Pat Metheny’s Unity Band

Posted August 1st, 2012 at 8:06 pm (UTC+0)
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Pat Metheny's Unity Band

Pat Metheny’s Unity Band

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – Celebrated Jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, one of the brightest stars in the jazz sky, has released a new album with his new killer quartet, Unity Band.  Pat Metheny Unity Band showcases nine new, original compositions.

The band includes saxophonist and bass clarinetist Chris Potter, drummer Antonio Sanchez, and bassist Ben Williams. “This is a group of musicians who can do just about anything,” says Metheny.

Metheny features a tenor saxophone in the front line for the first time in three decades. In his 1980 recordings, Metheny featured now-trumpet-legend Michael Brecker and saxophone titan Dewey Redman.

After just returning to the United States following a European tour, Pat Metheny is wasting no time touring American cities. Tickets for many of his upcoming concerts with Unity Band have already sold out.

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During his career as a popular jazz guitar master, Metheny has won several awards, including 19 Grammys and three gold records for “Still Life (Talking),” “Letter from Home,” and “Secret Story.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h20HhCIOdSU

In May 2012, Pat Metheny and his guitar-maker Linda Manzer received an award for innovative thinking and design at the Tribeca Film Festival. Metheny and Manzer created the 42-string Pikasso guitar in 1984.

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The Pikasso has a special feature known as “The Wedge,” a tapered body shape that makes the side closest to the player thinner than the side that rests on the player’s knee. That design makes the top lean back toward the player for a more aerial view of the strings.

Click here for my Pat Metheny profile and interview (mp3) (from last year about his music, guitar design, and more).

 

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

Acclaimed Trumpeter Randy Brecker

Posted July 19th, 2012 at 7:48 pm (UTC+0)
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Randy Brecker

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – Randy Brecker, a Grammy award winning jazz trumpeter and flugelhornist was a special guest at the B Flat Jazz Festival in Milan, Italy last week. Known for his versatility in musical tastes, Randy showed off his blend of hard jazz mixed with funk, Latin, and occasionally soft rock — a style that many young trumpeters try to emulate.

He initially gained prominence in 1967 as a member of Blood, Sweat and Tears on their first LP, Child Is Father To The Man.  In the late 1970′s Randy recorded with the highly influential American jazz musician Charles Mingus on his last album, Me Myself an Eye.

Born in Pennsylvania in 1945, Randy grew up outside Philadelphia listening to the Clifford Brown/Max Roach group that included trumpeter Miles Davis, saxophonist Sonny Rollins, pianist Horace Silver, and drummer Art Blakey.  His pianist father nurtured and encouraged him to play music at an early age. As a teenager, Randy began playing R&B and funk with local bar bands, and developed an ear for Hard Bop after listening to his father’s music collection.  He and his brother Michael later attended Indiana University, and settled in New York to make a name for themselves on the jazz scene.

During four months in 1966, Randy toured the Middle East and Asia as a Jazz Ambassador for the U.S. State Department. His strong musical message won many friends for America. “I hope people concentrate on art and music, and forget about our petty political differences,” Randy told VOA’s Jazz America. “The core of the human heart is universal.” He later toured Eastern Europe when it was still under communist rule.

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Earlier this year, Randy Brecker was a special guest on All Over The Place, the new album of one of his favorite collaborators, Mike Stern. He also recorded The Jazz Ballad Songbook, with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra. The album includes two original songs and the rest are well known themes like “Cry Me A River” and “The Immigrant” from the film Godfather 2.  The 10-track album also includes “All Or Nothing, ” “Someday My Prince, Will Come ” “Foregone Conclusion, ” “Goldfinger, “Skylark, ” “I Talk To The Trees, ” “This Is All I Ask, ” and “Round Midnight”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kx5OwYNtWkY

During his career, Randy has played or recorded with a variety of bands and artists including Parliament-Funkadelic, Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed, and Frank Zappa. He was a member of Larry Coryell’s seminal jazz fusion band The Eleventh House in 1973. He also recorded and toured as a member of Jaco Pastorius‘ Word of Mouth big band. In 2001, Randy reunited with his brother, saxophonist Michael Brecker, for a European tour. The concert series featured an acoustic version of the Brecker Brothers’ music.

In August, Legacy Recordings is planning on releasing a new complete eight-album collection box set by the Brecker Brothers.

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

 

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

Karim Shukry’s Take Me Back To Cairo

Posted July 13th, 2012 at 7:34 pm (UTC+0)
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Take Me Back To Cairo album cover

Take Me Back To Cairo

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – The name Karim Shukry  may not strike a chord with Westerners, but he was popular in Egypt and the Arab world in the early 1960s. When I heard that Shukry, a Canadian-Egyptian singer, composer and film producer died last May,  I was filled with nostalgia.

