The Month In Jazz – April 2022

The Month In Jazz – April 2022

Free Music Production, aka FMP, was one of the most important labels in the history of jazz and avant-garde music. Formed in Germany, its origins begin (sort of) with the New Artists Guild, an informal artists’ collective started in 1966 by saxophonist Peter Brötzmann, pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, trombonist Manfred Schoof and others. In 1968, Brötzmann and bassist Jost Gebers put together the first Total Music Meeting, intended as counterprogramming to the annual Berliner Jazztage, which had itself been founded a few years earlier. In 1969, they adopted the FMP name and began work in earnest. From 1972 to 1976, FMP was a collective run by Brötzmann, von Schlippenbach, Gebers, and bassist Peter Kowald and drummer Detlef Schönenberg. In 1976, the collective era ended and Gebers took over operation of the label and the Total Music Meetings. Over the next four decades, FMP released over 200 albums and around 150 CDs.

As he was a founding member of the collective, Peter Brötzmann released a staggering amount of music via FMP, including reissuing the legendary Machine Gun (which had originally come out on his own BRÖ label in 1968), a string of records by his trio with pianist Fred Van Hove and drummer Han Bennink (Balls, FMP 130, and Live In Berlin ’71 are all essential); his trio with South African bassist and drummer Harry Miller and Louis Moholo; his Die Like A Dog quartet with trumpeter Toshinori Kondo, bassist William Parker, and drummer Hamid Drake; several solo albums; and much, much more. Von Schlippenbach released many solo, duo and trio albums as well, while also leading the Globe Unity Orchestra, a free jazz big band that could have anywhere from 12 to 20 members.

FMP wasn’t just an outlet for German artists, though. Gebers invited musicians from all over the world to the Total Music Meeting, and the label released albums by or featuring Sam Rivers, Noah Howard, Charles Gayle, Wadada Leo Smith, Sunny Murray, Andrew Cyrille, and most notably Cecil Taylor. In 1988, FMP brought Taylor to Berlin for a month-long residency and ultimately recorded a dozen CDs’ worth of material ranging from solo recitals to duos with a string of drummers to large ensemble works, including one by a workshop ensemble the pianist assembled, rehearsed and conducted. It didn’t end there, either. Taylor continued to travel to Germany year after year, and throughout the ’90s and even into the early 2000s, FMP was his primary label, documenting his Feel Trio with William Parker and drummer Tony Oxley and many other one-off groups. (One of my favorites is the quartet heard on 2000’s Incarnation — electric guitarist Franky Douglas, cellist Tristan Honsinger, and drummer Andrew Cyrille.)

FMP closed its doors in 2010, but many of its titles (and some previously unreleased music) are available on Bandcamp, and others have been licensed for reissue on CD and LP. And now, an in-depth guide to the label has been published. Markus Müller’s FMP: The Living Music isn’t a straightforward history; it’s a 400-page compendium of album covers, concert posters, photos from decades of performances and recording sessions (all taken by Gebers’ wife Dagmar, who was as crucial to shaping the label’s identity as any of its artists), and much more. Those are accompanied by a series of essays dealing with various aspects of the FMP story, including a piece on Cecil Taylor, one on FMP’s work with female artists (who often felt shut out of the avant-garde/free music community in the ’70s and ’80s), one on working with artists from East Germany while the country was still divided, and one on the actual production of the records.

The book is big, and heavy, and beautiful to look at, granting its subject the respect and focus it deserves. I emailed Müller a few questions about the project; his thoughts are below.

What inspired this book, and what in your background and history as a writer made you the person to tackle it?

MÜLLER: This is a lifetime commitment, as I realize now, in retrospect.

