ROCCO JOHN QUARTET performing ROCCO’s composition ESCAPE from their new album.
ROCCO JOHN IACOVONE alto and soprano saxophones
RICH ROSENTHAL guitar
FRANÇOIS GRILLOT double-bass
TOM CABRERA drums
Three Super-Fine Discs from Matt Lavelle* and His Chosen Few/Many:
All CDs available at DOWNTOWN MUSIC GALLERY
MATT LAVELLE’S 12 HOUSES – Solidarity (Unseen Rain 9945; USA) In the past Matt Lavelle has worked mostly the solo, duo, trio and quartet contexts as far as being a leader. He has also been a member of several large units led by William Parker and Assif Tsahar. ‘Solidarity’ is Mr. Lavelle’s debut of his own large (16 piece) ensemble and you can tell how much work he put into this grand effort. 12 Houses was originally a 12 piece unit, inspired by the (12) signs of the zodiac. The group has played twelve concerts over the past few years and has expanded to sixteen members. Mr. Lavelle chose a few crew and you should recognize many of the names here: Ras Moshe, Anders Nilsson, Charles Waters and Ryan Sawyer, for starters.
The opening tune is the title piece and it is a grand intro, free yet completely focused with a burning tenor solo (Moshe?) and the powerful piano of Chris Forbes, another unsung local hero. There is a special central melody here which they repeat and slowly transform into something which picks you up and sweeps you away and erupts into an impressive explosion. The central theme continues to appear throughout, expanding and contracting and molded into different forms. A touching version led by the violin (Laura Ortman) and voice (Anais Maviel) is featured on “Knee Braces” and almost had me weeping due to its beauty. “Cherry Swing” is dedicated to the legendary trumpeter Don Cherry and features some of Mr. Lavelle’s most impressive playing. There are a couple of musicians here that I want to mention: the bassoon playing of Claire de Brunner and the voice of Anais Maviel. Both are marvelous and add some of their own special creative spirit to this already wonderful disc. Congratulations to Matt Lavelle for one of this year’s most modest and magical treasures! – Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
Complete personnel features: Matt Lavelle on cornet, flugelhorn, alto clarinet & conduction, Lee Odom on soprano sax & clarinet, Charles Waters on alto sax & clarinet, Ras Moshe on tenor & soprano sax & flute, Tim Stocker on bari sax & bass clarinet, Mary Cherney on flutes, Claire de Brunner on bassoon, Laura Ortman on violin, Gil Selinger on cello, Anders Nilsson on guitar, Jack DeSalvo on banjo & mandola, John Pietaro on vibes & percussion, Francois Grillot on double-bass, Ryan Sawyer on drums and Anais Maviel on voice. – Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
MATT LAVELLE / JOHN PIETARO – Harmolodic Monk (Unseen Rain; USA)
In the work of both Ornette Coleman and Thelonious Monk, the dichotomy of ancient, pre-western approaches and extreme modernism live side-by-side so comfortably that one mistakes one for the other. Like the story that Ornette told of performing in a psychiatric hospital; once he started playing and looked out into the audience he couldn’t distinguish between the doctors and the patients.
Bela Bartok believed that new music must have deep roots in folk music, music of the earth, chthonic in that sense. Besides virtuosity as servant to meaningful expression, communication and sensitive interplay, what Matt Lavelle and John Pietaro reveal to us through this many-layered concept of uncovering new secrets in Monk’s compositions via the Harmolodic highway is their profound understanding that the root of all this is the Blues.
Ornette’s view of the Blues, like his late friend Buckminster Fullers view of the world, is multi-dimensional, here imbued with both Monk’s and Ornette’s focus on personal expression. Matt and John provide an extended view into myriad musical possibilities when Harmolodic Monk is in the hands of two improvisational masters. (from the liner notes by Jack DeSalvo)
SUMARI [MATT LAVELLE/JACK DeSALVO/TOM CABRERA] – Sumari (Unseen Rain; USA) Sumari features Matt Lavelle on trumpets, cornet, flugelhorn & alto clarinet, Jack DeSalvo on guitar, cello & mandola and Tom Cabrera on dumbeq, rik, frame drums & percussion.
