Category Archives: Reviews

Album reviews of Unseen Rain and friends of Unseen Rain albums and articles re: UR artists.


By Dee Dee McNeil,


Unseen Rain Records

Rocco John Iacovone, alto & soprano saxophone/piano; Ras Moshe Burnett, bells/tenor saxophone/flute; Sana Nagano, violin; Michael Lytle, bass clarinet; Rich Rosenthal, guitar; Phil Sirois, bass; John Pietaro, percussion; Dalius Naujo, drums.

I was eager to review this piece of art, mainly because of the CD title. I, myself, always answer my phone, “Peace and love” and it’s really my life mantra. Like Rocco John Iacovone, I recognize we need people to reflect and embrace more peace and love on earth. Consequently, I was eager to experience music that boasted an inspiration for the goodness of love and peace in three musical Suites. The first reflects the “Aurora Borealis”; the second is composed in consideration of “Evolution” and the last Suite is titled, “What If the Moon Were Made Out of Jazz?”

Rocco John Iacovone has long been a major influence in New York’s improvisatory musician’s community. As a student of Sam Rivers and Lee Konitz, his alto and soprano saxophone talents reflect Avant Garde inspiration. He founded the Improvisational Composers Ensemble (ICE) as an outlet for music specific to featuring improv as a major compositional element. “Peace and Love” is his fourth album as a leader and composer. His ensemble generously reflects the premise of freedom and creativity. They band together to compliment his original music, with ample time given each musician to express themselves within each suite. This recording was made “Live” inside “the Stone” (John Zorn’s place) to a standing-room-only audience. It is dedicated to the memory of Will Connell, who had encouraged Rocco’s residency and ultimate recording venture, but passed away November 19, 2014, before he could witness the dream come to fruition. Connell received a CAPS grant for orchestral composition and as a copyist/arranger/sideman, Will Connell worked for musicians ranging from Stevie Wonder and Roberta Flack to Horace Tapscott, Sam Rivers, Elton John, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

Rocco said, “Will used to sign his emails, “Peas and Lub”. So this CD, ‘Peace and Love,’ is dedicated with much love to the spirit of Will Connell.”



Wings / Escape / Circuits / Dial Up / Tango / Whispers / 72’s / Wings (Epilogue). 67:54.

Rocco John Iacovone (as, ss), Rich Rosenthal (g), Francois Grillot (b), Tom Cabrera (d). March 2015, Riverdale, NJ.

What’s not to like about a fine quartet of superb but under-appreciated players working that sweet spot between post-bop and the outside? The date opens up with a nice tasty drum spotlight, followed by the leader’s fulsome alto lines, both fleet and tart. In time, they cede the spotlight to the excellent Grillot and Rosenthal, whose clean tone and buzzing lines I really dug, not least because they make for an excellent contrast with Iacovone throughout. Some vigorous, bustling post-bop ensues on the exuberant “Escape,” whose loping unisons move through a nice series of overlapping lines, bobbing up and back, with slight intensities welling up here and there. The further one gets in listening to this group, it’s not too unlike one of Joe Morris/Rob Brown’s more inside dates, at least in terms of the compositional/structural approach; the actual instrumental languages differ, as is obvious on the stair-stepping “Circuits,” where Rosenthal’s nimble, inventive playing brings some serious energy. He and Iacovone romp on the funky, shuffling “Dial Up” and are equally impressive on the abstract, balladic “Tango” (which only hints at its musical inspiration). “Whispers” meanders just a bit to my ears, though it’s certainly filled with nimble playing and excellent instrumental interaction – perhaps just not enough thematic meat for what these guys are trying to accomplish. Things are very much back on track with “72s,” where the fabulous work from Grillot and Cabrera sets up some of the record’s finest improvising from the leader and the guitarist. Closed out by a nice, mid-tempo second version of “Wings,” it’s a strong date overall.

Jason Bivins – Cadence


                                                                                                                                                        MATT LAVELLE’S 12 HOUSES,

“Solidarity” has a massive singsong sound that serves as the backdrop to a furious tenor solo by Ras Moshe Burnett and a keening cello and flute duet. “Brooklyn Mountain” starts out as a slow, writhing mass before Burnett and pianist Chris Forbes
break out for a wriggling excursion into Cecil Taylor country. “Knee Braces” has a warmer, more low-key swarming sound allowing Laura Ortman space for a searing violin feature and “Cherry Swing” gets a nice funky groove underway with the leader’s buzzing cornet and Anais Maviel’s voice out front. “Moonflower Interlude” is a short bassoon solo that leads into the closing “Faith”, a slow and attractive theme that features Maviel leading the band and Forbes crashing piano chords like McCoy Tyner. It eventually turns into a bluesy dance led by piano, banjo and handclaps that could be the soundtrack to Sun Ra’s Arkestra going into one of their high stepping
gospellish promenades. Matt Lavelle’s compositions don’t rely on intricate melody like several other large scale modern bandleaders but his musicians can blow furiously and he can put together attractive spaces for them to do their things. – Jerome Wilson, Cadence

Solidarity / Brooklyn Mountain / Knee Braces / Cherry

Swing / Moonflower Interlude / Faith.
Lavelle, cnt, flgh, a cl, cond; Lee Odom, ss, cl; Charles
Waters, as, cl;; Ras Moshe Burnett, ss, ts, fl, bells; Tim
Stocker, bari s, b cl; Mary Cherney, fl, pic; Claire de
Brunner, bsn; Chris Forbes, p; Laura Ortman, vln; Gil
Salinger, clo; Anders Nillson, g; Jack DeSalvo, bjo,
mandola; John Pietaro, vib, perc; François Grillot, b; Ryan
Sawyer, d; Anais Maviel, vcl. 11/14, Brooklyn, NY.



Born in Paterson, New Jersey, in 1970, previously alongside William Parker and being responsible for the rebirth of a genuine original, Giuseppi Logan, a few years ago , Matt Lavelle directs the 12 Houses, an important work, recorded in November 2014, featuring an ensemble of sixteen elements expressing, in the first instance, a vaguely Mingus-like approach (all Lavelle compositions) staring with a rather excited and consequential tenor sax solo. Soon after, however, comes an exquisite chamber interlude with flute/vibes/arco bass that disrupts the our initial expectations.

It goes something like this for the entire disk, including crescendo and decrescendo, a new tenor solo on which the orchestral is vehemently grafted intermittently (Brooklyn Mountain), then the voice, though cooking on quite a different temperature, is articulate and full of purpose  (Knee Braces). This is reiterated by the excellent violin solo that follows and lies on flexible yet calibrated orchestral strokes.

The director  Lavelle becomes the main actor in “Cherry Swing,” followed by banjo spice, an important element throughout the entire album, and bassoon, in short, which is quite unusual during “Moonflower Interlude,” and then piano, in the much larger “Faith” that seals (not without some fleeting academics) the move toward a happy closing.

