Tower of Power Celebrate 40TH Anniversary

TOWER OF POWER CELEBRATE ITS 40TH ANNIVERSARY WITH ALBUM, DVD AND REUNION.   New Collection Features TOP alumni like Lenny Pickett and Chester Thompson; Special Guests Include Soul Legend Sam Moore.

It’s spring! As we celebrate the start of the baseball season, the end of the basketball season and the release of Tower of Power’s 40th Anniversary album, the operative phrase in everyone’s ears is “We Came To Play.” But then, Tower of Power has “come to play,” every single time they take to the stage over the last 42 years.  The horn driven soul and funk machine has toured consistently playing to so(u)ld out crowds around the world.  And after 40 years, four of the original musicians still play with the band.

Similar to sports teams, however, Tower of Power has had numerous players take free agency with other musical prospects. So the 40th Anniversary show gave the band an opportunity to stage their version of “Old Timer’s Day,” bringing 20 former members to work with the ongoing ten player line-up.

“When we were young and we’d lose somebody, it seemed like the end of the world,” TOP founder Emilio Castillo told Gary Graff.  “But it started happening at such an early age in our career, and we always overcame it and always got great people to come in.”

Captured live at the Legendary Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco in 2008, this extraordinary show welcomed such former members as Greg Adams, TOP’s trumpeter and arranger for 20 years and subsequently one of the architects of the “smooth Jazz” sound; Chester Thompson, who moved on to play keys for Santana and Elton John; and chart topping “smooth jazz” sax player and first call session guy Richard Elliott.

At a show recorded on the band’s actual anniversary, former TOP member Lenny Pickett, long time sax player for the Saturday Night Live band, joined in. He’s in the bonus footage and is interviewed.   Legendary vocalist Sam Moore, of Sam and Dave, added to the funkified festivities with “I Thank You,” and Otis Redding’s “Mr. Pitiful.”  The DVD is dedicated to Steve “Skip” Mesquite, long time alto player for TOP, who made the show and passed on shortly afterward.

The CD and DVD package is a slam dunk of soulful funk, with such great Tower of Power hits as “What is Hip?” “You’re Still A Young Man,” the ever timely “Only So Much Oil In The Ground,” and “This Time It’s Real.” After 40 years, this band can clearly still hit it out of the ballpark.

“It was probably the most special night of our entire career,” said Castillo. “Getting together and playing again with those guys we’d spent so much time with on the road. It was magic.”

Brian Setzer Gives Bluegrass a Rockabilly Spin

With its forays into bluegrass and traditional jazz, Brian Setzer's new album 'Setzer Goes Instru-MENTAL!' (out April 19 on Surfdog Records) has the guitar legend testing new waters and putting his signature Stray Cat stamp on a few instrumental favorites. Setzer didn't set out to create an all-instrumental affair but couldn't resist temptation when the music started heading in that direction.

"I didn’t start writing an instrumental record, per se," says Setzer. "I wrote 7 songs with lyrics, and then all of a sudden I just took a turn and started fooling around with 'Blue Moon of Kentucky,' except without any vocals. I started playing melody chords and thought, 'Wow, this is pretty cool!'  So the direction turned about halfway through my writing. I had never done an instrumental record, but I thought, well, now’s the time."

Setzer wrote six originals and revitalizes five jazz-bluegrass classics – “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” "Earl's Breakdown," "Cherokee," "Be-Bop-A-Lula," and "Lonesome Road." Recording each gave Setzer the chance to revisit old techniques and try new tricks, such as playing banjo on the Earl Scruggs' classic “Earl’s Breakdown,” or substituting jazz chords into traditional bluegrass on the Bluegrass Boys’ “Blue Moon of Kentucky.”

