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Jazz 03/05/2019

Larry Corban - Emergence Featuring: Harvie S, James Weidman, Steve Williams & Jerry Bergonzi

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New York, NY (Top40 Charts) Larry Corban is a New York City jazz guitarist and composer with 5 CDs out as a bandleader. His rhythm section of choice is the Aperturistic Trio (pianist James Weidman, bassist Harvie S, drummer Steve Williams). Alto saxophonist, Steve Slagle, guested for 3 cuts on his fourth CD, Corban Nation. Corban Nation was on Jazzweek: 20 weeks on the Top 100, peaking at #18 overall; CMJ Jazz Chart: 7 weeks on Top 40, peaking at #4 overall, and RMR Jazz Chart: 19 weeks on Top 50, peaking at #1 overall. His most recent and fifth CD, Emergence, is coming out April 26, 2019. On his fifth recording as a leader and third with the Aperturistic Trio, Larry Corban wields his burgundy Gibson L-5 with a blend of unabashed swing on up-tempo burners and tender lyricism on relaxed ballads. This time out the core quartet is augmented by tenor saxophone titan, Jerry Bergonzi, who elevates the proceedings with ferocious blowing on four tunes. The music is on the cusp of straight-ahead jazz in the present moment with an intentional nod towards the mid 60's Blue Note era.

Larry has had extensive experience working with some of the world's greatest musicians! He has played, performed and/or recorded with: Jerry Bergonzi, James Weidman, Harvie S, Steve Williams, Steve Slagle, Omer Avital, Avishia Cohen, Buddy Williams, Sylvia Cuenca, Essiet Okon Essiet, Ron Affif, Ralph Peterson Jr., Vic Juris, Oz Noy, and Wayne Krantz. He has subbed the guitar chairs at School of Rock, Motown the Musical, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, Mary Poppins, Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and Big Apple Circus. Larry holds a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies from Ithaca College, has studied privately with Pat Martino, Wayne Krantz, Joanne Brackeen, Jack Wilkins, Vic Juris, David Fuze Fiuczynski, Mick Goodrick, Steve Brown, and Rick Beato.

On his fifth recording as a leader, New York guitarist Larry Corban wields his burgundy Gibson L-5 with unabashed swing on uptempo burners and tender lyricism on relaxed ballads. On his third outing with the Aperturistic Trio (pianist James Weidman, bassist Harvie S, drummer Steve Williams) the core group is augmented by tenor sax titan Jerry Bergonzi, who elevates the proceedings with ferocious blowing on four tunes.

The fact that the Aperturistic Trio has been a working unit since 2013 and that Corban has recorded three times with the group accounts for the remarkable chemistry heard on Emergence. Add Bergonzi to that recipe, stand back and let the sparks fly. The copacetic quintet comes out of the gate charging hard on Corban's uptempo swinger, "Sea of Fire." Harvie S fuels the groove with walking bass lines while Williams, a longtime sideman for the late, great singer-pianist Shirley Horn, lays down a persuasive pulse. Weidman, an in-demand player most recently associated with Joe Lovano's Us Five, pushes the harmonic envelope during his probing solo here. Bergonzi, a legendary figure on the Boston jazz scene for decades, contributes a pulse-quickening solo and Corban follows with a flurry of angular notes that treads into the Sonny Greenwich-Dom Minasi zone.

"Table Stakes" is Bergonzi's contrafact on Benny Golson's oft-covered "Stablemates." Corban solos first, heading straight for what he calls '32nd note triplet land.' "My attitude here was, 'Let's just start ripping, let the volcano blow!'," he says. "I just figured, 'Hell, we're not playing a Holiday Inn gig, so let's let's have some fun on this one!" Bergonzi takes that attitude to heart in his heroic solo and Weidman follows with a tastefully swinging piano solo that enlivens the track.

On mellow bossa flavored "Observer Effect," Corban double-times nonchalantly while flashing potent chops. Weidman responds with a cascading solo that showcases his expansive harmonic palette and refined taste. Then on Harvie S's hard-driving, dark-hued "Soon To Be," Bergzoni is showcased in all-out shred mode.

The album's lone trio number, a gorgeous rendition of "Never Let Me Go," has Corban walking-on-eggshells with the sensitive rhythm tandem while on his percolating quintet number, "On the Fly," The Gonz goes ballistic, stretching into the stratosphere on his tenor. The guitarist responds with another fleet-fingered solo to the heightened proceedings.

Williams sets a dramatic tone with mallets on Corban's gently ruminative ballad "Non-Determinism," and they close out in incendiary fashion with a burning take on "You and the Night and the Music" that has the leader pulling out his finest Pat Martino-influenced licks while also sweeping with impunity on his solo. The piece culminates in some boppish trading of eights with drummer Williams that further reveals their straight ahead roots.

From start to finish, Corban's commitment to the jazz tradition is undeniable on Emergence. But he brings something fresh and highly personal on each solo, spurred on by his stellar sidemen.

Liner Notes by Russ Musto, New York City Jazz Record

Swing is in! All over the world, from Manhattan to Moscow, audiences these days are embracing the sound of big band jazz that gets listeners up from their seats and out moving on the dance floor. "Ever since I started playing, for me, swing was the thing," proclaims Israeli born saxophonist/clarinetist/composer/arranger Eyal Vilner. He says, "I remember having conversations with my teachers back in Tel Aviv about the bands that really swung and how that feeling is so essential to the music we call jazz. But it was only after I started swing dancing myself did I begin to truly understand just what that means." Recalling sessions with his mentor, Count Basie saxophonist Frank Wess, Vilner notes "I think about how his sound and phrasing and sense of rhythm just made you feel so good! You could not not move to it!"

