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Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Soul-Jazz saxophonist Shawn Raiford mixing romance and legacy #jazz

Grammy winner Derek “DOA” Allen produced the sensual new single “Forever.”
Taking an ambitious approach to recording his second album, urban-jazz saxophonist Shawn Raiford is already thinking about legacy early in his recording career. With Valentine’s Day approaching, one could make the case that Raiford’s sultry new single, “Forever,” is all about love and romance, and it is in part, but the musician also has a deeper meaning in mind. The track written by Raiford, Ashley Jemison and Grammy winner Derek “DOA” Allen (Lionel Richie, Janet Jackson, Tyrese) is crafted with the intention of being timeless and standing the test of time.
Produced by Allen, “Forever” is powered by a tight and prominent midtempo drum groove while nuanced atmospherics add to the amorous ambiance. Raiford’s alto sax coos impassioned come-ons, soloing ardently in the company of fellow saxophonist Andre Delano who adds backing harmonies. Vocalist Quintina Paris emotes lustfully on the breathy chorus.
“It’s definitely a steamy track. I’m a huge fan of Sade, and I wanted a track on the new album that reflected that type of seductive groove. When we were working on it in the studio, it felt like a timeless piece that would last and stand the test of time, which is my real goal. So, we titled it ‘Forever,’” said Raiford about the first single to be issued from the forthcoming “The Next Step” album slated to release this summer.
Raiford has been performing contemporary jazz, R&B, gospel, rock and pop music with his band throughout Northern California since 1999. He’s a dynamic entertainer, an award-winning performer who snagged the Best Live Performance title from the Sounds of Soul a decade ago, collected Hope Awards in the jazz and jazz performance categories, won Best R&B band at the Northern California Entertainers Music Awards, and is a Sammie nominated jazz artist.
On record, Raiford’s debut album, “Man with A Horn,” was released in September of 2020 spawning four charting singles – “All Systems Go,” “In The Moment,” “Good Vibrations” and the title track. The soul-jazz set finished on the year end chart at No. 22. Last November, Raiford released the holiday single, “Santa Baby,” to help whet appetites for “The Next Step.” “Forever” is destined to feed that desire.
Although presently focused on finishing the new album, Raiford is stepping out of the studio to perform with his Shawn Raiford Experience band. Catch them live on the following dates:
February 6 Mack Powell Event Center Sacramento, CA
February 10 Dante Club Sacramento, CA
February 18 Jade and Jora Duncanville, TX
March 3 Rock & Brews Sacramento, CA
March 11 Black American Political Association of California Sacramento, CA
March 13 Mulvaney’s B&L Sacramento, CA
April 15 The Miracle Los Angeles, CA
April 16 The Grand Ritz San Diego, CA
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Monday, January 30, 2023

The "Sound Alchemist" arrives: neo soul-jazz keyboardist Myron McKinley's debut album drops February 10 #jazz

Tickets are on sale now for an album release concert the following night in Los Angeles at

The Miracle Theater


Years in the making and after a pandemic delay and a hectic schedule serving as musical director for Earth, Wind & Fire, keyboardist Myron McKinley’s adventurous experiment in sound mixing jazz, neo soul, hip hop and funk is finally slated to release on February 10. McKinley produced “Sound Alchemist,” his debut album arriving from Dark Elf Music that will be celebrated the next night with a concert performance at The Miracle Theater in Inglewood, CA. Tickets for the show presented by Concerts.Cafe and radio station KJAZZ are on sale now.


There’s something that feels righteous about “Sound Alchemist” dropping during Black History Month. The ten-track collection is a culturally rich amalgam reflecting the diverse Black music diaspora.  


“‘Sound Alchemist’ couldn’t have been made without some of the Black pioneers of music that have led with their creativity, technique, vision and style. From Nat King ColeOscar PetersonGeorge Duke and Miles Davis to our living legends like Herbie Hancock, there’s an essence of them that I feel is reflected in this project,” said McKinley, who composed six songs for the set as well as crafted imaginative interpretations of material originally recorded by DrakeStingThe Carpenters and, naturally, Earth, Wind & Fire.