No doubt you know Downtown ace trumpet & alto clarinetist Matt Lavelle from dozens of recordings and sessions. Guitarist Jack DeSalvo you might recognize from his work Ronald Shannon Jackson, Herb Robertson and Chris Kelsey’s Electric Miles Project. Mr. DeSalvo produced this disc and runs the Unseen Rain Records label. Percussionist Tom Cabrera is a new name for me.
Stripped down, acoustic and warmly recorded, this is a fine, relaxed trio. Mr. DeSalvo starts off on cello, often plucking out bass lines as the trio quietly soars together. Mr. Lavelle has a solemn, enchanting tone on alto clarinet. The trio plays with somber grace taking their time and letting the ghosts slowly dance together, as if nothing else mattered. There is something precious, rather quaint going on here. A subtle elegance which is soothing, thoughtful, like a cool breeze rustling the leaves in the Fall. Towards the end, the trio does erupt, cast off their chains and dance quickly amongst the ruins of modern civilization. The ancient spirits are slowly being revealed. – Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
EMBRACE THE CHANGE – ROCCO JOHN QUARTET
ROCCO JOHN IACOVONE alto and soprano saxophones
RICH ROSENTHAL guitar
FRANÇOIS GRILLOT double-bass
TOM CABRERA drums
According to saxophonist and composer Rocco John Iacovone, “EMBRACE THE CHANGE is a thought, an idea, and a philosophy. It’s a comment on our evolution as human beings. It seems the only constant we experience is change and we constantly need to learn how to deal with it. To do this, we have to dig deep. These were the thoughts behind the compositions as I wrote them, and as we went into the studio.”
Rocco John Iacovone’s studies with the legendary Lee Konitz and Sam Rivers as well as studies in composition under the direct disciples of Nadia Boulanger gives him a wide swath of musicial influences that color each track of EMBRACE THE CHANGE. His stellar quartet gets deep into the leader’s music, designed to elicit unmitigated passion and creativity from Rich Rosenthal, François Grillot and Tom Cabrera.
Rocco describes each album track in the liner notes:
WINGS 7’21: A free bop piece to free up our thoughts.
CIRCUITS 8’08: However remote or even impossible it may seem, we are all connected.
ESCAPE 8’39: The traps are all set up, wherever we turn. We need to escape the traps and think
independently and creatively.
DIAL UP 8’00: This represents calling for assistance from the universe.
TANGO 9’52: The dance of life.
WHISPERS 4’32: While we all hear the loud voices telling us what to do and how to do it, we
really need to quiet down and listen to the whispers of our inner self.
72’s 10’56: Connection to the Endless.
Wings (Epilogue) 7:51: The Joy of it all.
All music by Rocco John Iacovone
Recorded March, 2015 and mixed at Urban Sound Studios, Riverdale, NJ by Todd Urban
Mastered at Beanstudio, Wayne, NJ by Jim DeSalvo
Cover painting by Denise Iacovone
Design by Qua’s Eye Graphix
Produced by Jack DeSalvo
Rocco John Iacovone Biography
Composer/Saxophones/Piano Rocco John Iacovone studied privately with Lee Konitz. He holds a BA and Master’s degree in Composition from Hunter College where he studied classical music under the direct disciples of Nadia Boulanger. To round out his education, he went on to study and perform under the direction of Sam Rivers’ Orchestral Explorations at the Studio Rivbea in NYC. Rocco has been actively involved in composing, performing, and teaching ever since.
Presently, in addition to composing and performing events with his arts group, The Coalition of Creative Artists (COCA), Rocco John plays regularly in NYC with the Rocco John Group. Most recently he has been active playing in groups other than his own. Rocco also has a recurring summer Jazz residency in Alaska playing original and straight-ahead jazz with his group “Rare Form”.
