Criss Cross Jazz new release April 2024

New release April 2024Read the web version
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Criss Cross Jazz new release April 2024

Here is the new Criss Cross Jazz release for April 2024, which will be released on April 26. All details can be found on the website:
Cover Gregory Groover Jr. -
Lovabye - Criss 1419
Gregory Groover Jr. - Lovabye

Gregory Groover’s Criss Cross debut, recorded on the Boston born-and-bred tenor saxophonist’s thirtieth birthday, is a tour de force. Joined by a bespoke sextet of his favorite players: Joel Ross, Matthew Stevens, Aaron Parks, Vicente Archer and Marcus Gilmore, all New York-based, Groover presents a recital of 11 original tone-parallels to family and friends, his intentions anticipated, illuminated and fulfilled by his gifted bandmates. Lovabye follows Groover’s formidable first full-length album.

During the lockdown, Groover had generated a group of “love songs and songs of people I love.” In spring 2023, he brought this music to Walter Smith III, who Groover had idolized as a teenager, and is now his friend and colleague at Berklee School of Music, their mutual alma mater, where Groover serves as Assistant Chair of the Ensemble Department. “I told Walter I’d like to play with some of my other heroes and peers,” Groover recalls. “He said, ‘What’s stopping you? The music is there.’ Luckily for me, everyone who I wanted to record with was available and happy to do it.”

“Greg’s composing supports how he plays,” Smith says. “He’s a thematic musician, whose playing very much relates to the song. He plays with a lot of energy, and he leads with that. The heart is the most important thing – the direction and motion of what he plays is where he really feels.

The album was recorded August 16, 2023 at GSI Studios in New York City, and edited, mixed and mastered by Mike Marciano at Systems Two.

Criss Cross Jazz 1419 CD
Cover Michael Thomas. - The Illusion Of
Choice - Criss 1418
Michael Thomas - The Illusion Of Choice

“This was a dream band to write for and play with,” alto saxophonist Michael Thomas says of Manuel Valera, Matt Brewer and Obed Calvaire, his A-list rhythm section on Illusion of Choice, his Criss Cross debut, and fourth leader album. “These musicians can play any style and sound like it’s the only thing they play. I wanted to explore these different areas and cohere them into an album, not sound like tunes stuck together for a CD. Everything was on the table. I wasn’t afraid to develop whatever ideas I came up with, and see where they went."

Although Illusion of Choice features an assembled-for-the-occasion ensemble rather than the working bands documented on his earlier albums, Michael Thomas, 36, considers it "the strongest thing I’ve done so far.” During the four months preceding the September 2023 recording session, Thomas generated eight originals tailored to the tonal personalities of his protean collaborators. They live up to the leader’s ballyhoo, nailing the shifting meters and intervallic challenges of his high-degree-of-difficulty pieces with panache and creative spirit.

“I try to give people enough to understand and absorb, but not so much as to make them wonder what’s going on,” Thomas says. “Particularly with respect to melodies, I’m trying to write tunes that don’t just sound nice, but facilitate playing and improvising as I want.” He adds that, although he plays multiple reeds and woodwinds, the alto saxophone is his creative home. “Alto is where I feel most comfortable, have the most control of my sound, and can express myself most easily.”

The album was recorded September 14, 2023 at the Samurai Hotel Recording Studio in Astoria by recording engineer Mike Marciano. He also did the editing, mixing and mastering at Systems Two.

Criss Cross Jazz 1418 CD
Cover Lage Lund - Most Peculiar
- Criss 1412
Lage Lund - Most Peculiar

The back story for Lage Lund’s sixth Criss Cross recording dates to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, in the spring of 2020. Lund – a native of Skien, Norway who’d lived in the U.S. since 1995 – had just returned to his homeland with his wife and two daughters, then 5 and 7 years old. With school on hiatus, the family had to improvise an at-home curriculum.