With a set list highlighting tunes from “Sound Alchemist,” McKinley will be flanked on stage at The Miracle Theater by guitarist Tony Pulizzi, bassist Ian Martin, drummer Stacey Lamont Sydnor and EWF saxophonist Gary Bias (who performs on the album). Several special guests are expected to perform with McKinley including EWF’s effervescent energizing bass player Verdine White (who appears on the album) and vocalist LaVance Colley.


Last fall, a couple of music videos were released for songs from “Sound Alchemist.” McKinley’s pays homage to Earth, Wind & Fire with a version of their R&B ballad “Imagination” and a video made from hundreds of photos taken by the keyboardist over his twenty years of performing around the world with the Rock & Roll Hall of Famers. An audacious blend of club banging dance grooves, edgy hip hop and futuristic jazz comes alive in the innovative computer animated video for “Let’s Just See.” Both videos are available for viewing at


When he first began work on “Sound Alchemist,” McKinley had an ambitious goal of testing the boundaries of jazz, pushing those limits and breaking through in an attempt to spur growth and evolution in the musical artform. Among the alchemists he invited to experiment on the record are Grammy-winning saxophonist Gerald Albright, bassist Reggie Hamilton, percussionist Munyungo Jackson, guitarists Eric WallsMorris O’Connor and Greg “G-Moe” Moore; EWF trombonist Reggie Young, and vocalists Danny McClainIsabella Chiappini and Denaine Jones.  


McKinley is a Los Angeles native who was trained in classical and jazz, but also credits the church and hip hop for shaping his sonic mélange. He has toured with Whitney HoustonKenny LattimoreStanley Clarke and En Vogue; written, cowrote or produced songs for EWF, Clarke, Doc PowellSilkVestaCherokee and Howard Hewett; and composed music for film and television scores, contributing to “Soul Food,” “Romeo Must Die,” “The Best Man,” “Think Like A Man,” “Shaft,” and “The Godfather of Harlem” among others.


Tickets are available for The Miracle in four tiers. Table seating ($202) includes two signed “Sound Alchemist” CDs, two signed posters, two glasses of champagne, and two twelve-ounce packages of McKinley’s Legacy Coffee, which is an Ethiopian Misty Valley Blend (Light/Medium Roast). VIP seating ($75) includes one signed CD and poster, and one twelve-ounce package of coffee. Floor seats are $55 while balcony seats go for $40. 


The Miracle Theater is located at 226 South Market Street in Inglewood. Tickets can be purchased at

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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Soul-Jazz veteran Brian Thomas ready to drop his groovy debut album #jazz

“On The Bone,” releasing January 27, features original compositions by the trombonist in a retro organ trio setting along with special guests.

One could argue that “On The Bone” is trombonist Brian Thomas’s eleventh album. However, the collection of soul, jazz and funk arriving January 27 is the first issued under his own name, hence it’s a debut album from a veteran of more than twenty years. Thomas produced the set comprised entirely of original compositions brought to life in the company of an organ trio and rhythm section recorded in the studio live by Soulive’s Alan Evans, who also mixed and mastered the vintage jazz-funk project.Thomas’s vibrant stage presence and distinctive funky style are on full display whenever he performs, energy that he brought to the “On The Bone” date.

“These songs are an accurate representation of what you would hear if you came to one of my shows. My music is very much inspired by soul, jazz and funk from the 1960s and 70s, and aims to make people feel good, tap their feet, bob their head and/or get up and dance. With the exception of the guest sax player overdubs, all of these songs were recorded live in a very old-school way,” said Thomas who spotlights two saxophonists on the project, alto player Scott Mayo and tenor Mike Tucker.

The core musicians who joined Thomas on the album are Darby Wolf on Hammond B3 organ, guitarist Johnny Trama, drummer Tom Arey, and percussionist Yahubu Garcia-Torres.

