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Smoke Sessions Records Celebrates Great Artistry in 2020

Smoke Sessions Records Celebrates Great Artistry in 2020 with

Releases by Late Harold Mabern, Wayne Escoffery, Orrin Evans Captain Black Big Band, Bobby Watson, Eddie Henderson, Joe Farnsworth, Peter Bernstein, and Eric Reed

2021 Kicks Off with Albums From

Greg Skaff with Ron Carter and Tootie Heath; Vincent Herring with Cyrus Chestnut, Johnathan Blake, Yasushi Nakamura

Smoke Sessions Records released eight recordings in 2020 from both legacy Smoke artists as well as new additions to the roster. The New York-based label, and affiliate of Smoke Jazz Club, has continued to produce high quality recordings with some of the most acclaimed artists working today. The year saw releases from the late Harold Mabern, Wayne Escoffery, Orrin Evans Captain Black Big Band, Bobby Watson, Eddie Henderson, Joe Farnsworth, Peter Bernstein, and Eric Reed. The label also congratulates Orrin Evans and the Captain Black Big Band on their GRAMMY® Award nomination in the Best Large Jazz Ensemble category.

Smoke Sessions Records is excited to announce their first releases for 2021. Guitarist Greg Skaff is joined for a new record by bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tootie Heath. Legacy Smoke artist and saxophonist Vincent Herring will also be releasing a new album featuring pianist Cyrus Chestnut, bassist Yasushi Nakamura, and drummer Johnathan Blake. More information on these releases will be forthcoming.

Here’s a recap on the exceptional titles released in 2020:

Harold Mabern | Mabern Plays Mabern

The year’s first release and the legendary pianist’s 27th recording as a leader documents Mabern, then 81, in peak form, functioning as an inspired soloist, attentive accompanist, melodic interpreter, and crafty tunesmith. The release was planned for his 84th birthday in March but sadly— Harold Mabern died unexpectedly on September 17, 2019. For this outing, Mabern convened long-standing band-mates Eric Alexander on tenor saxophone, John Webber on bass, and Joe Farnsworth on drums, augmented by Smoke Sessions recording artists Steve Davis on trombone and Vincent Herring on alto saxophone who joyfully render the repertoire that spans Mabern’s six decades as a recording artist, leader and sideman.

Wayne Escoffery | The Humble Warrior

Renowned for his fiery, muscular and virtuosic tenor saxophone playing, Escoffery made his debut with the label in April paying homage to personal inspirations and giants of the music with his most ambitious and wide-ranging set to date. The album features the return of his stellar quartet – pianist David Kikoski, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Ralph Peterson – while trumpet great Randy Brecker, guitarist David Gilmore, and Escoffery’s 11-year-old son Vaughn supplement the band with special guest appearances.

Orrin Evans and the Captain Black Big Band | The Intangible Between

Solidifying their status as one of the most thrilling and revered ensembles in modern jazz, The Intangible Between earned a second GRAMMY® nomination in the Best Large Jazz Ensemble category. In addition to the always thought provoking piano work of Evans, it also features saxophonists Todd BashoreTroy RobertsStacy DillardCaleb Wheeler Curtis, and Immanuel Wilkins; trumpeters Sean Jones, Josh Lawrence, and Thomas Marriott; trombonists David GibsonReggie Watkins, and Stafford HunterJoseph Block on Fender Rhodes; bassists Madison RastLuques CurtisEric Revis, and Dylan Reis; and drummers Anwar MarshallJason Brown, and Mark Whitfield Jr. as well as contributions from others in “the Village,” an extended family of fans, supporters, and inspirations.

Bobby Watson | Keepin’ It Real

At the start of a new chapter in his storied career, this lively album serves as a reminder of the authenticity that has characterized the beloved alto saxophonist’s music on every step of that journey. It is a vital continuation of the supple hard bop sound that he has practiced through the decades, laced with the profound influences of gospel and R&B. It also debuts a new incarnation of his historic band, now dubbed New Horizon, with rising stars in trumpeters Josh Evans and Giveton Gelin, and pianist Victor Gould, as well as trusted veterans in drummer Victor Jones and bassist Curtis Lundy.

Eddie Henderson | Shuffle and Deal

Released to celebrate the remarkable and ageless trumpeter’s landmark 80th birthday, this satisfying and essential set reveals a master at the height of his powers, able to unleash blistering, agile runs on bop burners as well as explore ballads with an exquisite. It doesn’t hurt that he enlisted the support of stellar quintet: pianist Kenny Barron, alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, bassist Gerald Cannon and drummer Mike Clark.

Joe Farnsworth | Time to Swing

Led by one of the premiere straight-ahead drummers of his generation, this label debut is an hour of joyful freedom, heartfelt emotion and electrifying communion. It results from the perfect combination of personalities, tunes and vibe–in this case, with jazz giant Wynton Marsalis, legendary pianist Kenny Barron, and in-demand bassist Peter Washington. If this album might be a revelation to some, the secret of Farnsworth’s undeniable mastery, long recognized by some of the greatest artists working today, won’t be a secret for long.

Peter Bernstein | What Comes Next

Arriving not only in the midst of quarantine but also recorded during it, this latest by the incomparable guitarist optimistically celebrates what was once the simple act of four artists making music together. With some of the very best – pianist Sullivan Fortner, and bassist Peter Washington, and drummer Joe Farnsworth – Bernstein’s music offers balm, solace, and possibility in the way that only the most incisive jazz can. His invigorating feel and inspired melodicism reign supreme as always, but he also provides ample time for some of modern jazz’s absolute best to stretch out.

Eric Reed | For Such a Time as This

The label’s final release of 2020 arrived in late November and features the influential and beloved pianist whose virtuosic chops, intellectual clarity, unwavering will to swing illuminate a wide range of new and reimagined music. Perhaps Reed’s most personal album yet, it was recorded in Los Angeles and singularly conveys his beautiful and moving response to the emotional, spiritual, and societal challenges of 2020. He’s joined here by drummer Kevin Kanner, Australia-born bassist Alex Boneham, saxophonist Chris Lewis, and Gospel guest vocalist Henry Jackson.