I began listening to and writing about and writing for FMP in the mid-1980s. Back then I was a young contributor to a then rather new German jazz-magazine called Jazzthetik. My main musical interest then was Art Blakey’s Free For All and Horace Silver’s Doin’ The Thing. Considering I come from Status Quo, Black Sabbath, and Kiss ALIVE! on the one hand and John Lee Hooker, Hound Dog Taylor, and Muddy Waters on the other, hard bop seemed a logical “further, faster, higher” step in the evolution. Mahavishnu Orchestra left a mark and then came Machine Gun by Brötzmann. Machine Gun was the end of the line for me, back then. Being an art historian and historian, I projected it to be in a category with Kasimir Malevich’s Black Square, Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning, John Cage’s “4’33’’” and Andy Warhol’s The Philosophy Of Andy Warhol. I am not saying that this is a reasonable lineage or grouping in any cut-out bin or history book, I am just saying that I was attracted to energy, high energy, conceptual energy, energy that can comes in different forms, but is always on the level. Then I started to go to Berlin, listening to the FMP outings and lost in love with the logic of being able to see musicians multiple times in one setting; the FMP Workshop idea immediately won me over. Mind you, I have never really experienced the realness of a NYC Village Vanguard assignment with two or three concerts per evening, six days a week. In 1991 I heard the Schlippenbach Trio in Berlin, and one consequence was that I wanted to hear them as often as possible, and I did. I listened to and wrote a lot about all things FMP. And then I met and interviewed Paul Lovens, Peter Kowald, Radu Malfatti, Werner Lüdi, Peter Brötzmann (rather late), Hans Reichel, Jost Gebers, etc. My Paul Lovens interview in Jazzthetik in November 1991 covered 16 pages of the magazine — that was pretty crazy on the one hand but also made it clear that I had a genuine interest in that kind of music.

In 2001 I stopped writing about music simply because I was working on documenta11, an exhibition of contemporary art in Kassel, Germany, that was demanding and rewarding, too demanding to continue wearing more than one hat.

In the late 2000s, I had started to write about music again and was invited by Jost Gebers to contribute to the In Retrospect FMP Special Edition. I was not able to meet any deadline and dropped out of that box. About a year after that epic failure, I decided to write an FMP book, beginning to interview people in 2011. Well, I did not really know how to do a book, but I could not stop talking about it, until Okwui Enwezor, with whom I had curated an exhibition on ECM at Haus der Kunst in Munich, asked me to stop talking about a book that would never materialize, but do an exhibition on FMP at Haus der Kunst instead and produce a catalog accompanying said exhibition that would then be known as the book.

Working on the exhibition meant spending a lot of time with Jost Gebers, having generous and unlimited access to his archive, gathering and digitizing negatives and documents, etc. In parallel, I started structuring the exhibition and the catalog that was aligned to that structure. I had ideas for about six writers from all over the world that were supposed to submit essays covering topics for each of the chapters of the catalog/exhibition. As it was clear that due to the immense work on the exhibition, we would only be able to publish the catalog concurrent with the later opening of the Berlin version of the show, the catalog was put on semi-hold. Only Diedrich Diedrichsen delivered promptly, and before the opening in Munich 2017; that is just how he rolls. Now after the Munich chapter, Okwui Enwezor was forced to leave the Haus and his successor denied any commitment ever made, even though the financing was secured through funding from the German Federal Cultural Foundation. In other words, that catalog was on longer on semi-hold and could not be produced for Berlin in 2018. I had to start, stop, restart, stop, restart communication with the prospective contributors, and when the book started rolling again it was the beginning of 2020. With COVID, it was clear that nobody was waiting to put extra effort in an essay for a book that had been roller-coastering through everybody’s email inboxes since 2015 and had never made it out of the cocoon. In the beginning of 2021, I decided to write everything myself and use material from the past and conversations I had in preparation of the exhibition. And of course Diedrich’s text; he had to rewrite it more than once, Cecil Taylor was still alive when he first finished his piece.

The book is a collection of themed essays rather than a straight history — did you have that approach in mind from the beginning? How did that influence your approach to the writing and research?

MÜLLER: I was a hunter and gatherer for the exhibition and while doing that I realized that I had to focus on specific things or never get out of an avalanche of material. The book is based on my decisions on what to put into focus for the exhibition. There is a lot of FMP history that is not in the book, a lot of stories that are left out of this publication. It was a horrible but necessary decision to cut things out of both the exhibition and the book.

The relationship between Cecil Taylor and FMP went far beyond the 1988 residency — they worked together well into the 1990s. Did you ever get to talk to Taylor about that, and what did Jost Gebers or any of your other interview subjects have to say about working with him?