Rocco cut his teeth playing first Alto in Sam Rivers’ “Orchestral Explorations” at the Studio Rivbea during the “loft” years. He’s played with Karl Berger, Barry Atschul, the Jazz Composers Orchestra, Larry Grenadier and Phil Grenadier. His years of study with Lee Konitz, and training under Sam Rivers helped Rocco create a compositional and playing style that often reflects Lee’s emphasis on tasteful restraint combined with Sam’s sense of adventurous abstraction. Given his musical training, and classical influences, it is no surprise that Rocco’s music blurs the lines between “in” and “out” playing; creating a link between the two for the audience to follow. Audience participation is important to Rocco’s philosophy of sharing the universal aspect of music. He encourages his audience to be active listeners, and sometimes runs shows, through COCA, that encourage audience participation in multiple disciplines in a very tangible way.
In addition to performing and recording, Rocco is dedicated to the idea of strengthening the Jazz idiom by passing the music on to the next generation. To that end Rocco has spent many years as a Teaching Artist, teaching Jazz, Improvisation and Jazz History. Rocco frequently gives Jazz residencies with his band and has been the recipient of three Chamber Music America Residency Grants. Rocco does Jazz residencies and workshops all around the world.
Rocco has a number of CD’s as leader. They feature The Rocco John Group. The first one, “Miles To Go”, is a free approach to a collection of original and standard tunes. The second CD, “Don’t wait too Long…”is comprised entirely of original tunes by Rocco. Their third CD, also all originals, is called Devotion, and it is a dedication album to some of Rocco’s Jazz favorites. Like the others, has garnered critical acclaim. There are also four CD’s with RARE FORM. RARE FORM is Rocco’s duo with Murray Nash (composition/keyboard/bass), his collaborator in Alaska. The CD’s: “Live at the Fairview”, “Please Seat Yourself” and “Conversation in 3”are freewheeling interpretations of standards and originals. The fourth CD, “Lose Yer Blues” features original music by both artists.
Rocco has additional collaborative CDs with other groups., and is working on original music for his Octet, The Improvisational Composers Ensemble. Rocco started ICE as a platform for composers whose work features improvisation as a compositional element. He has played his original suites with ICE at Arlene’s, Piano’s and The Stone, and continues to write for this ensemble.
Rocco can often be heard in NYC and has recently played at Nu-Blu, Pianos, Arlene’s, Clemente Soto velez, Freddie’s, ABC No Rio, Shape Shifter Lounge, The Downtown Music gallery, Culture fix, Zirzamin, Goodbye Blue Monday and others. He can be heard most summers with Rare Form, in Talkeetna Alaska. For his schedule, go to www.roccojohnmusic.com.
Rich Rosenthal Biography
Guitarist/composer Rich Rosenthal has weathered a life of hard work, hard study, and hard knocks, and on the way developed a jazz-derived avant-garde style that places a premium on originality, spontaneity, and the intense expression of straight-forward emotion. Rich’s goal is, above all, to communicate on a profound level. In that quest, he draws from not only the obvious inspirations – great free jazz artists like Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor – but also from straight-ahead jazz guitarists like Tal Farlow and Pat Martino, as well as classical composers like J.S. Bach and Hector Villa Lobos. His is a vastly personal music that he hopes will allow listeners to, as he says, “transcend the mundane … take them to another place.”
Rosenthal was born in the Bronx N.Y., on Oct.15th 1964. His father, a WW II veteran, owned a dental lab and worked as a dental technician in a V.A. hospital. His mother worked in a school cafeteria. Neither parent was musical, but his father was a jazz lover. Rich grew-up hearing the sounds of Paul Desmond, Dave Brubeck, Ahmad Jamal, and Errol Garner around the house. An older brother introduced Rosenthal to the music of Carlos Santana, which inspired him to begin playing music. Rich’s parents bought the twelve-year-old a twenty-five-dollar acoustic guitar. He took lessons from a distant cousin, jazz guitarist Dave Moreno. Besides teaching him the basics, Moreno lent him recordings by great blues, jazz, and rock guitarists.
Moreno also imparted his love of jazz’s cutting edge, taking the aspiring guitarist to New York City performances by such eminent free jazz musicians as Coleman, Steve Lacy, Jimmy Lyons, Sun Ra, among many others. Rich was befriended by two associates of Taylor, Glen Spearman and Raphe Malik, who encouraged him to pursue his music.
