Le Coq Records | “The Jazz All Stars, Vol. 1” | Available January 8, 2021
New Label Le Coq Records Launches with Star-Studded Inaugural Release,
Le Coq Records Presents The Jazz All Stars, Vol. 1
A Roster of Revered Modern Jazz Musicians
Including Alex Acuña, John Beasley, Vinnie Colaiuta,
Bill Cunliffe, Andy James, Joe LaBarbera, Rick Margitza,
John Patitucci, Marvin “Smitty” Smith, Terell Stafford and others
Promising a catalogue of “honest jazz,” newly launched label Le Coq Records rings in the new year with its inaugural release, Le Coq Records presents The Jazz All Stars, Vol. 1. A thrilling overview of the imprint’s virtuosic spirit and guiding philosophy, the album, due out January 8, 2021, is the rare all-star project that truly lives up to the name.
In a short time, Le Coq has assembled a family of stellar musicians who converge in myriad combinations on The Le Coq Jazz All Stars, exploring a wide variety of styles and approaches. The names are well known, and some have crossed paths briefly during the course of their notable careers, but these recordings surprisingly mark the first time that many of them have worked extensively together.
The results are a rare treat for modern jazz aficionados, especially given the versatility and range of the well-known musicians who comprise the album’s line-up: keyboardists Bill Cunliffe and John Beasley; bassists John Patitucci and Chris Colangelo; drummers Vinnie Colaiuta, Marvin “Smitty” Smith and Joe LaBarbera; percussionist Alex Acuña; trumpeters Terell Stafford and Wayne Bergeron; saxophonists Rick Margitza and Ralph Moore; guitarist Jake Langley and vocalist Andy James, among others.
“Touring around the world as a Flamenco dancer, I got to know and perform with so many great jazz artists,” explains founder Piero Pata. “So when we started Le Coq, I focused on gathering together these incredible musicians. This album is a way to introduce the label through the vision of these artists who audiences know and who have been pushing the music forward for a lifetime.”
The material on this initial release ranges from absorbing original tunes to reinterpreted classics like “Caravan” and “Afro Blue.” It’s a cohesive single album that nonetheless showcases the stunning artistic breadth and impeccable musicianship for which the label strives.
“The album came together rather organically,” says Cunliffe, who has taken on a role akin to that of a house arranger at the label and who served as an informal music director for the Le Coq Jazz All Stars. “I’m very fortunate to have a producer in Piero who is also an artist himself. He’s all about the music, which is a quality that he shares with all the great jazz producers. As an artist, Piero knows good from bad and he gives me the freedom to do what I need to do. No one can ask for a better producer than that.”
An Italian-Australian native, Pata forged his ear for honest jazz through a lifetime in music and the performing arts. He began studying piano at the age of four under the mentorship of Isador Goodman, pianist for the world-renowned violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Pata also sang in the youth chorus at the famed Sydney Opera. He went on to become a gifted ballet dancer and solidified his technique with Ballet St. Petersburg’s Borris Romanoff and Company, later moving on to The Australian Ballet and touring with many of the world’s top companies and performers. Pata started his producing career in Spain, germinating out of live performances with great Flamenco players and dancers.
While the Jazz All Stars seems like a once in a lifetime congregation of modern jazz greats, it also hints at future releases by many of these artists in Le Coq’s not-too-distant future. Already in the pipeline for the early months of 2021 are new releases from Andy James, Rick Margitza, and a new trio bringing together Cunliffe, John Patitucci and Vinnie Colaiuta, with many more to follow.
Ushered in by Acuña’s always-captivating percussion, the album opens with John Beasley’s “Theme for FLOTUS.” Dedicated to former First Lady and jazz fan Michelle Obama, the piece was written as the closing theme for “Jazz at the White House,” the televised all-star performance held on International Jazz Day in 2016. Cunliffe provided the insistent big band chart “Tu Wero Niu,” an ode to resilience named after a Maori expression meaning “the ultimate challenge” and written following a turbulent flight to New Zealand.
A veteran of the Joey DeFrancesco Trio, guitarist Jake Langley brings a classic soul-jazz vibe to “Log Jammin’,” a simmering groove with Beasley on Fender Rhodes that conjures the spirit of a smoky old-school bar with a raucous jazz combo in the corner. Cunliffe’s deft hand at arranging is spotlighted on his own “There You Go,” a rich, celebratory tune that weaves nine players into an orchestral magnitude. The ensemble then pares down to the duo of Patitucci and Acuña, who engage in a lively dialogue via Mongo Santamaria’s timeless “Afro Blue.”
Vocalist Andy James makes a guest appearance on another familiar classic, Duke Ellington’s oft-reprised “Caravan.” Cunliffe’s arrangement is an energetic modern reimagining, a tantalizing glimpse at what’s to come in James’ upcoming release Tu Amor. More Ellington follows with Cunliffe’s big band arrangement of the percolating “Rockin’ in Rhythm.” Finally, Margitza’s breathy, soulful tenor takes the lead on a wistful quintet version of the Al Jolson standard “Avalon,” closing the album on a note of yearning – perhaps for more of what these brilliant musicians have in store.
The album proved as rewarding for the All Stars as it will be for listeners,
as the artists themselves enthusiastically shared:
“I’m proud to be a part of this musical family Piero Pata has put together to record the music that we love.” – John Beasley
“Having the chance to create with these amazing musicians is always special. And when there is already camaraderie, even better. The beauty of it is Piero’s sense of allowing the musicians’ personalities to speak freely and really express their muse with complete carte blanche. In that way he is eliciting pure creative expression – something sorely needed today.” – Vinnie Colaiuta
“I feel truly grateful to be a part of this project. These guys are some of my favorite musicians on the planet. All-Star projects can be a little tricky, because even though everybody sounds great individually, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee music that sounds like it was created by a band. But from the moment we started playing in the studio, it felt as if we had been together for a long time.” – Rick Margitza
“Though I am a native New Yorker, I spent some wonderful years between 1978 and 1996 in Southern California. Working with Piero Pata and a host of old and dear friends has been like a family reunion in many ways. Getting a chance to spend time and make music with Alex Acuña, Vinnie Colaiuta, John Beasley, Bill Cunliffe and many others has been a wonderful experience. Piero and Andy are extremely generous people, have a daring vision and the organizational skills to make it all happen for their new record label.” – John Patitucci
“What an amazing experience to make music with these extremely gifted musicians.” – Terell Stafford
Le Coq Records · The Jazz All Stars, Vol. 1
Release Date: January 8, 2021
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