I recall his hit song, “Take Me Back To Cairo”.  Shukry was one of the talented, popular Egyptian entertainers who pioneered Anglo-Arab and Franco-Arab music in the early 1960s. I grew up listening to “Take Me Back To Cairo”. I was impressed by its bilingual  (English-Arabic) lyrics  mixed with  modern Western and Egyptian classical tunes.  For me,  the song’s lyrics and instrumentation evoke strong emotions. I admit that my heart skips a beat when I watch a video clip of the song, which has become an anthem for the Egyptian diaspora.

The gorgeous imagery of the lyrics aside, the song instantly transports me back to the summer of 1970 when I first heard it, having moved more than 6,000 miles away from my beloved native land. Now, I can’t hear it without being transported back to my childhood and the good times with friends whom I miss dearly.

One of the reasons “Take Me Back To Cairo” became a hit in Egypt was its mix, which incorporates the segments of a popular Egyptian folk song called “ Ya Nakhleteen fel Allali”.  The song sparked passion and fascination in the hearts and minds of a whole generation of Egyptians. Several other Egyptian artists have released their own versions of the song, including popular pop and jazz singer Samir El-Eskandarany, whose album remained at the top of the Egyptian radio charts for several months.

Born in Cairo in 1933 as Jean Zaloum, Karim Shukry (his stage name), worked in the shipping and booking department for MGM in Cairo when he was 16. He devoted himself to the movie and entertainment industry in Egypt, and maintained good relations and close contacts with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars who traveled to Egypt to work on such films as Valley of the Kings and Cleopatra. His dedication earned him higher positions in MGM’s publicity and public relations departments and later, as 20th Century Fox’s publicity and operations manager for the entire Middle East.

Shukry grew up also listening to classical Arabic and Western music, and became a singer and composer himself.  But his singing career was short-lived in Egypt, because he had to move to Canada in 1965.  At the time, the nusic scene was dominated by big names like Umm Kulthoum, Abdel Wahab and thenightingale” and actor Abdel Halim Hafez.

Shukry later earned respect as a film distributor and producer in Montreal. He also worked as a distributor in Canada for Paramount Pictures. Eventually, he started to produce his own films, including the Quebec box office hits Après Ski (1971) and Les Beaux Dimanches (1974). Years later,  he teamed with his son Alain, then a young director, and produced the films Canvas (1992), Suspicious Minds (1997) Promise Her Anything (1999) C’est Pas Moi, C’est L’Autre (2004) and Nouvelle France (2004). On his last trip to Egypt in 2005, Shukry was honored at the Cairo International Film Festival, and presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by screen legend Omar Sharif.

TAKE ME BACK TO CAIRO

Music & Lyrics by Karim Shukry
Arranged by Andre Ryder, an acclaimed Egyptian score writer

Take me back to Cairo
Beside the river Nile
My heart belongs to Cairo, Oh Cairo
Where I have found my smile

Take me back to Cairo
Beneath the silver moon
I left my heart in Cairo, Oh Cairo
The day I heard this tune

يا نخلتين فى العلالى يا بلحهم داوا
يا نخلتين على نخلتين هما الاتنين طرحوا سوا

I have been yearning to go back and see my darling
And still remember the big gardens in the sun
How can I stay away so long, my heart is burning
Please take me back I want to be near my dear one

Take me back to Cairo
I’ve been away so long
I must return to Cairo, Oh Cairo
Again to hear that song

There is a saying that came out from the Sahara
That if you ever taste the water of the Nile
You will return again I heard it from Samara
Although you may be far away many a mile

Take me back to Cairo
Beneath the silver moon
I left my heart in Cairo, Oh Cairo
The day I heard this tune

Eternal sunshine winter, summer any season
Go there and hear the Sphinx he’s talking every night
And oriental tunes they play and for a reason
They must be celebrating someone’s wedding night

Take me back to Cairo
I’m sad and never smile
I must go back to Cairo, Oh Cairo
Just once again
to see the Nile

Take oh take me,
Take oh take me,
Take oh take me back
To Cairo

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

 

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

Sax Powerhouse Mindi Abair Tours with Rock Legends Aerosmith

Posted June 29th, 2012 at 7:19 pm (UTC+0)
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Mindi Abair (Courtesy Photo By Reisig & Taylor)

Mindi Abair (Courtesy Photo By Reisig & Taylor)

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – American saxophone powerhouse and singer Mindi Abair is on concert tour with legendary rock & roll band Aerosmith. Abair, who is also a songwriter and bandleader, is the featured saxophonist on the group’s six-week “Global Warming Tour,” which kicked off last week.  She will also perform with Cheap Trick in Canada.

