Whether Jazz, Hip-Hop or Electronic, trumpeter Jamie Breiwick rides the waves

Jazz artist Jamie Breiwick’s voice and vision have steadily grown, like rippling concentric circles, since he first caught the attention of fellow musicians, critics, and the public. The wind of his trumpet blowing plays a factor, but the wavelike depths arose from his extraordinary knowledge and honoring of the modern jazz tradition, while finding places in contemporary pop vernaculars for his voice, and realizing the wellsprings of his own creative identity.

That analogy seems apt as his seminal inspiration was Miles Davis, who shaped the tides of jazz time for decades, with an uncanny, lyrical and impressionistic sensibility, even as funky as he could get. “I had a Miles t-shirt in high school that I wore constantly,” Breiwick recalls. “The breadth of music he made is really staggering, whether bebop, free, rock, fusion, electronic, experimental, pop, hip-hop. He really blazed a lot of trails and left us with a lifetime of inspiration.”

Right now, Breiwick ranks among the four or five most important jazz musicians in Wisconsin and, among them, the youngest one on a still-rising arc of creative possibility. His prolific recorded output includes with De La Buena, and the influential 25-year band Clamnation. The pandemic threw many artists askew, but Breiwick pressed full-speed ahead, with voluminous recording and releasing on his own B-Side Recordings label.

The group KASE: Jamie Breiwick, trumpet and electronics; John Christensen, bass; knowsthetime, turntables and electronics. 

Breiwick’s graphic design talents sped this output. He creates all his own album covers (and those of others) with an imaginative but clean, post-1960s Blue Note Records compositional style. He just published a book of his jazz cover designs concurrently with an emblematic album, KASE + Klassik Live at the Opera House. His jazz-hip-hop-electronics trio, with bassist John Christensen and turntablist Jordan Lee, joined Klassik, perhaps the region’s most musically gifted improv hip-hop singer-song maker, who also plays keyboards and saxophone. KASE logically expands Breiwick’s creative ripples into exploring “sonic landscapes” – Miles ahead, atmospheric, wonder-inducing.

The cassette cover of “KASE + Klassik Live at the Opera House,” designed by Jamie Breiwick. Courtesy B-Side Graphics

Breiwick’s recorded and group projects have probed ground-breaking jazzers, including Davis, Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, and world-music traveler Don Cherry. He’s also played and recorded transcribed Davis solos for two Hal Leonard play-along books, among six various he’s recorded.  He values innovative contemporaries like Jason Moran, Ambrose Akinmusire and Nicholas Payton, “an incredible trumpet player and musical conceptualist,” and “a thought leader and outspoken BAM (Black American Music) advocate.” He also teaches music at Prairie School, near Racine. How good is Breiwick teaching music? In 2013, he was nominated for the first-ever Grammy Music Educator Award, selected as one of 200 semi-finalists among over 30,000 nominees.

The cover of The Jewel: Live at the Dead Poet.

Shortly before the pandemic, Breiwick recorded The Jewel: Live at the Dead Poet, a New York trio recording on the leading independent label Ropeadope, with internationally acclaimed drummer-bandleader Matt Wilson, thus extending his national modern-jazz bona fides.

Breiwick plays a live date (here and in photo at top) with renowned drummer Matt Wilson and bassist John Tate.

Breiwick leaves popular success largely to his evolution and artistic authenticity.

“I think it is all in the delivery – people can tell if you are sincere or not. I try to create music and art that I would like myself and try not to be too corny or contrived, while at the same time recognizing my influences. What did Coltrane say? ‘You can play a shoestring if you are sincere,’ I think that is perfect.”

But he knows jazz musicians always need help in America’s capitalist society. Today they can increasingly help each other with online resources. In 2010, Breiwick co-founded Milwaukee Jazz Vision, an online organization that promotes jazz and its community in the Milwaukee area.

His visual-designer talents suggest deeper creative destinations. “It is a similar path of discovery. Visual art and music relate in so many ways – texture, structure, organization, color, tone. Five or six of my favorite designers are also musicians. There’s some sort of elemental connection between the two disciplines…Miles Davis was an incredible painter. Jean-Michel Basquiat deeply loved music and often used musical imagery or references such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie in his works.”

