saxophone

Jaleel Shaw-alto saxophone

Robin Eubanks-trombone

Diane Monroe-violin

Ruth Naomi Floyd-voice

Sumi Tonooka-piano

Lee Smith-bass

Pheeroan akLaff-drums, percussion

Click an artist name above to see in-stock items for that artist.

UPC: 195269248703

Label: Mahakala Music
Catalog ID: CD-MAHA-058
Squidco Product Code: 33815

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2023
Country: USA
Packaging: Digipack
Recorded at Elm Street Studios, in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, on September 7th, 8th and 9th, by John O. Seniro.

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Zankel's revelatory new album, A Change of Destiny, recorded with his Wonderful Sound 8-an offshoot of his Warriors of the Wonderful Sound big band-is based on music he wrote in the early 2010s for a dance piece, The Spirits Break to Freedom.

Created with distinguished photographer and printmaker John Dowell and dancer/choreographer Germaine Ingram, the work is a response to the discovery of slave quarters in George Washington's President's House-the first White House, located in Philadelphia. The titles of the songs on the alternately high energy and soulfully searching; A Change of Destiny tell the story. "Naming Names" is about the identification of the nine slaves. "Ring Shout" channels the religious dance of African origin done by slaves. "Rituals of Resistance," "Spirits Break to Freedom," and "To Be a Human Being" need no explanation."-Mahakala Music

"Saxophonist, bandleader, composer and arranger Bobby Zankel has been making jazz in many ways with diverse cohorts for over a half-century. He has found his own way to create music that is both advanced and very listenable at the same time. He is loved and revered by the many musicians who have performed with him and by his audiences and fan base, especially as a result of the recordings and performances of his Warriors of the Wonderful Sound Big Band, which thrilled audiences at the Tritone club, the Painted Bride, the University of Pennsylvania, Montgomery County Community College, and other performance spaces in the Philadelphia area. Over the years, Zankel has appeared on many recordings as a sideman and leader, mostly with smaller groups, including those with musicians from the Warriors ensembles.

Bobby Zankel and the Wonderful Sound 8's powerful new recording A Change of Destiny (Mahakala Records, Sept. 22, 2023)) once more illustrates his remarkable ability to bring together top musicians with a creative idea and a distinct focus, while giving each of them ample room for individual expression. The band for this album consists of musicians of diverse backgrounds and experiences but all familiar to Zankel: alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, trombonist Robin Eubanks, violinist Diane Monroe. pianist Sumi Tonooka, bassist Lee Smith, drummer Pheeroan AkLaff; and vocalist Ruth Naomi Floyd. On the album, Zankel adapted music he had originally composed for "Spirits Break to Freedom" a multi-media project created with visual artist John Dowell and dancer/choreographer Germaine Ingram in response to the discovery of slave quarters in George Washington's President's Houseัthe first White House, located in Philadelphia.

Partly because of its origin in story, photography, and dance, this album is rich with musical ideas, images, and metaphors. It provided ample opportunity for All About Jazz to get together with Zankel and ask him to share how the album came about, and what it meant to him inwardly as he seized the opportunity to put it together at a studio near Philadelphia. What comes through is his gratitude for producer Chad Fowler's offer to subsidize and distribute the recording, his deep love and appreciation of the musicians he chose, his concern for Washington's slaves as if they were alive today, and the fascinating influence of Zankel's long-time practice and knowledge of Buddhism. In recent years Buddhism has become a source of sustenance and inspiration to many in the Western world, and in particular jazz musicians, such as Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock, who studied the same school of Buddhism as Zankel. So, read on as Zankel shares his creative process and innermost thoughts.

All About Jazz: It's been several years since the music for this recording was composed and performed. What made you decide at this point to come back to it and make an album?

Bobby Zankel: Actually, I was originally looking at a recording that I did in 1997 with the great pianist Marilyn Crispell, bassist William Parker, and drummer Hamid Drake. We recorded a concert at the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Oak Park Unity Temple in Chicago. The sound was absolutely incredible and so was the performance. At the time, I just put the recording aside, but a year or so ago, I listened to it. It was absolutely wonderful, great playing. So I called up William Parker and asked him if it would be okay to put it out, and he referred me to this guy Chad Fowler who is a saxophonist and a record label owner. Chad listened to the recording and liked it, and then he started listening to other things in my body of work. He was very open to different genres and approaches, and he seemed open to getting some of my music out. My first thought was that as good as the Crispell recording was, if I had the option, I'd much prefer to make a new recording.

