Mike LeDonne - hammond organ
Eric Alexander - tenor saxophone
Peter Bernstein - guitar
Joe Farnsworth - drums
Mike LeDonne's Groover Quartet has been the featured Tuesday night band at Smoke (New York) for the past 14 years.
internationally renowned pianist and organist Mike LeDonne has the unique experience of having played with a wide spectrum of jazz masters from Benny Goodman to Milt Jackson and Sonny Rollins.
He has worked with the Art Farmer-Clifford Jordan Quintet, went to Paris with Grady Tate, and played with more modern masters like James Moody, Dizzy Gillespie, Stanley Turrentine, Charles McPherson, Sonny Rollins and Bobby Hutcherson. He also spent time as accompanist to singers Ernestine Anderson, Annie Ross and Etta Jones.
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A prodigal talent raised outside of Seattle, Parks moved with his family to study at the Manhattan School of Music when he was 16. Two years later, on the recommendation of a teacher, NEA Jazz Master Kenny Barron, he was invited to join trumpet great Terence Blanchard’s band. That tenure began the relationship with Blue Note that would yield Invisible Cinema, released when Parks was just 24. In The Guardian, John Fordham called the album “a real independent vision,” adding that “Parks is a fast-rising star.” In the September 2008 issue of JazzTimes, Parks was named a “New Jazz Visionary” alongside current giants like Esperanza Spalding, Robert Glasper and Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah. Over the ensuing decade, Parks certainly made good on that early promise. He was an essential presence in Kurt Rosenwinkel’s band, including on the guitarist’s well-received double album from 2012, Star of Jupiter. As a member of the supergroup James Farm, also featuring saxophonist Joshua Redman, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Eric Harland, Parks put out two celebrated albums on Nonesuch. In 2013 he released his first disc as an ECM Records artist, Arborescence, which DownBeat’s J.D. Considine called “a forest-invoking solo-piano effort marked by wonderfully detailed narratives and a harmonic palette worthy of Ravel.” Find the Way, an ECM trio session with bassist Ben Street and drummer Billy Hart, followed last year and garnered equally enthusiastic reviews.
Aaron Parks Little Big, the new Ropeadope album from the acclaimed pianist, keyboardist and composer, is at once the culmination of his brilliant early career and the long-awaited follow-up to his Blue Note Records debut, Invisible Cinema. That 2008 release, with its gorgeously melodic writing and improvising and deft use of indie-rock, electronica and hip-hop elements, established Parks as one of the most gifted and original young voices in jazz. “This is the natural successor to that record,” says the New York-based artist, 34. “It’s taking the ideas of that project and doubling down on them—fully committing to that direction.”
Little Big also marks the recorded debut of the intuitive working group that gives the album its title (and which takes its name from a fantastical novel by John Crowley—a favorite book of Parks and, the pianist notes, Wayne Shorter). Parks handled the production duties, with engineering by Daniel Schlett (whose credits include The War on Drugs and Ghostface Killah). The album was mixed by both Schlett and Grizzly Bear bassist/producer Chris Taylor, the latter of whom Parks met in a Seattle big band at the age of 10. “We put a lot of time and care into the way this record sounds, and the result”—simultaneously crystalline and warm, postmodern and natural—“makes me really happy,” Parks adds.
After experimenting with various lineups and sessions, Parks landed on three musicians ideally suited for this atmospheric, genre-bending new work. “This feels like a real band, one that will be around for a while,” he says. Greg Tuohey is the longest-running member, a guitarist who places taste and tone ahead of chops-focused bravado—or, as Parks puts it, “It’s like he’s chasing Miles Davis’ phrasing with Jimi Hendrix’s attitude.” On electric bass is David “DJ” Ginyard Jr., a left-handed player with a distinctively lyrical approach and an aptitude for seeing the bigger musical picture. “He really understands what the bass does, and he thinks super compositionally,” Parks says, noting how some of Ginyard’s basslines have become integral to the songs. Anchoring the unit is Tommy Crane, a forward-looking, stylistically resourceful drummer who brings both explosive creativity and a producer’s knack for precision. “He has a very unique ability to internalize and commit to the particular heartbeat of each song,” Parks explains, “but always with this vital and elastic human element, which is rare to hear in combination with the kinds of grooves we’re exploring.”
Together they interpret a panoramic set of Parks’ original compositions—from the 21st-century fusion of “Kid,” to the odd-metered studio jam “Professor Strangeweather,” to the trip-hop ambiance and folkish melody of “Bells.” The psychedelic “Aquarium”—“probably the sexiest tune on the album,” Parks says, chuckling—conjures up the trippy, sultry neo-soul vibe of Meshell Ndegeocello, before Tuohey offers a solo that channels Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. “Digital Society” somehow manages to evoke Afrobeat, bluegrass and Aphex Twin. “Lilac” is, as Parks describes it, “a solo-piano pop tune.” The leader’s “secret favorite” cut, “Doors Open,” seeks inspiration in late Talk Talk and the “earnestness” of Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band. That closing track is “definitely not afraid to go straight for your heart,” Parks says with a laugh.