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'Setzer Goes Instru-MENTAL!' Tracklist

(all songs written by Brian Setzer, unless otherwise noted)

1. "Blue Moon of Kentucky" (written by Bill Monroe)

2. "Cherokee" (written by Ray Noble)

3. "Be-Bop-A-Lula" (written by Tex Davis and Gene Vincent)

4. "Earl's Breakdown" (written by Earl Scruggs)

5. "Far Noir East"

6. "Intermission"

7. "Go-Go Godzilla"

8. "Lonesome Road" (written by Gene Austin, Nathaniel Shilkret)

9. "Hillbilly Jazz Meltdown"

10. "Hot Love"

11. "Pickpocket"

Boba Fett on Drums! | Scattered Trees' Love and Leave

Scattered Trees premiered their new “Star Wars” inspired video for “Love and Leave” today exclusively on Boing Boing. Watch the video, which features sad stormtroopers, a coldblooded Queen Amidala, and Boba Fett on drums HERE. The song, “Love and Leave,” is taken from Scattered Trees’ forthcoming full-length, Sympathy, due out April 5th on Roll Call Records/EMI. Download the song HERE (feel free to post and share) — it’s currently the 7th most popular song on Hype Machine. The loving tribute to The Star Wars saga was directed by Scattered Trees’ guitarist J.M. Harper in February in the band’s apartment. It’s a loose (very loose) interpretation of “A New Hope,” if the film was set in a snowy Chicago apartment.

The band’s premiere for “Love and Leave” comes as the band is prepping the release of their latest record Sympathy, which will be released on April 5th via Roll Call Records/EMI. The album is a focused, deeply personal collection of songs that finds Scattered Trees experimenting with lush multi-part harmonies, constructing dynamic builds, and exploring the intricacies of love and loss. Opening with “Bury the Floors,” lead singer Nate Eiesland sings “It’s the house that I built you to fall / We started to walk then we stood up to crawl / So bury the floors and burn down the walls / to find ourselves by morning.” Driving rock epics like “Four Days Straight” rub shoulders with melancholic elegies like “Where You Came From.” The album’s title track starts with a stripped-down plaintive mandolin, ultimately fading into a slow-burning orchestral groove. Melting into “Five Minutes,” Scattered Trees continues the build until the track bursts forth. The band rounds out the record with the mournful acoustic closer “On Your Side,” a fitting tribute for a deeply heartfelt and therapeutic album.

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Scattered Trees Upcoming Tour Dates:

03/03: Chicago, IL @ Schubas
03/05: Minneaoplis, MN @ Cause
03/17: Austin, TX @ Dizzy Rooster
03/18: Austin, TX @ The Ghost Room (NAIL/The MuseBox SXSW Day Party)
04/09: Kansas City, MO @ Middle of the Map Festival

Golden Dogs Announce Spring Tour Dates, To Play SXSW

At the end of a hard year of touring in support of their second album ‘Big Eye Little Eye’, which took them by way of Britain and Germany, straight across the USA sharing stages with Canadian luminaries like Feist and Sloan, those who witnessed its fury likely had no inkling it was the end of a chapter for the band. The long awaited homecoming was bittersweet; there were big changes on the horizon. For starters, the band had been released from their record contract; a contract they had been locked into for years that now left them 100% in control of their business affairs. In another twist of fate, their long time bass player, Stew Heyduk, decided to leave the country and get married in Hawaii. Within weeks of being at home and somewhat directionless, the question began looming: “What now?” While there are always songs brewing on lead man Dave Azzolini’s hot plate, the idea of going straight into recording another album wasn’t an attractive one. They needed a break from being Golden Dogs.

Without trying to force movement into the intimidating ‘next album’ phase, the couple began spending more time hanging at a little garage studio on Toronto’s east side, operated by their good friends Carlin Nicholson & Mike O’Brien - this duo now known as Zeus. The whole crew had a lot of fun just writing and recording tunes they had written and while Nicholson honed his engineering chops, everyone nurtured and developed their production skills. As well, the studio was a very welcome place for other musician friends to pop by. Friends like Neil Quin (ex-Golden Dog/future Zeus member) and Afie Jurvanen (Bahamas) who ended up playing a solo on the Golden Dogs album as a return favor for Azzolini playing piano on one of the Bahamas tracks he recorded there.

