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Revive Music Presents: Supreme Sonacy (2015)

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“Sonacy” is the undefined, unexplained derivative of sound - a melodic experience without conformity or the neat packaging of category. Much too expansive to explain, it just is.  Born from a collision of sound and matter, it is the place where musical performance elevates to a transformative spiritual experience. Pushing past earthly conventions and into the unknown, sonacy alludes to the supreme, transcendent power that exists at the intersection of every musical tradition.

REVIVE Music Presents: Supreme Sonacy features a stellar roster of broad-ranged musicians including Igmar Thomas, Marc Cary, Marcus Strickland, Raydar Ellis, Christie Dashiell, Casey Benjamin, Terry Slingbaum, Brandee Younger, Keyon Harrold, Maurice Brown, Jaleel Shaw, Ray Angry, Chris Potter, James Genus, Kris Bowers and Ben Williams (courtesy of Concord Records) and the legendary Jeff “Tain” Watts.  The lineup represents the Revive narrative, which is steeped in the importance of community, inclusiveness, mentorship, and innovation.

“Trane Thang” from trumpeter Igmar Thomas is a nod to the modal style developed by John Coltrane.  The song was handpicked by Stabile, whose fondness for the tune goes back to the days of Berklee.  “It started out as just an interlude,” says Thomas, of the song’s genesis.  “It was something we did with this band we used to have, and everybody started liking it, and the more we did it, I heard different ways to incorporate it, and I even have other songs that I incorporate it with.”  One of those songs includes the Wayne Shorter classic, “Pinocchio.”  The savvy leader-arranger of the Revive Big Band, Thomas’ tune runs the gamut seamlessly, from hip hop to Headhunters, honoring two tenor titans in the process.

“I like challenges, I guess,” says saxophonist Marcus Strickland, whose extensive body of work has positioned him as one of the most prolific composers of his time.  Rising to the occasion came naturally when Stabile suggested Strickland remake the Janet Jackson classic, “Let’s Wait Awhile”.  The mid-tempo, sexy-soul rendition features vocalist Christie Dashiell, whose performance got the green light from Jackson.  Strickland, who captains the elaborate arrangement, also doubles on bass clarinet.

The compelling influence of jazz on the French historically reached pianist, composer, and conductor Maurice Ravel in the early twentieth century.  Miami native and composer-producer Terry Slingbaum explains his transformative arrangement of Ravel’s alluring solo piano piece, “Jeux d'eau” (translated as “Water Games”), is rooted in the Romantic era aesthetic that easily interchanges with the emotional evocation of jazz.  Slingbaum sniffs out a progression from Ravel which is reminiscent of the Native Tongues era of hip hop samples, using it as the melodic springboard for the second half of the arrangement, while saxophonists Casey Benjamin and Troy Roberts each offer rousing solos.

The album takes a starkly beautiful turn with a poignant rendition of “The Procrastinator” by trumpet icon Lee Morgan.  Keyon Harrold, Maurice Brown and Jaleel Shaw co-pilot the homage, which features stunning trumpet solos and stands as an extension of previous tributes to Morgan. This take on the Lee Morgan track was arranged by GRAMMY-award winning bassist Ben Williams.  “When I came across the original version of ‘The Procrastinator’, there are these sections, and it starts really somber…almost like a funeral dirge or something,” says Williams.  “It has this really dark melody that doesn’t really have any rhythm to it; it’s just melody.  When I’m trying to arrange music, that’s the thing I’m looking for.  Just a melody that speaks to me that I feel like I could kind of mold and shift into a different shape.

Harpist Brandee Younger’s mixture of virtuosity and creative dexterity has gained her well-deserved notoriety over the last several years, performing with a variety of artists from Ravi Coltrane to Drake.  “Dorothy Jeanne” elucidates the gravity of unsung harp hero Dorothy Ashby, whose innovative Afro Harping album laid the groundwork for diversifying the role of the harp, and ushering the instrument into the realm of popular music.  “[Dorothy] took the songs of the time and applied them,” says Younger, who takes cues from Ashby’s legacy when deciding her own creative licenses.  “She wasn’t recording a ton of music from a hundred years prior.  She did some, but she really had no qualms about pushing forward.”

Stepping out as front man, veteran keyboardist and prolific writer and producer Ray Angry displays another side of his artistry with an elaborate “Celebration of Life” suite.  Featuring vocalist Nadia Washington, the suite traverses through sections of “Awareness”, “Revolution/Revelation”, and finally, “The Awakening”, with a powerhouse ensemble of Chris Potter, James Genus and Jeff “Tain” Watts

The vibrant sound captured in each interlude from producer Raydar Ellis offers a peek at the beauty and possibility at the intersection of hip-hop and jazz.  Ellis’ presence is the evolutionary result of a movement that began with the advent of big band and bebop and evolved with the onset of sampling and the hybridized jazz funk that encouraged hip-hop’s second golden era.  Metastasizing between the rise and untimely departure of J Dilla, the music and practically every musician that cut their teeth on the sounds of the Native Tongues has grown to spread the drunken swing at the core of each Dilla joint across the landscape of modern music.  A Berklee alum that got the bug for producing as a youth, Ellis contributes six standout interludes between each song, drawing inspiration from his personal hip-hop heroes.   Combining an encyclopedic knowledge of both the b-boy tradition and the impossibly rich legacy of the trad, Ellis has helped to conceive of and create something that much more beautiful.