I recently talked to Abair about her tour with one of America’s greatest rock & roll bands. We talked about her life as a musician and her solo album, In Hi-Fi Stereo as well. The album was released in 2010 on the Heads Up International label – a division of Concord Music Group.  Listen to Abair and her songs.

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“I’m having a blast,” Abair told Jazz Beat. “As a kid, I grew up listening to rock ‘n’ roll and pop. I didn’t get into jazz until later. I was well into high school when I started seeing jazz bands in different schools and thought, oh that’s pretty cool. I like that.”

Mindi Abair’s Albums

  • Always and Never the Same (1999)
  • It Just Happens That Way (2003)
  • I Can’t Wait for Christmas (2004)
  • Come As You Are (2005)
  • Life Less Ordinary (2007)
  • A Peter White Christmas with Mindi Abair and Rick Braun (2007)
  • Stars (2008)
  • In Hi-Fi Stereo (2010)

Mindi Abair was born in Florida and spent much of her early life on the road with her father’s band, The Entertainer.  Lance Abair (her dad) played saxophone and keyboards. Mindi started on piano at home at the age of four.  When she was in elementary school, the band instructor laid out instruments on the first day of band class, asking each student to choose the instrument they most wanted to play. Eight-year-old Abair picked up the saxophone. In high school, she auditioned and won the first chair alto saxophone for the Florida All-State Jazz Band. She later graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts then started her early music career in Los Angeles, California, before forming her own band.

For more on jazz saxophonists, including interviews with Sarah Elgeti, Miguel Zenon, Jessy J, Aart  van Bergen, Boney James, and Peter Apfelbaum click here.

As a young girl, Abair listened to Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, the Rolling Stones and Aerosmith. Later in life, after improving her skills, Abair performed with Springsteen at New York’s famed Beacon Theatre in Comedy Central’s “Stand Up For Heroes” show. She has also played with Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra on the “Late Show with David Letterman”.  Most recently, she landed as spot as the featured saxophonist on American Idol. Now Abair is performing with Aerosmith.

“When I got hired for the [Aerosmith] tour I thought, well this isn’t going to be a lot of work. I knew most of the songs,” explained Abair who is staying on the cutting edge of saxophone techniques and styles for her own brand of rock, pop, and soul meeting jazz.

Abair, who won the prize for Best New Artist at the 2003 Smooth Jazz Awards, says she was bummed about not having a “huge rock ‘n’ roll voice” like Tina Turner. “I wanted to run around the stage and sing like Tina Turner, and I couldn’t sing like her, which is very disturbing,” said Abair.  So instead, she built a career around rock, pop and jazz music. Her extensive saxophone skills, virtually allow her to do anything she wants. “So, I think saxophone was a great avenue for me because it allowed me to have that huge voice, you know, I could scream on it like she [Turner] did, and kind of have that edge,” she explained.

In Hi-Fi Stereo by Mindi Abair

In Hi-Fi Stereo by Mindi Abair

For the first time ever, Abair will perform with Aerosmith and also with her own band at the Hollywood Bowl on August 26. “I’ll play the Hollywood Bowl twice in August, which is actually pretty unheard of for me at least,” she noted. “I’ve never played there with my band. What an amazing, historic night for me.”

Music critics say Abair’s talent is reminiscent of some of her heroes, including Clarence Clemons, King Curtis, Wayne Shorter, Miles Davis, and David Sanborn. “I’m a huge David Sanborn fan,” Abair admits. “He bridged the gap between pop and jazz for me.”

Her solo career has produced 11 number 1 singles on the Contemporary Jazz Radio charts. The latest is “Be Beautiful,” which remained at number 1 for seven weeks. Her records have also topped Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Charts.

For more on jazz guitarists click here, and for more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

New Albums by Marcus Miller, Mike Stern

Posted June 22nd, 2012 at 3:41 pm (UTC+0)
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Marcus Miller's new album

Marcus Miller’s new album

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – American multi-instrumentalist Marcus Miller, the last primary collaborator of jazz legend Miles Davis, has a new album. Renaissance is Miller’s eighth studio project since his debut, Suddenly, in 1983.  It showcases an especially emotive 13-song collection that includes eight original compositions with richly inspired interpretations of songs by WAR, Janelle Monáe, The Jackson 5, Ivan Lins and more.

