Mike Oldfield – Return To Ommadawn (2017)

FrontCover1Michael Gordon Oldfield (born 15 May 1953) is a British musician, songwriter, and producer best known for his debut studio album Tubular Bells (1973), which became an unexpected critical and commercial success. Though primarily a guitarist, Oldfield plays a range of instruments, which includes keyboards, percussion, and vocals. He has adopted a range of musical styles throughout his career, including progressive rock, world, folk, classical, electronic, ambient, and new age music.

Oldfield took up the guitar at age ten and left school in his teens to embark on a music career. From 1967 to 1970, he and his sister Sally Oldfield were a folk duo The Sallyangie, after which he performed with Kevin Ayers. In 1971, Oldfield started work on Tubular Bells which caught the attention of Richard Branson, who agreed to release it on his new label, Virgin Records.

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Its opening was used in the horror film The Exorcist and the album went on to sell over 2.7 million copies in the UK. Oldfield followed it with Hergest Ridge (1974), Ommadawn (1975), and Incantations (1978), all of which feature longform and mostly instrumental pieces.

In the late 1970s, Oldfield began to tour and release more commercial and song-based music, beginning with Platinum (1979), QE2 (1980), and Five Miles Out (1982). His most successful album of this period was Crises (1983), which features the worldwide hit single “Moonlight Shadow” with vocalist Maggie Reilly.

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After signing with WEA in the early 1990s, Oldfield’s most significant album of the decade was Tubular Bells II (1992) and he experimented with virtual reality and gaming content with his MusicVR project. In 2012, he performed at the opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympic Games held in London. Oldfield’s discography includes 26 studio albums, nine of which have reached the UK top-ten. His most recent album is Return to Ommadawn (2017).

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Return to Ommadawn is the twenty-sixth studio album by English musician and songwriter Mike Oldfield. It was released on 20 January 2017 on Virgin EMI Records and is the sequel to his 1975 album Ommadawn. The CD/DVD-Audio set contains a 5.1 surround sound mix of the album.

In March 2014, Oldfield released his album Man on the Rocks, which marked a diversion from his traditional long-form, instrumental style of music as it comprised standard rock songs with vocals. When Oldfield started on his next album he took to social media, asking fans what sort of album they would like from him. He found that the majority of people who responded wished for a long-form, acoustic-oriented one similar to that of his first three: Tubular Bells (1973), Hergest Ridge (1974), and Ommadawn (1975), and learned that the latter had become a particular favourite among fans. This influenced Oldfield to record a sequel to Ommadawn which had been on his mind for some time; his 1990 album Amarok was originally going to be Ommadawn II before the material “went off in its own direction” and the idea was shelved. In addition, Oldfield wished to make the sequel after he logged into an online chat with French musician Jean-Michel Jarre, who said that he was a fan of Oldfield’s music and wished to collaborate with him, but considered his music “too acoustic”. Oldfield recalled: “This got me thinking. If someone like him believes I’m an acoustic musician, then it showed how important that part of my career has been.”

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On 16 October 2015, Oldfield posted on his Twitter account that he had started working on music for “a new Ommadawn” for the past week to see if the concept “actually works”. Oldfield was aware of the popularity of Hergest Ridge and used the album for inspiration for Return to Ommadawn. This was the case for the introduction, whereby a folk melody was to start the piece before Oldfield changed it to a more atmospheric one. Ideas were explored further in subsequent weeks, and Oldfield began recording in December 2015 at his home studio in Nassau, Bahamas. Early on, Oldfield realised that he was out of practise in his guitar technique, as his fingertips had softened, causing pain when playing. He focused on the instrument for three weeks to get up to scratch.

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Oldfield began by gathering the necessary instruments that he intended to play on the album and arrange his studio into an environment that he could work in. This involved the purchase of a mandolin, ukulele, and bodhrán. He then decided to record in time with a wind-up metronome, as opposed to a programmed click track, and set up his workspace and Pro Tools software to resemble a 24-track machine that he had used in the 1970s. Oldfield had used Logic Pro software but found it increasingly unreliable, which prompted him to switch to Pro Tools and invest in larger, 4K resolution screens, which allowed him to view a 20-minute piece on one display without scrolling. Oldfield played sections of the album to his two sons for feedback; one suggested that a part sounded too busy and should instead feature just one instrument, which Oldfield took onboard and has bits that feature one guitar.[9] As with the original Ommadawn, Oldfield left mistakes in the recording to retain a human quality to the music as opposed to a highly produced sound.

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In May 2016, Oldfield stated on Facebook that the album was finished and that an official release date had yet to be confirmed. Towards the end of recording in late 2016, the Bahamas suffered a direct hit from Hurricane Matthew, which caused extensive damage to Oldfield’s home, resulting in loss of main power for three weeks. When the album was finished, Oldfield delivered the recordings to Virgin EMI using a backup Internet connection through a small satellite dish installed on his roof. The transfer took around 24 hours due to the low speeds. On 7 December 2016, Oldfield announced a release date of 20 January 2017. On the same day, a 3-minute excerpt aired on Steve Wright’s afternoon show on BBC Radio 2.

Return to Ommadawn is Oldfield’s first album since Incantations (1978) that follows the format of having one track per side of vinyl simply titled “Part One” and “Part Two”.[1]
Reception

On Metacritic the album has a score of 64 out of 100 based on reviews from 7 critics, indicating “generally favorable reviews”. It charted at number 1 in Spain. (wikipedia)

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British multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield offers up this warmly crafted sequel to his 1975 classic Ommadawn, marking a return to a more organic style of composing. After polling fans online about what type of approach they’d like to hear, Oldfield was overwhelmingly urged to revisit the acoustic style heard on his first three albums. Eager for the challenge, he spent nearly a year in his studio crafting what would become 2017’s Return to Ommadawn, an instrumental meditation on the prog-folk fantasy world he’d originally imagined four decades prior. A true solo effort, Oldfield plays every instrument on the record, which is divided into “Part I” and “Part II,” each lasting about 20 minutes in a nod to the original’s vinyl format.