Track Listing: Solidarity; Brooklyn Mountain; Knee Braces; Cherry Swing; Moonflower Interlude; Faith.

Personnel: Matt Lavelle: cornet, flugelhorn soprano, alto clarinet, run; Lee Odom: soprano sax, clarinet; Charles Waters: alto sax, clarinet; Ras Moshe Burnett: saxophone (tenor and soprano), flute, bells; Tim Stocker: saxophone (baritone), bass clarinet; Mary Cherney: flute, piccolo; Claire de Brunner: bassoon; Laura Ortman: violin; Gil Selinger: cello; Anders Nilsson: Guitar; Jack DeSalvo: banjo, mandola; Chris Forbes: piano; John Pietaro: vibraphone, percussion; François Grillot: bass; Ryan Sawyer: drums; Anaïs Maviel: voice.

Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Unseen Rain Records | Style: Modern Jazz







My first reaction when considering Time Remembered: The Music of Bill Evans (Unseenrain – 9960) by trombonist PAT HALL was what is there in the music of Evans that would inspire a trombonist to enlist an organ trio comprising Greg “Organ Monk” Lewis on Hammond organ, Marvin Sewell on guitar and Mike Campenni on drums to explore these tunes?  Well, spending a bit over an hour listening to the album showed me that music associated with an iconic jazz player like Evans can be interpreted by good musicians with their own perspectives, and with interesting, satisfying results.  The choice of Lewis is logical as he has released three albums of music by or associated with Thelonious Monk using his organ-based group, re-conceiving the material, much as Hall has done with the Evans songs.  The program includes four selections composed by Evans, “Waltz for Debbie,” “Know What I Mean,” “Time Remembered” and “Peri’s Scope.”  There are two songs by close associates of Evans, “Gloria’s Step” by bassist Scott LaFaro, and An Evans favorite, “Elsa” by Earl Zindars.  Also included is another song often addressed by Evans, “Spring Is Here.”  Hall is a superb improviser with technique to spare.  The Lewis trio is not typical, being much more modern in conception than most organ-based units.  All of this makes for a fascinating engagement with the Evans oeuvre.

– Joe Lang, Jersey Jazz







Contemporary Fusion Reviews SUMARI

Review: Matt Lavelle Jack DeSalvo Tom Cabrera – Sumari


Matt Lavelle, Jack DeSalvo, Tom Cabrera – SUMARI:  If you are a fan of great improvised & fusion-oriented music, you won’t find a better recorded session than this one from June, 2015.  I’ve been reviewing these folks for many, many years now, and most strongly recommend that you lock yourself up in your sound chamber, stoke up whatever it is that “gets you in the mood”, & listen to the full hour set with your headphones on.  Songs like the marvelously intricate “The Nature of Mass Events“, though only clocking in a 2:45, are a perfect introduction to the creativity of this trio (Matt playing trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn, pocket trumpet and clarinet; Jack doing mandola, cello and guitars; and Tom on bodhran, tar, riqq, doumbak and bass drum), but the true intricacy of their performance is best heard on longer pieces (9:54) like “Scientific Cults and Private Paranoias“!

If you’re just a “regular” listener, you probably wouldn’t be here reading this anyway, but if so, prepare yourself for one of the most exciting introductions to free-style jazz you’ll ever be privileged to listen to.  As you listen to the opener, “Seth Dance”, you’ll realize that this isn’t (at all) just another “noodling” session… professional recording and tasty improvised sounds from each of the players… this is my favorite track of the seven (rather long) creations offered up for your listening pleasure, no doubt… totally accessible, even for the novice in the improvised arena.  I give this trio a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of a (perfect) 5.00… meaning that they also get my “PICK” for “best improvised jazz”.  Get more information at the Unseen Records label page for this release. (& be sure to tell them you read about them here).          Rotcod Zzaj


“…you can trust in the capable hands of DeSalvo and Minasi to deliver a captivating performance.” Paul Acquaro reviews SOLDANO DIECI ANNI

Screenshot 2016-09-03 19.43.41



Jack DeSalvo & Dom Minasi – Soldano Dieci Anni (Unseen Rain, 2016) ****

By Paul Acquaro

Oh, acoustic guitar duo, how my heart beats for thee! DeSalvo and Minasi are a great pair on Soldano Dieci Anni, both performing on either unamplified archtop guitar or acoustic (classical and steel string) guitar. They split the responsibilities, supporting each other, and creating space for stretching out, sometimes freely, and other times within well-defined chord structures.

Starting with the ‘Bee and the Fly’, a free and playful number that never loses steam, the pair moves from jabs of chords, to frenetic runs, to lush arpeggios, all without losing a beat – or rather it would be more appropriate to say – never losing the pulse. The tight number ‘Angela’ is a lovely mid-tempo ballad, buoyant and easy-breathing, with crisp solos from both (the vocals caught by the ambient recording are a tiny bit distracting, but also endearing).

Even at their most out, you can trust in the capable hands of DeSalvo and Minasi to deliver a captivating performance.

See original article at the FREE JAZZ COLLECTIVE Here





“..some of the nicest acoustic duets since side two of McLaughlin’s My Goals Beyond.” Grego reviews Dom Minasi and Jack DeSalvo – Soldano Dieci Anni

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Dom Minasi, Jack DeSalvo, Soldano Dieci Anni


A two-guitar duet album with Dom Minasi and Jack DeSalvo? I was not sure what that would be until I put it on. Soldano Dieci Anni (Unseen Rain) is a hugely beautiful surprise. The both of them brought their acoustic-electrics, archtops, flattops and Jack a nylon string guitar. They let loose with some nicely done free numbers then proceeded to tackle their originals.

Fact is, Dom and Jack hit it off from the beginning. Their ability to swing and come up with great lines is heightened when the two play off against one another. The ravishing harmonies of the originals combine with inspired note choices for some of the nicest acoustic duets since side two of McLaughlin’s My Goals Beyond. 

They show deep roots, great subtlety, advanced interactions and the kind of spontaneity that an album like this demands.

Hats off to Dom and Jack! Bravo!

“…lots of fire and ideas.” Grego Reviews ROCCO JOHN’S EMBRACE THE CHANGE

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Altoist Rocco John is a fixture on the New York scene, keeping the new thing free flames stoked with his own brand of avant jazz. He records more infrequently than I would like, but then that makes his new releases all the more welcome.

His latest, Embrace the Change (Unseen Rain 9947), features a cohesive and compatible quartet of Rocco John on alto and soprano, Rich Rosenthal on electric guitar, Francois Grillot on contrabass and Tom Cabrera on drums. Rocco John provides the originals, attractive springboards for the often collective improvisations that make good tracks into the horizon.