“I have been working with this crew of musicians in many different settings for nearly two decades and have formed incredible relationships with them on and off the bandstand. I handpicked this crew to bring these blues-based compositions to life as each of them have spent their lives studying and performing roots, blues, jazz and soul music with the best in the business. Each song on the album delivers a deep groove, funky pocket and space for each musician to share their voice,” Thomas stated.

There’s a hip, smoky nightclub vibe to “On The Bone,” which is heard from the start. “Turn On” sets the stage with gritty and gravely drums, storming organ swatches, crisp and clean electric jazz guitar licks and elastic basslines. While the entire lineup is granted a chance to step forward to solo, the banter between Thomas’s trombone and Mayo’s swinging, soul-powered sax is what captivates. The two musicians knew each other from their hometown, Rochester, NY, and both have a special connection to the composition’s author. Mayo, who has performed on television’s “The Voice” and toured with Earth, Wind & Fire, and Thomas were mentored by the late educator and woodwind specialist Roger Eckers.

A relentless, hyperkinetic beat drives “Orange Tape,” the first of five tunes penned by Thomas. Again, the trombonist sits back to give each member of the unit a chance to rip a solo.

“The song title is inspired from a childhood memory of riding in my dad’s car and seeing him pop in an orange cassette tape that I loved. At the time, I had no idea who it was, but it was so burning! Turns out it was an album from tenor sax player Willis Jackson backed by an organ trio led by Groove Holmes. It is my earliest memory of being inspired by soul-jazz and certainly shaped my playing and composition style. This tune is a way to thank my father for exposing me to all the soulful music that makes me who I am as a musician today,” recalled Thomas fondly.

Thomas wrote the title track in the studio with James Brown & The J.B.’s in mind.

“Brown’s horn players, (trombonist) Fred Wesley and (saxophonist) Maceo Parker, the latter who I had the opportunity to play with a handful of times, have been musical mentors my entire life and this tune reflects that. We jammed on it for a few minutes, and we literally came up with the melody and form during that jam session and hit the record button!” said Thomas, who later invited another longtime friend, Tucker, to play sax on the joint.

Sunny, smiley and laid-back chill pervade the spirit-lifting “Just A Glimpse.” Thomas attributes the feel to listening to South African trumpet great Hugh Masekela. The trombone deftly carries the sweet melody while taking on lyrical qualities.

“The original idea and chord progression for this tune came on a night when we were having a blue moon in the sky. I was messing around on the piano and suddenly remembered to go outside and check it out. Unfortunately, it was too cloudy, and I was only able to catch ‘a glimpse’ so I went back inside and finished writing the melody,” said the Boston-based Thomas who has a busy concert calendar of shows in Massachusetts and New Hampshire over the next couple of months in support of the new album, including a gig in Boston at the Beehive the day the record hits.

Conceived during his 2016 honeymoon, Thomas wrote “Bacudi Blues” at an Aruban resort. You can almost hear the breezy beach ambiance floating luxuriously amidst Wolf’s steamy organ and Thomas’s playful horn leads.

“I sang the melody and bassline into the voice notes on my phone and added it to my set when arriving back home. It is nice to finally get it recorded. It is a blues-based composition featuring solos by each band member.”

Available exclusively as a bonus track remix on Bandcamp, CD and perhaps one day on vinyl, “Check Your Intentions” was released a couple years ago as a digital single.

“The song’s title is a reminder to me – and hopefully the listener – to make sure actions match your intentions, and that your intentions are noble and righteous. It is another blues-based tune that I wrote while jamming with my then thirteen-year-old son during the early stages of the pandemic. In this era of digital distribution, I wanted to make sure this song was documented and shared on a hard copy,” said Thomas.