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A pleasing blend of Celtic, folk, and rock elements using a multitude of acoustic and electric guitars, old-school keyboards, mandolins, whistles, and hand drums, Return to Ommadawn is thoughtful in its construction, unfurling in a dreamy fantasia that indeed recalls Oldfield’s early days, but softened with the nostalgia of accumulated age. The emotional arc of the album is subtly instituted with the gentler peaks of “Part I” eventually becoming quite majestic in the final two movements of “Part II.” Oldfield’s Ommadawn is an enchanted place and this lush revisitation both honors his initial creation and neatly extends its boundaries. (by Timothy Monger)

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Personnel:

Personnel

Tracklist:
01. Return To Ommadawn Pt. I 21.09
02. Return To Ommadawn Pt. II 20.58

Music: Mike Olfield

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More from Mike Oldfield:
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The official website:
Website

Black Patti – Red Tape (2017)

FrontCover1The duo of Peter Crow C. and Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Kraemer from Munich, Germany focuses on the sound of prewar blues… either covers or originals. The name Black Patti is taken from a short lived Chicago record label from 1927 that lasted less than a year. Their intent is sincere. The instrumentation of acoustic guitars, mandolin and harmonica is great.

Both musicians sing, often in harmony, and wrote all the material themselves on this excellent release. The only other musicians involved are double bassists Ryan Donohue and Uli Lehmann who add a bottom line pulse to several songs. The material is traditional in terms of styles with ragtime and Piedmont well represented.

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The mandolin is not often heard in modern blues though there are exceptions such as Rich Del Grosso and specialist guitarists who play occasionally, such as Billy Flynn. As such this disc is a real change and the jingling tone of the mandolin on opener “Ask Your Mama” sounds great. The two voices combine well and there is no issue with accents as both sing well in an adopted language. Lyrically “Evil Queen Of Diamonds” harks back to earlier traditions of the good man being done down by an evil girl (and the gambling allusion does no harm either!).

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Peter had a hand in writing all songs bar one here, the exception being Ferdinand’s’s “Good Bye Little Baby” which borrows the riff (and some of the lyrical theme) of SBW’s “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” with the two vocalists singing in a call and response style. The album title comes from “Red Tape Blues” which brings age-old concerns about money up to date with reference to ‘plastic card’ with a chorus that reprises the ‘Glory Hallelujah’ refrain in a deceptively jaunty presentation of some tough facts about debt.

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“I Shouldn’t Have Done It” is an attractive tune with another good chorus as the pair confess to a number of misdemeanors involving alcohol and an unlikely partner: “She was six feet four had no front teeth, she took off her wig and there was nothing beneath”. Peter’s harmonica is featured on the hillbilly tune “Wooten Stomp” and the fast-paced “I’ll Never Come Back Home”. “Frenchmen Street Rag” takes us on a trip to New Orleans while “A Stroll With Mr Roll” is an autobiographical piece about mandolin player Ferdinand of whom it is said (perhaps tongue in cheek) “when he is on tour he buzzes like a bumble bee”. The album closes with “Nagging Blues” that could quite easily pass as a vintage song but is another of Peter’s tunes.

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This is a well recorded disc that will be of definite interest to acoustic blues fans, especially those who appreciate the mandolin. (bluesblastmagazine.com)

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Personnel:
Ferdinand „Jelly Roll“ Kraemer (mandolin, guitar, vocals)
Peter „Crow C.“ Krause (vocals, guitar, harmonica)
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Ryan Donahue (bass, background vocals)
Uli Lehmann (bass bei 05.)

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Tracklist:
01. 01. Ask Your Mama (Krause/Kraemer) 3.29
02. Evil Queen Of Diamonds (Krause/Judge) 3.53
03. Good Bye Little Baby (Kramer) 3.15
04. Red Tape Blues (Krause) 3.37
05. A Little Bit Friday (Krause/Kraemer) 4.08
06. I Shouldn’t Have Done It (Krause/Judge) 3.39
07. Wooten Stomp (Krause/Kraemer) 2.48
08. Frenchmen Street Rag (Kramer) 2.36
09. That’s My Sugar (Krause) 2.01
10. I’ll Never Come Back Home (Krause/Judge) 3.01
11. A Stroll With Mr. Roll (Krause) 2.53
12. The One That Is Always True (Krause/Kraemer) 2.33
13. Nagging Blues (Krause/Judge) 2.10

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Black Patti with Robert Crumb (May 2022):
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Live November 2021:
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The official website:
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Beth Hart – Bang Bang Boom Boom (2017)

FrontCover1Beth Hart (born January 24, 1972) is an American singer, songwriter and musician from Los Angeles, California. She rose to fame with the release of her 1999 single “LA Song (Out of This Town)” from her second album Screamin’ for My Supper. The single was a number one hit in New Zealand, as well as reaching the top 5 of the US Adult Contemporary and Top 10 on the Billboard Adult Top 40 charts.

The albums Seesaw and Live in Amsterdam by Hart and Joe Bonamassa debuted at number 1 on the Billboard Blues Album Chart, a chart she has now topped six times. Hart has had two number 1 singles in Denmark, “As Good as It Gets” and “Learning to Live”, as well a double platinum-selling album, Leave the Light On.

Hart’s first album with Bonamassa, Don’t Explain, went gold in the Netherlands, while their 2014 collaboration Seesaw was nominated for a Grammy Award, and gave Hart her first Blues Music Award nomination in the category ‘Best Contemporary Blues Female Artist’.