The spirit was described by Azzolini: “It was very much a ‘best idea wins’ situation and the songwriter always had final veto power. It made for a very comfortable environment to make music. It was just musicians getting together to bounce ideas off each other.” This was a great time to forget about being in a band, and to just get back to playing music for it’s own sake, with a group of friends riding the same wave and just soaking in the energy of the studio. The result is titled Coat of Arms, and it brilliantly displays the musical union Azzolini, Grassia, Knox and company have found with each other, and the band seems to be more confident and commanding than ever before. One marvels at the way they can seem playful and sweet on a track like LESTER, yet terrifyingly savage on BURST or DARKROOM.

The most obvious and wonderful difference this time around is that Ms. Grassia takes a giant leap forward and can be heard taking the lead on almost half the album with a range spanning from sweet & psychedelic (UNDERWATER GOLDMINE) to seductive (AS LONG AS YOU LIKE) to furious pop madness on songs like WHEN THE MOVIE’S OVER, and CHEAP UMBRELLAS. Her vocal performances while drumming (AS LONG AS YOU LIKE and LESTER) is quickly becoming a Golden Dogs secret weapon and quite an impressive element to their live shows.

What now? Coat of Arms will be released on Dine Alone April 26th 2011. Feeling up-beat and optimistic about the new direction, Azzolini boasts that “the versatility of this new line up opens up a whole new world of possibilities for Golden Dogs live shows and the future of our recordings…there are so many directions we can go…and we’re going to try all of them.”

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Golden Dogs tour dates:

Mar 17: SXSW @ Hole in the wall (day party)\

Mar 19: SXSW @ Paradise on 6th

Mar 22:  Portland @ Wonder Ballroom**
Mar 23: Seattle @ Showbox**
Mar 24: Vancouver @ Biltmore**
Mar 26: Missoula, MT @ Wilma Theatre**
Mar 27: Jackson, WY @ Q Roadhouse**
Mar 29: Ames, IA @ The Maintenance Shop**
Mar 30: Omaha, NE @ Waiting Room**
Mar 31: Minneapolis, MN @ Varsity Theatre **
Apr 1: Madison, WI @ The Majestic**
Apr 2: Chicago, IL @ The Vic**
Apr 3: Pittsburgh, PA @ Mr. Smalls**
** w/ State Radio

'Ray Charles Live in Concert' captures The Genius in 1964

In the half-century between his earliest recordings in the 1950s and his death in 2004, Ray Charles ascended to icon status by leaving his mark on virtually every form of American popular music that emerged in the latter half of the 20th century. Nowhere was this more evident than in his live performances, where one was likely to hear shades of blues, soul, R&B, jazz, gospel, country, and more in a single evening — indeed, sometimes in a single song. To put it simply, the Right Reverend did it all.

All of these subtle shades and styles are evident in Concord Music Group’s April 5, 2011, reissue of Ray Charles Live in Concert. Originally released as a 12-song LP on ABC-Paramount in early 1965, Live in Concert captured Ray at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in September 1964. More than four decades later, the CD reissue brings additional depth and perspective to the 1964 recording with the help of 24-bit remastering, seven previously unreleased tracks and extensive new liner notes that provide additional historical context to what is already considered a pivotal recording in Ray’s overall body of work.

“There could be no more uplifting live musical experience than digging Ray Charles and his mighty orchestra in their prime,” says roots music historian Bill Dahl in his new liner notes. Indeed, the 15-piece orchestra backing Ray on this date — assembled just a few years earlier in 1961 — boasted no less than a dozen horns, including formidable saxophonists David “Fathead” Newman, Hank Crawford, and Leroy “Hog” Cooper, all of whom had been with Ray since his days as a leader of smaller combos. “This amazing aggregation,” says Dahl, “was every bit as conversant with the intricacies of modern jazz as with the gospel-blues synthesis that Brother Ray pioneered during the mid-1950s, when he began accruing serious cred as the father of what would soon become known as soul music.”