The two-time Grammy winner, world-renowned electric bass guitarist, clarinetist, saxophonist, keyboardist, and composer will tour the world to take the message of his musical movement straight to the people. Miller, whose resume brims with over 500 recording credits on albums across the spectrum of musical styles, has written the score for more than 20 movies, including “Boomerang” in 1992, starring comedian Eddie Murphy.

Renaissance is set for release August 7 on Concord Jazz.

Last week, 59-year-old jazz-fusion guitar legend Mike Stern released his new album, All Over the Place. The six-time Grammy nominee has special guests on the album, including high-caliber electric and acoustic bass players Esperanza Spalding, Richard Bona, Victor Wooten, Anthony Jackson, Dave Holland, Tom Kennedy, Will Lee and Victor Bailey. Mike’s wife, Leni Stern, is on board with her guitar and an exotic string Malian instrument called n’goni.

 

Mike Stern's new album

Mike Stern’s new album

Mike Sternwas a member of the acclaimed Blood, Sweat & Tears in the mid-1970s. He also performed with Miles Davis in the 1980s. He’s been using his jazz roots as a starting point for exploring a range of other music genres, including R&B, rock, swing, funk, and world music.

Stern just returned from a tour in Japan, and will travel to Canada next week to perform at the Toronto and Edmonton Jazz Festivals. In July, he will start a tour in Europe to promote All Over the Place in France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Denmark and Holland.

For more on jazz guitarists, including interviews with Pat Metheny, John Pizzarelli, Rez Abbasi, and Berta Rojas, click here.

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

Cindy Douglas’s My New Jive, and the Glamor of Jazz

Posted June 15th, 2012 at 6:35 pm (UTC+0)
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Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC - Sparkling Scottish jazz singer and songwriter Cindy Douglas has released her long-awaited debut album, My New Jive. The album arrives in stores after Cindy spent a few years impressing audiences across the United Kingdom with her unique and modern twist on American jazz classics.

Cindy Douglas - My New Jive

Cindy's debut album

The 11 tracks showcase her superb performance, fine talent, and passion for swing, bebop and world music, particularly from North African and the Middle East.

For me, My New Jive was well worth the wait. Cindy kicks it off with “A Little Quiet,” which pairs her lyrics, with music written by saxophonist and flutist John Handy. She contacted the American Grammy winner to ask for permission to write lyrics to his song.

“I had a wonderful conversation with him on the phone. It was a delight and a surprise,” she said in an interview with VOA’s Jazz Beat. “I’m grateful to say that he did like them [my lyrics].”

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Cindy has also written lyrics to works by American jazz icons Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Horace Silver, Ron Carter, and South Africa’s ‘King of Jazz’ Abdullah Ibrahim. Fans say her lyrics have substance as evidenced in the soulful “A Little Quiet”. The song was the first vocal version of a Handy tune. What’s more, “A Little Quiet” showcases Cindy’s wonderful voice and lyrical ability – at a time when the lyrical abilities of some of today’s songwriters are described as limited and generic.  Her voice is reminiscent of the great Ella Fitzgerald.

Cindy’s strong, impassioned voice captures the glamor of the golden era of jazz in the 1940’s. She says she has always had a love for jazz. “At a time when jazz has crossed over into just about every musical genre, the one constant in my musical tastes is rhythm and emotion: the heart of jazz, ” Cindy writes in her bio.  She says she was especially inspired by acclaimed jazz artists including Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, Ahmad Jamal, Bobby Timmons, Horace Silver, Brad Mehldau, Shelley Manne, Anita O’Day, Betty Carter, Michel Petrucianni, and Abdullah Ibrahim.

Tracks on Cindy's debut album

Cindy Douglas developed passion for world music too, after visiting Cuba, Morocco and Egypt some 20 years ago. She says she learned to incorporate percussion in her music, thanks to a visit to Havana, Cuba, where she met members of the Buena Vista Social Club. Cindy also took lessons in djembe and Middle Eastern singing with Reem Khelani.

Her passion for World Music is reflected on the medley of Dizzy Gillespie’s classic “A Night In Tunisia & Caravan,” which features special guests, including Algerian percussionist Abdelkader Saadoun, and Ian East on saxophone and zurna. The song has a distinct Middle Eastern flavor that is captivating.