Thomas studied classical trombone and jazz improvisation at Ithaca College before earning a master’s degree in jazz composition at UMASS Amherst. He cowrote and coproduced albums in assorted configurations, including with Akashic Record, BT ALC Big Band and Duochrome. Passionate about writing, horn arranging and recording, Thomas thrives in the studio where he collaborates with musicians all over the world. Most recently, he contributed to projects by many of the artists on Evan’s Vintage League Music record label roster. Thomas is equally committed to education, teaching at clinics and masterclasses, and serving on staff at Canton High School where he directs four instrumental ensembles. This bodes to be a prolific year on record for Thomas who anticipates the release of BT ALC Big Band’s “Hearing The Truth” album later this year.

“On The Bone” contains the following songs:

“Turn On”
“Orange Tape”
“On The Bone”
“Just A Glimpse”
“Bacudi Blues”
“Check Your Intentions” (Bonus Track Remix)

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Monday, January 23, 2023

Smooth Jazz Chart - Weekly Top 100 - January 23, 2023 #jazz

Smooth Jazz Chart 
This chart from generally updates every Monday. 
When it updates, this post will be repeated with the most recent link. 

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Contemporary jazz guitarist Les Sabler soars to lofty heights on new album #jazz

Grammy winner Paul Brown produced “Flying High,” which drops February 3.
When two-time Grammy-winning producer Paul Brown (George Benson, Larry Carlton, Norman Brown, Boney James, Kirk Whalum) agreed to produce contemporary jazz guitarist Les Sabler’s “Tranquility” album, it led to a transformational project by the fretman. With Brown at the helm, Sabler hit a new creative zenith on that 2021 album. For his ninth album, Sabler reunited with Brown to record “Flying High,” which is slated to arrive on February 3 from New Vista Records.