So then, as I was going through the music in my library, I rediscovered the dance piece. It was a recording of the music that was made during the actual dance performance. It was incredible. But because it was accompanying a choreographed dance, we musicians didn't stretch it out the way we would have if we were just playing the music on our own. I thought to myself, "This could be a great album!" I thought of what would be my dream band for such an album, top of the line musicians I've worked with, and I approached Chad about it, and he was willing to cover the cost and allow me to pick the studio I wanted. So Chad is the man who made it happen."-Victor L. Schermer, All About Jazz

Get additional information at All About Jazz

Artist Biographies

"Bobby Zankel b. 21 December 1949, New York City, New York, USA. Zankel began playing music at an early age, soon favouring the alto saxophone. After studying at the University of Wisconsin, he attended Berklee College Of Music, then went on to attain a BA degree from Empire State College (State University of New York). In the early 70s, he attracted favourable attention during a spell with Cecil Taylor's Unit Core Ensemble. Concurrently, Zankel's reputation spread within the adventurous New York loft scene owing to performances with Ray Anderson, Sunny Murray, William Parker and others. From 1975, Zankel became resident in Philadelphia where he raised his family meanwhile becoming a respected and in-demand sideman with many artists, notably those associated with the city's thriving jazz scene. Groups he was with in these years, in Philadelphia and elsewhere, include the Hank Mobley -Sonny Gillete Quintet, Jymmie Merritt's Forerunners, Odean Pope's Saxophone Choir, and Ruth Naomi Floyd. He continued to work with Taylor, including visiting Europe. As a performer, Zankel delivers intricate virtuoso bop playing with an intensely emotional core. Zankel was also continuing with his studies, now with Dennis Sandole, becoming a skilled and significant composer. As leader and sideman he has appeared at numerous festivals. Among other musicians with whom Zankel has performed, and frequently recorded, are Johnny Coles, Ralph Peterson, Terri Lyne Carrington and Craig Handy. His abilities have been recognized in a variety of ways, including receiving a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Jazz Composition Fellowship, and the Herman Goldman Award, the latter for his composition 'Cylle'. In 1995 he was awarded the prestigious Pew Fellowship for his writing. Grants he received through the late 80s allowed him to compose and present three jazz ballets and a jazz opera. His compositions have been performed by Lester Bowie, Coles, Marilyn Crispell, Pope, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Peterson and others. Active in music education, Zankel has been artist-in-residence at the Downington and Jarrettown schools, and has also been artist-in-residence for programmes within the Philadelphia prison system. He presently performs with his Warriors Of The Wonderful Sound."

-All Music (

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"Alto & Soprano saxophonist and bandleader, Jaleel Shaw, won the 2014 Downbeat Critics Poll's for Rising Star Alto Saxophonist. He is a longtime member of the Roy Haynes Quartet, Tom Harrell's "Colors Of A Dream" and has performed with Christian McBride, Jason Moran, the Mingus Big Band, Pat Metheny, Stefon Harris, Roy Hargrove, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Jimmy Cobb and several others.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, Shaw picked up the alto saxophone and surrounded himself with music at an early age. Immersing himself in the local jazz scene, he studied and performed with many of the city's great musicians and educators and, following high school, received a full-tuition scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, where he received a dual degree in Music Education and Performance. While at Berklee, Shaw was awarded the Billboard Endowed Scholarship for Outstanding Academic and Musical achievement (1998), Woodwind Department Chair Awards (1998 & 2000), The Boston Jazz Society Award (1999) and The Outstanding Student Teacher Award (2000). He later received a scholarship to Manhattan School of Music in New York, where he obtained a Masters Degree in Jazz Performance.

Shaw's debut album, Perspective (2005), received rave reviews from The New York Times and Jazzwise Magazine and All About Jazz named the album one of the top five debut albums of 2005; his composition "The Heavyweight Champion" received an ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award.

In 2006, Jaleel joined the Roy Haynes Quartet and was featured on the legendary drummer's Grammy-nominated album Whereas. Two years later (2008), Shaw founded his record label, Changu Records, on which he released his second album entitled Optimism. The album received reviews from The New York Times, Downbeat and All About Jazz among others. That same year, he received his second ASCAP Young Composer Award for his composition "The Flipside" and was nominated for the Jazz Journalist Association's "Up-And-Coming Jazz Artist" award.