MÜLLER: I did get to talk to Taylor, and I tried to interview him for the book repeatedly; he lived very close to Okwui Enwezor in Fort Greene, so I even tried surprise visits. Cecil Taylor did not strike me as a man who wanted to talk about things like his past work with FMP, so it was always friendly, humbling and inspiring. But he gave me no answers and no blurbs and I respect that. I think by circumstantial evidence it is fair to say that FMP changed Taylor’s life just as much as he turned the tables for FMP. I think Jost Gebers and FMP delivered and Cecil Taylor delivered as well. The 1988 concerts were one things, the Cecil Taylor In Berlin ’88 Special Edition box was something else. There is nothing that can compare to that release, and as Adam Shatz put it in the New York Review Of Books: “Taylor, who considered his music a ‘celebration of life,’ never sounded more joyous than in the music he made in Berlin.” I think for Gebers Cecil Taylor was some kind of Everest (just imagine, Gebers had planned on bringing Lennie Tristano to FMP and he would have come, alas his death forfeited that historical opportunity) and he believed in the potential and he had the good luck that Berlin was Europe’s cultural capital in 1988 and Nele Hertling supported his ideas under that umbrella. If you look at the images showing Taylor poetry-dancing in socks with the elite of the European improvisors on the grass next to the Kongresshalle in preparation for their gig in 1988, you can see that nobody but Cecil Taylor could have made these men (yes, only men) do such things. Everybody has stories. The late Werner Lüdi shared his “Zürich-Taylor-Debacle” very openly when I interviewed him in 1993, so it was not all peaches.

But the most important thing is that Taylor knew that Gebers and his cohorts had delivered, and that is why he wanted to come back, why he came back to Berlin in 1989 and stayed on a DAAD stipend and from there on the Taylor FMP years began. The relationship to Oxley is another piece of evidence. Taylor played longer with Oxley than he had played with Jimmy Lyons, that alone seems unreal, totally unreal, but that started in Berlin 1988.

It’s fascinating, when looking through the galleries of album covers, how instantly recognizable Peter Brötzmann’s designs are, and how some of the other artists (Peter Kowald on …Break The Shells, for example) seem to be imitating his work sometimes. Do you think FMP has a consistent aesthetic identity? 

MÜLLER: No, I think decidedly not. Gebers, Brötzmann, and Hans Reichel were all what one would call graphic designers today and Brötzmann has the most distinct style. And as he liked to do the job, he did a lot also for things outside his own line of production. I think the identity is the heterogeneity. Everybody could realize his or her ideas and sometimes that was also a matter of discourse or fight between those responsible. Kowald was very much into homages: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Shusaku Arakawa, A.R. Penck, he paid tribute to them in his designs.

I was intrigued by the section on the production of the releases — I have listened to Charles Gayle’s Touchin’ On Trane dozens of times and I would never have suspected it to have been subject to the heavy editing Gebers describes. Does Jost Gebers have a “sound” as a producer, in your mind?

MÜLLER: Again, no, I do not think so, and then yet again, yes. At first it was about trying to sound as good as possible and learning by doing (and money available). Beginning in the 1980s and with the recordings in the studio though, Gebers has developed a very distinct style, very precise, very open, very direct. But Reichel, Lovens and others were very adamant to have their say in production sound values, and their recordings simply show that; they sound like they wanted them to sound. FMP was a cooperative, not a top-down thing.

Now that the bottom seems to be falling out of the music industry, even as jazz and the avant-garde are having a cultural “moment,” is there room for an FMP-like project to rise again, or was it a unique combination of people and circumstances, impossible to repeat?

MÜLLER: I think things are impossible to repeat, period. The scene in Berlin feels very different, much younger, much more international, much more diverse, much more women. Much more venues, vibes that are much more open and relaxed, less machismo. And as self-releasing music is way easier than in 1968 etc., we also seem to have a lot more recorded music out there. Having said that I am simply not sure if this or the next generation, the next torchbearers will simply want to do things like FMP did them. The hustle, the constant search for funds, the scarcity of public funds, the sacrifices that Jost and Dagmar Gebers made, that is something that one cannot plan out, one has to endure that and pull through. But who knows, maybe somebody out there might be doing it right now and we do not know it yet.

And now, new albums!