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Bang Bang Boom Boom is the sixth studio album by American singer-songwriter Beth Hart, released on October 5, 2012 by Provogue/Mascot Label. (wikipedia)

Beth Hart received a considerable boost from her collaboration with guitarist Joe Bonamassa, but her 2013 album, Bang Bang Boom Boom, finds the blues-rock belter returning to her comfort zone, working with producer Kevin Shirley and running through a selection of songs that are originals; songs that emphasize Hart’s range and power. In some ways, this is the purest record Hart has yet recorded; there is a real sense of what she can sing and how she lays back, waiting for the moment when her wailing would create the strongest disruption.

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That means Bang Bang Boom Boom feels familiar without being complacent: there is no surprise in style but rather in attack, how Hart waits for the precise moment to unleash her fury. Sometimes, it seems that Hart would be well-served by stretching herself just a bit, but Bang Bang Boom Boom isn’t an album that’s meant to surprise. It’s supposed to hit its mark with precision and minimal flair, and that’s exactly what it does. [The American edition contains a bonus track: the stellar live version of “I’d Rather Go Blind,” that Hart performed with Jeff Beck at the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors in tribute to Buddy Guy. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)

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Personnel:
Curt Bisquera (drums)
Joe Bonamassa (guitar)
Lenny Castro (percussion)
Ron Dziubla (saxophone)
Anton Fig (drums)
Randy Flowers (guitar)
Beth Hart (piano, vocals)
Herman Matthews (drums)
Michael Rhodes (bass)
Arlan Schierbaum (organ)
Lee Thornburg (trombone, trumpet)
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Jeff Beck (guitar on 12.)

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Tracklist:
01. Baddest Blues (Hart) 4.49
02. Bang Bang Boom Boom (Hart/Westberg) 3.38
03. Better Man (Hart/Byrom) 3.48
04. Caught Out In The Rain (Hart/House) 7.13
05. Swing My Thing Back Around (Hart) 3.37
06. With You Every Day (Hart/Winans) 3.04
07. Thru the Window Of My Mind (Hart/Westberg) 4.22
08. Spirit Of God (Hart) 4.53
09. There In Your Heart (Hart) 4.32
10. The Ugliest House On The Block (Hart) 5.13
11. Everything Must Change (Hart) 3.48
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12. I’d Rather Go Blind (Jordan/Foster) 5.01

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More from Beth Hart:
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Christmas 2021 (08): Tarja – From Spirits and Ghosts (Score For A Dark Christmas) (2017)

FrontCover1Tarja Soile Susanna Turunen-Cabuli (born 17 August 1977), known professionally as Tarja Turunen or simply Tarja, is a Finnish heavy metal singer-songwriter. She is a soprano with a three and a half octave range.

Turunen studied singing at Sibelius Academy and Hochschule für Musik Karlsruhe. She is a professional classical lied singer, and the former lead vocalist of the Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish, which she founded with Tuomas Holopainen and Emppu Vuorinen in 1996. Their combination of hard and fast guitar riffs with Turunen’s dramatic, “operatic” lead vocals quickly achieved critical and commercial popularity. Their symphonic metal style, soon dubbed “opera metal”, inspired many other metal bands and performers.

Turunen was dismissed from the band on 21 October 2005 (just after the performance of the band’s End of an Era concert) for personal reasons. She started her solo career in 2006 with the release of a Christmas album called Henkäys ikuisuudesta. In 2007, Turunen released My Winter Storm, an album featuring various styles including symphonic metal, and started the Storm World Tour. She performed several concerts in Europe, playing in metal festivals including the Graspop Metal Meeting and the Wacken Open Air, before releasing her third album, What Lies Beneath, supported by a tour, which lasted until April 2012.

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Her first live DVD Act I was filmed during this tour on 30 and 31 March 2012 in Rosario, Argentina. Act I was released in August 2012. Turunen started the Colours in the Dark World Tour in October 2013 to promote her new album Colours in the Dark. Her second live DVD was filmed during the events of Beauty and the Beat and was released in May.

In September 2015, Tarja Turunen released her first classical studio album, Ave Maria – En Plein Air. In August 2016 she released The Shadow Self with a prequel EP The Brightest Void released on 3 June. Her latest album In the Raw, was released on 30 August 2019.

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From Spirits and Ghosts (Score for a Dark Christmas) is the second classical and Christmas album, and the seventh studio album released by the Finnish soprano Tarja Turunen.

On the 22 September 2017, earMUSIC released a video announcing the existence of the album. A music video was released on the 6th of October, with Tarja singing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”.

With the album release comes also Tarja Turunen’s first graphic novel, From Spirits and Ghosts (Novel for a Dark Christmas). The 40-page novel is about the world of dark Christmas scripted by Peter Rogers with accompanying art by Conor Boyle. The “novel for a dark Christmas” revolves around Tarja’s two characters, the dark and light one, bringing together lonely souls during the festive season.

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The album has been critically acclaimed by critics and fans alike, who have noted the dark twist Turunen achieved on the album and the combination of different languages; however, critics have commented that the album will be largely forgotten after the Christmas holidays.

The album was re-released in November 6, 2020, the reissue includes 3 versions in alternative languages plus the collaboration with Tarja´s friends Cristina Scabbia, Doro Pesch, Elize Ryd, Floor Jansen, Hansi Kürsch, Joe Lynn Turner, Marco Saaresto, Michael Monroe, Sharon Den Adel, Simone Simons, Timo Kotipelto and Tony Kakko for the beloved “Feliz Navidad”. Further to the additional studio recordings, the reissue comes with the previously unreleased live album “Christmas Together: Live at Olomouc and Hradec Králové 2019”

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The album includes 11 Christmas classics combined with darker gothic influences. Utilizing the sound of a grand orchestra, traditional songs such as “O Tannenbaum”, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “Feliz Navidad” are included. Besides covering classic carols, “From Spirits and Ghosts” also features a 12th track, the original track “Together”. This song continues the dark sound of the album and embodies the theme of ghosts and mysticism throughout.