“My wife and I – mainly my wife – made it up on the fly,” Lund recalls three years later via Zoom. “One day the theme was learning about elephants, another day it was ‘Ancient Egypt’ or the ‘Stone Age’ or ‘Trees’ or ‘Horses’ – completely random.” In conjunction with these lessons, Lund established a daily ritual whereby he spent an hour or so writing a tune based on the theme du jour, another hour to 90 minutes recording it, and another two hours creating and editing a one-minute video – the better to fit within Instagram guidelines – from public domain GIFs. Over the course of five or six weeks, Lund created a playlist of 36 videos, which he uploaded to YouTube.

“It was a mental health project,” Lund says. “With touring gone and no one to play with, I wanted to give myself a task and feel at the end of the day I’d done something tangible – I didn’t have this song this morning, and now here it is. To pull it off, I dealt with short forms, mostly AABA structure, between 8 and 16 bars. Also, for the first time since my early twenties, I had an abundance of time to practice, which allowed me to delve into things – voice leading experiments, for example – that weren’t necessarily oriented towards getting ready for the next gig, the next tour, the next recording, but which interest me for the long term. It was a bit like going to an artist retreat or residency.”

Fast forward to the fall of 2021: Lund was back in the saddle, primarily working with saxophonist Melissa Aldana, whose 2022 Blue Note release '12 Stars' he co-wrote and produced. Soon thereafter, Criss Cross owner Jerry Teekens called to ascertain his interest in making another album. For Lund, 45 when the Most Peculiar session transpired in June 2022, the offer was an opportunity to reunite with a band he launched in 2014. Pianist Sullivan Fortner (35) and drummer Tyshawn Sorey (41), both among the most gifted practitioners ever to improvise on their respective instruments, contributed their unique mojo to Lund’s 2019 Criss Cross release, Terrible Animals (Criss 1402). Virtuoso bassist Matt Brewer (39), played on Lund’s first leader date (Romantic Latino for Ladies, on a Japanese label) in 2006, had Lund play guitar on his own Criss Cross debut Mythology (Criss 1373), and recently played on a Lund trio covers recital (with Sorey) for another label, including four songs by Andrew Hill.

The album was recorded June 17, 2022 at the Samurai Hotel Recording Studio in Astoria by recording engineer Mike Marciano. He also did the editing, mixing and mastering at Systems Two.

Criss Cross Jazz 1412 CD
Cover Jim Rotondi - Over Here
Jim Rotondi - Over Here

By titling his eighth Criss Cross album Over Here, trumpeter Jim Rotondi picks up on the sentiments he signified with The Move (Criss 1323), his seventh for the label. “It doesn’t necessarily mean moving somewhere else, but rather returning home, playing tunes with a lot of straight-ahead swing and interesting chord sequences with guys I’m comfortable with,” Rotondi stated in the liner notes I wrote for that kinetic 2009 recital.

That’s an effective description of what transpires on Rotondi’s latest swinging affair. But although he wasn’t misdirecting, he wasn’t telling the whole story. As it turned out, The Move indeed foreshadowed Rotondi’s decision in 2010 to leave New York for Austria for a position as Professor of Trumpet at the University of Graz. As indicated by the current title (which references George M. Cohan’s 1917 flagwaver “Over There” and Rotondi’s father’s service in Europe during World War 2), Rotondi is ensconced on the Continent thirteen years later, augmenting pedagogical responsibilities with several trips a year to New York and other U.S. waystations, and also touring the jazz clubs of central Europe, Italy, France, Spain and the U.K.

In fact, Over Here stems from a ten-day sojourn by a band of four New York-trained masters that opened with a jazz cellar gig in the Viennese suburb Bruck an der Leitha, proceeded to Neuberg, Germany, doubled back to Vienna’s prestigious Porgy and Bess club, continued with a drive to tenor saxophone maestro Piero Odorici’s club in Bologna, and then transitioned to Udine for the recording session.