Shaw was among the musicians listed in the 2011 JazzTimes Magazine's Readers Poll for Alto Saxophonist of the Year, sharing the honor with Phil Woods, Lee Konitz, Bunky Green and Kenny Garrett. In 2013, he released his third album of original compositions entitled The Soundtrack of Things to Come (Changu Records). The album features his current working quartet, and has been favorably received by various publications including the New York Times, New York City Jazz Record, and All About Jazz."

-Jaleel Shaw Website (

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"Robin Eubanks is the premier jazz trombonist of his generation. Whether performing with his groups, Mental Images or EB3 or with The SF Jazz Collective, Dave Holland Quintet / Big Band, Robin is an artist whose impact on audiences has proven powerful and lasting.

Robin was born to a very musical family: His brother, Kevin Eubanks, was the musical director for The Tonight Show; their mother is a music educator; another brother, Duane, is a renown trumpet player; and their Uncle Ray Bryant was a prominent jazz pianist in his own right.

Robin's musical education began at the age of eight and continued through college, when he graduated cum laude from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. As a student, he studied not only trombone, but also Music Theory, Harmony, Composition and Arranging. Following his graduation, the young trombonist moved to New York City where he began a career that has since yielded an amazing array of collaborations with such notable artists as Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, Eddie Palmieri, Sun Ra, Barbra Streisand, The Rolling Stones and Talking Heads - just to name a few. He's won Grammys for his performances on Michael Brecker's Wide Angles and Dave Holland's What Goes Around and Overtime.

Robin taught at The Oberlin College Conservatory for 20 years. He was a tenured Professor of Jazz Trombone and Jazz Composition. He also taught at Berklee College of Music and at New England Conservatory. In addition, he taught at Prince Claus Conservatoire in The Netherlands for 5 years. And, if that were not enough, in the intervening years, Robin has become a popular lecturer, Yamaha clinician and conducts Master Classes at leading institutions throughout the U.S. and abroad.

In 2014, Robin won the Jazz Times Critics Poll for Best Trombonist and is a multiple winner of Downbeat's Readers and Critics Polls for Trombonist of the Year. He's also won compositional grants from Chamber Music America and an ASCAP Composer's grant. As with his performing career, his compositional interests are staggeringly diverse. Musically fluent, but also stylistically multilingual, the eclectic composer speaks a variety of musical "languages". How does he do it? The key appears to be a combination of having a complete command of his craft, but also an innate gift that can sound like a combination of math and magic.

To hear him explain it:"My compositions can morph fluidly from Swing to Funk to Latin to 11/8 or 7/4, without sounding forced or awkward. This allows me to draw upon all of my experiences. I have the freedom to create forms that unite diverse influences into new structures that are organic."

Robin's compositions and arrangements have been recorded by The Mingus Big Band, SF Jazz Collective, Dave Holland Quintet and Big Band, et. al. In addition, colleges and universities throughout the United States are performing Robin's original works and have arranged and recorded his music for their ensembles. He has recorded nine albums as a leader and contributed his talents to hundreds as a sideman.Robin was awarded Research Status from Oberlin for the 2013-2014 Academic Year."

-Robin Eubanks Website (

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"Diane Monroe is more than simply a fine performer. She is a violinist whose versatility and expressive artistry consistently bring audiences to their feet. Her visibility as a jazz artist began with her long-standing membership as first violinist of the Uptown String Quartet (with Lesa Terry, Maxine Roach and Eileen Folson) and the Max Roach Double Quartet. With those ensembles, she performed with Cecil Bridgewater, Trumpeter; Odean Pope, Saxophonist and Tyrone Brown, bassist, and has recorded on the Soul Note, Philips/Polygram, and Mesa/Bluemoon labels.

In addition to her contributions as a side-person, Monroe has been leading her own ensembles for more than 15 years. The Diane Monroe Quartet appeared on the Kennedy Center's Women in Jazz Festival in 2012 and has performed at many other venues. She has developed a program for her sextet - "What Is This Thing Called Freedom" - that features vocalist Paul Jost and her longtime musical partner, vibraphonist Tony Miceli. She and Miceli released their debut recording, Alone Together (Dreambox Media), in August 2014. All About Jazz sums up the recording: "Monroe and Miceli are adept and resilient musicians of the highest caliber, so they are able to weave their combined sounds into many expressive variations that create "tone poems" and tell stories."