On December 8, Tarja released a second, “charity” version of “Feliz Navidad” as a way to help raise funds for Barbuda, an island that was severely damaged by Hurricane Irma.[4] The track features guest vocals by Doro Pesch, Michael Monroe, Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica), Elize Ryd (Amaranthe), Marko Saaresto (Poets of the Fall), Timo Kotipelto (Stratovarius), Simone Simons (Epica), Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil), Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow, Deep Purple), Floor Jansen (Nightwish), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian) and Sharon Den Adel (Within Temptation).(wikipedia)

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While Finnish vocalist and songwriter Tarja Turunen is well known for wedding the operatic to symphonic metal, she forgoes the latter entirely on From Spirits and Ghosts (Score for a Dark Christmas). Recorded during the summer of 2017 in the Caribbean, mixed in Texas, and mastered in New York, the set includes 11 classic carols and other songs associated with the season as well as a new track recorded in the same manner. Turunen produced the collection with the American, Emmy Award-winning film score composer Jim Dooley — who also handled arrangements — and British producer Tim Palmer (Pearl Jam, David Bowie, U2, the Cure, et. al).

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Though Turunen’s voice is characteristically crystalline, the gothic orchestral treatments of the traditional holiday material, beginning with downright spooky album-opener “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” are sometimes akin to the gloomy and monumental atmospheres created by Dead Can Dance. This feel saturates other tunes here such as the heartbreakingly lovely “Pie Jesu,” the wildly dramatic “O Tannenbaum,” and amazingly enough, the album’s greatest surprise “Feliz Navidad.” The melancholy in the relatively sparse charts on “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” creates an even greater sense of intimacy, while closer “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” is drenched in echo and electronics aside a celeste and chamber instruments, creating an eerie feel to send the album off. “Together,” the lone new track, is a bittersweet seasonal song with Turunen fronting a full chorus, as triangles, swelling strings, and tympanis fill up the space behind and around her — it’s as lovely as it is sad. The outlier is the hymn “Amazing Grace,” stitched together with pulsing synths, low-end brass, and reverb before the entire orchestra floods the foreground. Somehow Turunen’s aesthetic principles shoehorns the tune to fit seamlessly into the mix. Given the absence of metal on Spirits and Ghosts, it will be interesting to see how it sits with her legions of fans. For the rest of us, however, this is a gorgeous left-field addition to the Christmas canon. (by Thom Jurek)

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Personnel:
Jim Dooley (James) (keyboards)
Peter Gregson (cello)
Tarja Turunen (vocals, keyboards)
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unknown orchestra
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Naomi Eerika Alexia Cabuli Turunen (vocals on 04.)

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Tracklist:
01. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (Neale) 4.57
02. Together (T.Turunen) 3.21
03. We Three Kings (Hopkins) 3.54
04. Deck The Halls (Oliphant/Thomas/Talhaiarn) 2.45
05. Pie Jesu (Webber) 3.28
06. Amazing Grace (Newton) 4.43
07. O Tannenbaum (Anschütz/Franck) 3.38
08. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (Martin/Blane) 3.40
09. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Traditional) 4.14
10. Feliz Navidad (Feliciano) 5.49
11. What Child Is This (Dix) 4.56
12. We Wish You A Merry Christmas (Traditional) 4.07

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Christmas 2021 (01) – Pentatonix – A Pentatonix Christmas Deluxe (2017)

FrontCover1All years again … I want to present Christmas songs of all kinds this December as well.

Pentatonix (abbreviated PTX) is an American a cappella group from Arlington, Texas, consisting of vocalists Scott Hoying (baritone), Mitch Grassi (tenor), Kirstin Maldonado (alto), Kevin Olusola (vocal percussion and vocals), and Matt Sallee (bass). Characterized by their pop-style arrangements with vocal harmonies, basslines, riffing, percussion, and beatboxing, they produce cover versions of modern pop works or Christmas songs, sometimes in the form of medleys, along with original material. Pentatonix formed in 2011 and subsequently won the third season of NBC’s The Sing-Off, receiving $200,000 and a recording contract with Sony Music. When Sony’s Epic Records dropped the group after The Sing-Off, the group formed its YouTube channel, distributing its music through Madison Gate Records, a label owned by Sony Pictures. Their YouTube channel currently has over 19 million subscribers and 5 billion views. The group’s video tribute to Daft Punk had received more than 355 million views as of November 20, 2021.

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Their debut EP PTX, Volume 1 was released in 2012, followed by their holiday release PTXmas the same year, with Pentatonix’s third release, PTX, Vol. II, debuting at number 1 on Billboard’s Independent Albums chart and number 10 on the Billboard 200 in 2013. In May 2014, Pentatonix signed with RCA Records, a “flagship” label of Sony Music Entertainment, while in the same year, the group released their fourth EP, PTX, Vol. III, and two full-length studio albums; PTX, Vols. 1 & 2, a compilation album released in Japan, Korea and Australia, and their second holiday release, That’s Christmas to Me, with the album certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), platinum on December 24, 2014, and double platinum on February 11, 2016, becoming the highest-charting holiday album by a group since 1962, and the fourth-best-selling album in the United States in 2014. The following year, Pentatonix released their eponymous album, their first consisting mostly of original material, which debuted atop the US Billboard 200 chart for the first time in their career, followed by a third Christmas album, A Pentatonix Christmas, in 2016, and a new EP, PTX, Vol. IV – Classics, the year after.

