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Ever since he burst on the jazz scene in the latter part of the twentieth century, The Brooklyn-born, Harlem-based vocalist/guitarist/bandleader/composer Allan Harris has reigned supreme as one of the most accomplished and exceptional singers of his generation. The ample and aural evidence of Harris’ multifaceted talent can be heard on his ten recordings as a leader; his far-flung and critically-acclaimed concerts around the world, from Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, and Washington DC’s Kennedy Center, to the 2012 London Olympics, and a number of prestigious bookings in Europe, The Middle East and Asia, and his numerous awards, which include the New York Nightlife Award for “Outstanding Jazz Vocalist” – which he won three times – the Backstage Bistro Award for “Ongoing Achievement in Jazz,” and the Harlem Speaks “Jazz Museum of Harlem Award.”
Harris’ new album, Black Bar Jukebox, produced by Grammy® Award-winning producer Brian Bacchus (Norah Jones, Gregory Porter), is his most compelling and comprehensive recording to date. “Believe me, what Brian brought to the table was wonderful,” Harris says, “not only because of his music, but also because of the vision, and the way he hears things. I’m enamored with the sound I got.” Inspired by the jazz, R&B, soul, country and Latin sounds that emanated from jukeboxes in African-American barbershops, clubs, bars, and restaurants, from the mid to late twentieth century, the album – which features Harris’ accomplished band of three years: drummer Jake Goldbas, bassist Leon Boykins, and pianist/keyboardist Pascal Le Boeuf; with special guests, percussionist Samuel Torres and guitarist Yotam Silberstein – also marks his moving and momentous return to his jazz-centered, Harlem roots, where he heard all those aforementioned styles, genres and grooves in the Golden Age of the seventies. “Growing up, I heard the sound of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, and Nat King Cole,” Harris says, “I was always cognizant of jazz.”
Harris is a first call vocalist (especially back in Harlem), as evidenced by his potpourri of engagements, including an impressive run as a featured soloist and producer of Sotheby’s three-year jazz series. His commitment to education is as equally impressive as his recordings and engagements. A Gibson guitarist, Harris is a long-time supporter of the St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital, and donates a performance every year to Challenge Aspen/America, along with Vince Gill and Amy Grant.
All of which brings us to Black Bar Jukebox: a diverse and dynamic disc that showcases Allan Harris at the zenith of his all-encompassing artistry. “I’m a storyteller through the genre of jazz,” concludes Harris.
Donny McCaslin Bio Acclaimed saxophonist Donny McCaslin takes a bold leap forward with his tenth album as a leader, Casting for Gravity. McCaslin’s gargantuan tenor sound finds an ideal setting to rampage through in the ferocious grooves and electronic textures of keyboardist Jason Lindner, bassist Tim Lefebvre, and drummer Mark Guiliana. Couching his trademark gift for brawny melodies in lurching dub rhythms, swirling electronica-inspired atmospheres, and arena-rock power, McCaslin has crafted a game-changer of an album, fusing a wealth of forward-looking influences into one wholly new modern jazz sound. Casting for Gravity follows on the heels of 2011’s highly acclaimed Perpetual Motion, which found McCaslin experimenting for the first time with merging his hard-charging acoustic sound with more funk-inflected electrified elements. But where that album was a blistering electroacoustic hybrid, Casting for Gravity soars past fusion into alchemy, forging a visionary voice from eclectic influences. “I wanted to make a bigger record with more sonic layers,” McCaslin explains. “I wanted to go a lot deeper into the electronic realm and push myself harder.”
The effort paid off, with an album that truly breaks new ground not just for McCaslin but for integrating modern musical genres seamlessly into envelope-pushing jazz. The saxophonist has long been one of the music’s most striking voices, leading to long-running collaborations with innovators like Dave Douglas and Maria Schneider. His own solo work has been marked by a restless exploration that is only accelerated with this latest release.