Swing Out!, the fourth album by the Eyal Vilner Big Band, marks an important development in the evolution of this fantastic group comprised of some of New York City's finest musicians; one that is the direct result of the band's interaction with the swing dance community. Vilner says, "In the past few years, we've started playing more and more for swing dancers. This has really influenced the way I play and write music. I fell in love with the dance and have become really passionate about the connection between musicians and dancers in the swing world. This exchange between dance and music, movement and sound, feels so new and refreshing - yet so natural and familiar. It feels like we're bringing it back to where jazz and swing dancing grew up and developed together, influenced and inspired by one another. It's like we're bringing it back home."

In what may very well be a first, this disc was recorded live in the studio with dancers dancing while the musicians played. Vilner says, "We are striving to create something new in the genre and tell our story through these aesthetics. The program on the album represents different sides of our music as a band." The disc opens with Vilner's "Downhill", a new piece that has already become a favorite on the Lindy Hop scene in New York. A soulful outing, it has a solid shuffle beat that recalls the sound of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messenger's classics like "Moanin'" and "Dat Dere". Vilner steps back from his conductor's podium to take the album's first solo, his smooth toned alto gliding rhythmically over the funky rhythm, after which trumpeter Brandon Lee takes a high flying turn, followed by trombonist Rob Edwards, who gets down and dirty with a plunger muted statement.

Vilner's arrangement of Duke Ellington's "In A Mellow Tone" was written in tribute to Count Basie and his band's sumptuous dynamics. Vocalist Brianna Thomas sings the original Milt Gabler lyric with silky elan and then adds her self-composed vocalese chorus based on a Trummy Young trombone solo around which Vilner orchestrated the piece. Thomas is featured again on "Dinah", an uptempo outing that is part of the band's New Orleans program with Vilner wailing on both alto and clarinet and Andrew Millar's washboard sharing rhythm section duties with Eran Fink's drum kit. The Crescent City excursion continues on "Do You Know What it Means (To Miss New Orleans)", with veteran trumpeter James Zollar delivering a growling plunger muted trumpet solo after which pianist Jordan Piper, bass trombonist Ron Wilkins and clarinetist Evan Arntzen follow with their own easy grooving improvisations.

The music moves up the river to Missouri for W. C. Handy's "Saint Louis Blues". Vilner's idiosyncratic arrangement, featuring Thomas's soulful vocal, opens with a classic habanera beat that Jelly Roll Morton famously described as "the Latin tinge" and then traverses through Dixieland, swing and shuffle rhythms before finishing off with two big shout choruses where the band plays a Louis Armstrong solo orchestrated for all 12 horns. Vocalist Brandon Bain makes his debut with the band singing the romantic ballad "That's All" on a pretty arrangement that also features Vilner's lyrical alto sax. "Big Apple Contest" is taken from the 1939 film Keep Punchin' that includes Frankie Manning's spectacular choreography. Originally performed by Whitey's Lindy Hoppers it has become one of the most iconic dance routines in the swing dance community. Vilner notes, "In the swing community dancers create such impressive and musical choreographies that express jazz recordings through their dance. This inspired me to do the same on my end and write an arrangement that's inspired by this classic choreography and expresses the dance through the music."

"My Baby Just Cares for Me" is Vilner's tribute to Nina Simone, originally commissioned by his fellow Israeli saxophonist Eli Degibri to be performed at the Red Sea Jazz Festival. Thomas sings the melody over Piper's jaunty piano accompaniment after which saxophones and brass play Vilner's orchestration of Simone's original piano solo. "Going Uptown" is another dance inspired Vilner original. He says, "One of the basic first moves that swing dancers learn is a 6-count basic, which for me was so weird because the music is in 4/4! I made the melody start with a 6-count phrase and played with that motif throughout the song. At some point we even go into a brief waltz, but then end with a smacking big hit to bring us back to swing!" Vilner describes the Ruth Brown R&B classic "5-10-15 Hours" as "a straight up party tune with lots of call and response between Brianna and the band, bluesy solos by baritone saxophonist Eden Bareket and pianist Piper, and a shout chorus that I developed from one of the piano licks on the tune's original recording." His tribute to the Andrews Sisters, "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen", opens with his wailing clarinet leading the band into classic swing mode that propels Michael Hashim's gritty tenor solo. The date comes to an exciting close with Vilner's epic arrangement of "I'm on My Way to Canaan Land" that features a guest appearance by virtuoso flautist Itai Kriss and has Thomas displaying her strong gospel roots as the song alternates between the Baladi groove to 6/8 Afro Cuban rhythm.

The joyous tension of syncopated rhythms that is called swing is a hard to define entity, but one that has spread from venues like Harlem's Savoy Ballroom to night clubs and dance halls all over the world, propelling happy feet to move with the pulsations of music that just makes one feel good. That feeling is evident throughout this disc and in all the music played by the Eyal Vilner Big Band. Vilner knows "it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing" and you can hear it here. Just listen.
Larry Corban - guitar
Harvie S - upright bass
James Weidman - piano
Steve Williams - drums
Jerry Bergonzi - tenor saxophone on
#1, #2, #4, and #6

1. Sea of Fire 4:46
2. Table Steaks 6:18
3. Observer Effect 6:31
4. Soon to Be 7:46
5. Never Let Me Go 8:54
6. On the Fly 3:42
7. Non-Determinism 4:45
8. You and the Night and the Music 7:28

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