Born and raised in a small town on the West Coast of Scotland, Cindy took to the stage early in life. She grew up listening to traditional Scottish music.  She started to sing competitively in public in Primary School. In high school she got involved in drama and musical theater productions.  She focused on acting, and spent a year at a Theater Workshop in Edinburgh, learning stage craft and participating in more than 50 performances of “A Christmas Carol.” Later, Cindy pursued a career in human resources and at the same time, attended professional workshops for vocalists. Then, an event Cindy describes as “significant” changed both her life and career: the birth of her daughter.  In her bio, Cindy says it helped her rediscover jazz and re-evaluate her life. That’s when she decided to leave corporate life for good and focus all her energies on being a parent and a musician.

The extremely talented vocalist sings with all of her heart and soul, and her glamorous voice reflects that. I highly recommend her debut album to all  jazz and world music aficionados.

My New Jive was recorded in London with the Tim Richards Trio.  It was released simultaneously on CD and as a digital album on Apple’s iTunes Store.  Critics say Cindy’s passionate delivery, combined with her swing-bebop mix, has given classic American jazz standards a new raw, regal poignancy, and marketability.

Track Listing: A Little Quiet; Alice in Wonderland; Jive Samba; I Should Have Told You Goodbye (Daahoud); Lover Man; The Party’s Over; Love for Sale; Waltz for Debbie; Social Call; This Here; A Night in Tunisia / Caravan.

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

Scottish singer, songwriter Cindy Douglas (Courtesy: Photographer Alicia Bruce)

Scottish singer, songwriter Cindy Douglas (Courtesy: Photographer Alicia Bruce)

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

Into the Open with Danish Artist Sarah Elgeti

Posted June 8th, 2012 at 7:44 pm (UTC+0)
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Danish musician Sarah Elgeti

Danish musician Sarah Elgeti

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – Danish saxophonist, flutist, composer and bandleader Sarah Elgeti has made quite a splash in Europe with her new album, Into the Open. Her expressive, impressionistic music conjures up vivid images of beautiful scenery. Into the Open’s 11 original tracks showcase a variety of music styles from big band swing to bop to Avant-garde and modern funk.

Elgeti’s compositions contain a lot of different impressions. “I try to paint pictures for each song,” she explained in an interview with VOA’s Jazz Beat.  ”That’s also why there’s such a stylistic variety [on the album].”

Sarah Elgeti, who has led her own quintet since 2007, plays saxophone, flute, and clarinet. She tries to use the instrument she feels fit to paint her picture, she said. I talked with Sarah, a Holbaek Jazz Award winner, in 2008. I asked her to explain her picturesque music on this album.

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Into the Open, was previously released in Denmark and Germany, and is set for release in Britain next month. Sarah says she finds inspiration for her music in the extreme nature of Denmark. She included several photos in a booklet sold with her album, showing her in breathtaking landscape, in the rain, in stormy and cloudy weather, and reflecting her deep passion for nature and city life.

Sarah played the guitar when she was at a boarding school in Denmark, but at the age of 15, she was asked to play tenor saxophone for the school orchestra. “I said yes, I’d like to try that, and immediately I had this feeling that what I always wanted to do.” She then studied music and took classical education on the flute and the clarinet.

Danish musician Sarah Elgeti

Danish musician Sarah Elgeti at home

She adds that the music always makes her feel at home. “It’s a state of peace in mind. It brings me to write music and play music,” she said. “So, home can be a place you call home, but also a state of mind. And music is home for me.”

Tracks: Home; Bossa Among The Trees; Out In The Fields; Downstairs; Ringe I Vand (It’s Raining); But I Wish I Could; Trying To Forget; Blustering Waves; Clouds; Angelique; Night Moves.

Sarah Elgeti continues her European tour to promote her new album. In the meantime, she’s working on a new album that’s set for release next year.

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

Danish musician Sarah Elgeti

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

A Day and A Half with Berta Rojas and Paquito D’Rivera

Posted June 1st, 2012 at 10:08 pm (UTC+0)
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A new album by Berta Rojas and Patquito D'Rivera
A new album by Berta Rojas and Patquito D’Rivera

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – Guitar virtuoso Berta Rojas blends classical music with jazz and folk music from her native Paraguay. Performing duets with the 11-time Grammy winner Cuban-born saxophone great Paquito D’Rivera, Berta shows both prodigious technique and improvisational skills on South American classics included on a new album called Dia Y Medio or A Day and A Half.

“There are jewels of the Latin American music that are featured on this album,” said Rojas in an interview with VOA’s Jazz Beat. “Some of them are compositions by Agustin Barrios Mangore, one of the most important guitarists in Latin America.” Listen to the interview and a sample of songs from the new album (mp3).