Rocco John sounds quite limber and full of spontaneous musicality. So too Rich makes creative paths that go well with what Rocco John is doing. Francois Grillot is, as always, the complete bassist, whether walking or making horn-like statements. And Tom Cabrera swings and frees it all up well depending on what is needed.

It is an album that stays in the avant mode with lots of fire and ideas. It’s well worth hearing, another notch in the Rocco musical belt. Recommended!

“…a commanding debut for his 12 Houses group.” Audiophile Audition reviews Matt Lavelle’s 12 Houses – Solidarity

CD Review:

Matt Lavelle’s 12 Houses – Solidarity – Unseen RainUR9945.Solidarity Front

Big band free jazz is more than discordant noise.

Matt Lavelle’s 12 Houses – Solidarity [TrackList follows] – Unseen Rain UR-9945, 48:52 [5/6/16] ****:

(Matt Lavelle – cornet, Flugelhorn, alto clarinet, conductor; Lee Odom – soprano sax, clarinet; Charles Waters – alto sax, clarinet; Ras Moshe Burnett – soprano sax, tenor sax, flute, bells; Tim Stocker – baritone sax, bass clarinet; Mary Cherney – flute, piccolo; Claire de Brunner – bassoon; Chris Forbes – piano; Laura Ortman – violin; Gil Selinger – cello; Anders Nillson – guitar; Jack DeSalvo – banjo, mandola; John Pietaro – vibraphone, percussion; François Grillot – doublebass; Ryan Sawyer – drums; Anaïs Maviel – voice)

Matt Lavelle likes to use the fullest spectrum of instruments as possible. The multi-horns player (cornet, Flugelhorn and alto clarinet) includes 16 musicians on Solidarity, his debut as the leader/conductor of 12 Houses. Lavelle also penned the six originals. Instead of pursuing a typical jazz big band or large ensemble approach, Lavelle focuses on sweeping improvising, with cues provided by his compositional writing. In other words, while there are moments of melodic, lyrical and harmonic construction, there are many more where instrumentalists apply elements of free jazz or open soloing.

Lavelle’s preliminary plan was to employ 12 musicians, embodying the 12 zodiacal signs. But he felt he could further supplement his music, so the group enlarged, and the opportunities for a range of sounds widened. This broad technique is heard on the 12-minute title track opener. Massed horns (clarinet, Flugelhorn, saxes, flute, bassoon and piccolo) are balanced alongside piano, a strings unit, guitar, vibes, bass and drums. Different players enter and leave during the lengthy tune, so sometimes the horns drop out, or the rhythm section is spotlighted. Throughout, there are striking touches from the horns, strings and rhythm instruments, which span from bright to dissonant. There is close to a constant sense of eddying as the band progresses from slow to a quicker pacing, and various solo or smaller instrument groupings create distinct portions among the greater whole.

One of the standouts is the nine-minute “Cherry Swing,” a tribute to the late Don Cherry, who initially came to prominence with Ornette Coleman but whose perceptions on improvisation came to the fore on his solo releases. “Cherry Swing,” Lavelle says, “represents the absolute core of my personal philosophy that free jazz never abandoned everything that made jazz what it is. Free jazz, set jazz free to be itself. Everything that makes jazz what it is, and why it’s so great, is even more important to strive for in free jazz.” Lavelle is upfront on cornet, emulating and echoing Cherry’s manner and musical viewpoint, while bass and drums craft a swinging foundation. Vibes are lower in the mix, inserting coloring to the percussive perspective. Banjo appears as well when Jack DeSalvo solos. For the most part, “Cherry Swing” is not a bigger-band setting, although the horns come in toward the conclusion to supply a discordant ending. Another memorable piece is “Knee Braces,” which indicates Lavelle’s issues with knee problems. The nearly ten-minute “Knee Braces” has a melancholy, almost dark nature exemplified by the reflective introduction. The arrangement becomes truly haunting when violinist Laura Ortman takes over, with extended dim tones which are at times reiterated by Gil Selinger’s cello. Ortman shapes a tender emotional magnetism throughout “Knee Braces,” even when other strings and the horns are occasionally utilized.

Minimalism is supported on the brief, 2:51“Moonflower Interlude,” a solo spot for bassoonist Claire de Brunner. Lavelle states, this “is a song sung by a secret society of little white flowers that only bloom in the moonlight.” The most poignant piece is the 9:33 “Faith,” dedicated to Lavelle’s mother, who miraculously survived three brain surgeries before passing away (webmaster’s note: Matt’s mom is very alive presently) Chris Forbes’ introductory piano sets the mood, which sways from peaceful remembrance to a hymn-like invocation accentuated by hand-clapping, Anaïs Maviel’s non-verbal voice, and DeSalvo’s banjo; and from frictional improvising to lyrical asides. Everyone in the ensemble contributes to build up a celebratory responsiveness. Forbes’ gentle solo piano adds the finishing sensitivity. “Faith” is a fully-formed sketch of a deeply-loved personality, and comprises the many feelings one has when thinking about an individual’s life. On Solidarity, Lavelle’s ambition to incorporate composition and improvisation, to stay true to his central philosophy, and to balance melodicism with free jazz has resulted in a commanding debut for his 12 Houses group.

TrackList: Solidarity; Brooklyn Mountain; Knee Braces; Cherry Swing; Moonflower Interlude; Faith.

—Doug Simpson

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All About Jazz Reviews 12 HOUSES – SOLIDARITY

Matt Lavelle’s 12 Houses: SolidarityUR9945.Solidarity Front

Alberto Bazzurro By ALBERTO BAZZURRO

Born in Paterson, New Jersey, in 1970, having played alongside William Parker and and being responsible for the reintroduction of the inimitable Giuseppi Logan a few years ago, Matt Lavelle directs this valuable work, recorded in November 2014, an ensemble of sixteen elements denoting, in the first instance, a vaguely mingus-like approach (with all Lavelle themes) beginning with a rather excitedly flowing tenor sax solo. Soon after, however, comes an exquisite chamber interlude of flute/vibes/arco bass  that disrupts our initial expectations.

It goes something like this for the entire disk, including crescendo and decrescendo, a new tenor solo vehemently grafted on the intermittent orchestral body (“Brooklyn Mountain”), then the voice, though producing quite different temperatures, purpose and articulation ( “Knee Braces”), reiterated by the excellent violin solo that followed, laying on plastic and calibrated orchestral strokes.

The receiver Lavelle is thenthe main protagonist in “Cherry Swing,” followed by spicy banjo,which is evidentNot negligible throughout the entire album, and bassoon, which, in short, is quite unusual in “Moonflower Interlude,” and then piano, with traces of classicism, in the much larger “Faith” that seals the work in the sign of a happy closing tension, .