Brown’s fingerprints are all over “Tranquility.” His suggestion that Sabler get a vintage 1967 Gibson Johnny Smith guitar reshaped the guitarist’s sound, inspiring his best performances. Bringing in songwriters Shane Theriot (Hall & Oates, Dr. John, Neville Brothers) and Lew Laing (Norman Brown, Marion Meadows, Raheem DeVaughn) to write songs with him equipped Sabler with richly melodic material incorporating an array of jazz, R&B, funk and pop nuances. The teaming proved to be transcendent, ushering Sabler into the number one spot on the Mediabase chart with the gorgeous and graceful nylon stringed “Esselle’s Dance,” which also hit number five on the Billboard chart. The compelling collection, along with the impassioned and nimble guitarwork featured within, led to Sabler being profiled in Vintage Guitar magazine.
“I’m at the top of my game, hitting my creative stride on the last album (“Tranquility”). ‘Flying High’ takes it to another level,” said Sabler who reassembled the same team for the new disc.
Actually, Sabler added one key figure to the “Flying High” creative outfit. It was brought to Sabler’s attention that Abbey Road Studios mastering engineer Geoff Pesche named “Tranquility” as his favorite album of 2021. That spurred Sabler to invite Pesche to master “Flying High” in the iconic studio made famous by The Beatles.
With Brown back in the producer’s chair and cowriting all seven original songs for “Flying High,” Sabler again finds himself keeping frequent company with Theriot (keyboards, rhythm guitar, bass, drum programming), who cowrote five tunes on the new offering, including the album opener, “Over The Top,” a cool and confident midtempo mood-setter that gets an assist from Greg Vail’s whimsical flute.
Exemplifying self-assurance, Sabler stretches his artistic muse on the searing “Compared To What,” a jam recorded by jazz pianist Les McCann and saxophonist Eddie Harris at the famed Montreux Jazz Festival in 1969. In addition to Sabler’s incendiary finger work, this version burns via the firepower of keyboardist Marco Basci, trumpeter Ron King, and Vail’s sax over percolating rhythms cooked up by drummer Joel Taylor, bassist Travis Carlton, and percussionist Lenny Castro.
“I’ve been a fan of McCann’s for decades and was fortunate to meet and spend some time with the legend at the 1990 JazzTimes convention in New Orleans. As luck had it, they put us in adjacent hotel rooms,” Sabler recalled fondly.
Laing (keyboards, bass, drum programming) and Sabler pushed the limits with the single “Keep Pushin’” for “Tranquility,” and their reunion bodes to be equally luminous. “Moonlight” builds on their chemistry as Sabler’s sinewy electric guitar beams amidst the shimmering track.
The title cut ascends on its rousing chorus launched by a Gorden Campbell drum groove. Sabler defers to the warmth of his nylon stringed guitar on “Old Friends,” despite fostering a sense of exotic adventure. “New Bossa,” a multicultural amalgam powered by a vibrantly animate melody, is Sabler’s latest single to instantly dance onto the SiriusXM Watercolors playlist and has begun its ascent of three national jazz charts simultaneously.
Venturing into standards territory, Sabler interprets Academy Award-winning “The Windmills Of Your Mind” from 1968’s “The Thomas Crown Affair” as a somber and sultry staccato Latin groove, using his nylon string guitar to emote eloquently and exchange elegant banter with Lou Pomanti’s (Michael Bublé, Gordon Lightfoot) keyboard poetics. Sabler credits Dusty Springfield’s version as his influence.
Sabler’s inspiration for another modern classic, “Summer In The City,” came from a version Quincy Jones recorded in 1973. Sabler’s reimagination is steamy and creates tension like The Lovin’ Spoonful’s original, but the guitarist is buttressed by a robust horn arrangement that includes Vail’s bellowing saxophone. After, “Soft and Smooth” dials down the intensity. Despite the slower, more deliberate cadence, Sabler’s loquacious guitar licks leap to the fore in a lyrical repartee.
“Double Jeopardy” is seductive, mysterious and alluring, highlighted by Sabler’s nylon string overtures and King’s soulful trumpet coos. Sabler pays homage to one of his influences, guitar legend Kenny Burrell, on “A Child Is Born,” which closes the collection. Burrell recorded the Thad Jones gem in 1971.
“This arrangement differs from the original 3/4-meter as it is performed in straight 4/4, however, it retains the expressive flavor of the beautiful composition,” said Sabler.
A native of Montreal who makes his home in Nashville, Sabler recorded the score for a Canadian Television Network documentary about the lost treasures of the Titanic in 1989, seeding the release his debut album, “Hidden Treasure,” the following year. His catalogue boasts collaborations with Grammy winners Jeff Lorber, Vinnie Colaiuta and Jerry Hey as well as Grammy nominees Brian Bromberg, Eric Marienthal, Richard Elliot and Alex Acuna. Sabler earned a Jazz Artist of the Year nomination from the Canadian Indie Awards while his albums have been nominated multiple times for Album of the Year by the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards, which also honored him twice as a Guitarist of the Year nominee. On stage, Sabler has headlined or opened for artists such as Lorber, Elliot, Spyro Gyra, Michael Lington and Diane Schuur.
“Flying High” contains the following songs:
“Over The Top”
“Compared To What”
“Flying High”
“Old Friends”
“New Bossa”
“The Windmills Of Your Mind”
“Summer In The City”
“Soft and Smooth”
“Double Jeopardy”
“A Child Is Born”
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Thursday, January 19, 2023

Taking charge: Jazz fusion guitarist Ron Bosse drops "Bossman" as the latest single from "Burning Room Only" #jazz


Grammy winners Jeff Lorber, MonoNeon and Gary Novak power the track produced and cowritten by Lorber. 


It began as a nickname while growing up, became the opener to heat things up from the start of his “Burning Room Only” album, and now it’s evolved into jazz fusion guitarist Ron Bosse’s new single that was released this week by Deep Cat Records. “Bossman,” produced by and cowritten with Grammy winner Jeff Lorber, was instantly added to SiriusXM’s Watercolors playlist and is one of the most added new singles on the Mediabase/Billboard chart.


Augmented by David Mann’s punchy horn arrangement and a valuable assist from Lorber’s dancing keyboard, “Bossman” asserts itself from the go via a Grammy-winning rhythm section. Gary Novak’s shuffling beat and a funky pocket skillfully crafted by bassist MonoNeon buttress Bosse’s electric jazz guitar, which is the focal point – melodically and sonically. Harmonically inviting, the guitarist’s alacritous and dexterous display of riffing reveal astute abilities.