Monroe is in demand as an educator, panel specialist and leader of jazz improv workshops, rhythm clinics and master classes. The Verbier Festival Switzerland 2000, highlighted her summer as soloist/conductor of the Fiddlefest Jazz String Orchestra. During this festival, Monroe conducted the string orchestra students in a spontaneous collaboration with the violinist Kennedy, in a blues medley. In 2007, Monroe conducted the jazz string section for the Saxophonist James Carter with his quartet, in a presentation at the Kimmel Center's Verizon Hall entitled, "Gardenia's for Lady Day." At last season's ASTA conference, she chaired a panel, "Improvised music in the classroom," which included distinguished composer/pedagogue, David Baker."

-Diane Monroe Website (

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"A vocalist and composer, Ruth Naomi Floyd has created a discography dedicated to a sacred jazz expression. She has been at the forefront of creating vocal jazz settings that express theology and justice for over 25 years. She leads her own multi-faceted ensemble and her recordings consist primarily of original compositions. Blessed with a soaring mezzo-soprano voice, critics praise Ruth's music for its distinctive sound of progressive ensemble jazz that is seamlessly blended with messages of hope, faith, redemption, and love. Ruth has recorded and performed with such notable instrumentalists as James Newton, James Weidman, Gary Thomas, John Patitucci, Terri Lyne Carrington, George Cables, Bobby Watson, Matthew Parrish, Aaron Graves, Mark Prince, Diane Monroe, Byron Lanham, Bryan Carrot, Keith Loftis, Uri Caine, Craig Handy, and many more.Rooted and grounded in a faith ethos, Ruth has been a presence and worker in areas of the arts and justice throughout her career. Ruth has lectured on the intersection of beauty, theology, justice, culture, and the arts at numerous performance centers, academic settings and conferences around the world.

A committed music educator, Ruth is the first African American woman to serve as Founding Director of a University Jazz Studies Program in the United States. She served as Director of Jazz Studies at Cairn University and is an Adjunct Professor and Artist in Residence at Temple University. Ruth has taught music education and ensembles for 21 years at The City School.

Ruth's recent compositions include Freedom which premiered in April 2018 in Wales, UnitedKingdom. Commissioned in honor of human rights activist, Mende Nazer's profound story of survival as a slave in Sudan and London. In addition, the centennial year of Leonard Bernstein's birth, Philadelphia's Mann Music Center, in partnership with NEWorks Productions, commissioned Ruthas one of four composers to create a community mass inspired by Bernstein's MASS, that explores anew the relevance of faith in our times.

The Frederick Douglass Jazz Works is Ruth's latest body of compositions for jazz septet, based on the speeches and writings of the great leading orator, abolitionist, writer, publisher, and statesman. This body of work won the Best Vocal Recital Award at the San Francisco Classical Voice Audience Choice Awards for 2020- 2021. In 2021, in partnership with Intercultural Journeys, Ruth was commissioned to compose a three-song cycle for voice and cello in honor of the legacy and activism of the great contralto Marian Anderson. Ruth and Intercultural Journeys partnered on another commission, for which the National Endowment for the Arts awarded a Project Grant in May 2021. This body of work, The Frances Suite, will explore the life, advocacy, and literary work of Frances Ellen Watkin Harper, and will feature an all-female ensemble of color. The Orrin Evans Trio, featuring Ruth, was named one of NPR Music's Best Live Sessions of 2021 for their powerful anthem of liberation, the African American Spiritual, "Oh Freedom."

Ruth is also an award-winning fine art photographer, specializing in black and white portrait images. She uses silver-based films with 35mm and 4x5 inch view cameras to capture her images and uses traditional wet darkroom technology as well as digital printing on archival papers to produce her final images. Ruth has received awards, prizes, and grants for her photographic images, and her work is included in permanent and private collections. For over twenty-five years Ruth has been devoted and active in providing compassionate care and spiritual support to people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS in Philadelphia and Africa.

Ruth was awarded the Kimmel Center's Jazz Residency for the 2019-2020 season. In December 2019, Concordia College New York, awarded Ms. Floyd an Honorary Doctorate for her unique and valuable contribution to the arts, her commitment to music education, and her justice work."

-Frederick Douglas Jazz Works (

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"Jazz has famously been described as the sound of surprise, but Sumi Tonooka makes a vivid case for the way jazz careers can evolve in astonishing directions. As a veteran improviser, the Philadelphia pianist, composer, and bandleader knows all about navigating unexpected twists and turns on the bandstand. Now she's in the midst of an unanticipated career swerve that has taken her deep into new territory as a composer.