Track Listing: Solidarity; Brooklyn Mountain; Knee Braces; Cherry Swing; Moonflower Interlude; Faith.
Personnel: Matt Lavelle: cornet, flugelhorn soprano, alto clarinet, run; Lee Odom: soprano sax, clarinet; Charles Waters: alto sax, clarinet; Ras Moshe Burnette: saxophone (tenor and soprano), flute, bells; Tim Stocker: saxophone (baritone), bass clarinet; Mary Cherney: flute, piccolo; Claire de Brunner: bassoon; Laura Ortman: violin; Gil Selinger: cello; Anders Nilsson: Guitar; Jack DeSalvo: banjo, mandola; Chris Forbes: piano; John Pietaro: vibraphone, percussion; François Grillot: bass; Ryan Sawyer: Battery; Anaïs Maviel: voice.

Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Unseen Rain Records | Style: Modern Jazz

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“…letting the music go where it must. ” Doug Simpson Reviews ROCCO JOHN QT’s EMBRACE THE CHANGE

unnamedRocco John Quartet – Embrace the Change – Unseen Rain  by Audiophile Audition/ July 11, 2016/ Jazz CD Reviews

New York City quartet which promotes changes, all sorts of changes.

Rocco John Quartet – Embrace the Change [TrackList follows] – Unseen Rain UR-9947, 67:49 [5/6/16] ****:

(Rocco John Iacovone – alto and soprano saxophone; Rich Rosenthal – guitar; François Grillot – double bass; Tom Cabrera – drums)

Alto and soprano saxophonist Rocco John Iacovone and his quartet make accessible avant-garde and free jazz; or rather the musicians produce free-ranging material that is challenging but which is not too demanding to enjoy. There is an engaging openness to the eight lengthy tracks on this 68-minute release, Embrace the Change. There’s a continual development throughout Iacovone’s originals, a sense that listeners might not know where they’re going to next, but will appreciate the shifts and curves along the way. Rocco John (he shortens his name for his album projects) explains the underlying concept for his latest recording, “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 studied with Lee Konitz and Sam Rivers, and learned composition from Nadia Boulanger; that education and his many years as an active member of the NYC jazz community has honed his abilities as performer and writer; and as collaborator and leader. All of Rocco John’s skills and talent fuse on this creative outpouring, where he is joined by other New York artists: guitarist Rich Rosenthal (who operates his own ensemble and has credits which include Mark Dresser, Joe McPhee and Dom Minasi); double bassist François Grillot (who also runs his own band and has worked with Jason Hwang, Daniel Levin and others) and drummer Tom Cabrera (who co-founded the Julie Lyon Quartet with his wife; and has recorded with other Unseen Rain label mates).

The foursome commences with the free-bop “Wings,” a 7:18 piece which defies easy expectations. The mutable harmonics, for example, mirror those often associated with Ornette Coleman (principally his 1970s or 1980s LPs), while Rocco John’s sometimes bleating horn honors John Coltrane. While it would have been simple to go overboard, the quartet maintains a defiant, but in no way overzealous, confidence in letting the music go where it must. The eight-minute “Circuits” envelops the notion that all people are connected, no matter a person’s racial background, religious history or political orientation. “Circuits” has a pronounced pace and nuanced progression, highlighted by Rosenthal and Iacovone’s twinned sax and guitar; Cabrera’s subtle brushes on cymbals; and Grillot’s bass lines. During this track, Grillot deftly brings to mind Dave Holland, due to Grillot’s superlatively understated rhythmic changes. The proceedings get more restless and edgy on “Escape,” where the quartet employs a tumbling tempo and head to liberating territory with intense but never extreme solos. Rocco John clarifies the tune is about the “need to escape the traps and think independently and creatively.”

Spirituality and belief is the focus of “Dial Up.” Iacovone discloses the eight-minute number “represents calling for assistance from the universe.” While the title implies an older conveyance of communication, “Dial Up” is modern creative music with an ear to the present, past and future all at once. Rosenthal’s lighter tone settles his guitar back a bit in the mix, while Rocco John’s sax is upfront and spotlighted throughout. Cabrera and Grillot sustain an advanced rhythmic approach which furnishes an off-kilter mannerism which befits this ever-moving composition. Another tune which links individuals to the cosmos is the longest piece, called “72s,” which Iacovone simply states, is a “connection to the Endless.” This track affords plenty of space and room for crisscrossed musical patterns which blend free jazz, post-bop, open improvisation and more, fashioning the album’s most comprehensive and multifaceted tune. One notable spot is a middle section where Rosenthal takes a fluid solo accentuated by Grillot’s beautiful arco bass. The Rocco John Quartet conclude as they begin, with an alternate rendering of the opening track, the 7:51 “Wings (Epilogue).” While this version is different from the first one, it shares the same attitude of nonconformity and inventiveness. Embrace the Change may be a smidge discordant or jarring at times, but it’s not harsh or rasping, and everything about the band’s methodology contributes to the perception that this is music that is intentionally open-minded and celebratory, but determinedly not strident or piercing.

TrackList: Wings; Escape; Circuits; Dial Up; Tango; Whispers; 72s; Wings (Epilogue).

—Doug Simpson





Recommended: Rocco John Quartet – “Embrace the Change”

Rocco John – "Embrace the Change"There’s an appealing looseness to this session from  saxophonist Rocco John Iacovone, guitarist Rich Rosenthal, double bassist Francois Grillot and drummer Tom Cabrera.  Of particular interest is the way the guitar darts between the slowly drawled saxophone lines… which becomes more compelling when bass and drums send out bursts of rhythm that frame the sense of motion within.  Some tracks, like opener “Wings,” attain a head of steam and don’t relent, but then there’s tracks like “Escape,” where the quartet uses a casual tempo as the foundation on which to let loose with hyperactive solos.  This isn’t pretty music.  Embrace the Change is rough around the edges and everything about the delivery gives the impression that it’s not just intentional, but celebrated.  And it probably should be, because that decision gives the music its character.  Good stuff, and from a label (Unseen Rain) that keeps coming up with little gems.

Your album personnel:  Rocco John Iacovone (alto & soprano saxes), Rich Rosenthal (guitar), Francois Grillot (double bass) and Tom Cabrera (drums).

Released on Unseen Rain Records.

Jazz from NYC.