Perhaps his most daring recent recording is Solve for X, duets with a longtime collaborator. Guitarist-synthesist Jay Mollerskov took samples of Breiwick’s own trumpet solos, to create sonic counterpoints and textural backdrops for Breiwick to play against. It works like a musical mosaic – outward refracting, rather than narcissistic. That’s because Breiwick knows of whence he came, as a trumpeter and creator.

“I’m inspired by a lot of things, all sorts of music, visual art, architecture, history, stories, traveling,” he says. “I am just trying to better find out who I am, and ultimately just trying to keep moving forward.”

“Like (trumpeter) Clark Terry said, ‘Emulate, assimilate, innovate.’”

So, Breiwick’s self-discovery proceeds. As to forward progress, only time, his seemingly ever-expanding wave, will tell.

_________________

This article was originally published in slightly shorter form in the May 2022 print magazine edition of The Shepherd Express, available free at many locations around Milwaukee County.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

World-renowned jazz pianist Lynne Arriale comes home with a new album celebrating social and political heroes

Lynne Arriale has traveled a long ways since she left her hometown of Milwaukee. When she returns to Wisconsin for concerts in Madison and Milwaukee, it will be as a brilliantly mature pianist and composer whose music has grown and evolved into something profoundly attuned to social and political conditions of our time.

The Lynne Arriale Trio, with John Christensen on bass and Mitch Shiner on drums, will perform Saturday, April 2 at Café CODA, 1224 Williamson St., in Madison, at 7 and 9 p.m. Tickets are $25 per show. For information, visit https://cafecoda.club/.

Then, the trio performs in Milwaukee on Sunday, April 3 at The Jazz Estate, 2423 N. Murray Ave., at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20-$27. For information, visit https://jazzestate.com/.

Finally, Arriale will perform a master class on Monday, April 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. at The Helen Bader Recital Hall, of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, 1584 N Prospect Ave, Milwaukee. The class is free and open to the public.  For more information, visit https://www.wcmusic.org/concerts-events/master-class-series/  or https://fb.me/e/2k1sFSB4C

Always a fabulous musician, since winning the 1993 international great American jazz piano competition, she has come to realize the confluence of art and life, for its better and worse.

But before addressing her mature artistry further, I’ll suggest it’s probably too easy for those from a musician’s hometown to always think of her as “our musical daughter,” and never realize the scope of the artist’s accomplishments and acclaim. Jazz Police’s declaration of her as “the Poet Laureate of her generation” may sound a tad high-falutin’ for hometown folk. Yet, in a still culturally under-recognized city, we might take pride in a native’s success where we can get it. Arriale’s growth derives from her talent and drive, and the vast reach of her world-wide touring, recording and educating experience, accompanied by consistent acclaim.

Her full biography is rather dizzying. Awards and jazz chart-topping among her previous 15 albums aside, one of Arriale’s most distinctive honors was to be the only woman among a gaggle of ten all-star pianists in a tour of Japan titled “100 Golden Fingers,” which included Tommy Flanagan, Hank Jones, Cedar Walton, Kenny Barron, Harold Mabern, Monty Alexander, Roger Kellaway, Junior Mance and Ray Bryant.  It’s doubtful that a larger aggregate of distinguished mainstream jazz piano masters has ever toured together. Her musical collaborators include Randy Brecker, George Mraz, Benny Golson, Rufus Reid, Larry Coryell, and Marian McPartland.

Nor has it been all about Arriale the artist; this comparably dedicated educator was the first woman accorded a cover story for the magazine JazzEd. She has conducted master classes and clinics internationally throughout the US, UK, Europe, Canada, Brazil and South Africa. She’s also Professor of Jazz Studies and Director of Small Ensembles at The University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

Nevertheless, as much as any pianist of her generation, Arriale has dedicated herself to the distinctive art form of the jazz piano trio, as the late Bill Evans and company came to define it. As demonstrated in her new album The Lights Are Always On, she continues developing her synchronistic relationship with bassist Jasper Somsen, and drummer E.J. Strickland, one of my favorite percussionists of his generation. Yet, like most dedicated touring professional jazz musicians not named Keith Jarrett, she’s also an ace at working with local trio mates, as she’ll do in Wisconsin.