In September 2017, Avi Kaplan, the group’s original bass, left the group amicably and was replaced by Matt Sallee, who was featured on their next album PTX Presents: Top Pop, Vol. I.

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Pentatonix have won three Grammy Awards: they were the first a cappella act to win Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella, doing so in 2015 and 2016, and Best Country Duo/Group Performance in 2017

A Pentatonix Christmas is the fifth studio album by American a cappella group Pentatonix. It is also their second full-length holiday album since That’s Christmas to Me in 2014. Featuring two new original songs, “Good to Be Bad” and “The Christmas Sing-Along”, A Pentatonix Christmas debuted on the Billboard 200 at number three with 52,000 albums sold in its first week, and later peaked at number one, selling 206,000 units in its best week. A Pentatonix Christmas marks as their second number one album on the Billboard 200 after Pentatonix. The album also debuted atop the Billboard Holiday Albums chart, their second number one on that chart after That’s Christmas to Me. The deluxe edition of the album dropped from number 6 to 200 on the Billboard 200 in 2018, the greatest drop for an album that still remained on the chart, in Billboard history. The album also, with a guest appearance by The Manhattan Transfer, marked the first recording by the fourth iteration of the group, as this was Trist Curless’ first participation with the group in a recording since the death of Tim Hauser, whom Curless officially replaced in 2014.

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As of November 2017, 938,000 units of A Pentatonix Christmas have been sold in the US and 1,400,000 units worldwide. A deluxe edition was released on October 20, 2017, almost a year after the original’s release. The deluxe edition additionally marks the first appearance of replacement bass Matt Sallee and the second to last appearance of Avi Kaplan. (wikipedia)

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The second full-length holiday outing from the Arlington, Texas-based, 2011 Sing-Off-winning a cappella group, A Pentatonix Christmas delivers a colorful set of Yuletide emissions with ample amounts of spirit and a truly impressive command of harmony. Acrobatic takes on “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” fit nicely alongside highlights from 2014’s double platinum-selling That’s Christmas to Me, but where the former only yielded one original offering, A Pentatonix Christmas unleashes two self-penned Santa jams into the world, the winking “Good to Be Bad” and the festive “The Christmas Sing-Along.” Also notable is a soulful rendering of “White Christmas,” which sees the quintet teaming up with a cappella, jazz fusion, and pop legends Manhattan Transfer. (by James Christopher Monger)

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This is the third festive album from the incredibly talented and versatile Pentatonix. Each track has a different style or vibe, sometimes more than one in each track, and each sounds wonderful when you listen for the first time, then as you listen again and again (which you will, I have been playing this CD constantly since it arrived!), there are even more fine details to notice. These five exceptionally skilful young people are not only charming in person, but have a wealth of musical backgrounds and skills, and chose to bring them together to create groundbreaking a cappella performances. I can’t praise them highly enough, and am so grateful that my daughter heard about them – another bonus is that they appeal to all generations. (Dawn S)

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Personnel:
Mitch Grassi (tenor lead)
Scott Hoying (baritone lead)
Kevin “K.O.” Olusola (tenor vocals,  percussion)
Avi Kaplan (bass lead)
Kirstin Maldonado (alto lead)
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Jennifer Hudson vocals on 13.
The Manhattan Transfer (choir on 03.)
The String Mob (strings on 16.)
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background vocals:
Kala Batch – Jessi Collins – Luke Edgemon – Anthony Evans – Missi Hale – Keri Larson –  David Laucks – Tiffany Palmer – Brandon Winbush

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Tracklist:
01. O Come, All Ye Faithful (Traditional) 3.36
02. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Traditional) 2.30
03. White Christmas (featuring The Manhattan Transfer) (Berlin) 3.19
04. I’ll Be Home For Christmas (Gannon/Ram/Kent) 3.27
05. Up On The Housetop (Hanby) 2.15
06. The Christmas Sing-Along (Olusola/Hoying) 3.17
07. Coventry Carol (Traditional) 3.02
08. Hallelujah (Cohen) 4.29
09. Coldest Winter (Orzabal/West/Wilson) 2.28
10. Good To Be Bad (Hoying/Maldonado) 2.07
11. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays (Chasez/DeGiorgio/Timberlake) 3.56
12. Deck The Halls (Traditional) 2.47
13. How Great Thou Art () Traditional 4:08
14. Away In A Manger (Traditional) 3.04
15. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (Cahn/Styne) 2.01
16. Hallelujah (Cohen) 4.31

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Wishbone Ash – Sweden Rock Festival (2017)

FrontCover1Wishbone Ash are a British rock band who achieved success in the early and mid-1970s. Their popular albums included Wishbone Ash (1970), Pilgrimage (1971), Argus (1972), Wishbone Four (1973), There’s the Rub (1974), and New England (1976). Wishbone Ash are noted for their extensive use of harmony twin lead guitars, which had been attracting electric blues bands since Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page had played together in the Yardbirds in 1966. Their contributions helped Andy Powell and Ted Turner to be voted “Two of the Ten Most Important Guitarists in Rock History” (Traffic magazine 1989), and to appear in the “Top 20 Guitarists of All Time” (Rolling Stone). Melody Maker (1972) described Powell and Turner as “the most interesting two guitar team since the days when Beck and Page graced The Yardbirds”. Several notable bands have cited Wishbone Ash as an influence, including Iron Maiden, Van Halen, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Thin Lizzy, Metallica, Dream Theater, Overkill and Opeth. (wikipedia)

And the group went through many, many various line.ups ..