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Some of the songs on Dia Y Medio mirror Berta’s nostalgia and deep passion for Paraguayan music, including “Recuerdos de Ypacarai” or “Memories of Ypacaraí.” Ypacaraí is a town on Lake Ypacarai in Central Paraguay. Her playing of classics such as “Las Abejas” (The Bees) in particular, reveals a deep affection for the music of legendary Barrios, and other Latin American artists like Argentina’s Miguel Mario Clavell, who incorporated Paraguay’s native rhythm of Guarania in his music.

“I have been a great admirer of Berta’s exquisite artistic ability for years,” said D’Rivera in a promotion on his Web site. “When this extraordinary guitarist invited me to join her on this project in honor of fellow countryman Mangoré, with a repertoire from the master himself, and from other renowned Latin American composers, I felt as if I were dreaming. I felt as if the great Charlie Christian had invited me to perform, and record all of Duke Ellington’s songs.”

For Rojas, Dia Y Medio was a great opportunity to showcase the recreations of Paraguayan compositions, many of which are considered “hidden jewels of Latin American music.” The opportunity to partner with D’Rivera “has been a privilege, as it has offered me a chance to pay tribute to the rich music of my homeland,” said Berta who teaches guitar music at George Washington University.

On Dia Y Medio, Rojas and D’Rivera show an eloquent interplay between a guitar and a saxophone. They both captivated the audiences when they toured Latin America in 2011 for concerts and performances.  The joint tour included a day and a half stop in Rojas’ homeland, Paraguay.  D’Rivera felt that the time was not enough to fully appreciate all the beauty of Paraguay, its panoramic views, cultural richness, the warmth of its people, and its music.  Therefore Dia Y Medio was born as a tribute album.

Among the 12-tracks are Folk music from Paraguay re-arranged by Berta Rojas and D’Rivera, who is one of the most beloved Latin artists in the world. Dia Y Medio also features instrumental compositions that offer a unique combination of Folk, Jazz, and the sounds of classical guitar. The style has gained her popularity not only in her native Paraguay, but also in many other countries in the Americas and in Europe.

In the 1990s, Berta became immensely popular in Paraguay. She was chosen to open the 1995 Summit of the First Ladies of the Americas in Paraguay, attended by then-U.S. First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“She [Clinton] gave a speech, it was a beautiful speech, and after her speech I had the pleasure to play three pieces for her along with 14 First Ladies,” said Berta who was called “guitarist extraordinaire” by the Washington Post in 1993.

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Berta studied guitar music at Escuela Universitaria de Musica in Uruguay. She holds a Master’s Degree with honors from the Peabody Conservatory, John Hopkins University in the United States, and she’s currently a Guitar Professor at George Washington University.

She’s performed in major cities around the world, including Washington, London, Dublin, Vienna, Bonn, Brussels, Rome, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Santiago, Montevideo, Salzburg, and Budapest. Berta will be traveling to Korea and other countries to perform and promote her latest album.

Some other albums by Berta Rojas include Terruno, Paraguay according to Agustin Barrios, Intimate Barrios, Concierto Latinoamericano, Almay Corazon, and Cielo Abierto.

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

Abdullah Ibrahim, ‘King of Jazz’ in South Africa

Posted May 26th, 2012 at 1:20 am (UTC+0)
2 comments

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – He is a jazz visionary and a piano master inspired by America’s legendary composer and pianist Duke Ellington. So, any other adjective I can add about the music of the gifted South African pianist, flutist, composer and bandleader Abdullah Ibrahim would be redundant. His inspiring music was one of the driving forces behind the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa.

South African pianist, composer and bandleader Abdullah Ibrahim

South African pianist, composer and bandleader Abdullah Ibrahim (Courtesy A. Ibrahim)

Ibrahim, also known as “Dollar Brand”, was a strong opponent of the apartheid regime. He was arrested several times, but before leaving South Africa for exile, he wrote and recorded his masterpiece: “Mannenberg”. The song became a stirring vamp and the anthem of the anti-apartheid movement following the Soweto uprising in June 1976.

His music inspired then-imprisoned African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela. All types of music were banned in jails, but a lawyer for Mandela managed to smuggle some of Ibrahim’s music inside the prison prison and played it in the control room.

“Judy smuggled in Mannenberg,” recalls Ibrahim in an interview with VOA’s Jazz Beat. “When President Mandela heard this song, he said liberation is near.” Listen the interview in full (mp3).

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Ibrahim wrote most of his music in the black township of Cape Town. “We realize what had happened is that we had captured the spirit and the mood of the nation at that time, and it was confirmation and affirmation of our cultural and political inheritance,” said Ibrahim who was with his band in a recording studio in Cape Town at the time of the Soweto uprising.