None of which, is to say that, on her own, she’s averse to sometimes enhancing the purity of the trio form. This was evident in stunning fashion in her magnificent previous album Chimes of Freedom. As I wrote at the time, “The title song, by Bob Dylan, and Paul Simon’s ‘American Song,’ both sung by K.J. Denhert, tenderly render portraits of humanity.”

Lynne Arriale. Courtesy JazzTimes

Arriale’s finely attuned and powerful playing and arrangements eloquently expanded upon the implications of those verses by two of our nation’s supreme songwriters.  Arriale increasingly reached musical and expressive inroads into the essence of the American experience, in all of its joy and suffering, celebration and loss.

Her new album furthers that quest, while asserting her own vision by composing all the music. The Lights Are Always On is a suite of compositions that reflect the world-wide, life-changing events of the past two years. Several of the pieces nominally honor heroes around the world, including “those who served as caregivers on the front lines of the COVID pandemic and as defenders of democracy,” amid the crisis of the last five years, and the Jan. 6 Capitol mob insurrection.

In the liner notes, Arriale explains the pointed and poignant meaning behind the title tune:

“This collection was inspired by the doctor and all front-line health care workers,” she says. “For me, Dr. (Prakash) Gada, (an esophageal and robotic surgeon in Tacoma, Washington) crystallized the workers’ sense of mission during
this extraordinarily challenging time. He said, ‘Here I am back at work after
COVID…I fled Kuwait after the invasion. No matter what happens, no one works
at home. The lights are always on. Babies are being born; bones are being set.
This hospital, this profession…we are in a league of our own; we’ll take care of you,
I promise. I stand next to the most fearless people I have ever seen.’ ”

The title tune coveys care and tenderness in Arriale’s delicate yet forthright phrasing and, as the piece develops into rising phrases and searching tonalities, a measure of dedication and courage, and the “better angels of our nature,” which she still believes in.  The tune is brief, as in a dedication.

The album opener “March On,” evokes dogged determination in a steady sequence of  minor Tyner-esque chording, as in the steady, tireless dedication of protest marchers for justice in America and worldwide. “notably in the 2017 Women’s March on Washington and those marching to protest the murder of George Floyd.” writes album annotator Lawrence Abrams.

Similarly spirited, “Sisters” is a feel-good, gospel-tinged aria for the advancement of women’s rights and equality, an anthemic statement of full-throated chords, octaves, and shining linear pronouncements, all riding Strickland’s groove-splashing cymbals.

Honor” alludes to Col. Alexander Vindman’s extraordinary courage and righteousness as a witness addressing the impeachment hearings “regarding Donald Trump’s scheme to withhold congressionally approved foreign aid to Ukraine, and thereby extort from that country a sham investigation of Trump’s rivals,” Abrams writes.

Somson’s bass solo seems to evoke the National Security expert’s very personal dedication to his father, who led him to emigrate from Russia forty years ago. Vindman’s story is all the more pointed amid the current Russian attack on Ukraine, after Trump’s weird “bromance” with Vladimir Putin. We know too, that Vindman was fired by Trump for his honesty.

Here and throughout the album, Arriale’s soloing is concise and emotionally to the point, as a performing composer, never lapsing into mere virtuosic display.

“Into the Breach” addresses the Capitol Police who braved the Jan. 6 mob trying to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s presidency win. Arriale doesn’t try to dramatically evoke the chaos, rather again focusing on the heroes, and the sense of dedicated bravery. Her chords and phrases halfway through reach into the upper register, suggesting rising blood pressure and stress. Again, a bass solo allows for thoughtful breathing room, while sustaining the urgency. “Into the Breach” conveys a grave almost Zen-like serenity, which may engender such courage, in the face of overwhelming danger.

The album also features “The Notorious RBG,” a dedication to the pioneering Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Especially memorable is the penultimate tune “Walk in My Shoes,” dedicated to the late Rep. John Lewis. The fairly chromatic dissonance of the chording conveys a masculine righteousness, steely passion and dignity — the essence of the spirit of this bloodied demonstrator in the Civil Rights era in the racist South, followed by a distinguished career as an eloquent firebrand for justice in Congress. I even like the way the tune fades out at the end, as if, even in Lewis’ passing, his spirit may come back, around the bend someday, in some form.