The tour gestated from Rotondi’s desire to create a European group with tenor saxophonist Rick Margitza, based in Paris since 2003, as his front line counterpart, and pianist Danny Grissett, a five-time Criss Cross leader who’s resided in Vienna since January 2013. “I’ve known Rick virtually since I moved to New York in 1987,” the 60-year-old master recalls. “We’ve played many sessions together, but never a gig, and I thought it was time for us to do something."

Criss Cross Jazz 1417 CD
Cover Manuel Valera - Vessel
Manuel Valera - Vessel

Manuel Valera advises his students at New York University to write music every day. “I tell them that composition is essentially another instrument – the more you practice, the better you get at it,” says the 42-year-old piano master, who, by his count, has generated some 200 recorded pieces since he entered the fray in the early aughts.

Vessel, Valera’s second album for Criss Cross, showcases eight recent works, each “honoring a different person who’s influenced my music.” Valera made it in January 2023, nine years after presenting another eight originals on In Motion (Criss 1372) which featured a slamming iteration of his New Cuban Express ensemble, whose eponymous first CD had earned a 2013 Grammy nomination for “Best Latin Jazz Album.” The pieces on that straight-eighth oriented session mixed elements from various Afro-Cuban dialects with postbop, fusion jazz, funk and R&B, incorporating intricate beat modulation, odd meters, and intriguing ensemble color.

On In Motion, as on most of his 16 albums since 2004, Valera established the compositions as “the complete framework for the improvisations – although the solos, of course, are also important.” But here, as indicated by the title, Valera diverges, constructing pieces that are “vessels for improvising, like they wrote them on the old Blue Note records. You play the tune, you blow over the tune, then you play the tune again – the improvisation is as important as the composition. A lot is going on, but there’s still that connection to the older tunes – and a couple sound like they could have been from way back.”

Criss Cross Jazz 1416 CD
Cover David Hazeltine Trio -
Blues For Gerry
David Hazeltine - Blues For Gerry

Pianist David Hazeltine has a history with Criss Cross. To be specific, between 1995 and 2010, Gerry Teekens, the label’s founder, presented eight albums on which Hazeltine led trios, quartets and quintets featuring his impeccable, individualistic pianism, original compositions and arrangements; another five with the cooperative all-star sextet One For All (tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, trombonist Steve Davis, trumpeter Jim Rotondi, bassists Peter Washington or John Webber, and drummer Joe Farnsworth), whose grooving, harmonically acute charts bear his stamp; and another 17 as a sideman with the aforementioned luminaries, trumpeter Brian Lynch, alto saxophonist Jim Snidero, and other high-level jazzfolk who now hold pride of place in the hardcore jazz ecosystem.

Hazeltine returns to the fold with Blues For Gerry, his first Criss Cross leader date since Inversions (2010, Criss 1326), a lovely quintet date that included Alexander and vibraphonist Steve Nelson. Recorded in a single six-hour session on December 1, 2022, it’s his third state of the art trio recital for Criss Cross with modern masters Peter Washington and Joe Farnsworth, following the equally accomplished Perambulation (2005, Criss 1276) and Close To You (2003, Criss 1247).

“Gerry Senior liked those albums, and his son Jerry Teekens, Jr. asked me if I’d put together that same trio,” Hazeltine said in March, a day after returning from a 20-day tour of primarily one-nighters in Europe with drummer Bernd Reiter and bassist Aldo Zunino. “I have fond memories of working for Gerry. He was a pretty hands-off producer, and let me do what I wanted. His one request was always, ‘there’s got to be a blues; it’s not swinging if there’s no blues.’ So I wrote Blues for Gerry.”

Criss Cross Jazz 1415 CD
Cover Alex Sipiagin Quintet -
Mel's Vision
Alex Sipiagin - Mel's Vision

Since he emigrated to the United States from Russia in 1991, Alex Sipiagin has earned an exalted international reputation as a no-technical-limits improvisor, sustaining a gorgeous sound throughout the trumpet’s registral range, navigating harmonic and rhythmic complexity with precision, passion, and abiding lyricism. Most of Sipiagin’s 12 previous albums for Criss Cross also showcase his contrapuntal, harmonically comprehensive compositions, full of interesting melodic twists and turns. On them, he projects the same voice that he improvises with but written out for more instruments.