Bosse wrote “Bossman” with his voice, not a guitar.


“As with almost all the songs on the album, I came up with the melody to ‘Bossman’ by singing it; I didn’t use an instrument. I find that this approach makes a melody more organic and lyrical. I specifically remember singing the verse melody to myself and thinking it was really strong. The problem I’ve found with writing a particularly strong section of music is that it can be difficult to build the other sections, especially when the first thing you came up with has such a distinct identity. However, I took it as a challenge to see if I could create a pre-chorus and chorus that really brought the listener on a journey,” said the Boston-based Bosse who derived inspiration for the song from a journey he took years prior.


"When I got married, we went to California for our honeymoon. We drove from Santa Monica, up through Santa Barbara, then to Paso Robles, and finally to Carmel. Each place we went was new and fresh, and revealed unique and intriguing experiences. That’s what I think of when I listen to ‘Bossman.’ From the intro to the verse, through the pre-chorus and then to the chorus, something different and exciting awaits you at every twist and turn. The song takes you on a beautiful journey. It's interesting to me that one can get such an image from just a song, but it's been a very consistent image for me that brings back great memories," said Bosse who is profiled in the February issue of Vintage Guitar magazine, which is available now on newsstands. 


Lorber and Bosse brought in the cartoonish MonoNeon to add his own unique energy to “Bossman.” Known for playing with PrinceNasNe-Yo and George Clinton among others, the bass player delivered the vibe the song needed.


Bosse said, “Jeff and I thought he would be a perfect fit. After hearing his performance in the mix, we were super excited. MonoNeon has great technique and chops, but he also has the ability to play tastefully in support of the song.”


Hailed by Guitar Player magazine as “a master in the making,” Bosse put considerable thought, care and detail into his performance on “Bossman,” which is reflected in his lyrical licks throughout the track and in particular, on his solo.


“My solo really crystallized some of the technical approaches I had been working on for quite some time. I was going for a super streamlined and fluid way of playing eighth note lines over funky sixteenth note-based grooves, and I feel like I really locked in this approach on this song. It definitely set the tone for the solos that followed.”


“Bossman” is the second single issued from “Burning Room Only,” which streeted November 18 and has consistently been hailed by reviewers that cite the virtuoso musicianship from Bosse and his cohorts. “Kiss The Sky” hit first and received airplay from multiple jazz radio formats. Videos of tracks from the collection have generated hundreds of thousands of views on social media, spurring Bosse to play the long game with the album. There’s much more to be spawned from the set as well as new music and several high-profile collaborations inspired by “Burning Room Only,” which will soon be announced.


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US rock legend David Crosby dies aged 81

Veteran US rocker David Crosby has died aged 81, his representative has confirmed.

The signer-songwriter was a founding member of two of the biggest bands of the 1960s: The Byrds and Crosby, Stills and Nash.

His career saw him achieve the rare feat of being inducted to the revered Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice.

His wife told showbiz site Variety that he died "after a long illness" while surrounded by family.

"His legacy will continue to live on through his legendary music," the statement added.

Born in California on 14 August 1941, Crosby joined The Byrds in 1964 - a folk-rock group which scored its first hit with a cover of Bob Dylan's Tambourine Man.

His tempestuous tenure in The Byrds - a period during which he briefly dated singer Joni Mitchell - culminated in his being fired from the band in 1967.

Crosby, Stills and Nash came together as a supergroup soon afterwards, and performed their first concert as a trio at the legendary Woodstock festival in 1969.

They were later joined by Canadian singer Neil Young. This band, too, was beset by in-fighting and broke up after a few years - though has periodically reformed for concerts.

Hits written by Crosby during his time in the band included the hippy anthems Almost Cut My Hair and Deja Vu. His most recent solo album, For Free, was released in 2021.