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Mark Sullivan’s Review of Dom Minasi – Jack DeSalvo: Soldani Dieci Anni on AAJ

Dom Minasi & Jack DeSalvo: Soldani Dieci Anni

Mark Sullivan By MARK SULLIVAN

Dom Minasi & Jack DeSalvo: Soldani Dieci Anni

Guitarist Dom Minasi is known as an experimentalist and free player, so there is much in this set of acoustic duets with fellow guitarist Jack DeSalvo that will confound expectations. Opener “The Indelible Delible” is a free improvisation with the expected outside playing and flurries of notes—but there is also some delicate textural playing. Then Minasi’s “Angela” announces a complete change of mood. It’s a beautiful bossa, with DeSalvo taking the lead on classical guitar, followed by Minasi’s acoustic flat-top steel string. It’s simply gorgeous, and straight ahead all the way.

DeSalvo’s “Aside” is a jazz tune, played on archtop guitars (credited in the album liners as “unamplified archtop guitars,” because they were recorded mostly acoustically). We’re not used to hearing unamplified archtop guitars on recordings: there’s really very little difference between this track and the previous one in terms of the guitar sound. Minasi takes the first solo, and his habit of singing his solos is especially pronounced here, but only distracting if you’re easily distracted by that kind of thing. I should note that there is sufficient stereo separation to make the two guitars easily differentiated.

The next two tracks again find Minasi composing in straight ahead mode. “Julia’s Dream” is a lovely ballad, both players on archtops. “Blues for TM” is indeed a blues, this time with Minasi on flat-top and DeSalvo on archtop (he turns in an especially effective solo here). DeSalvo’s contemplative title tune again shows both players in straight ahead (but conversational) mode. The final tracks are both improvisations, but with distinct identities. “The Bee and The Fly” has the active, somewhat random movement implied by the title. “Goodbye Greensleeves” is also true to its title, beginning in a calm, folksong-like mode. As the improvisation develops unpredictability and outside playing eventually dominate, with the piece rushing to its conclusion.

This was a very spontaneous collaboration. DeSalvo suggested it, and the pair got together once to try playing together. Minasi says they played mostly free, then he took out some of his straight ahead tunes “and the magic began.” So the free improvisations were recorded first, then they tried the original tunes—keeping first takes on everything. It’s the sound of two accomplished jazz guitarists immediately finding common ground, effortlessly moving from inside to outside, from composed to free.

Track Listing: The Indelible Delible; Angela; Aside; Julia’s Dream; Blues for TM; Solano Dieci Anni; The Bee and The Fly; Goodbye Greensleelves.Personnel: Dom Minasi: unamplified archtop guitar, flat-top steel string guitar; Jack DeSalvo: unamplified archtop guitar, classical guitar.

Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Unseen Rain Records | Style: Free Improv/Avant-Garde

Downloads available HERE

Listen to ANGELA from Soldano Dieci Anni :


“explosive musicality” – Dee Dee McNeil reviews 12 HOUSES – SOLIDARITY

Media Alert: Matt Lavelle’s 12 Houses “Solidarity”  – Unseen Rain Records UR9945

MATT LAVELLE – cornet, flugelhorn, alto clarinet, conduction, LEE ODOM – soprano saxophone and clarinet,    CHARLES UR9945 Solidarity MINIWATERS – alto saxophone and clarinet, RAS MOSHE BURNETT – tenor and soprano saxophones, flute, bells, TIM STOCKER –  baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, MARY CHERNEY – flute, piccolo,   CLAIRE de BRUNNER – bassoon,   CHRIS FORBES – piano, LAURA ORTMAN – violin,   GIL SELINGER – cello,  ANDERS NILSSON – guitar, JACK DeSALVO –  banjo, mandolin,    JOHN PIETARO – vibraphone, percussion, FRANÇOIS GRILLOT – double-bass,   RYAN SAWYER – drums,ANAÏS MAVIEL – voice

CD Review:

 By Dee Dee McNeil


Unseen Rain Records

Matt Lavelle, cornet/flugelhorn/alto clarinet & conductor; Lee Odom, soprano saxophone/clarinet; Charles Waters, alto saxophone/clarinet; Ras Moshe Burnett, tenor and soprano saxophone/flue/bells; Tim Stocker, baritone saxophone/bass clarinet; Mary Cherney, flute,piccolo; Claire de Brunner, bassoon; Chris Forbes, piano; Laura Ortman, violin; Gil Selinger,, cello; Anders Nillson, guitar; Jack DeSalvo, banjo, mandola; John Pietaro, vibraphone, percussion; François Grillot, double bass; Ryan Sawyer, drums; Anaïs Maviel, voice.

The first song Is dark, full of strings and horns that remind me of gardens packed with honey bees and flies. The instrumentation encourages strings to be bowed and tones to be bent. Consequently, they sound very much like insects to me. It’s titled “solidarity”, the same as the CD. The composer must have had something specific in mind, but I probably would have titled it, ‘Spring Garden.’ Lavelle has composed everything on this production. He is the conductor and plays cornet, flugelhorn and alto clarinet. His concept is to hire master jazz players and challenge them to improvise on his musical themes using both traditional, classical instruments. This includes Claire de Brunner on bassoon and Gil Selinger on cello; Ras Moshe Burnett on reeds and Charles Waters on alto sax and clarinet. It’s not an odd premise to throw traditionally classical instruments into the arms of jazz musicians, since jazz is often referred to as America’s unique classical art form. However, this project seems to be melting chamber orchestra and big band music together over an unusual premise of improvisation, freedom and Avant Garde. The song “Faith” gives us a taste of New Orleans verve and Kansas City spicy ‘Swing’. However, the resulting responsiveness between players fosters explosive musicality to interpret Lavelle’s compositional focus. His desire to mix genres is both interesting and challenging. It leaves the final review to be culminated by the ears and in the hands of you, the listener.

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“…interaction, composition, fiery hot soloing…” Mike Greenblatt reviews EMBRACE THE CHANGE

Media Alert: Rocco John Quartet “Embrace The Change” (Unseen Rain UR-9947) Street Date: May 6, 2016ROCCO JOHN IACOVONE alto and soprano saxophones, RICH ROSENTHAL guitar, FRANÇOIS GRILLOT double-bass, TOM CABRERA drums

CD Review:

Rocco John Quartet Has Good Advice: ‘Embrace the Change’ on Unseen Rain Records [REVIEW]

Rocco John

Rocco John Iacovone (Photo : courtesy Unseen Rain Records)

There’s no telling where Rocco John Iacovone will go. The sax man studied under Lee Konitz and Sam Rivers. In the case of the latter, John has successfully taken the Rivers dictum (if they can’t understand it, go even further!) and whittled away at it, sanding it down, putting on a coat of varnish, to ultimately let his listeners alternately swoon and get excited. Embrace the Change (Unseen Rain Records) is more than a CD title. It’s good life advice.

