The Jazz Corner – Vol. 1
Welcome to The Jazz Corner of Wordkrapht. Given an opportunity to write about anything, the choice was made to dive into some jazz in an effort to find and expose artists in a genre where many do not tread. It turns out, and it should be to no one’s surprise, that jazz is alive and well, and diverse as ever. Though it’s never regained the throne it held in America’s popular culture through the first sixty years of the 20th century, as a musical art form it is constantly having life breathed into it by the musicians who are devoted to it, the fans who seek it, and by independent labels and clubs who help get the music out to the people. Jazz has never stopped evolving, nor has it forgotten where it comes from. In an art form that demands consummate musicianship to allow individual expression to occur amongst communication between musicians, how could its evolution ever stop? This corner of the site will be dedicated to modern independent jazz artists, and perhaps from time to time, highlighting some older artists worth a remembrance. To the readers who like, love, or are interested in exploring some jazz, hopefully this isn’t a letdown, and those who aren’t fans yet are invited to stop in as well to maybe discover something you didn’t know you liked.
Truth Revolution Records is striving to be as good of an example of a successful, artist friendly, anti-corporate music label as there can be. In an industry that has four major recording companies (Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, EMI Group, and Warner Music Group) controlling the vast majority of musical output, Live Nation as the largest promoter and musical venue owner, and Clear Channel controlling everything you hear on the radio, it is more important than ever for there to be sustainable independent music label business models where artistic freedom is encouraged and promoted. The artists will always be there, as performing and creating are ingrained in their DNA, and they’d all be spending their free time doing what they do anyway. However, the avenues to get their art out to the people may not be so ever-present, and the ones that do present themselves may not be desirable to the artists. As a change in the way the business relationship works between the labels and performers , artists who work with Truth Revolution Records retain the rights to their own master records and publishing of their work, which has to be enticing to musicians who want to get there art out, but not lose control of it. According to their website “Truth Revolution Records is not about money or becoming a large industry. It can’t be. It is about what we believe. Our first order of business is to base our label around the fact that the artists keep their music. Partnership, truth, respect, love and integrity.”1 As a listener wading through the offerings of an industry that recycles redressed pop-fads every few years turning out cookie-cutter versions of what’s always worked at the cash register, and dropping their creations at the first sign of sales slippage in search of the next star they’re sure to cash in on, it’s refreshing to know that a record company would even promote themselves as Truth Revolution Records does, and whether listeners love their artists or not, serious music fans will respect the company’s concept.
Brothers Zaccai and Luques Curtis formed a quartet in 2005, which along with various other musical ventures, has allowed them to tour the U.S. and the world ever since. They are schooled musicians who’ve spent their early musical years studying at jazz master Jackie and Dolly McLean’s Artists Collective in Hartford, CT, they then moved their studies onto the Hartford Academy of the Arts, before continuing further at separate schools in Boston. Luques attended the Berkeley School of Music, while Zaccai was at the New England Conservatory. Their knowledge of the craft shines through in their music as Luques’ bass dances, and bounces along holding the rhythm tight while never losing step with the drums, which along with Zaccai’s piano create a perfect pocket in the music for the horns to go nuts over.
Their 2012 release The Completion of Proof allowed the brothers to bring together musicians of their choosing that they’d worked with before. This included drummer Ralph Peterson, Jr., trumpeter Brian Lynch, an old friend from the Artist’s Collective in saxophonist Jimmy Greene and “Big Chief” Donald Harrison on alto sax, the player who gave the brother’s their first touring job. Knowing the styles of those joining them well allowed for the brothers to tailor the nature of the songs they were writing to their strengths of the individuals. According to Zaccai “We thought of the sound of each band member and tried to feature each one in the music. We set a date and nailed the music at the studio; no rehearsals and all within 1 or 2 takes!”2 The music has a classic jazz feel to it with blues and hard bop sound that’s scattered with Latin influences and touches of India here and there throughout. Although all the musicians shine, it is drummer Ralph Peterson, Jr. who commands each track as there seems to be no beat, rhythm, or time frame he cannot transition from and into effortlessly. His persistent perfection allows the rest of the band to play with a looseness giving each the chance to take their place in the tune. Luques bass adds to the strength of the backbone Peterson gives the music while adding swinging grooves for the horns and piano to dance and blow over. Zaccai’s piano is nothing short of excellent, holding the rhythm in step with his brother while waiting for his turn to let loose a flurry of ivory in the music; he creates the space for the band to play over, and then fills in that space when needed. The horns shine from the album’s opening salvo of “Protestor,” to the racing finish of the album’s conclusion “Jazz Conspiracy,” building grooves together and then giving each other the space to take turns building thoughtful, flowing, and funky solos to carry the songs.
With The Completion of Proof, The Curtis Brothers breathed life back into swinging, hard bop music while incorporating influences from various corners of the world, and who along with their bandmates, created an easy listen that is exciting, and upbeat; an album that listeners will love.
WORDKRAPHT Rating: 4 Stars
Album Name: The Completion of Proof
Date Released: August, 2012
Genre: jazz, blues, swing, bop, hard bop
Location: Hartford, CT., Boston, MA., NY, NY.
Band Members: Zaccai Curtis (piano), Luques Curtis (bass), Brian Lynch (trumpet), Jimmy Greene (saxophone), Joe Ford (saxophone), “Big Chief” Donald Harrison (alto sax), Ralph Peterson, Jr. (drums), Rogerio Boccato (percussion), Pedro Martinez (percussion), and Reinaldo De Jesus (percussion)
Record Label: Truth Revolution Records – http://truthrevolutionrecords.com/