For much of her career Tonooka (pronounced To-NO-O-ka) has thrived in the trio context, performing around the world with a series of consummate ensembles that were often anchored by bass maestro Rufus Reid. But over the past decade she's been awarded a series of increasingly ambitious commissions involving leading chamber ensembles, symphonies and fellow jazz explorers. It's a development that she "didn't see coming," Tonooka says. "Now I'm smitten with the orchestra, the sound potential. I'm realizing that I have something I can bring to this tradition."

In many ways 2023 has been a banner year for Tonooka. She was named a 2023 recipient of a prestigious Pew Fellowship. The San Francisco Conservatory of Music Orchestra premiered her "Only the Midnight Sky and Silent Stars," a work commissioned by the Emerging Black Composers Project. And after the in-person premiere of "Under the Surface" with the Alchemy Sound Project collective at The Painted Bride in Philadelphia, she toured the West Coast with the jazz chamber ensemble. The work and tour were supported by a Chamber Music America, New Jazz Works Grant and South Arts Jazz Roads grant.

Since emerging on the Philadelphia scene in the 1970s Tonooka has covered a lot of ground, geographically, stylistically and emotionally, encompassing stints in Boston, Detroit, New York and Seattle. While once again ensconced in Philly's vital jazz scene, she's put down creative roots everywhere she's lived, developing a polymorphous body of work that has drawn numerous accolades from jazz writers and fellow musicians.

In addition to her symphonic and chamber works, jazz recordings and performances, Tonooka has composed more than 20 film scores, including Lise Yasui's Academy Award-nominated "Family Gathering" and most recently Carol Bash's Mary Lou Williams, the Lady Who Swings the Band and Phil Bertelson's The Picture Taker.

Her journey into symphonic writing started in 2013 when she was one of 38 jazz composers selected to participate in the Jazz Composers Orchestra Intensive, (JCOI) a Doris Duke Charitable Foundation-backed program created through Columbia University, UCLA's Herb Albert School of Music and EarShot Orchestra Readings to support and foster new works for orchestra by jazz composers. "They told us we need you," she recalls. "That there's never been a worse time for orchestras, but there's never been a better time for jazz composers to be coming into this arena. I was very skeptical."

Despite her qualms, Tonooka jumped in and the JCOI led to her first symphonic work, the yin/yang-inspired "Full Circle," which the American Composers Orchestra premiered in New York City. Several conductors were duly impressed, and new assignments followed. Seeking to integrate her life as a jazz artist into her new passion, Tonooka wrote the concerto for orchestra and her West Coast jazz trio "For Malala" dedicated to Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai. Seattle's Northwest Symphony Orchestra premiered the piece.

Commissions started coming in from numerous directions. Tonooka and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Jen Shyu composed and collaborated on "Mother, Skin, Name, Mother" during the pandemic, which premiered at the Harlem Museum of Jazz in 2021. A Doris Duke Creative Inflections Grant brought Tonooka and Shyu back together for the multi-disciplinary music production "In the Green Room: Layering Legacies of Asian and Black American Women in Jazz," which premiered in 2022 at the Asia Society in New York City with drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and bassist Linda May Han Oh.

Tonooka's musical journey included intensive training at the Manne School of Music as a teenager. But a close encounter with a jazz genius had already set her on her path. "My parents took me to see Monk at the Aqua Lounge when I was 13," Tonooka recalls. "It was because of his music that I wanted to be a jazz musician. Mary Lou Williams was a teacher of mine, not for long, but at a pivotal time. The depth of her spirit and musicianship was very profound for me."

Graduating from high school several years early, she lit out for Boston at 15 and found creative sustenance with two legendary piano teachers, Margaret Chaloff (mentor to Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Steve Kuhn) and Charlie Banacos (a Lennie Tristano disciple and jazz sage). After paying dues on the Boston scene she moved briefly to Detroit, where she made her recording debut with trumpet legend Marcus Belgrave, an invaluable mentor for generations of Motown jazz musicians.

On her return to Philadelphia, Belgrave encouraged Tonooka to hook up with powerhouse tenor saxophonist Odean Pope. By 17, she was working steadily with her trio featuring drummer Newman Baker and bassist Rudy McDaniel (now Jamaaladeen Tacuma). The group provided an outlet for her prolific composing, and led to an almost two-year stint with drum great Philly Joe Jones, "which was quite an initiation," she says. "I was really green and he was good in terms of being generous with his musical expertise and getting me thinking more about rhythm."