In taking from the avant-garde, but making it accessible, John, whose alto and soprano saxes blow wild and free throughout, has fashioned a terrific one-stop that fills all your needs for melody, harmonics (or, in this case, shall we say harmolodics as taught to us by Ornette Coleman), interaction, composition, fiery hot soloing (check out Rich Rosenthal’s electric guitar!) and the bulwark of a rhythm section — double-bassist Francois Grillot and drummer Tom Cabrera — that not only keeps things kinetic but also anchors the avant and keeps things from getting out of hand.

Opening and closing with “Wings,” a post-bop humdinger that challenges our assumptions immediately, the highlights have to be “Dial Up,” an eight-minute plea to the heavens for assistance, and “72’s,” almost eleven minutes of pure disparate intentions, a cross-pollination of ideas from swing and bebop to fusion all in one over-reaching but successful track. You can add the extremely satisfying 9:52 “Tango” to the highlight reel.

Recorded in New Jersey, produced by Jack DeSalvo, Embrace the Change works because this particular change is still within earshot of the masses, if only said masses would just lighten up a bit and stretch their brains to the ferreting out of this kind of talent instead of having every musical morsel served to them on a silver platter. C’mon y’all! Up to the task?

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From Russia: Great Review of ROCCO JOHN’s EMBRACE THE CHANGE.

roccojMedia Alert: Rocco John Quartet “Embrace The Change”
(Unseen Rain UR-9947)
ROCCO JOHN IACOVONE alto and soprano saxophones, RICH ROSENTHAL guitar, FRANÇOIS GRILLOT double-bass, TOM CABRERA drums

CD Review:

By Leonid Auskern

Alto saxophonist Rocco John Iacovone had excellent teachers, these mentors, however, came from very different places on the musical map. On one hand Rocco played in the brilliant free jazz master Sam Rivers’ Orchestral Explorations, and, on the other he studied with the master of cool-jazz Lee Konitz. His own playing style was formed under the influence of both of these artists. If you find it hard to UR9947 Embrace The change MINIimagine such a combination, listen to Embrace The Change, the most recent album of the quartet of Rocco John. He founded his first band in 1997 (then it was the trio), and today Rocco John Iacovone is a prominent figure among the avant-garde scene of New York, founder and art director of the Coalition of Creative Artists.

Embrace The Change has Rocco playing with Rich Rosenthal, an accomplished guitar player who overcame some early vicissitudes, a New York Frenchman, bassist François Grillot and drummer Tom Cabrera, who is the only one of the four of whom I had heard earlier on his wife Julie Lyon’s album Julie, also published by Unseen Rain Records. All the tracks of Embrace The Change were written by Rocco John, and this is not a random collection of disparate pieces but rather a conceptual suite dedicated to a deeply philosophical theme, the evolution of human existence.

Following the ancient Greek sage Heraclitus, who argued that in the same river one can not enter twice, Rocco John defends the idea that the only constant in the evolution of man is eternal movement, eternal change, and to which man can only adapt. By means of music, of course, may seem too abstract a tool for solving this problem, but in the avant-garde, mostly free-form jazz of Rocco John, indisputably genuine feeling is present, not to mention the purely aesthetic pleasure from listening to the playing of this quartet of musicians. I especially would like to mention such compositions as Circuits (the relationship of people living with each other – Rocco provides all the explanations of the songs in the liner notes to this work), Tango, which he described as the dance of life and a very unusual song 72’s (“Communication with infinity” says Rocco John), where the second part suddenly starts to sound background of the famous Jewish song “Eveynu Shalom Aleichem”, which in Hebrew means “We wish you peace”. It is probably not by chance that this wish of peace was included by Rocco John in his suite.

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Midwest Record Reviews New Albums from ROCCO JOHN Qt and MATT LAVELLE’s 12 HOUSES

UNSEEN RAIN UR9947_Embrace_The_Change Front
ROCCO JOHN QUARTET/Embrace the Change: A saxman that studied under the watchful eyes of some serious hell raisers, he picks up the baton and you can tell this is someone serious about his Sun Ra and didn’t just eat a bunch of BYG records for breakfast one day. Way out in left field, you can tell this is a hark back to the 70 when jazzbos were trying to expand their minds and connect with the universe, progressive tastes will enjoy this well.

UR9945 Solidarity MINIMATT LAVELLE’S 12 HOUSES/Solidarity: Wow is someone doing a tribute to “Escalator Over the Hill” to kick off the celebrations for Carla Bley’s 80th birthday? The cornet player leads his big band off on some space explorations that feel sincere at the core as opposed to some ruse to grab some arts council money. If space is your place, this is the rocket to ride to get there.

April 1, 2016
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2016 Midwest Record


Matt Lavelle’s 12 Houses, Solidarity

The open-form freedom, new thing now jazz world of contemporary New York has a 16-member big band that shows us where the music is on a recent release. I’m talking about Matt Lavelle’s 12 Houses and their album Solidarity (Unseen Rain 9945). The band runs through six Lavelle pieces that have each a special melodic mood soulfulness and act as a catalyst for the considerable collective and individual improvisational thrust of the band members.There’s Matt on cornet, flugelhorn and alto clarinet (and conduction), Ras Moshe Burnett on tenor soprano, soprano and flute, Jack DeSalvo on banjo and mandola, John Pietaro on vibes and percussion, Francois Grillot on double-bass, Anais Maviel on vocals, plus soprano and clarinet (Odom), alto and clarinet (Waters), baritone and bass clarinet (Stocker), flute and piccolo (Cherney), bassoon (de Brunner), piano (Forbes), violin (Ortman), cello (Selinger), guitar (Nillson) and drums (Sawyer). In other words a very full band with players who articulate the melodic-harmonic gamut with a special collective sound and can blow.

There are some dirge-like threnodies, some sanctified testifying and some blow-outs, all showing a very together Lavelle approach and a group that knows where to go with it all. Ras takes some blistering moments to call the spirits on tenor, Matt shines in his solo moments (dig “Cherry Swing”), but really this is for everybody in the end.

And it is a remarkable set, showing us roots and toots, troubled times and resolved transcendence, queueing up and getting there, a gentleness and a fierceness, fragility and strength, all that it takes to keep scuffling but never shuffling.

It is fabulous music from a band that I hope is destined to become an institution in the city. They have what it takes and they show it, they let loose and blow the world forward.

Lavelle is a trailblazer, a full force, a jazz composer and bandleader of stature, a player of strength and depth. And the band is on it.

So very recommended it is!! Grab one.