Chris Clough, Concord’s manager of catalog development and producer of the Live in Concert reissue, notes that the Shrine Auditorium performance took place at a transitional moment in Ray’s career, just as he was transcending the confines of R&B and entering the mainstream by demonstrating a firm grasp of various other genres. “He’d made his ascendance in the early ’60s, and he had the world at his feet by this time,” says Clough. “He’d basically invented soul, he’d done R&B, he’d conquered country and he was on his way to becoming an American icon.”

In the span of 19 songs, Live in Concert illuminates the route to that destination. Ray wastes no time taking his audience on a ride from jazzy big band groove of “Swing a Little Taste” to the Latin-flavored “One Mint Julep” to the blues-gospel hybrid of his classic “I Got a Woman.” Although his live rendition of “Georgia On My Mind” on this date didn’t make the cut on the original LP, the song is a standout track on the reissue, thanks to his complex organ runs and the flute lines moving in counterpoint with his rich vocals.

Clough considers the yearning “You Don’t Know Me” and the previously unreleased “That Lucky Old Sun” to be among the high points of the recording. “It sounds like he’s really baring his soul on those two tracks, and they just sound incredible,” says Clough, noting that Ray was unaware that tape was rolling during this performance. “This particular date was at the end of their tour, and the performance seems a little loose as a result — in a good way, and in a less slick way.”

Further in, the rousing “Hallelujah, I Love Her So” is driven by a gospel groove and embellished with a sax solo by Newman that closely mirrors the original 1957 recording. The result is a familiar hit for an audience that’s more than ready to reinforce Ray’s foot-stomping beat with handclaps.

The sly and swaggering “Makin’ Whoopee” is delivered completely off the cuff, with drummer Wilbert Hogan, bassist Edgar Willis, and guitarist Sonny Forriest improvising an accompaniment behind what Dahl calls “Ray’s luxurious piano and breathy, supremely knowing vocals.” By all accounts, Ray spontaneously inserted the song into the set in response to the negative press he’d received overseas about his private life.

In the home stretch, Ray introduces the Raeletts, the female backing vocalists who served as his foil for some of his biggest hits. Together they work their way through “Don’t Set Me Free” (with Lillian Fort stepping forward for a duet with Ray), the comical “Two Ton Tessie” and the torchy “My Baby” before climaxing with the churning “What’d I Say,” a song tailor-made to stoke any room to a fever pitch.

A huge piece of the Ray Charles legacy is his mastery of any style he touched, and his ability to make it his own in a way that no other artist could — powers that can only come from an innate sense of adventure and spontaneity that are fully evident in Ray Charles Live in Concert.

“Few performers were less predictable onstage than Ray Charles,” says Dahl. “And nobody did it better.”

Sarah Jarosz To Release "Follow Me Down" on May 17th

What Sarah Jarosz’s acclaimed debut, Song Up In Her Head, suggests, Follow Me Down—due out May 17, 2011 on Sugar Hill Records—confirms: she is constitutionally incapable of getting stuck in a rut. Her approach to acoustic music is expansive and vital; she sees no need to choose between old-timey and modern material; between picking, singing and writing; between experimenting and reviving tradition. She does all of it, and pushes it all further, on her new album.

“I definitely could have just made a record that was similar to the last one—pretty rootsy,” reflects Jarosz. “That would have been a representation of a side of me. But I have all these new sounds and ideas and I just didn’t want to hold back on this one.”

A lot has changed in the two years since the world outside the festival-going bluegrass and old-time music communities—home to many longtime Jarosz fans—was introduced to the young singer/songwriter/instrumentalist. Her music caught on quickly with audiences across the age spectrum. There have been GRAMMY and Americana Music Award nominations, a trio of Austin Music Awards, invitations to perform on “Austin City Limits” and “A Prairie Home Companion” and appearances at Bonnaroo, Newport and Telluride—and lots of digital downloading, a rarity for a roots act.

The most important difference is that Jarosz cannot be called a kid anymore. She’ll turn twenty within a week of Follow’s release. Instead of going straight to work as a full-time musician, as many before her have done, she left her hometown of Wimberley, TX—30 miles outside of Austin—and headed to Boston’s New England Conservatory to study contemporary improvisation on an elite scholarship.