The movement later spread to all the cities and all the townships in South Africa. “And the public and the people picked up the song, and it was played and sung everywhere. And in some regards it has become almost like an unofficial national anthem of South Africa.”

Abdullah Ibrahim’s Albums

  • 1960: Jazz Epistle Verse 1
  • 1964: Duke Ellington presents The Dollar Brand Trio
  • 1965: The Dream
  • 1965: Anatomy of a South African Village
  • 1965: This is Dollar Brand
  • 1969: African Sketchbook
  • 1969: African Piano
  • 1973: Good News from Africa
  • 1973: African Space Program
  • 1974: Ancient Africa
  • 1974: African Breeze
  • 1975: Confluence
  • 1976: Banyana – Children of Africa
  • 1977: The Journey
  • 1977: Streams of Consciousness
  • 1977: Buddy Tate Meets Dollar Brand
  • 1978: Anthem for the New Nations
  • 1978: Autobiography
  • 1978: Soweto
  • 1979: Echoes from Africa
  • 1979: African Marketplace
  • 1979: Africa Tears and Laughter
  • 1980: Dollar Brand at Montreux
  • 1982: African Dawn
  • 1983: Ekaya
  • 1983: Zimbabwe
  • 1985: Water From an Ancient Well
  • 1986: South Africa
  • 1988: Mindif
  • 1989: Blues for a Hip King
  • 1989: African River
  • 1989: The Mountain
  • 1990: No Fear, No Die
  • 1991: Mantra Mode
  • 1993: xnysna Blue
  • 1994: African Sun
  • 1995: Yarona
  • 1997: Cape Town Flowers
  • 1999: African Suite
  • 2000: Cape Town Revisited
  • 2001: Ekapa Lodumo
  • 2002: African Magic
  • 2008: Senzo
  • 2009: Bombella
  • 2010: Sotho Blue (& Ekaya)

Ibrahim was born Adolph Johannes Brand on October 9, 1934 in Kensington, Cape Town, South Africa, under the brutal apartheid regime. His family was very religious. In the mid-1970s he converted to Islam and adopted a Muslim name. Much of his early training came from watching his mother and grandmother play piano and sing in the African Methodist Episcopalian Church’s choir in the black township. When he was six years old, his parents sent him to a local school teacher to learn how to read music notes.  He had an insatiable appetite for knowledge to the extent that he read all the books and magazines in the cultural section of Cape Town’s public library three times.

Ibrahim originally wanted to study medicine, but the white-minority rule denied him access to the medical school. So, he decided to become a musician, but he was denied entry to the Conservatory under the apartheid regime. When the political conditions became too oppressive, Ibrahim decided to join many other South Africans in exile abroad.

In Switzerland, he met American jazz legend Duke Ellington through a young South African jazz singer, Sathima Bea Benjamin, who later married Ibrahim.

“She [Sathima] was a young vocalist and somebody asked me if I could accompany her for a concert in Cape Town, which I agreed you know, pianist don’t like to play for vocalists,” said Ibrahim who He used to listen to Jazz on the Voice of America in the 1950s. He said he studied Ellington’s music, listened to it and played it. “When I arrived at the rehearsal studio there was this very beautiful lady… and I asked her what are you going to sing, she said ‘I got It Bad, I Got It Good” said Ibrahim who has more than 45 albums under his belt. “It was amazing because I was working on the song, the Ellington song myself. So, that created that bond even before we met Ellington.”

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“Wherever we are as musicians, jazz musicians or contemporary musicians there’s no way that you can escape Ellington or the influence of Ellington,” noted Abdullah Ibrahim who is affectionately referred to by many as Africa’s king of jazz.

“So, in South Africa we grew up with Ellington [music]. And for me as pianist and a composer, Ellington was and still is one the primary forces in music. He gave us guidelines and guidance, and for us Ellington was not just an American [musician], he was just a wise old man in the village,” said Ibrahim who also developed a good relationship with other American jazz legends, including saxophonist John Coltrane, drummers Elvin Jones and Art Blakey, and pianist Thelonious Monk.

In the late 1949s, Ibrahim began playing professionally in South Africa. He was a member of The Jazz Epistles, South Africa’s first bebop band. It was inspired by Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Later he joined a Cape Town-based big band called the Tuxedo Slickers.  “We used Tuxedo Junction as our signature tune,” said Ibrahim. “It was co-written by Erskine Hawkins… I visited his home in Birmingham, Alabama, to pay my respects.”  The Slickers also played songs by Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Count Basie, and Joe Liggins.