Great SUMARI Review from Croatia

Research into sound is a basic characteristic of the creative trio Sumari. Opportunities for such research are large, and this is for three reasons: curiosity, commitment and creativity of musicians who explore the great opportunities of the mutual combination of instruments. As well as having vast experience of playing in various styles and idioms, all three of them are multi-instrumentalists. Matt Lavelle plays the trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn, pocket trumpet and alto clarinet, Jack DeSalvo, who is the producer of the album, playing the cello, guitar and mandola, and Tom Cabrera plays bodhrán, tar, riq, doumbek, bass drum and percussion. As their unusual setup the unconventional way they approach the improvisations is adopted from playing with respectable experimenters. Among others Lavelle has collaborated with saxophonist Ornette Coleman, DeSalvo with drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson and Cabrera with singer Julie Lyon. It is a spontaneous collective communication that brings unpredictable results with seven performances making up the whole. They were built without premeditation, and the titles of the tracks were likely added subsequently. The names of these compositions reveal the intention of the musicians, a source of inspiration and philosophical outlook on life and music. Just looking at these titles of the songs creates the illusion that we can penetrate deeper into the personality and preoccupations of these musicians and figure out why and how they create. It inspires the creativity of the listener. Before hearing them, how would you imagine songs bearing the following titles: “Seth Dance”, “Counterparts Are Comparitively Encountered”, “Scientific Cults and Private Paranoias”, “Reincarnational Civilizations”, “Alternate Presents and Multiple Focus”, ” The Gates of Horn “and” The Nature of Mass Events “?

 Davor Hrvoj,

Matt Lavelle (trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn, pocket trumpet, alto clarinet Jack DeSalvo (mandola, cello, guitars) Tom Cabrera (bodhrán, tar, riq, doumbek, bass drum, percussion)
Matt Lavelle (trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn, pocket trumpet, alto clarinet
Jack DeSalvo (mandola, cello, guitars)
Tom Cabrera (bodhrán, tar, riq, doumbek, bass drum, percussion)


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JazzWeekly Reviews JULIE

Vocalist Julie Lyon has a voice that recalls Blossom Dearie, and also benefits from an air tight band, similar in makeup with Tom Cabrera/dr, Jack DeSalvo/g and Bobby Brennan/b but with the added attraction of trumpeter/clarinetist Matt LaVelle, who adds some nice horn sounds on the cheerful “Strollin’” and alto clarinet on the glistening “Dindi.” The band has a gentle stride going one step at a time on “Every Time We Say Goodbye” and while her voice sounds a bit distant on “Bye Bye Blackbird” and during the loosey goosey “Born to Be Blue,” the symbiosis of the band carries her over the River Jordan into the Promised Land.


Grego Reviews Harmolodic Monk

Screenshot 2015-02-26 15.24.16The music of Thelonious Monk, if anything, has taken on
increasing stature as a body of compositions central to the
modern jazz experience. In the period following his leaving us,
we see renewed attention to his recordings and a great array
of contemporary jazz musicians who perform his music regularly. Steve Lacy was a pioneer in adventurously featuring Monk’s compositions long before it was fashionable. Nowadays his recordings of Thelonious’s music have achieved classic status. Yet with the unforgettable melodic and harmonic qualities of his music there is always room for further explorations. It may not be a simple matter to make out of music so well known and widely played something very fresh. Matt Lavelle and John Pietaro have done just that with their album Harmolodic Monk (UR Unseen Rain 9953).

The “Harmolodic” reference goes back to Ornette Coleman and his approach, specifically his freedom to go out of the expected key centers or improvisations around chord changes to modulate or introduce notes outside of the usual frame of tonal reference. It’s more than that but for now that will do. Matt and John approach the Monk material freely in this way, so they can stick to a tonality or general chord sequence and they freely can go outside of it, and that’s what they do and do well.

Matt and John take various approaches to the Monk pieces. Matt on trumpet, flugel and alto clarinet and John on vibes, congas, bodhran and percussion can lope along in tempo, play within the general harmonic structures or advance outwards, go for freetime multitempos or articulate in open tempo with
solo horn or vibes, or in tandem. Matt gives us his beautiful take on a classic burnished tone for his trumpet and flugel playing or he can go for a more punchy, brash sound when he feels the need to energize. He sounds quite well on the alto clarinet too, an instrument he has recently gotten into to replace his former doubling on bass clarinet. He sounds great on it. John plays some very appropriate and accomplished vibes as a key melodic and harmonic presence with Matt or in a solo context. His
percussion and hand drumming give the music an additional sound that varies the proceedings nicely.

Throughout there is a great respect for the compositional Monk, due attention to the melodic essentials and a harmonic straightforwardness or an expansiveness as they feel it. It all works beautifully well and shows what two very inventive musical voices can produce when they look at Monk’s music in
an open-form way. I am impressed with the outing. I would love to hear them do something like this with a rhythm section next time, but the music speaks for now very articulately without it. Matt and John have their full artistry on display. The results willabsorb and move you. Very recommended listening!

posted by grego applegate edwards

Mark Turner’s Brilliant Review of JULIE

JULIE – Julie Lyon Quintet (UR9957)UR9957.JLQnt_back_c1

By Mark S. Turner

Perhaps the most interesting element in this recording is the ‘live in studio’ nature lending a great deal of atmosphere and beatnik cafe society vibe to the affair. Well, actually, I’m assuming it was thus live ’cause it sure as hell sounds it—if not, if there are overdubs and such, then Tom Tedesco possesses some supernatural talents as an engineer. Singer Julie Lyon exhibits a large element of the happy-go-lucky in her swinging recitations, perhaps most vividly shown in her take on Dindi, about the snappiest version I’ve heard yet in a song that’s been undergoing quite a renaissance in revisitations recently. Then there are the laid back, casual, way hip quotations from the quartet backing her, sounding as though just returned from a break in the back alley where the subject of ‘discussion’ was muggles, Jack Daniels, and maybe a nip or two of Romilar.

I mean, everything here is so strongly reminiscent of one of those way cool Shag (Josh Agle) paintings that I practically hear the painter’s vivid mono- and multi-chromatics and urbane exotica in the CD. Then come all the off-the-cuff incidentals the band adds in—catch especially Matt Lavelle’s throaty bass clarinet fog in Every Time We Say Goodbye, so husky it’s almost aromatic—alongside Lyon’s friendly counter-culture intonations, a college girl matriculating in Hip 101. Bobby Brennan has the band nailed in with his solid bass work, and Tom Cabrera’s drumming evokes mental images of Maynard G. Krebs standing by, fingers snapping, grin wreathing Fu Manchu’ed face, while Jack DeSalvo’s guitar is a mercurial presence, dashing in for a doo-wop quotation, then sliding back out again.

Lavelle, though is oft striking, as present and in the pocket as Lyon, he blazing (as in the trumpet work in Too Damn Hot) while she smile-sings seductively, caught between wanting to gambol in the sun, grab that martini on the sidebar, and/or wink at the guy who just strolled in, tan, lean, and mysterious. All or Nothing at All undergoes a modern art treatment, pointillistic and fragmentary, Lyon holding everything together while the guys get jagged and rambly. Then she clarifies and espanola-izes Tom Waits bizarre Temptation, turning it from a near-inchoate schizophrenic blues into something the Asylum Street Spankers would’ve produced. And if I pen any more paeans here, I’m going to have to check into Keroauc Rehab and have my typewriter re-tuned, so why not just glom the CD and just dig what’s goin’ down, gator.