… And then, there was one. After various changes over the years – British rock band Wishbone Ash was formed in 1969 – only guitarist/vocalist Andy Powell remains from the original lineup.

And on this really brilliant show they play of course a lot of their old hits from the Seventies … enjoy the power of Wishbone Ash

Recorded live at the Sweden Rock Festival. Sweden Stage, Sölvesborg, Sweden
June 9, 2017. Very good FM broadcast.

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Personnel:
Mark Abrahams (guitar, vocals)
Joe Crabtree (drums)
Andy Powell (guitar, vocals)
Bob Skeat (bass, vocals)

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Tracklist:
01. The King Will Come (Powell/M.Turner/T.Turner/Upton) 7.47
02. Eyes Wide Open (Andy Powell/Aynsley Powell/Manninen) 4:24
03. Warrior (Powell/M.Turner/T.Turner/Upton) 5.40
04. Throw Down the Sword (Powell/M.Turner/T.Turner/Upton) 5.54
05. Open Road ((Upton/Wisefield/Powell) 9.41
06. Jail Bait (Powell/M.Turner/T.Turner/Upton) 7.27
07. Phoenix (Powell/M.Turner/T.Turner/Upton) 14.52
08. Blowin’ Free (Powell/M.Turner/T.Turner/Upton) 5.55

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Stills & Collins – Everybody Knows (2017)

FrontCover1Everybody Knows is an album by Stephen Stills and Judy Collins, credited to “Stills & Collins”. It marks the first collaboration between the former lovers and longtime friends. It was financed through a crowdfunding campaign on PledgeMusic.

From 1968 to 1969, Stills and Collins were romantically involved. Stills wrote several songs about Judy, most notably “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” and “Judy”. But despite Stills playing on several of Collins’ recordings, they never recorded as a duo or performed on stage together.[2] Stills said that he and Collins “…talked over the years and muddled through conversations about if we did make a record together…”, ultimately releasing Everybody Knows and going on tour. (by wikipedia)

50 years ago, singer-songwriter Stephen Stills met singer-songwriter Judy Collins, known for her piercing ocean blue eyes. Their tumultuous love affair would later be immortalized by Stills with his composition “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” performed by Crosby, Stills & Nash on their landmark debut. Both artists would go gone to shape modern music with visionary approaches, but Stills and Collins’ short fiery union remains a transformative era for the two artists.

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This summer, the two icons of folk will celebrate the golden anniversary of their formative time together. Their joint summer tour marks the first time ever Stills and Collins have been onstage together. For this once in a lifetime experience, the two music legends will pull from their rich catalogs, debut songs from their upcoming album, due out Summer of 2017, and share warm and intimate stories from their journeys and the1960s folk and Laurel Canyon scenes they helped build.

Stills and Collins met in 1967 and dated for two years. Stills wrote and demoed his legendary love song to Collins right after he left Buffalo Springfield, before he joined CSN. “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” is a five-section romantic epic brimming with heartfelt sincerity. The song has been ranked #418 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time Poll.

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​                                                                                                                                                                     Stills is known for his work with Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and his solo work. In addition to “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” Stills is best known for the hits “ For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield and “Love The One You’re With” from his solo debut, Stephen Stills. He’s a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and ranked #28 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s “The 100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time.” He also has the added distinction of being the first artist to be inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame twice in one night (for his work with CSN and Buffalo Springfield). He recently released a sophomore album with The Rides, the blues-rock supergroup he formed in 2013 with Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Barry Goldberg, and is currently putting the finishing touches on his long-awaited, much-anticipated autobiography.

BIG SUR FOLK FESTIVAL, 1968

‘Stills & Collins’ will be released on the heels of a very busy period for Collins, who released an album in 2015 and 2016. 2015’s ‘Strangers Again’ earned Judy her highest Billboard 200 debut in almost 30 years, and 2016’s ‘Silver Skies Blue’ duets album with Ari Hest earned a GRAMMY nomination for Best Folk Album. She’s recently been described by the NY Times as the “ageless wild angel of pop,” appeared in HBO’s Girls, and released the book ‘Cravings: How I Conquered Food’ earlier this year. (press release)

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Judy Collins provided Stephen Stills with the inspiration for “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” a song he composed in 1969 as their relationship was coming to an end. Lovers no more, the two remained friends over the years and decided to strike up a musical partnership nearly 50 years later, releasing Everybody Knows in September of 2017. The album deliberately plays off their past, with the duo reviving songs from their individual albums — “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” from Collins; “So Begins the Task” from Stills — and selecting covers from their peers, including the Traveling Wilburys’ “Handle with Care,” Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe,” Bob Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country,” and Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows,” which also lends its name to the album title. It’s a clean and crisp production, so much so that its transparency reveals the disparity between Collins’ sweet voice and Stills’ scraggly singing, a pairing that can sound as smooth as sandpaper. Nevertheless, there’s an inherent warmth to Everybody Knows. Stills and Collins have a gentle, easy chemistry and the studio-slick supporting performances provide a nice bed for a project that is less nostalgia than a reassuring reminder of the comfort of growing old together. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)

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Personnel:
Tony Beard (drums)
Judy Collins (vocals, guitar)
Kevin McCormick (bass)
Stephen Stills (vocals, guitar)
Russell Walden (keyboards)
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Marvin Etzioni (mandolin, mandocello on 05.)

Tracklist:
01. Handle With Care (Dylan/Lynne/Petty/Harrison/Orbison) 3.43
02. So Begins The Task (Stills) 3.36
03. River Of Gold (Collins) 3.37
04. Judy (Stills) 4.03
05. Everybody Knows (Cohen/Robinson) 5.27
06. Houses (Collins) 4.37
07. Reason To Believe (Hardin) 2.57
08. Girl From The North Country (Dylan) 3.26
09. Who Knows Where The Time Goes (Denny) 5.41
10. Questions (Stills) 3.45

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Ambient Jazz Ensemble – A J E (2017)

FrontCover1Colin Nicholas Baldry is a British musician, a multi-instrumentalist.