Off-stage, Crosby had multiple run-ins with US law enforcement, and was arrested in 1982 on drug and weapons charges.

Beach Boys singer Brian Wilson led tributes, saying he was "heartbroken" at the news - writing on Twitter that his fellow star was an "unbelievable talent" and a "wonderful person".

Tweets were sent from Crosby's own account the day before his death was announced - with one stating that Eleanor Rigby was his favourite Beatles to song to play on a rainy day.

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Monday, January 16, 2023

Jane Bunnett & Maqueque Announce March 10, 2023 Release Of New Album 'Playing With Fire' #jazz

                                 Celebrated All Female Afro-Cuban Jazz Ensemble

Jane Bunnett & Maqueque

Announce the March 10, 2023 release of their new album

Playing With Fire



Radio MP3s and WAVs HERE

Pre-order the album HERE

Bio and Photos HERE

“Playing With Fire” Promo Video


“Jane Bunnett and Maqueque utterly shatters the glass ceiling of Afro-Cuban jazz”

– The Boston Globe’s Jon Garelick.


Playing With Fire could refer to the feeling emanating from any member of Maqueque, the all-women band formed by veteran Toronto jazz musician Jane Bunnett with young female grads of the Cuban conservatory.


A decade ago, Bunnett met the core of the band at a jam session with her band Spirits of Havana, at the Cohiba Hotel in that city. Ten years later, Maqueque has created opportunities for composing and performing extraordinary jazz that has taken the pioneering ensemble around the world. It has expanded to include not only women players from Cuba, but also the brilliant vocalist Joanna Majoko (from Zimbabwe) and musicians from the Dominican Republic, Latin America, Spain and Lebanon.


On Playing With Fire, much of the heat comes from new guitarist Donna Grantis. Donna, who also hails from Bunnett’s home of Toronto, performed for many years with Prince as a member of 3RDEYEGIRL in the 2010s. Three pieces in particular feature Donna’s contribution to the recording process: “A God Unknown,” “A Human Race” and “Sierra.”


Maqueque has won a Juno Award, was nominated for a Grammy and annually tours Europe, Latin America, the U.S. and Canada. Downbeat magazine picked them as one of the Top Ten Touring Groups of 2019. NPR has featured the band on Tiny Desk Concert. Maqueque has been wildly successful in its mission, which is to elevate the profile of women musicians in Cuba. “There was so much creative energy there,” says Bunnett, “but not many outlets. We also realized that many of the girls at the conservatories were not really encouraged to ‘take the stage’ in a male-dominated scene. We witnessed this first-hand while taking technicians, jazz materials and instruments to Cuban conservatories — that the best way to solve this issue was to create a performance opportunity, which became an all-female ensemble.”


Maqueque continues to evolve and welcome new generations. Playing With Fire marks the debut of 19-year-old violinist Daniela Olano, sister of the band’s co-founder and pianist, Danae Olano. Her composition “Daniela’s Theme” is a highlight on the new recording. In addition to new compositions, the collective also reimagines two jazz classics: “Tempus Fugit” by pianist Bud Powell and “Jump Monk” by Charles Mingus.


Playing With Fire is the first Maqueque album to feature vocalist Joanna Majoko. The Zimbabwean took the music to new heights, improvising with a creative power in the studio that inspired everyone. The electrifying rhythm section — including the two founding members, pianist Danae Olano and drummer Yissy Garcia, along with bassist Tailin Marrero (who wrote the track “Bolero”) and percussionist Mary Paz — is the foundation that the music is built upon.


Playing with Fire is a stunning example of the strength and beauty of the evolution of Jane Bunnett and Maqueque.”  -The Boston Globe’s Jon Garelick.



1. Human Race 6:30

2. Tempus Fugit 3:23

3. Sierra 7:29

4. Daniela’s Theme 3:20

5. A God Unknown 6:42

6. Turquoise/Turquesa 2:57

7. Bolero a un Sueño 5:24

8. Jump Monk 2:51

9. Tomorrow 4:11

10. Playing With Fire 3:25


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