Edited by: David N. Pyles (

Jazz Police Review of Inherence (UR9963)

“Inherence”: Joel Shapira Celebrates Duo Guitar Release at the Black Dog, February 5th
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor Jazz Police
Tuesday, 04 February 2014


Former student and mentor, guitarists Joel Shapira and Jack DeSalvo, reunited recently via the internet, and soon found themselves in a New Jersey recording studio. The result is Inherence (Unseen Rain Records), an intriguing and luminous set of guitar duos which Shapira –sans DeSalvo–will celebrate on February 5th at the Black Dog Cafe in St. Paul’s Lowertown Arts District. Standing in for DeSalvo (unable to get to Minnesota from the East Coast) will be Minnesota’s own guitar guru, Dean Granros.


St. Paul native Joel Shapira studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and at the Mannes School of  Music in New York City, as well as with Tal Farlow, Joe Pass, Sharon Isbin, and Anthony Cox. Active in the Twin Cities for the past 16  years, he leads his trio and quartet, provides the instrumental half of the popular duo, Charmin (Michelle) and Shapira and coleads their expanded Charmin and Shapira and Friends. He’s led the ensembles Triplicate and Pooches Playhouse and frequently appears with Dean Magraw, Pete Whitman, John Devine, Vic Volare, and a who’s who list of area vocalists. Joel’s previous recordings include two releases with Charmin Michelle (Pure Imagination, Dawning and Daylight), his quartet debut (Open Lines) and two albums with Triplicate (Triplicate, Day and Age).

Jack DeSalvo picked up the guitar at age 8 and was playing in rock bands by his early teens. Soon he discovered the blues and picked up mandolin and harmonica. But hearing a recording of the Mahavishnu Orchestra turned him onto modern jazz, particularly Coltrane and early Miles, and Jack began to study classical guitar and composition as well as improvisation. After playing around New Jersey clubs for a while, he enrolled at the Berklee College of Music and studied George Russell’s Lydian Chromatic Concepts. Returning to New York, he continued composiing and began studying with Bill Connors (Return to Forever), who encourage him to meld his classical and jazz approaches. Jack built his international reputation as a member of D3, Ronald Shannon Jackson’s Decoding Society, and in duo with vibist Arthur Lipner, playing electric and acoustic guitars.

One of the Midwest’s most accomplished guitarists, Dean Granros co-founded of one of the Twin Cities seminal experimental jazz groups, “The Whole Earth Rainbow Band” in 1970, and in 1974 he created and wrote for “Lapis,” an ensemble dedicated to exploring composition with structured improvisation.  From 1985 through 1993, Dean joined former Weather Report drummer, Eric Kamau Gravatt, in the high energy post-bop band, Kamanari.  He co-founded the progressive and virtuosic improvising trio F*K*G in 1995 with saxophonist Scott Fultz and drummer Dave King. In 2002, he joined George Cartwright’s band Curlew, and about a year later began playing weekly at the Artist Quarter with the exploratory quartet, How Birds Work. Granros continues to perform locally with groups such as Starry Eyed Lovelies (with Mike Lewis, Anthony Cox and Dave King), FKG and How Birds Work. His ensemble “AntiGravity” explores new directions in  improvisational composition.

Inherence (2014, Unseen Rain Records)

Joel and Jack first met in a Tower Records in Greenwich Village about 20 years ago after Shapira had moved from Berklee in Boston to studies at the Mannes School for Music in New York. “Great musicians worked and hung out at Tower,” Joel said in a recent interview with Bill Steiger. “Right away, just by talking, I could tell that Jack and I had a lot of musical common ground. We both played with our fingers, like flamenco guitarists, instead of using picks. We shared a love of classical music as well as jazz. I ended up studying guitar and music theory with Jack. He taught me about the commitment involved in playing jazz, especially in New York City, where great players were a dime a dozen… New York was the best city to start performing as a professional, and, of course, studying with Jack was the icing on the cake.”

After losing contact for the past two decades, social media brought student and mentor together. “The internet changed everything,” said Joel. “A couple of searches and—boom!–there he was.” The two talked about getting together to record some duets at Jack’s brother’s studio in New Jersey. And thus in one afternoon at Beanstudio with engineer Jim DeSalvo, the pair recorded Inherence without rehearsals. “It was a challenge,” said Joel, ” but I was so excited to be in New York and recording with Jack that the occasion reached a sort of spiritual vibe. For me, it felt like the full circle element on the music we had worked on years ago… A quality recording, made under that kind of time constraint brought out what I feel is the best in jazz musicians. No rehearsal. Let’s just do it. Let’s play! Inherence captures more of that improvisational quality than anything I’ve ever played.”

That afternoon session produced 11 tracks — four Wayne Shorter compositions (“Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum,” “House of Jade,” “Virgo” and “Nefertiti”), Ralph Towner’s “Celeste,” the great standard “Just Friends,” three DeSalvo originals, and two spontaneous improvisations from the duo.

DeSalvo’s “Instance” opens the set, a rather insistent and virtuosic display with a more tender midsection. Jack’s “Naiads” follows with a more defined melody, a more conversational collaboration as if friends are swapping life stories. The title track has a more jagged rhythm– a more animated conversation filled with playful jokes and more serious recollections, equally shared and magnificently played.  Of the Wayne Shorter pieces, “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum” is alternately driving and melodic; “Virgo,” “House of Jade” and the closing “Nefertiti” are luxurious meanders for two. “Just Friends” picks up the pace with an energetic exchange, while Ralph Towner’s “Celeste” is spacious and songful, one line bleeding into the next like watercolors.

The two spontaneous compositions, “Joja” and “January East” offer the most interesting harmonies and rhythms of the set, a pair of experiments that highlight the mutual trust and respect among these guitarists who show no fear of the unknown, just a willingness to challenge each other; ultimately the listener accepts the challenge and hangs on for the ride.

Inherence is defined as a “state of being a natural or integral part of something” or “the state of being present, current existence.” The musical reunion of Jack DeSalvo and Joel Shapira is indeed a state of being present, in the moment, each artist essential to the existence of each note.

The Black Dog offers an intimate environment well suited to the music of Inherence, and the substitution of Dean Granros for Jack DeSalvo is well suited to the interaction with Joel Shapira. This pairing will naturally alter the interaction, creating new music.

The Black Dog is located at 308 Prince Street (at Broadway) in St Paul’s Lowertown; Music begins at 7:30 pm. CDs available at the show and by direct mail order – contact Joel at