 

 

Music is alive (thank the good gods), and now LIVE again, in person, waiting for y’all

Breese Stevens Field in Madison. Courtesy breesestevens.com

Thanks to the swift development, distribution and receiving of Covid vaccines by a majority of adults in Milwaukee and Dane Counties, the dangerous coast is clearing for live music. You remember that — real musicians, breathing and blowing, singing and burning, with inspiration, melody, rhythm and beauty. Audiences responding.

Yes, Summerfest will be back, but not until September. Far before that, one of the most notable big outdoor concert events will be the Madison Jazz Festival, running June 11 to 20, at various locations.

The following link to a festival announcement article provides the details, from Isthmus, the Madison weekly newspaper that hosted and sponsored the event for many years, as the Isthmus Jazz Festival :https://isthmus.com/events/nate-smith-greg-ward/

Madison, however, has a well-organized jazz scene that bucks the tides of pure commercialism to survive and “thrive,” at least by jazz and creative-music terms. The longtime Madison Music Collective remains integral to making this a citywide event, as does a younger organization, the innovative Art + Lit Lab, also hosting and presenting, notably an ongoing Dig Jazz series that, as the pandemic wanes, will go live again. Outdoor concerts will take place in various neighborhoods around Madison.

So your very block, or around the corner, temporarily may become a ‘hood in the best sense — hip, rhythmically alive, and attuned the the lifeblood of urban American musics.

The Madison Jazz Festival’s headline event will feature Grammy-nominated drummer-composer-bandleader Nate Smith + Kin Folk, along with saxophonist Greg Ward’s Rogue Parade, performing at Breese Stevens Field, 917 E. Mifflin Street, on East Washington Avenue, at 6 p.m. Sunday, June 13. Admission to this concert is $30.

Drummer-composer -bandleader Nate Smith + Kin Folk will headline the Madison Jazz Festival on June 13. Courtesy Peter van Breukelen/Redferns via Getty Images

Saxophonist Greg Ward leads his Rogue Parade at Breese Stevens Field on June 13. Courtesy comarcalcv.com

Smith owns an impressive resume, having worked with the Dave Holland Quintet, Pat Metheny, Chris Potter, José James, John Patitucci, Ravi Coltrane, and Brittany Howard (of Alabama Shakes), among many others. As a bandleader, his style is surprisingly lyrical and sometimes contemplative — for a drummer — with alluring vocals by Amma Whatt. It’s a natural bill match for alto saxist Ward, whose outfit is a bit more bracing, with a double-guitar front line, but also quite melodic.

Ward’s album Stomping Off from Greenwood was among this critic’s choices for top ten jazz albums in the 2019 NPR Jazz Critics Poll. Smith’s already twice-Grammy-nominated debut album, KINFOLK: Postcards from Everywhere, should be a poll contender this year.

Other festival performers include the brilliant Chicago trumpeter-composer Marquis Hill, (with The Donna Woodall Group) June 19 at the Wisconsin Union Terrace; vocalist Sarah M. Greer, June 18 in a live-streamed concert at the Stoughton Opera House;  jazz and world-music saxophonist Arun Luthra, June 15 at Robinia Courtyard; and the powerful young Chicago saxophonist-composer Isaiah Collier and the Chosen Few, June 12 at Cafe Coda; which will also host the legendary multi-instrumentalist-composer and co-founder of the Art Ensemble of Chicago (and former Madison resident), Roscoe Mitchell, on June 20. Also on that bill is the Douglas Ewart Ensemble, like Mitchell a seminal member of Chicago’s internationally-influential AACM. Mitchell is one of the most visionary and innovative musicians of post-1960s creative music.