Gigs with the cream of the Philly scene followed, including Sonny Fortune, Bootsie Barnes and Robin and Kevin Eubanks. By the time she made the move to New York City in 1983 Tonooka was ready. She quickly gained attention as a major new voice, performing at festivals and making her recording debut as a leader on With an Open Heart (Radiant Records), an acclaimed 1990 trio session with bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Akira Tana focusing on her luminous originals.

Tana and Reid were also on hand for 1991's Taking Time (Candid), with rising saxophonist Craig Handy. Piano great Kenny Barron produced another Tonooka trio session with Reid and Nash, Secret Places (Joken Records), and it's no coincidence that Reid was on hand again for 2005's Long Ago Today and 2009's quartet date, Initiation with tenor saxophonist and Alchemy Sound Project colleague Erica Lindsay.

Alchemy will soon release its fourth album featuring Tonooka's "Under the Surface" suite. Even in an art form where it's not unusual for veteran masters to experience extended bursts of creativity, Tonooka is burning extraordinarily brightly in just about every possible setting, from solo recitals to symphonic premieres. A jazz seeker at the peak of her powers, she's expanding the art form and opening up new territory for peers to explore."

-Sumi Tonooka Website (

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"Lee W. Smith is an American born (Philadelphia, Pa) jazz bassist. He has performed for over 40 years with many R & B and jazz legends including: The Delphonics, Blue Magic, Billy Paul, Mongo Santamaria, Sonny Fortune, Odean Pope and academy award nominee actor/musician Terrance Howard. He continues to expand his resume to include accomplishments as a composer, arranger, producer and educator. He's also the proud father of bass great Christian McBride."

-Lee Smith Website (

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"Pheeroan akLaff was born in Detroit, Michigan January 27, 1955, and named Paul, by his parents in honor of Paul Robeson one of their favorite musicians. Though his parents did not play instruments they enjoyed dancing with the Lunceford, Basie, Eckstein, and Ellington bands. His mother, distantly related to Wings Over Jordan choir director Glenn T. Settlle, was a fan of classical repertoire. His father is a Jazz fan and audiophile. This spawned a musical household in which all seven children had music lessons at some stage of their development. Eric, the eldest became a concert pianist and choir conductor.

Largely an autodidact, with some years at Eastern Michigan University, Pheeroan studied privately with Randall Hicks (New Jersey Symphony Orchestra), and "Pistol" Allen (Motown). Working in ensembles led by arranger Travis Biggs, at EMU brought about his first recording date; a 45rpm for local R&B singer Major Lasky titled Remember Me Always (1973), a favorite of radio station WGPR.

In 1975 he relocated to New Haven Connecticut, and while auditing the African Art class of Robert Ferris Thompson, akLaff established a connection with Rashied Ali, drummer of John Coltrane's late ensembles. While kindlling the band DejaVu with his peers, he also initiated a tenure with Wadada Leo Smith,introducing him to performances and recordings with Oliver Lake, Anthony Davis, Henry Threadgill, Sonny Sharrock, Andrew Hill, Cecil Taylor, Yamashita Yosuke, Amiri Baraka, Liu Sola, Tom Pierson, and Anthony Braxton, among many internationally acclaimed composers.

As a young artist Pheeroan akLaff toured several countries of Africa, Asia and Europe. He produced a wave of Funk and Reggae influenced performances and recordings in the 1980's. after his Urban West African music immersion in Abidjan, Cote D"Ivoire with the Marie Rose Guiraud dance troupe. He met Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Sonny Okosun, and Steve Rhodes with scholar Dr. Frank T. Fairfax III, in Lagos Nigeria. He performed for the U.S. State Department with Oliver Lake and Jump Up; in Malawi, Swaziland, Cote D'Ivoire Togo and Liberia, and with Jay Hoggard; in Morocco, Syria, Jordan, Sudan, Egypt and India.

In the 1990's he presented his music ensembles at the Willisau festival of Switzerland, the Sju festival of the Netherlands, the Montsalvat festival of Australia, the Moers, and the Nurnberg festivals of Germany. He also led the Double Duo ensemble with two saxophonists; Mixashawn and Ravi Coltrane, and with two drummers; akLaff and his mentor Rashied Ali.

Pheeroan akLaff believes that the arts are a way to give thanks, and to work for change. His non-profit organization Seed Artists encorages education, mentorship and enlightenment through selective arts presentations. With Creative Director Chris Napierala he has recently presented music festivals and symposiums at William Patterson University, and Montclair State University, childrens writing workshops and community concerts at The Montclair Public Library, and community concerts at local galleries. In 2016- 2017 he will serve as curator at Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning in Queens, NY.