For his 13th Criss Cross date, Mel’s Vision, the 55-year-old master – joined by A-listers tenor saxophonist Chris Potter, pianist David Kikoski,, bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Johnathan Blake – contributes two wonderful originials. But Alex addresses the session primarily as an opportunity to focus on interpreting music by others – a song by Potter, a Ukrainian folk song and four rarely covered gems from the jazz canon.

The project gestated after the 2016 release of Moments Captured (Criss 1395), when Criss Cross founder Gerry Teekens suggested that Sipiagin record a standards album. Before a contract could be executed, Teekens passed away in 2019. When his son, Jerry Teekens, Jr, reestablished the label, Sipiagin recorded Swing On This (Criss 1406), the fifth Criss Cross date by Opus 5, the cooperative quintet in which he interacts with tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake, pianist David Kikoski, bassist Boris Kozlov, and drummer Donald Edwards, all Criss Cross leaders and alumni of the Mingus Big Band. He took advantage of that occasion to remind Teekens fils of the standards project, and received a go-ahead.

Criss Cross Jazz 1414 CD
LP cover Mike Moreno - Standards from
film - Criss 1410
LP cover Mike Moreno - Standards from
film - Criss 1410
Mike Moreno - Standards From Film
Like a well – wrought character in a Hollywood movie, Standards From Film, guitarist Mike Moreno’s fourth Criss Cross album, exists atop a solid, cogent back story. Recorded in December 2021, when the world and New York City – Houston-born Moreno’s home for more than two decades – were no longer on COVID lockdown, it documents the leader’s exhaustive investigations into the provenance of ten iconic standards that, as he puts it, “are the summer jazz workshop tunes” – they say you have to learn these songs if you want to be a jazz musician. You learn them very young or in the beginning days of your journey into this music.

The Standards From Film album was released on CD (Criss 1410) in October 2022.

Since August 18, 2023 the album is also available as a 2-LP set on 180 grams black vinyl with gatefold cover, as part of the Criss Cross Jazz vinyl (re-)release plan.

Joined by a rhythm section of generational contemporaries, each at the top of the jazz pyramid, (Sullivan Fortner, piano; Matt Brewer, bass; Obed Calvaire, drums) Moreno deploys a variety of attacks and tonalities to create dynamic tension in lyric declamations that he delivers with his signature plush, resonant tone, sublime articulation, and harmonic intelligence.

Criss Cross Jazz 1410 LP
LP cover Lage Lund - Terrible
Animals - Criss 1402
LP cover Lage Lund - Terrible
Animals - Criss 1402
Lage Lund - Terrible Animals

Terrible Animals is perhaps the most compositionally ambitious and daringly performed of Lage Lund's five albums on Criss Cross Jazz. The Terrible Animals album was released on CD (Criss 1402) in February 2019.

Since July 14, 2023 the album is also available as a 2-LP set on 180 grams black vinyl with gatefold cover, as part of the Criss Cross Jazz vinyl (re-)release plan.

Joined by a never-before-convened, top-of-the-pyramid rhythm section (Sullivan Fortner, piano; Larry Grenadier, bass; Tyshawn Sorey, drums) the 39-year-old presents ten far-flung originals that elicit the full measure of their creativity over the 68-minute program, spurring Lund -- who makes ingenious use of effects within his flow -- to some of his most dynamic and varied playing on record.

The album was recorded on April 27, 2018 at the Systems Two Studio in New York. Recording engineer Mike Marciano also did the editing, mixing and mastering at Systems Two. He also did the vinyl mastering for this 2LP issue. The cover drawing on this gatefold 2LP set was made by Robbin Veldman.

Criss Cross Jazz 1402 LP