Ibrahim’s dedication to music encouraged him to establish the “M7″ academy for South African musicians in his birthplace, Cape Town. He also initiated and helped launch the 18-piece Cape Town Jazz Orchestra in 2006.  The genius of Ibrahim’s precise rhythmic sense and crisp finger work sometimes resemble that of the famed 19th century pianists in the field of impressionist music, like Gabriel Fauré and Claude Debussy from France, and the Polish Moritz Moszkowski, critics have said.  He has written the soundtracks for several movies, including the award-winning Chocolat and No Fear, No Die.

Ibrahim also appeared in the 2002 documentary Amandla!: A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony, highlighting the empowering role of music in the South African struggle against the brutal segregationist system of apartheid. In the movie, Ibrahim, Nelson Mandela and others described life under the white-minority rule in South Africa. He won the South African Music Award (SAMA) for Best Male Artist.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wH0R5mU7WQ

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

David Benoit’s Conversation Is Colorful

Posted May 18th, 2012 at 9:34 pm (UTC+0)
3 comments

Pianist and composer David Benoit

Pianist and composer David Benoit

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – American pianist, composer extraordinaire and conductor David Benoit is releasing a new album, a kind of musical conversation between two trios, a classical piano trio and a jazz trio. “Colorful” is just one of the words you can use to describe this Conversation.

The album showcases nine tracks recorded inside the legendary Steinway Hall in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, New York. Benoit is the first jazz musician ever to use the famous Hall in its more than 90-year history to record an album.  Steinway Hall is home to the highly-famed custom piano makers, Steinway & Sons.

David Benoit took some time off of his busy schedule in Los Angeles, California, to talk with me on Jazz Beat (mp3) about the ‘historic’ recording’s background, the album, and his music style. During the interview, you will listen exclusively to three songs in full from Benoit’s new album, Conversation. The CD is set for release on May 29 on Heads Up International Records, a division of Concord Music Group.

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Benoit started his outstanding career in jazz in 1977 with the release of his first album, Heavier Than Yesterday. In a matter of two decades, he became one of the United States’ most famous jazz music heavyweights.  With more than 25 best-selling solo albums; plus other piano and orchestral contributions, Benoit has been nominated for five Grammy Awards.

David Benoit has a great passion for world music, too, especially the exotic Brazilian and African beat rhythms. He wrote “Botswana Bossa Nova,”  a Brazilian bossa nova groovy style of music.

“I’ve always loved bossa nova music from day one, and I always like the feeling I get from listening to it,” he explained.

The song can be found on an 11-track album titled Earthglow. The title cut “Earthglow” was inspired by a stunning satellite photo of our planet earth sent to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The photo eventually became the album’s cover.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5igkv5_PMY

One of Benoit’s most popular works is the remake of the classic soundtrack of the Charlie Brown Christmas show.

“We had a blast doing it, it’s a great tour and it provides great memories for me,” he said in an interview with VOA’s Jazz Beat. “Every city we have a different children choir… we are going to do it again in 2013. This time I’m going to jump on the Dave Koz Christmas tours and take a little break from Charlie Brown but we’ll bring it back.”

The multi-talented performer has led such eminent orchestras as the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the symphonies of London, Nuremberg, San Francisco, Atlanta, San Antonio and San Jose. One of his major projects is being the music director for the Asian American Symphony Orchestra. He wrote the symphony piece “Native Californian” for his young orchestra, whose members’ children are aged from 11 to 18. The orchestra performs Benoit’s acclaimed symphonic piece “Kobe,” and his first piano concerto “The Centaur and the Sphinx” across the United States.

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Benoit has also performed and conducted with the iconic pianist Leonard Bernstein who is considered one of the most talented and successful musicians in American history.

Performing with Bernstein “was a great experience,” said Benoit who has been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the American Smooth Jazz Awards in Michigan City, Indiana in 2010. “I’m a Bernstein fanatic, he’s one of the great, may be the greatest musicians of the 20th century… what an incredible life experience and a thrill to have been able to have performed with him in Carnegie Hall.”

Some of the other symphonies conducted by David Benoit include Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony”. It was performed during his debut at Los Angeles’ Disney Hall. He has also written the score for several movies, including “The Stars Fell on Henrietta” produced by Clint Eastwood in 1995, and “The Christmas Tree” produced by Sally Field in 1996. His fame and popularity were behind his three performances at the White House for three U.S. Presidents: Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Sr., and Bill Clinton.

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

About

About Jazz Beat

Diaa BekheetCairo native Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows for the former Arabic Service such as Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

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