Since 1991. Mr.akLaff has taught drums and creative music to University students at New School University in New York, and at Wesleyan University in Connecticut."

-Pheeroan akLaff Website (

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Track Listing:

1. Destiny 13:34

2. Spirits Break To Freedom 14:23

3. Naming Names 13:30

4. Ring Shouting 10:23

5. Rituals Of Resistance 12:19

6. To Be A Human Being 11:29

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
Octet Recordings
Song Based Music
Staff Picks & Recommended Items
New in Improvised Music

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Mahakala Music.

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Ebb & Flow [2 CDs]
(Mahakala Music)
Continuing the connections from prior Mahakala Music albums Warp & Weft, (Futterman/Hirsch) and Two Five None (Fowler/Hirsch) this album brings the three together as a dynamic trio recording the two-part "Ebb & Flow", a spectacular convergence that, true to the title, shows tremendous momentum and moments of great introspection, an incredible collective free encounter!
Parker, Christopher / Kelley Hurt
No Tears Suite
(Mahakala Music)
Celebrating the temerity and successes of the students known as the Arkansas "Little Rock Nine", who in 1957 set a precedent as they fought to enter a segregated high school, in six pieces written by pianist Christopher Parker and vocalist Kelley Hurt, who narrates the student's successes over the powerfully uplifting and reflective music of a six piece jazz band.
McPhee, Joe / Michael Marcus / Jay Rosen / Warren Smith
Blue Reality Quartet!
(Mahakala Music)
Woodwind player Michael Marcus' duo with drummer Jay Rosen performed with fellow reedsman Joe McPhee and a 2nd drummer at the Jazzgalerie Nickelsdorf in 2018, the concept so appealing that he took it to the studio in New York, with Warren Smith handling the 2nd drum part and cementing this unusually orchestrated and elegantly passionate band as "The Blue Reality Quartet".
Lehman, Steve Camouflage Trio
Interface [VINYL 2 LPs]
(Clean Feed)
Reissuing and re-mixing New York saxophonist Steve Lehman's 2004 album with his previous Camouflage Trio of Mark Dress on double bass and Pheeroan Aklaff on drums, perfoming a stupendous set of original compositions live at Teatro Academica Gil Vicente in Coimbra, Portugal.
#114 Winter 2012 [MAGAZINE + CD]
Winter 2012 issue with 8 track CD; on the cover and featured: Tim Hecker; Featured Pheeroan Aklaff; Featured: Michachu & The Shapes; Profile on Zosha di Castri. Articles on Circuit Bending; Sonic Geography of NYC, Time Square.
Conly, Sean
(Clean Feed)
Double bassist Sean Conly in a New York based quartet with saxophonists Michael Attias & Tony Malaby and drum legend Pheeroan Aklaff.
Lake, Oliver Trio
Oliver Lake's 1970's trio live at the Willisau Jazz Festival in 1979 playing all Lake compositions.