“I wanted something to push me out of my comfort zone,” Jarosz says. “I wanted to be playing things that I might not normally play.” And she has had plenty of opportunities to do just that, from Jewish and world music ensembles at school to wildly unpredictable live jams with Punch Brothers and Mumford & Sons. That keen, open-minded attitude speaks volumes about her maturity.

Like her first album, Jarosz co-produced Follow Me Down with Gary Paczosa (Alison Krauss, John Prine, Chris Thile). Only this time, they had a college course schedule and high profile gigs to work around. They did a session with Punch Brothers in New York, another in Boston with her talented young trio mates Alex Hargreaves and Nathaniel Smith and several in Nashville with some of the acoustic world’s finest pickers and singers, including Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Viktor Krauss, Dan Tyminski, Shawn Colvin and Darrell Scott.

Jarosz’s growth can be felt throughout the resulting eleven tracks. The grooves are more adventurous, for starters on the first single “Come Around”.  She comments, “I know for some purists out there, it’s like, ‘Why do you have to have drums?’ For me, it’s like, ‘Why not?’” And she has explored alternative ways of using her already-strong voice (see her Radiohead cover “The Tourist” and Radiohead-inspired original “My Muse”; Bob Dylan’s folk hymn “Ring Them Bells” is the album’s other cover).

There’s no missing the breadth in Jarosz’s songwriting. She is just as comfortable penning the tragic old-timey “Annabelle Lee” - an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s final poem, or a modernized Appalachian ode to secret love like “Run Away” as she is cultivating contemporary singer-songwriter introspection in a song like “Here Nor There”. But her playing—be it on mandolin, octave mandolin, clawhammer banjo or acoustic guitar—never takes a back seat. She started “Peace”—one of two instrumentals on the new album—when she was twelve, and finished it at college. And it is that hunger to let her music keep growing—along with her formidable abilities—that make Jarosz so exciting to watch.

Amy Black's 'One Time' Streets 3/29/11

Singer/songwriter Amy Black will release her sophomore album entitled One Time on March 29, 2011. After a decade of success in the business world, Black is taking a chance and following her music dreams with this new release. The rootsy collection of revealing and authentic tunes was recorded with producer, Lorne Entress (Lori McKenna, Bittertown). Available digitally, the album’s foundation is a traditional American roots sound but it’s not without a dash of rock and soul. “My goal was to create music that successfully merged the acoustic and electric instrumentation that I love,” says Black. “I tend to be drawn to a classic sound and paid my respects to some of the great music of the past when I wrote this album.”

Black worked with Entress to bring the perfect cast of characters together – top-notch musicians, including singer/songwriter Mark Erelli on vocals, guitar and lap steel and Nashville’s favorite fiddle player, Stuart Duncan. With Entress’ guidance the players have created a rich and compelling album. The music spotlights traditional roots instruments like Dobro, fiddle, mandolin, pedal steel and upright bass as well as the smooth and classic sounds of the electric guitar. “Making One Time was an incredible experience for me,” says Black. “As happy as I am to get the music out there, I’m also sad that the creation process is over. My favorite part of making this record was witnessing these incredible musicians doing what they do best. I can’t wait to get back in the studio with them again.”

In her debut album Amy Black & The Red Clay Rascals, Amy paid tribute to her favorite songwriters. With One Time, Amy’s powerful voice and presence are matched by the commanding range of her own song writing as seen in the nine originals on the album. The characters in “Molly” and “Whiskey And Wine” ache with bittersweet yearning in a world of pleasure and pain. “All My Love” simmers with seduction, while “Meet Me On The Dance Floor” is a flirty delight. “Stay”, featuring harmony vocals by Amy’s little sister Corrie Jones, swings with grown-up romance and “Run Johnny” crackles with bluesy menace.