On Little Big, Parks taps into the lessons he’s absorbed throughout those far-reaching experiences, while also progressing some of the au courant sounds he investigated on Invisible Cinema. “This feels like the most personal record I’ve ever made,” he says. What’s more, the album reflects his worldview, an outlook in which optimism and inclusion supersede politics. “There’s a lot out there right now to protest against, and it feels like it’s the artist’s duty to create music that reckons with the issues of the day. Nonetheless, this is not a protest record. It’s not against anything; it’s much more for something. What we’re aiming to do is blend genres and ideas in an open and fluid way, so that structure and freedom work together to serve the larger concept of the song. It’s a way of working together that feels representative of the kind of world I could imagine many of us might want to live in.”
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House of Soul October 3rd!
Aaron Parks & Little Big
October 17th at SFCC
Students ranging from school aged to adult professional worked with Ralph Moore, Anthony Wonsey, Dezron Douglas, Joe Magnarelli and George Fludas in a workshop at Holy Names Music Center on June 26th receiving workshops and group lessons from each member of the quintet. The concert, sponsored by Hoffman Music, Holy Names Music Center, Spokane Art Grant Award and The Herb Alpert Foundation via the Jazz Education Network (JEN) took place at Spokane Falls Community College.
The Black Art Jazz Collective performed a concert on Jan 23rd at SFCC auditorium for an audience of 95.
They also performed an afternoon clinic in which students from Deer Park High School, Washington State University, and members of the community learned from the group.
On January 24th, We drove BAJC to Missoula where they gave clinics at University of Montana and performed to a sold out audience of 130 at the Downtown Dance Collective.
October 2nd & 3rd 2018
An Inter-dimensional portal was opened and for a short time we all existed on the same plane. Logan Richardson's beautiful alto sound soared above Igor Osypov's intricate guitar lines that weaved and danced above the powerful duo of Dominique Sanders's Bass and Ryan Lee's drums. Epic Rock beats were fused with elements of Jazz, Blues, Metal and Modern Freedom....... Filled with heavy guitar effects, samples and lyrical solos. It was victory music; beautiful and inspiring. It referenced the battle, represented the struggle and was everything we knew we always needed but couldn't quite define. It was simply grand.
Local students from WSU, SFCC and EWU were in attendance in the SFCC band room on Oct 2nd where the workshop began with an interview with Logan Richardson. Richardson spoke about his hometown Kansas City, creative culture in New York, the history of slavery and it's affect on society, current social struggles, the concepts of stretch music and SHIFT.
During the interactive portion of the workshop, students from the WSU combo "Jazz Wires" performed for Logan and the quartet. The students were encouraged to "play like it was the very last time". Drummer Ryan Lee coached
the students on beats, technique and more. The Imagine Collective also performed for the
On Wednesday Oct 3rd, BLUES PEOPLE stepped out to Cheney and talked with students on aspects of the music business and then performed a short set for the entire school of music at Convocation.
The BLUES PEOPLE concert was the first Imagine Jazz collaboration with Terrain at the Washington Cracker Co Building. Around 90 people were in attendance at the concert including many college students.
Logan Richardson at Terrain Oct 3, 2018
June 18 2018 we had the great pleasure of receiving a clinic from The Vincent Herring Quartet with Carl Allen, David Kikoski and Yasushi Nakamura. Around 30 students and community members were able to receive advice from the Quartet at Holy Names Music Center. The clinic was made possible in part by Yamaha.
The show was well attended, with around 90 attendants at The House of Soul. The quartet with Carl Allen, Yasushi Nakamura and David Kikoski played 2 sets to a very appreciative audience.
We were so pleased with the first ever Imagine Jazz Festival!
Local Bands performed at House of Soul Thurs-Sun and we finished out the festival with a performance by The WIllie Jones III Quintet. We rented a grand piano - so Spokane could experience a real dinner-club atomosphere. The Willie Jones III quintet was off the hook - bringing a great mix of intensity, and soul and brought the New York Vibe to Spokane. It was the such a treat for Spokane listeners at The House of Soul who varied from College students to local professional musicians and other jazz loving community members.
We had 3 fantastic clinics for this years fesstival - giving the local studnets many opportunities to work with the guest artitsts - The Willie Jones III Quintet.
The Tuesday night clinic featured small group combos from WSU, EWU, Whitworth and SAJE who performed and received feedback by the artists. It was a treat for the students to be able to watch each other perform, and for all the students to be able to hear the various comments. In the middle of the clinic, the students were able to watch a small performance by members of the Willie Jones III Quintet - allowing them to hear the model.
There were 2 clinics on Wednesday - one at Mead High School where Jeremy Pelt worked with some students on soloing, and a clinic in the afternoon at The House of Soul where Ralph Moore, Gerald Cannon and Willie Jones III worked in trio format performing for students of SAJE and answering various questions.
Your support and contributions will enable us to fund more clinics, concerts, masterclasses and jazz events. Thank you for your consideration.