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Eclectic Maybe Band
Bars Without Measures
Creating structured works from real time improvisations, Guy Seger's (Univers Zero) large ensemble of absolutely impressive players breaks down to smaller grouping to record the layers of each piece, which Seger then uses as raw material for each finished piece, as elements of rock, jazz, composed, and experimental forms merge into accomplished and engaging compositions.
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(Phonogram Unit)
Formed in 2019 by Red Trio members Rodrigo Pinheiro on piano and Hernani Faustino on double bass plus core Creative Sources electronic musician Carlos Santos, with Joao Almeida on trumpet and Joao Valinho on drums, the "inter.independence" referencing an experimental approach to collective improv through independent layers that interact to create unexpected intersections.
Voltaic Trio (Guerrreiro / Nuno / Valinho)
(Phonogram Unit)
Burning electric improvisation that draws from rock, metal, jazz and free improv by the Lisbon trio of Luis Guerreiro on trumpet, electronics, Jorge Nuno on electric guitar and Joao Valinho on drums, recording in the studio for an extended and unremitting collective improvisation that roars with galvanic, dramatic strength; terrifying!
Furtado, Vasco / Salome Amend / Luise Volkmann
(Phonogram Unit)
After a first meeting at an improvised music festival, the trio of Portuguese drummer Vasco Furtad, Wuppertal-based drummer/vibraphonist Salome Amend and German alto saxophonist Luise Volkmann agreed to meet again in the studio to record these five collective improvisations, focused on sparse yet active textures influenced by melodic implications.
Sanchez, Angelica Nonet
Nighttime Creatures
(Pyroclastic Records)
Assembling a masterful set of New York jazz luminaries including Michael Attias, Ben Goldberg, John Hebert, Thomas Heberer, Sam Ospovat, Chris Speed, Omar Tamez and Kenny Warren, pianist Angelic Sanchez tailors her compositions to these players through nine original compositions, along with Ellington's "Lady of the Lavender Mist" and "Tristeza" by Amarndo Carvajal.
Mercury (Caloia / Freedman)
(Clean Feed)
From the fertile Montreal improv scene, the long-collaborating Mercury duo of double bassist Nicolas Caloia and clarinetist Lori Freedman on b-flat and bass clarinets are heard in eight rugged dialogs captured live as they seemingly flay the body through visceral dialog with titles including "Eyeball-Eyelid"; "Teeth-Tongue-Throat-Lip"; or "Ass-Brain".
Greenlief, Phillip / Scott Amendola
Stay with it
(Clean Feed)
Their first duo album, Collect My Thoughts released in 1995 on Nine Winds, these live improvisations captured at Berkeley's The Shinebox in 2017 show the two West Coast collaborators--Phillip Greenlief on alto & tenor saxophones plus clarinet, and drummer/percussionist Scott Amendola--'staying with it' in an energetic set of five informed dialogs.
Edelman, Nataniel Trio (feat. Michael Formanek / Michael Attias)
Un Ruido de Agua
(Clean Feed)
A piano sax and bass trio led by Argentinian pianist Nataniel Edelman with Michael Formanek on bass and Michael Attias on alto sax, recording in the studio in Berlin for a mix of five Edelman compositions, one by Attias, and four collective improvisations, recorded in a single day for a consistently lyrical, flowing set of elegantly informed, magnificent playing.
Omawi (Warelis / Gvaert / De Joode)
(Relative Pitch)
The band name Omawi is a conglomerate of this Dutch trio's name, appropriate for the nearly telepathic interaction of pianist Marta Waleris, drummer Onno Govaert and double bassist Wilbert de Joode, captured in their first live performance after the pandemic lockdown at Zaal100, in Amsterdam, their enthusiasm and pent-up expression clearly evident in five extraordinary improvisations.
Eriksen, Espen Trio With Andy Sheppard
As Good As It Gets [VINYL]
(Rune Grammofon)
UK saxophonist Andy Sheppard joins again with pianist Espen Eriksen's Trio of drummer Andreas Bye and bassist Lars Tormod Jenset, for a lyrical set of seven richly melodic original compositions, the trio's 7th release together since 2010 and marking 16 years together as a group, evident from their confident communication and seemingly effortless interaction.
Harding, Paul R / Michael Bisio / Juma Sultan
They Tried to Kill Me Yesterday
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Nechushtan, Alon
For Those Who Cross the Seas [2 CDs]
Reflecting on the loft-oriented NYC free improvisation scene, this 2006 concert at Zebulon, in Brooklyn has keyboardist Alon Nechushtan bringing together a spectacular sextet with Roy Campbell on flute & trumpet, Daniel Carter and Sabir Mateen on reeds, William Parker on bass and Federico Ughi on drums, taking flight on two seemingly boundless Nechushtan compositions.
Evans, Bill (Evans, Hall, Peacock, Motian, Israels, Bunker)
Duos With Jim Hall & Trios '64 & '65, Revisited [2 CDs]
(ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)
Three configurations of sophisticated duos & trios from four remastered albums recorded between 1962 and 1966 by pianist Bill Evans: first in duos with guitarist Jim Hall (Undercurrent); then with his trio of bassist Gary Peacock & Paul Motian (Trio 64); then with bassist Chuck Israels & drummer Larry Bunker (Trio 65); and last full circle to 1966, again with Jim Hall (Intermodulation).
Okura / Rodrigues / Rodrigues / Buder
Your Dramatic Joy
(Creative Sources)
Father and son string improvisers Ernesto Rodrigues on viola and Guilherme Rodrigues on cello join with Berlin improvisers Fumio Okura (Ensemble 222) on violin and Hannes Buder on guitar for six collective chamber free improvisations using extraordinary technique and focus, creating parallel and converging conversations that build and recede in vigorous momentum.

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