10

ORD - "April och tystnad"

ORD is a new project led by pianist Karin Johansson. (She created a stunning prepared piano video for an online festival I curated on New Year’s Day this year; you can watch that here.) The group features vocalist Jenny Willén, trombonist Niclas Rydh, Gunnel Samuelsson on bass clarinet and tenor saxophone, and Hasse Westling on bass. The pieces, which are partly composed by Johansson but which leave plenty of room for improvisation, are mostly inspired by poems by Tomas Tranströmer. One passage in particular, from his memoir, was especially meaningful for her: “I carry inside myself my earlier faces, as a tree contains its rings. The sum of them is me. The mirror sees only my latest face, while I know all my previous ones.” This has particular resonance for jazz, which is all about the tension between past and present, as musicians grapple with the genre’s history, struggle to create something genuinely new, or strive to put a personal stamp on a song that’s been performed a thousand times before by others. This can be even more true when working in “avant-garde” jazz, which has changed over the last 60 years or so from boundary-breaking to a language that musicians learn and speak just like any other. “April och tystnad” (April and silence), which opens the album, is all delicate piano and droning bowed bass; Willén delivers Tranströmer’s words in a whisper. It’s very beautiful, until the moment about two minutes in when the horns arrive, groaning like agitated elephants. Johansson hits the keys harder, and Willén begins to hum and then wail wordlessly. (From Hemligheter På Vägen, out now via Havtorn.)

09

Jeremy Pelt - "Be The Light"

I love a working band, and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt has put together a really good one — not for the first time. This is his third album with pianist Victor Gould, vibraphonist Chien Chien Lu, bassist Vicente Archer, and drummer Allan Mednard, and if 2019’s Jeremy Pelt, The Artist was more conceptually ambitious (half of it was a suite inspired by the sculptures of Rodin) and 2021’s Griot: This Is Important! felt like a tie-in to his first volume of interviews with fellow jazz artists (snippets from those interviews bracketed the tracks), this one is the sound of this band locking in and kicking ass. This is high-level (mostly) acoustic jazz in the tradition of Seventies power trumpeters like Woody Shaw, Freddie Hubbard, non-disco Donald Byrd, and Marcus Belgrave; the compositions are tight, with strong melodies and perfectly balanced arrangements. “Be The Light” swings hard, with Archer and Mednard absolutely eating up ground as Gould and Lu take turns showing off, until the boss comes back in and whips everyone into shape, blowing so hard you’d think his horn was probably glowing red by the end of his solo. Pelt seems to alternate between conceptually unified albums and ones that are “just” showcases for the awesome bands he puts together, like his mid-2000s quintet with saxophonist JD Allen, pianist Danny Grissett, bassist Dwayne Burno, and drummer Gerald Cleaver. This group is less hard-charging than that one, but the music they make is often astonishing. (From Soundtrack, out now via HighNote.)

08

Gerald Clayton - "Peace Invocation" (Feat. Charles Lloyd)

Gerald Clayton is one of the gentler pianists of his generation. He’s got a singer’s approach to music, focusing on melody — he tells younger players “Don’t sing what you play, play what you sing.” This album is a soft and romantic collection of pieces that includes some original music, two versions of the standard “My Ideal,” and two compositions by Catalan composer Federico Mompou. One of the latter, “Damunt de tu Només les Flors,” is sung by vocalist MARO; the Catalan language is somewhere between Spanish and Portuguese, to my ear, and she delivers the lyrics in a way that makes them sound like newly made-up sounds. A lot of the music here is solo, or duos with drummer Justin Brown, but sometimes Clayton’s father John plays bass. On “Peace Invocation,” the pianist is joined by saxophonist Charles Lloyd, with whom he’s recorded and toured off and on since 2013. Their temperaments are well matched; the saxophonist always sounds like he’s playing while seated in the lotus position on a California cliff overlooking the ocean, and Clayton sprinkles notes around him like a disciple scattering flower petals. (From Bells On Sand, out now via Blue Note.)

07

Secret People - "peephole"

Secret People is a band whose origins go back a decade. Drummer Kate Gentile and guitarist Dustin Carlson were roommates and co-workers who started writing and rehearsing music together. In about 2018, alto saxophonist Nathaniel Morgan joined them, and the music began to take an entirely new shape. Morgan adds more than a third instrumental (and compositional) voice to the project; he also engineered and mixed this debut album, and that’s a crucial factor. The music is a mix of highly complex composition in the “Brooklyn jazz by white people” tradition (long, post-Tim Berne melody lines; intricate tumbling rhythms; sculpted electronic noise; more juxtaposition than harmony) and largely free improvisation. But Morgan’s production work not only gives it an uncommon crispness, isolating each element for maximum clarity, he also layers in subtle reverb and gently disorienting spatial effects, making it an ideal headphone record. “peephole” starts off scorching, with Carlson’s guitar snapping at the air as Gentile plays what sounds like a loose, exploratory drum solo but, knowing her, could be entirely scored. After a couple of minutes, it settles down into soundscape-land, with humming feedback and tiny percussive sounds inviting Morgan to hiss and moan, the horn seeming to rise up out of the ground like a malign spirit. Still later, things veer toward chamber jazz (Gentile switches to vibes), and it all ends with several minutes of electronic buzz and crackle. (From Secret People, out 4/29 via Out Of Your Head.)