When it came time to attend high school, Rich wanted to attend NYC’s prestigious High School of Music and Art. His parents were dead set against a career in music, however, so instead Rich attended a business-oriented high school. The effect was devastating. Depression led to drug and alcohol addiction. Still, he kept playing. His parents moved to Wappingers Falls, NY, where Rosenthal attended Roy C. Ketcham High School. He joined the school’s jazz ensemble and took guitar lessons from Poughkeepsie guitarist Dave Woods. He also studied with jazz guitarist Eddie Diehl.
After high school, Rosenthal joined the Steamfitters Union and stopped taking music lessons, though he managed to play on his own, with friends and at local jam sessions. Substance-abuse problems persisted, however, and he eventually stopped playing altogether. In 1991, after years in the wilderness, Rosenthal got clean. Dave Moreno was by that time living in Manhattan. Rich resumed lessons with his mentor. He studied mostly classical guitar with Moreno for two years, before deciding once and for all to concentrate on his own jazz-based music. To that end he studied with the composer Edgar Grana, and began attending college classes, first at Mercy College, where he studied with, among others, Ornette Coleman’s guitarist, Kenny Wessel. At the same time, he worked as a pipe-fitter for the MTA and played standard jazz gigs around Westchester County.
After a year at Mercy, Rich transferred to the New School Jazz and Contemporary Music Music Program. It was a stressful period, balancing a full-time day gig with the school’s strict requirements, but studies with the likes of Andrew Cyrille, Richard Boukas, Bruce Arnold, Kurk Nurock and Bill Kirchner made it worthwhile. An especially important aspect was the opportunity to have the school’s ensembles play his original compositions.
Rosenthal began playing with saxophonist/composer Joe Giardullo, who became a major influence on his work. They played free and developed arrangements of compositions by Thelonious Monk, Paul Motian, and Anthony Braxton, to name a few. Giardullo also introduced him to George Russell’s Lydian Chromatic Concept, as well as the compositional techniques of Wadada Leo Smith, and Giardullo’s own Gravity Music concept.
The 2000s saw Rosenthal’s music career gain momentum. In 2005 he recorded the critically-acclaimed album Red Morocco with Giardullo for RogueArt Records. A year later, he graduated from the New School with a B.F.A. in Jazz and Contemporary Music. In the last several years he’s gigged extensively – around his home base in the Hudson Valley with a band that included Giardullo, bassist Steve Rust, and drummer Harvey Sorgen, and in NYC with a trio featuring Giardullo and drummer Todd Capp. Rich has played NYC’s Knitting Factory and CB’s Gallery, as well as pianist David Arner’s “New Vanguard” series in Kingston N.Y. He has performed as a member of composer Sarah Weaver’s Soundpainting Orchestra at Roulette in NYC. Other collaborators have included bassists Mark Dresser, Michael Bisio, Lisle Ellis, and Dominic Duval; composer Pauline Oliveros; saxophonists Joe McPhee, Jim Finn, Elliott Levin, and Chris Kelsey; drummers Jackson Krall and Donald Robinson; and fellow guitarist Dom Minasi.
Rosenthal recorded Falling Up, his debut album as a leader, in 2012. The album features several original compositions, as well as original arrangements of tunes by Steve Lacy and Jimmy Lyons. His band on the album comprises his frequent confederate Giardullo, long-time friend, bassist Craig Nixon, and drummer Matt Crane. Commitment to a common cause is important to Rosenthal. “It was very important to me to have guys who were willing to rehearse the music until it was ready to record,” he says. “These guys were. They had my back.” Rosenthal’s current working band includes Nixon, saxophonist Chris Kelsey, and drummer Dean Sharp.
Summing up his philosophy, Rosenthal says, “What I strive for in my music is to let all my life experiences come out through the music. My personal struggles and triumphs. Music to me is not about doing fancy or tricky things on an instrument, but to make music that moves people.”
François Grillot Biography
Since François Grillot arrived from Paris in 1980, he has been a part of the story of jazz and improvised music in New York City.
Soon after acquiring his very first contrabass, he started playing around town. One of his first regular gigs was with guitarist Bill Bickford at the legendary Augie’s jazz club, which was an important proving ground for up-and-coming jazz artists.