Isaiah Collier and The Chosen Few will play June 12 at Cafe Coda as part of the Madison Jazz Festival

Local favorites will include the Acoplados Latin ProjectMama Digdown’s Brass Band, vocalists Donna Woodall and Gerri DiMaggio, and many more. In addition to concerts, the Festival will feature a public virtual master class by renowned bassist and UW-Madison Jazz Studies Professor Peter Dominguez, a livestreamed presentation by Ricardo Gonzalez and Nick Moran on the Camaguey Jazz project, and more. For more details on the various events, visit this site: https://artlitlab.org/programs/greater-madison-jazz/madison-jazz-festival

***

If you don’t get to Madison for the start of the festival (as I won’t, alas) you can still get a fresh dose of live music this Saturday, June 12 in Milwaukee: the fast-rising jazz-hip-hop-soul band KASE, will perform at 7 p.m. live at Saint Kate Arts Hotel, 139 E. Kilbourne, in downtown Milwaukee. The band — which often features acclaimed Milwaukee singer-songwriter-keyboardist-saxophonist Kellen “Klassik” Abston — has a penchant for building intoxicatingly sinuous grooves (what they call “improvised sonic explorations”) with Klassik riding atop, on any manner of vocals or rap, sometimes evoking classic soul singers like Marvin Gaye, thus his name. Both Klassik and Breiwick are skilled musical conceptualizers, so this daring stylistic synthesis can expand to precipitous boundaries while maintaining atmospheric buoyance, afloat even over the edge.

(However, Klassik is not “officially” scheduled to perform with KASE Saturday.)

Jazz-hip-hop ensemble KASE, was formed by trumpeter Jamie Breiwick (L-R, above) with Madison bassist John Christensen, and DJ/turntablist knowsthetime. The band frequently features singer-rapper Klassik (below). KASE will perform live Saturday at Saint Kate Arts Hotel. Courtesy OnMilwaukee.com Above photo by Brian Mir

Klassik. Courtesy J-S Online

Another Milwaukee option for Saturday (June 12) is The Anthony Deutsch Trio at 8 p.m. at Bar Centro, 804 E. Center St. in Riverwest. 

Deutsch who plays piano and sings, joined by Minneapolis bassist Billy Peterson and the superb percussionist Devin Drobka. Deutsch is a quirkily ingenious pianist with lyrical undertones of Fred Hersch, and a warmly cavernous singing voice on jazz standards and mystical-nature folk-jazz originals.

Both KASE and The Deutsch Trio have also performed at the Madison inDIGenous series, now called DIG JAZZ. 

The Anthony Deutsch Trio. Courtesy badgerherald.com

___________

 

Father Sky is soulful music to your ears and to the earth

father sky foto

Singer-composer-pianist Anthony Deutsch on the cover of his debut album. Photo by Danielle Simone Charles

Father Sky – Father Sky (self-released)

A capacity crowd recently at bucolic Villa Terrace for his debut CD-release celebration and Father Sky itself are testament. Young Milwaukee pianist-singer-composer Anthony Deutsch has old-soul wisdom and gifts for speaking to people about matters of the heart, and of the mind/body disconnect that often separates us from our deepest nature and from Nature.

Lloyd_Smith_House_Milw_May09

Milwaukee’s bucolic Villa Terrace overlooking Lake Michigan, was Anthony Deutsch’s choice of location recently to perform his nature-oriented music, “Father Sky.” Photo by Kevin Hansen.

His bluesy melodicism recalls the deceptively spare alt-jazz tunesmithing of The Bad Plus’ Ethan Iverson, a thread strengthened by Father Sky bassist John Christiansen and drummer Devin Drobka.  But Deutsch loves Nina Simone. His singing follows her forlorn, loamy eloquence – her world-weary persistence and faith. To me, Deutsch’s style also mirrors the exquisite jazz singer-pianist Andy Bey – the naked willingness to reveal male vulnerability.

Still, Deutsch’s folky, Father Sky-meets-Mother Earth sensibility tends to personal ecological vision, like someone picking pieces of grimy dust out of a spider’s web. Deutsch croons artfully but, unlike Bey, he’s a tall, large person, so his spacious baritone sometimes projects like a wolf howling at the moon. He leans a lot on the sustain pedal for sweet wisps, but the piano also pirouettes in sun-lit atmospherics. And “Soon, My Love” has a funky kick Gil Scott-Heron would dig. “Gonna Find Home” yearns for a home that’s everywhere, like the holy land Lakota Black Elk spoke of. There’s musical and spiritual substance here (he shows harmonic chops playing standards live). This beguilingly wayward talent might just take you away, home.

Lloyd_Smith_House_Milw_May09

A slightly shorter version of this review was published by Shepherd Express.