“This album is really a tribute to my southern roots and is dedicated to my Granddad who grew up dirt poor in Alabama,” says Black. After putting himself through college, Black’s grandfather worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority for decades before pursuing his dream of starting his own business. This can-do tenacity along with a flare for storytelling, are traits passed along to Black. “He was a bit of a showman and I think I got that from him,” says Black. “He passed away during the production of the album and I’m proud to honor him with this music.”

In the album’s potent title track, "One Time," the plaintive lyric “Time for you to make a break/And show what you’re good for” could describe Black’s bold step with this new release. “I decided a few years back that it was now or never,” says Black. “I love music way too much to sit on the side lines. You only get one chance at this life, and I’m taking mine.”

For more information or to purchase the album visit www.amyblack.com.

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Amy Black tour dates:

03/12/2011 - Lowell, MA - The Backpage
04/03/2011 - Cambridge, MA - Club Passim (
One Time Release Party)
04/22/2011 - Cambridge, MA - Toad
06/10/2011 - Shirley, MA - The Bull Run

Colorado Rock Band Meniskus Selling Naming Rights to Album, Band and Child

Boulder-based rock trio Meniskus is taking a unique approach to financing their upcoming album. The premise is nothing new: The band is soliciting sponsorships from businesses and individual fans. What sets it apart from similar efforts is what the band is offering in return. Depending on their contribution level, sponsors receive benefits ranging from autographed copies of the album up to the right to name the album, rename the band, and even to name the unborn children of a band member.

Raising funds from fans is growing more popular in the post-record label era, but Meniskus has taken the do-it-yourself approach to a new level with this campaign. Sponsorship levels and corresponding benefits differ for individuals versus businesses, with business benefits that include logo placement on the album and website, custom composition of a commercial jingle, and for any well-heeled company willing to foot the $400,000 price tag; the right to rename Meniskus. Thank yous for individuals include concert tickets, backstage passes, “Executive Producer” credit, and of course; naming a band member's child. The campaign gets its official kickoff at Meniskus's “Pre-Release Concert” on Saturday, February 26 at Denver's Walnut Room music venue.

“We intentionally limited the right to name the kid to individual donors. We didn't want to wind up with a son named 'Burger King' or something.” Said drummer Cris Ryt. “But if BK wants to put up the dough to rename the band 'The Whopper Juniors,' we're ready. The timing of the album release kind of required us to do something desperate,” added Ryt, referring to the fact that a commercial funding source for the album filed for bankruptcy just weeks before the album's original release date. “We had to find some way to scrape up the money to get this album out there, especially once we'd gotten the official OK to include our version of a Beatles song on the record.” Lead singer Eric Ostberg acknowledged that “For the last couple years, concert venues just haven't been able to pay like they used to. Apparently drinking and dancing are not as recession proof as you might think.”

Contribution levels for individuals range from $50 (“Special Thanks” on the album, and an autographed copy of the disc) to $5,000 (“Executive Producer” credit and a role in a music video); and then there's that big ticket item – the right to name a band member's child – at a cool $750,000. Business sponsorships start at $250 (“Special Thanks” on the album, and a link on meniskusband.com - averaging 30,000 hits per month) and go up through $20,000 (composition of a company theme song and naming rights to the album, among other items). Don't like the name “Meniskus?” Pony up the $400,000 to name them whatever you'd like.

“We wanted to leverage both ends of the spectrum, from small donations from individual supporters of the arts, up to larger investments from corporations looking to align themselves with a strong, hip brand with a dedicated and diverse following.” Band manager and producer Eric Singer noted. “We've had success with support from businesses in the past, from our first endorsement – free beer from a local brewery – up to playing the holiday party for Google last year. We don't know if anyone will actually take us up on the big-ticket items, but we'll certainly take the money and honor the offer if they do!” Meniskus has flirted with the national spotlight with performances alongside artists including Dave Matthews, Tom Petty, as well as members of Guns n Roses, Parliament and even First Lady Michelle Obama. Despite these notable appearances, the band has yet to really break onto the national scene in any significant way. Venezualan-born guitarist Bardusco added “This is make or break time for us. We had to do something big!” More info on the campaign and the band is available at meniskusband.com