06

Dave Gisler Trio with Jaimie Branch and David Murray - "Bastards On The Run"

Two years ago, Swiss punk-jazz guitarist Dave Gisler and his trio (bassist Raffaelle Bossard and drummer Lionel Friedli) brought in trumpeter Jaimie Branch for a concert in Zurich, which was released on CD by Intakt. Now they’ve come back together for a studio album, and this time they’ve added saxophone titan David Murray to the lineup. Somehow, the music seems twice as ferocious as last time. Friedli counts off the opening track, “Bastards On The Run,” at a Bad Brains tempo, and the melody is like someone throwing a knot of barbed wire at you; no matter how you try and grab it, you’re gonna get hurt. It’s basically a storm of sound, perfectly combining free jazz and noisy punk. Gisler, Branch, and Murray are all soloing at once all the way through, with the trumpeter feeding her horn through echo to the point that she sounds doubled, and the rhythm section absolutely blasting away. It ends as suddenly as it began, the music just…stopping and drifting away in a shimmer of reverb. (From See You Out There, out now via Intakt.)

05

Dave Douglas - "Agnus Dei"

This album’s been in the works for a long time. Trumpeter/composer Dave Douglas was first contacted by Wim Wabbest of Handelsbeurs concert hall in Ghent, Belgium in the summer of 2018; he was asked to write some new music to celebrate the 600th anniversary of The Adoration Of The Mystic Lamb, a multi-part altarpiece painting in St. Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent. Douglas took on the project and assembled a killer ensemble to play it: Berlinde Deman on serpent, tuba, and vocals; Marta Warelis on piano, prepared piano, and pump organ; Frederik Leroux on guitars, lute, and electronics; Tomeka Reid on cello; and Lander Gyselinck on drums and electronics. But then the world shut down. The recording, which took place between May 2020 and August 2021, was all done remotely, with each participant sending in their parts separately. (This isn’t the first album Douglas has done this way; in fact, it’s the third. 2020’s Overcome and 2021’s The Dream: Monash Sessions were also recorded remotely and assembled.) This isn’t religious music, exactly; it doesn’t take traditional hymnlike forms, but on a piece like “Agnus Dei,” Reid’s cello surges, with Leroux’s guitar and Warelis’s piano providing support as Deman sings softly, with Douglas harmonizing like a soft echo, barely audible beside her. His voice on the trumpet, by contrast, is fierce and powerful. (From Secular Psalms, out now via Greenleaf Music.)

04

Fred Moten / Brandon López / Gerald Cleaver - "b jenkins"

Bassist Brandon López and drummer Gerald Cleaver have been playing together as a duo for quite a while, but at the 2019 Vision Festival in New York, they performed with writer Fred Moten. Moten is a poet, critic, and academic, winner of a 2020 MacArthur Fellowship. His 2003 book In the Break: The Aesthetics Of The Black Radical Tradition has been described as an analysis of the connections and conflicts between Black radical aesthetics and Western culture and philosophy; he dives deep into the work of Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Eric Dolphy and Amiri Baraka alongside Martin Heidegger, Immanuel Kant, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Jacques Derrida. It’s on my to-read list. The poem he delivers here, “b Jenkins,” comes from a 2010 collection of the same name, dedicated to his late mother. Behind him, López and Cleaver lay down an intricate, dancing interaction that reminds me of the quieter moments of Jaimie Branch’s Fly Or Die band, with the bassist’s heavy breathing and occasional humming serving as a fourth element, somewhere between backing vocal and percussion. (From Moten/López/Cleaver, out now via Reading Group.)