While maintaining a busy schedule of performing around New York City, François devoted much time and energy to the study of his craft: he studied jazz harmony and writing at City College of NY, took lessons with Linda McKnight, and studied at the East Harlem Music School run by Johnny Colon. He also participated in workshops run by Barry Harris, Dave Holland and Jazz Mobile, among others.
Throughout the 90’s, François continued to develop his style and artistry, performing in a multitude of clubs and bars throughout New York City, working with Bill Bickford, Harold Danko, Mike Clark, Ken Hatfield, and many others.
In 1994, he met Matt Lavelle at the Rainy Daze Jam Session, which had a major impact on his musical direction. The two began a fruitful musical partnership that continues today. They began to rehearse regularly in François’ Hell’s Kitchen apartment (in the kitchen, coincidentally) and developed their own approach to playing standards that stretched the music nearly into free improvisation, but always came back to the theme. This process of rigorous, disciplined, yet soulful experimentation remains a salient characteristic of François’ working method and artistry.
François has collaborated with many of jazz’s most creative and distinguished practitioners: Albey Balgochian, Louie Belogenis, Charles Burnham, Daniel Carter, Roy Campbell, Will Connell, Robert Dick, Marc Edwards, Charles Gayle, Burton Greene, Lou Grassi, William Hooker, Jason Hwang, Jackson Krall, Klaus Kugel, Daniel Levin, Mat Maneri, Michael Marcus, Sabir Mateen, Dom Minasi, Anders Nilsson, Bern Nix, Kevin Norton, William Parker, Jay Rosen, Steve Swell, Michael T.A. Thompson, Michael Wimberly, and many others.
He performs in jazz clubs throughout New York City and beyond, including 55 Bar, Barbes, Bowery Poetry Club, The Knitting Factory, The Lenox Lounge, Zebulon, and, until they was closed down a few years ago, the historic venues CBGB’s and Tonic. François’ festival performances include repeat appearances at New York’s Vision Festival and Hell’s Kitchen Festival, The Montreal Jazz Festival, and throughout Europe, most recently at the Umea Jazz Festival in Sweden.
François, age 8, attended the local music school of Chatenoy-le- Royal, and played the cornet in it’s marching band. Then took guitar lessons with Alain Licandro, which lead to the electric bass, playing local bands., and starting to improvise and write. 1978, recorded and toured with Edition Speciale, of guitarist Mimi Lorenzini (RCA – Horizon Digital) 1979, recorded and toured with Mama Bea Tekielski (RCA – Le Chaos) 1980, was playing Ska in London with locals and came back to Burgundy to record with Drummer Serge Bringolf (Omega – Strave) Move to New York in late 1980 and has been living there since.
Tom Cabrera Biography
A Native of Long Island, NY, drummer and multi-percussionist Tom Cabrera began his career in local rock, folk-rock and country bands, but his love of jazz percolated and took over his music making. Early on both a musician and visual artist/painter, Tom was drawn into the world of graphic arts but music soon took over his life and he became a mainstay on the Hudson Valley NY scene.
Cabrera relocated to Orlando, FL, but not before acquiring a frame drum, an event that would prove auspicious to his future work. In Florida Tom gigged constantly, establishing himself as one of the most respected players on the jazz scene there. After meeting his future wife, singer Julie Lyon, they went on to form the Julie Lyon Quartet, a swinging ensemble and released their live album Between Then and Now.
Tom and Julie pulled up stakes, settled back up in the New York metropolitan area and assembled a quintet of remarkable musicians for their Unseen Rain Records release Julie (UR9957).
Tom Cabrera’s Unseen Rain recordings include Julie (UR9957) with the Julie Lyon Quintet, the trios Lion Hearted (UR9980) and Sumari (UR9962) and his duo with the JLQ’s guitarist Jack DeSalvo have released several albums, among them are Tales of Coming Home (UR9986), Libra Moon (UR9978) and Juniper (UR9966). Soon to be released is Rocco John Iacovone’s Embrace The Change (UR9947) featuring Tom Cabrera on drums and Julie Lyon’s next album is in the works.
In addition to being an incomparable jazz drummer, Cabrera is an adept world percussionist, often adding to the proceedings instruments from all over the planet, particularly the middle-east.