Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Jerry Kalaf - "Welcome to Earth: Music for Trio and Sextet"

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Every so often, a CD comes along that reflects that sense of serenity that Jazz can evoke by emphasizing the quieting and peaceful effects of the music’s sonority.

Such a recording was released on January 23, 2015 by Jerry Kalaf, a rare combination of a sensitive drummer who is also a talented composer-arranger [Dennis Mackrell also comes to mind, here].

Jerry’s Welcome to Earth: Music for Trio and Sextet is on Palm Mountain Records [8 88174 88566 7] and you can find order information at www.jerrykalaf.com and through online vendors including Amazon, iTunes and CDBaby.

The music on Welcome to Earth: Music for Trio and Sextet is the Jazz equivalent of a search for beauty and truth and as such it is an exploration that comes at the music in a way that is more gentle, introspective and probing. Jerry’s music gives you time to think; both while playing it and when listening to it.

In this regard, it’s most telling composition may be This One’s For Jim - a piece that’s dedicated to the late guitarist Jim Hall who epitomized a subtle, smooth, delicate and refined approach to the music.

If as Louis Armstrong maintained - “Jazz is who you are.” - then this music is Jerry Kalaf.

Given the exquisite and intricate style of Jazz being played on Welcome to Earth: Music for Trio and Sextet, one would have thought that flutist and reed man Gary Foster would have found a place on this date.

Instead, we find Gary contributing these insightful insert notes the the disc.

“Jerry Kalaf has been for many years a colleague from the "jazz wars," LA rehearsal bands, motion picture and recording orchestras, and many live performances.

In 1998, Jerry and I played on pianist Gerard Hagen's CD, "Far Horizons." An arrangement of "You and the Night and the Music" was constructed on the spot We decided for variety that the drums and saxophone would improvise a chorus without the bass and piano. As we played our thirty-two-measure moment, I heard Jerry Kalaf the composer for the first time. Instead of a rhythmic solo, Jerry was hearing and playing from a harmonic understanding of the song. We have smiled about that moment many times over the years.

The music presented here is a beautifully conceived and performed collection of Jerry's original compositions. The trio and sextet selections provide fine settings for the performers. Jerry's direct quote about the players heard here is perfect: “... with the exception of Gabe Davis, who is one of our new young artists here in LA, every musician on this recording goes way back with me." All are highly respected practitioners of what jazz great Lee Konitz calls "The Improvisers Art"

Featuring three different groups, the eight tracks on this recording elicit deeply personal responses from the musicians in how they approach Jerry's music. The stylistic contrast between "Ambiguity," "Moving On," and "See You Next Year" is dramatic. Listening to "See You Next Year" I made the note - Begs for a lyric!

Welcome To Earth joins Side Two, This Side Up, and Just Like Old Times as
excellent documentation of Jerry Kalaf s musical life.

- Gary Foster - Los Angeles - October 13th, 2014"

Holly Cooper and her fine team at Mouthpiece Music is handling the media distribution for the CD and she sent along another of her informative press releases which I have reproduced below to give you more information about Jerry and the musicians and music on the new CD.

Welcome To Earth, the newest release by Jerry Kalaf, showcases the diverse talents of this multi-faceted, in-demand musician. A composer, arranger, and drummer, Kalaf's music - both his compositions and his drumming - can be heard on hundreds of recordings and soundtracks.

Welcome To Earth comprises eight of Kalaf’s original compositions and features his long-time collaborators, who are some of the finest jazz musicians on the West Coast. The music is richly textured and lyrical, written with the individual styles of the musicians in mind and presented in a sextet and two different trio settings.

Kalaf states, "My approach to composing can be termed absolute rather than programmatic. In other words, I usually don't draw from sources outside the music. I don't have a specific subject matter or imagery in mind; rather, I'm concerned with melody, harmony, and rhythm. I often think of the names only after the piece is written."

Take, for example, Ambiguity. This is one of the three sextet pieces on this disc that features Doug Walter on alto sax, Barry Coates on guitar, Jeff Colella on piano, Gabe Davis on bass, Scott Breadman on percussion, and Kalaf on drums. It's based on three major 7th intervals that Kalaf incorporates throughout the tune, giving it an ambiguous harmonic but atmospheric feel, and, hence, its name.

Siyaya Samba and This One's For Jim are the other two sextet pieces. Siyaya Samba is a beautiful melody inspired by the Zimbabwean musical, dance and theatrical group Siyaya, that Kalaf met on a State Department sponsored tour of Africa. This One's For Jim, which Kalaf dedicates to Jim Hall, moves through different rhythmic concepts and was arranged to highlight the distinct solo styles of Colella, Coates, and Breadman.

Leonard Thompson on piano, Ryan McGillicuddy on bass, and Kalaf on drums perform together on The Jazz Answer, a tune inspired by Bill Evans. In this piece, every measure can be interpreted as having a new key center, creating a complex but very approachable harmonic feel.

This trio also performs together on Not Knowing, an Oliver Nelson inspired waltz that's reminiscent of "Stolen Moments" that Kalaf takes to a whole new place, and Welcome To Earth, which Kalaf titled for his new grandson. This tune is constructed in six bar phrases that grow increasingly more complex.

See You Next Year and Moving On feature Rich Ruttenberg on piano, Domenic Genova on bass, and Kalaf. As a composer, Kalaf cites Bill Evans as one of his inspirations, which is apparent on See You Next Year, a highly engaging jazz waltz with a Bill Evans vibe. Kalaf and Ruttenberg have worked together on many projects over the years, and in this piece, Kalaf wanted to capture Ruttenberg's languorous style, wherein the notes feel like they resonate longer than they actually do. Moving On, which Kalaf wrote specifically to end the CD, is a wonderful vehicle for Ruttenberg and gives the project a resting place and a sense of completion.

Jerry Kalaf grew up in Binghamtom, New York, but has been a long-time resident of Los Angeles. Welcome To Earth is his fourth CD as a leader. It follows Noche, which features all original music by Kalaf performed by five pianists and four bassists in different trio settings, and Just Like Old Times, another recording of Kalaf s original music, with Rich Ruttenberg, Tom Warrington on bass and string arrangements by Doug Walter. Trio Music is Kalafs first CD as a leader and showcases eight of his compositions and one jazz standard. Rich Eames is on piano and Tom Warrington and Eric Ajaye share the bass chair.

Although there are three different bands on this project, there is an overarching sensibility and tone created by Kalaf's gorgeous melodies and the strong backbone provided by his drumming. His compositional talents and affinity for his fellow musicians create a seamless framework for the interplay of their individual styles. The result is an elegant work that is both meditative and compelling.

Kalaf has toured and recorded with some of the biggest names in music, including Eddie Harris, Gary Burton, Gary Foster, Frank Strazzeri, Bill Mays, Bill Perkins, Jimmy Cleveland, The Pointer Sisters, Gregory Hines and Major Holley, among many others.

He has been active for many years in movie and television studios. His performances and compositions can be heard on literally hundreds of soundtracks, including Batman Forever, Captain America, Demolition Man, Heat, Girls, In Living Color, He's Just Not That Into You, and many, many more.

Kalaf is also a highly respected educator and teaches jazz percussion at the prestigious and highly selective Colburn School in Los Angeles. He's also a recording engineer with his own studio, Studio J, which specializes in trio recordings.

You can sample Kalaf’s work from Welcome To Earth on this Soundcloud audio-only track featuring Ambiguity.

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