He produced the music of documentaries and TV scores

And one of his other  projects is the Ambient Jazz Ensemble. (AJE):

The AJE ethos is one of instrumental storytelling, a cinematic journey. Tracks begin from a simple idea, a texture, an ambient soundscape that has room to grow, often blossoming into euphoric suites. At the heart of every track is a jazz ensemble, but the music owes much to electronica or orchestral influences rather than jazz, it is merely the palette of sounds & collaborative musicianship that carve the AJE musical landscape.

‘Breathe It In’ licensed to Cafe Del Mar for their ad campaign.

Ambient Jazz Ensemble is Colin Baldry’s commercial music project, his chilled, cinematic Lounge Music output for Here & Now Recordings very much inspired by his tv and film music composing and production. Colin Baldry has had a glorious career in music writing and producing for RCA, Geffen, Motown, Virgin & Capitol Records. He arranges and conducts The BBC Concert Orchestra & The City Of Prague Philharmonic and has been known to perform at parties for The Rolling Stones. (bandcamp.com)

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Quality through and through. The electronic is weaved in so expertly that it amazes and enhances the compositions beautifully. Summer Slips Away took me completely by surprise by the use of only Dm and C, and still the complexity, not to mention solo work including great vocals. Magnificent! (by Patrik Adolfsson)

This is just a sublime set of tracks! ‘Summer Slips Away’ paints a perfect picture of a late August day – as the sun dips below the horizon we look up into the warm evening sky – the day folds into night. That liminal moment of heart rending memories, where we know the past is behind us but we still somehow feel it’s pull. (by Lamplighter55)

In other words: A masterpiece of modern Jazz !

Chris Hill

Personnel:
Tom Allan (trumpet, flugelhorn)
Colin Baldry (keyboards, guitar, bass, pedal- steel-guitar)
Sam Baldry (percussion)
Rik Carter (organ)
Kit Downes (piano)
Donna Gardier (vocals)
Gary Hammond (percussion)
Chris Hill (bass)
Finn Peters (saxophone)
Ben Reynolds (drums)
Ollie Weston (saxophone, clarinet, flute)
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The Adderbury Ensemble (strings)

HornSectionTracklist:
01. Breathe It In 4.49
02 Agfacolor 5.17
03. Felt 5.10
04. Eleven Days 5.17
05. Summer Slips Away 4.42
06. The Secret 5.15
07. Engraved 4.56
08. See The Sky 5.22
09. My Final Scene 3.21
10. One Of The Best Days 6.11

Music composed by Colin Nicholas Baldry

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Simone Kopmajer – Good Old Times (2017)

FrontCover1A cool-toned Austrian jazz vocalist, Simone Kopmajer sings in flawless English. She had classical piano lessons starting at the age of eight and at 12 began playing saxophone. She performed in a youth big band and sang regularly in her father’s band as a teenager. At 17 she studied with Sheila Jordan, who encouraged her. Kopmajer also studied with Mark Murphy, Jay Clayton, and Michele Hendricks. Since earning a Masters from the University of Music and Dramatic Arts in Graz, Austria, Kopmajer has toured the Netherlands twice with the Euro Big Band, appeared at European jazz festivals, and recorded three CDs: Moonlight Serenade (for the Japanese Venus label), her best-known set Romance (for Zoho), and her privately released Taking a Chance on Love. Each CD emphasizes her own fresh versions of standards. (by Scott Yanow)

Jazz singer and pianist Simone Kopmajer performs songs composed by the likes of Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, the Brothers Gibb (The Bee Gees), Van Morrison, John Fogerty, Neil Young, and more. She brings a sensuous femininity to songs originally performed by Simone Kopmajer01iconic male musicians.

Born in Schladming, Austria, Simone Kopmajer already achieved at a young age what many musicians, bands and ensembles dream of – the launch of a successful international career. In the United States, Japan and Southeast Asia, the singer is a household name for lovers of demanding and refined jazz music. She fills large concert halls, performs as the headliner of major international festivals and has sold thousands of CDs worldwide. Her enthusiasm and love for music kindled at a very early age. She began to sing at eight, at twelve she sang in the band of her father, who was a music school director and a big jazz fan, and at sixteen she was accepted at the University of Music and Dramatic Arts in Graz, where she was immediately admitted due to her rare talent. In the year 2000 she debuted in the U.S. and left a lasting impression among quite a few experts and connoisseurs of contemporary jazz music. Simone Kopmajer’s role models were the great voices of jazz and American show business, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Jon Hendricks, although over time she detached herself more and more from these influences to find her own musical language.

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With her charisma and unbelievable talent, Simone Kopmajer manages to give her songs a very specific emotional, charming and in-depth note, which simply touches the people. Her sound is located somewhere between jazz, swing and tasteful pop. Although her music is very relaxed, flowing and elegant, it is also very playful and varied – these multilayered facets distinguished her early off from similar formats and made her music all the more interesting.