03

Cameron Graves - "Sons Of Creation"

Pianist Cameron Graves’ Seven was one of the wildest albums of 2021, a tightly composed collection of what can only be described as “thrash fusion.” His pounding, ultra-precise piano melodies were augmented by screaming hard rock guitar from Colin Cook, and anchored by electric bass from Max Gerl and pinpoint drumming from Mike Mitchell. He took that band on the road, too, and has now released a live album. I don’t think the title, Live From The Seven Spheres, refers to an actual venue. Graves has some esoteric interests; his first album, 2017’s Planetary Prince, was inspired by the Urantia Book, a religious/philosophical/metaphysical text of unknown authorship from the middle of the 20th century. So the Seven Spheres is probably a reference to the solar system. This might not even be “live” in the commonly understood sense; there’s applause, but for all I know, the band ripped through the tunes in a studio and crowd noise was dubbed in later, like on James Brown’s 1970 double album Sex Machine. What I know for sure is that it fucking rips. The set list is a mix of tunes from Planetary Prince and Seven, all delivered in the band’s uniquely aggressive style. On “Sons Of Creation,” everyone is cranked up to maximum force — Mitchell in particular sounds like he’s playing with the Mars Volta or something, and Cook’s guitar has a jagged, tearing bite. (From Live From The Seven Spheres, out now via Mack Avenue.)

02

Charles Mingus - "The Man Who Never Sleeps"

Charles Mingus was born 100 years ago this month, on April 22, 1922, in Nogales, Arizona. He was an absolute volcano of creativity, his compositions intricately worked out (The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady is one of the 20th century’s great works of art) yet retaining a raw, howling spirit. His work from the mid 1950s through the mid ’60s — roughly from 1956’s Pithecanthropus Erectus to 1964’s Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus — is absolutely jam-packed with indelible tunes and overwhelming performances. But after about 1966, he went into a kind of hibernation, not coming back at full strength until the early ’70s, when he got a second wind and put out amazing albums like the symphonic Let My Children Hear Music and the paired Changes One and Two. This live set was recorded in London in August 1972, and was scheduled to be released on Columbia, but Columbia dropped all its jazz artists except Miles Davis without warning in 1973. Consequently, it’s been sitting in the vault ever since, which is too bad, but hey, at least it’s here now. A three-CD set, it features two saxophonists — Charles McPherson on alto and Bobby Jones on tenor — along with trumpeter Jon Faddis, just 19 at the time, pianist John Foster (who delivers a hilarious Louis Armstrong impression at one point), and the amazing drummer Roy Brooks, who also plays musical saw. Some of the pieces here are extraordinarily long; “Orange Was The Color Of Her Dress, Then Silk Blues,” “Fables Of Faubus,” and “Mind-Readers’ Convention In Milano (AKA Number 29)” each run more than a half hour, giving almost every bandmember the chance to uncoil extended solos. “The Man Who Never Sleeps,” a relatively new piece, begins as a showcase for Faddis’s stunning high notes but eventually becomes a nearly 19-minute romantic interlude. (From The Lost Album Live at Ronnie Scott’s, out 4/29 via Resonance Records.)

01

Flora Purim - "500 Miles High"

Flora Purim is a legend. She and her husband, percussionist Airto Moreira, often work separately (he was in Miles Davis’s band in 1970-71; she wasn’t), but they’re best known as a team. Together, they’ve collaborated with Carlos Santana, Chick Corea, Hermeto Pascoal, Cannonball Adderley, and many others. Purim rose to fame during the jazz fusion era; she was featured on the first two albums by Chick Corea’s Return To Forever, the self-titled debut and 1973’s Light As A Feather, and broke out as a solo artist shortly afterward on a string of albums for the Milestone label that featured players like saxophonist Joe Henderson, keyboardist George Duke, bassists Ron Carter and Alphonso Johnson, and drummer Leon “Ndugu” Chancler, among others. Her vocals are crystal clear, with the gentle accent of her native Brazil; she switches at will from focused explorations of the lyrics to swooping, ecstatic, wordless cartwheels in the air. If You Will, her first studio album in almost 20 years, features Airto and their daughter, Diana Purim, as well as a vast array of musicians they’ve worked with over the years. “500 Miles High” is a tune she first recorded on Light As A Feather, and Purim hadn’t been planning to revisit it, but in February 2021, when If You Will was almost complete, she heard about Corea’s sudden death, and decided to include it as a tribute to him. She starts out singing the lyrics slowly, over nothing but electric piano; soft percussion comes in, then the full drum kit on the first chorus, and then the ensemble bounces and sways together, the beat a fast shuffle and the electric piano speeding forward. (From If You Will, out 4/29 via Strut.)

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