About Meniskus:

Meniskus has shared a bill with an amazingly wide array of artists including Tom Petty, Dave Matthews, Rodrigo y Gabriela, The Roots and The Disco Biscuits - and their devoted following (and music) are just as diverse. The unique dynamic of the band starts with a violin and a Spanish guitar - both enhanced by a barrage of effects - and gets driven by an arsenal of percussion. The music is informed by the extensive classical training of Cris Ryt and Eric Ostberg, as well as the unique sound Bardusco brings from his experience as a self-taught guitarist growing up in Venezuela. The three players weave all their diverse flavors into a cohesive, powerful and unique sound. The influences of classic rockers and jam bands, as well as the rhythms of Latin grooves and European house music have found new life in the music of Meniskus.

Check out Meniskus at Red Rocks video here.

Miles Davis, Albert King & Bill Evans get Definitive discs on Concord

Concord Music Group has assembled three new titles in its ongoing Definitive series, one of which marks the series’ initial foray into CMG’s vast blues catalog. The Definitive Miles Davis on Prestige; The Definitive Bill Evans on Riverside and Fantasy; and The Definitive Albert King on Stax span a total of 60 years and include the music of two monumental figures in jazz and an equally influential figure in the blues. Each of the two-CD collections is set for release on April 5, 2011.

The two dozen tracks of The Definitive Miles Davis on Prestige follow the creative evolution of the most revered trumpeter in the annals of jazz. Spanning the first half of the 1950s, the collection captures Miles at the beginning of his breakthrough to mainstream appeal, according to the liner notes by music journalist and historian Ashley Kahn.

“The purpose of this collection is to deliver a full, definitive overview of that very special period in Miles’s career,” says Kahn. “Its focus covers the nearly six-year period when the trumpeter was signed exclusively to Prestige. Disc 1 offers the best of his 1951 to ’56 sessions primarily as a leader of various ad hoc all-star ensembles. Disc 2 provides a generous sampling of Miles the bandleader, in ’55 and ’56, at the helm of one of the most groundbreaking groups of the day.”

The collection also chronicles Miles’s dramatic artistic growth over a relatively short time, says Nick Phillips, Concord Music Group’s Vice President of Jazz and Catalog A&R and the producer of the collection. “The years between 1951 and 1956 are not a huge amount of time, but the development by Miles — as a musician and as a bandleader — is pretty astonishing in this period,” says Phillips. “This culminates in what ended up being one of the most legendary groups in jazz, the Miles Davis Quintet, featuring John Coltrane.”

The Definitive Bill Evans on Riverside and Fantasy tracks more than two decades of recordings by a highly influential figure in jazz piano. “It would be difficult to think of a major jazz pianist emerging after 1960 who did not take Bill Evans as a model,” says jazz journalist Doug Ramsey, who wrote the liner notes for the 25-song collection that begins in the mid-1950s and ends in 1977. “Indeed, many seasoned pianists who preceded Evans altered their styles after hearing him.”

What’s more, “Evans had a profound effect on how musicians play jazz and how listeners hear it,” says Ramsey. “He is so much a part of the jazz atmosphere that many musicians — regardless of instrument — who came of age in the 21st century are not conscious that his concepts helped form them.”

The collection also gives proper attention on the second disc to Evans’s Fantasy-era recordings of the mid-1970s, says Phillips, who also produced the Evans collection. “Because the Riverside sessions are so acclaimed and so legendary, the Fantasy tracks are often overshadowed,” he says. “But in listening to this collection, you realize that Evans was still creating some amazing recordings throughout the Fantasy period with some high-caliber musicians, like Eddie Gomez, Kenny Burrell, Lee Konitz, Tony Bennett, Ray Brown, and Philly Joe Jones.”