“Simone Kopmajer possesses a voice of incredible depth. Her approach to a song is understated sincerity.” – Jazz Review

“Simone is a real beauty inside and out – she sings and swings with remarkable clarity and she’s gonna be heard from.” – Mark Murphy

“She’s dynamite.” – Florida Today

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Personnel:
Jean-Paul Bourelly (guitar)
Margarethe Deppe (cello)
Simone Kopmajer (vocals)
Jamaaladeen Tacuma (bass)
Paul Urbanek (keyboards)
Reinhardt Winkler (drums)

Booklet

Tracklist:
01. Till There Was You (Willson) 3.56
02. Lost In Love (Russell) 4.20
03. Reality (Jordan/Cosma) 4.38
04. Heart Of Gold (Young) 3.06
05. That’s Why You Go Away (Richter) 3.22
06. First Of May (R.Gibb/B.Gibb/M.Gibb) 4.25
07. You’re My Everything (Whitfield/Grant/Penzabene) 5.08
08. Have I Told You Lately (Morrison) 5.39
09. Have You Ever Seen The Rain (Fogerty) 3.35
10. Lost Stars (Alexander/Lashley/Brisebois/Southwood) 4.20
11. The Morning Sun (Kopmajer/Urvanek) 4:23
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12. All You Need Is Love (Lennon/McCartney) 3.50
13. What´s Going On (Gaye) 4.46
14. Angie (Jagger/Richards) 4.26
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Tobias Meinhart – Silent Dreamer (2017)

FrontCover1Born in a small village in rural Bavaria, Tobias Meinhart has spent the last 15 years carving out a career for himself in the international jazz scene. Since his modest beginnings in Woerth, the tenor saxophonist has garnered acclaim in both Europe and the United States, earning a nomination for an ECHO award in 2016 and claiming residency at renowned New York City jazz venues such as The Blue Note, The Jazz Gallery, Jazz at Lincoln Center and Birdland.

Tobias began his musical life as a drummer before switching to the saxophone at age thirteen. He found inspiration in his grandfather, a classically trained bassist who began playing jazz in many of the U.S. Army clubs after World War Two. This early and intimate exposure to the music had a profound effect on young Tobias, leading him to hone his skills to a tee and win first prize in Germany’s Jugend Jazzt competition.

Tobias Meinhart04After touring throughout Germany with his quartet Fourscore, Tobias went to study at the Basel Music Academy in Switzerland, where the renowned European saxophonist Domenic Landolf served as his mentor. His teachers included Adrian Mears, Jorge Rossy and Wolfgang Muthspiel. He then went on to the Conservatorium van Amsterdam and the Bern University for the Arts to study with Ferdinand Povel and Andy Scherrer.

While still a student, Tobias caught the attention of critics and audiences throughout Europe. His band won first prize at the 2009 Startbahn Jazz Competition, as well as the “Audience Award for Best Group” at the 2009 Getxo Jazz Festival in Bilbao, Spain. Already endowed with more real world experience than many musicians have long after leaving school, Tobias graduated with honors and received a diploma in Jazz Performance and Music Education the same year that he won the prize at Getxo.

Shortly after Graduation, Tobias moved to New York City and quickly became immersed in the city’s highly competitive music scene. In 2012 he received his Master’s Degree from the Aaron Copland School of Music, where he studied with Antonio Hart, John Ellis and Seamus Blake. 2012 was also the year that Tobias returned to Getxo, now with his quintet, and earned not only first prize for the band’s outstanding performance, but also the “Best Soloist” award, and the opportunity to open for of his most forceful inspirations, Wayne Shorter.

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He has five albums out under his own name, with his newest effort, Berlin People, released in Spring 2019 on Sunnyside Records. It is a new band including guitar icon Kurt Rosenwinkel.

Aside from the numerous accolades already mentioned, Tobias has also toured Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Italy and Poland and opened for renowned saxophonist Chris Potter. He has been featured at many European jazz festivals including GetxoJazz and Elbjazz, and was part of a national Next Generation All-Star Orchestra. His 2015 album Natural Perception was praised by European and American critics alike, hailed by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung as “jazz at it’s finest” and as “graceful and organic… subtle colors and delicate rhythms” in a five-star review in the New York City Jazz Record. In 2017, Tobias released Silent Dreamer which got a DOWNBEAT feature article describing him as “Not only a commanding saxophonist but also a keen composer”. (taken from his website)

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One of the best things about reviewing music is putting on a disc by an artist I’ve never heard of and being blown away by it. “Silent Dreamer,” by German saxophonist Tobias Meinhart, is one of the best CD’s I’ve heard this year. Meinhart had racked up a host of awards in Europe before moving to the United States to study with some of New York’s top saxophonists. He now resides in Brooklyn and works with a variety of groups. His fourth album, “Silent Dreamer,” is not only a vehicle for his bold tenor style, it’s also a showcase for his adventurous compositions and gorgeous arrangements.

The album is also brimming with superb solos and group playing by some familiar players, like trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and bassist Orlando Le Fleming, and some less familiar but equally powerful musicians. Yago Vazquez is excellent on piano, and Justin Carroll makes the synthesizer wail. Charles Altura crosses over into rock-fusion territory on every guitar solo, and Phil Donkin and Jesse Simpson are a formidable rhythm section on acoustic and electric bass and powerhouse drums. (by Ron Netsky)

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Personnel:
Justin Carroll (synthesizer)
Phil Donkin (bass)
Ingrid Jensen (trumpet, effects)
Tobias Meinhart (saxophone, electronics)
Jesse Simpson (drums)
Yago Vazquez (piano)
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Charles Altura (guitar bei 02., 03. + 04.)
Orlando LeFleming (bass bei 02., 03. + 06.)

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Tracklist:
01. Fighting For Fears (Meinhart) 5.38
02. Letter Of Intent (Vazquez) 4.54
03. Silent Dreamer (Meinhart) 5.51
04. Mariana’s Dream (Meinhart) 5.48
05. Can’t Say Enough (Simpson) 1.44
06. Equality (Meinhart) 6.08
07. Ghost Gardens (Meinhart) 6.54
08. Purple Space (Meinhart) 4.40
09. Simple Beauty (Meinhart) 6.11

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