The Definitive Albert King on Stax follows 15 years worth of recordings — from 1961 to 1975, plus a final track from 1984 — by a bluesman who’d spent the early part of his career playing to an African-American fan base in the roadhouses and theaters of the chitlin’ circuit. But by the latter half of the 1960s, the genre “was now attracting the rapt interest of young white listeners, their sensibilities opened wide by the muscular, in-your-face blues rock of the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and Jimi Hendrix,” says roots music historian Bill Dahl in his liner notes for the collection. “These new converts were gravitating to the best the idiom had to offer. No single blues guitarist made a more stunning impact during that tumultuous timeframe than Albert King.”

“For as paradoxical as it might sound, you could make the case that Albert King was a cheery blues guy,” says Chris Clough, Concord’s manager of catalog development and producer of the Albert King collection. “He had that wry smile, and he often smoked a pipe. He was always well dressed and dapper. He was genuinely interested in putting on a show for his audience, and that sensibility comes through on these tracks.”

Dahl suggests that the years between 1966 and 1975 were a “Golden Decade” for King. “He was with Stax that entire time,” he says, “right up to the Memphis label’s unfortunate demise, cutting one enduring blues classic after another as he scaled the charts over and over again. In the process, King deeply influenced countless up-and-coming blues axemen, even though the ringing licks he coaxed out of his futuristic Gibson Flying V were all but impossible to accurately recreate.”

Dawn Of The Gecko Release Debut EP, "Raised In The Gecko"

Phil Jourdan of the musical duo Dawn Of the Gecko announced today that their debut album “Raised in the Gecko,” has been released and is currently available for purchase on iTunes and other online retailers. The five track EP features a delightful assortment of cabaret-electronic rock songs mixed with comical lyrics and beats that don’t disappoint.

Describing their genre, Jourdan said, “If it’s melodramatic, campy and upbeat, you’re halfway there. If you incorporate a look of theatrical nonsense into the music and you tell a story, you’re even closer. But I’d say the main thing is to be faithful to the spirit of cabaret, with its grotesqueness and its creepy vibe.” Jourdan, along with partner Sam Folkes, is creating music that serves the dual purpose of both sounding great and making you laugh.

Their second EP, “Gecko! Echo! Echo!” is already in the process of being completed, and is expected to be released in late March, 2011. Dawn Of The Gecko currently performs in local bars, but have their sights set on other venues as well.

The pair met in 2010 through a friend, to whom they have since dedicated a song (“Jim’s Girl”), and discovered they both liked to make music. Their friendship was solidified when they became roommates after Folkes decided to move to Leamington. Though they didn’t know it at the time, a musical match made in heaven was about to be born.

Though both were musicians prior to meeting, neither had the passion that they now both have with Dawn Of The Gecko. Jourdan commented, “I’ve been playing guitar and bass since high school, though I never took it very seriously and prefer to sing when possible. We both like to geek around with sounds, though Sam’s been at it far longer than I have. I used to play little one-man comedy gigs — then I stopped for several years. It was only after meeting Sam that I decided to play live again. We play a gig weekly here in Leamington Spa, where we also live.”

Folkes studied Music Composition and Technology at the University of Hertfordshire and has had a lifelong interest in music. He began playing the piano at age fifteen as a result of being such a huge fan of Boogie-Woogie.

While the pair came up with the band’s name in five minutes by randomly choosing words, selecting their sound took a bit longer. “Initially, we simply wanted to make funny cabaret songs, but given Sam’s love for electronic music and my interest in heavy rock, we quickly expanded the sound and different things until we were happy with the “Gecko sound”. That “Gecko sound” consists of Jourdan on guitar, bass, and singing vocals, with Folkes on piano and doing the programming and mixing.

Coming up with the concept of doing Cabaret-electronica music was a somewhat natural evolution of things that the Dawn of the Gecko band members had been doing on their own. “We were mostly interested in doing stupid pantomime-style stuff when we started out. The comedy bit seemed obvious — we both like not to take our music too seriously. The electronica influences (as well as the occasional industrial influences) came later, when we tried to make the songs sound more original, more relevant to our interests. Not all of our songs are meant to be hilarious, but they’re all pretty stupid lyrically, and they incorporate silly little melodies.

“Raised In The Gecko” can be purchased here.