Thursday, October 13, 2016

Zoho Records, Greg Diamond and "Avenida Graham"

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

Almost since the inception of the music in New Orleans, Jazz has always had what Jelly Roll Morton labeled a “Spanish tinge.”

When Jazz evolved in New Orleans at the turn of the 20th Century, the city was a melting pot of Spanish, French, French-Canadien, English, and Negro slaves from various regions in Africa. Traders from many, other parts of the world also made port in New Orleans as did merchants from the Caribbean and South America. Many of these visitors were from Spanish-speaking colonies who brought their unique rhythms with them.

Very soon after Jazz evolved in New Orleans it arrived in New York and The Big Apple soon became the place to go to make it in the Jazz world.

It remains so today.

New York is “the place to be” if you want your music to be heard.

It also a setting where “the Spanish tinge” continues to make itself felt in the music.

The reason for this is partially due to the huge migration of Spanish-speaking immigrants that arrived in the city from Puerto Rico, the Caribbean islands, Cuba and parts of South America during the second half of the 20th century.

Independent record labels that focus on Jazz have always been an important means of broadcasting the New York Jazz scene to the rest of the world: think Blue Note, Prestige and Riverside, among many others.

Today’s New York Latin Jazz scene benefits immensely from the presence of the Zoho record label.

Here’s some background on Zoho and its founder, Joachim Becker, from the “About Us” segment on its website:

“Welcome to the colorful sounds of New York's freshest and sharpest latin / jazz and rock indie CD label! Founded in September, 2003 by New York producer and music industry veteran Joachim “Jochen” Becker, ZOHO has quickly distinguished itself as one of the most talked-about and creative voices on the U.S. indie label scene, with 1 GRAMMY and LATIN GRAMMY win each, and several additional GRAMMY and LATIN GRAMMY nominations as well.

ZOHO started with the vision of presenting a latin / jazz label with a distinctive “New York vibe” – listen to any group of ZOHO releases, and you’ll hear what’s presently new, fresh and happening in the New York clubs! The label has been fortunate in attracting a unique mix of major, internationally recognized, and mostly New York area based artists such as Ray Barretto, Dave Liebman, Arturo O’Farrill, and Carlos Barbosa-Lima to ZOHO. Additionally, the label is proud to present several young latin and jazz musicians from the dynamic downtown New York club scene, including 2006 Grammy nominees Edsel Gomez and Dafnis Prieto, plus releases by Pablo Aslan, the Stryker / Slagle Band, Rez Abbasi and many others.

In 2005, ZOHO saw an opportunity of expanding its artist roster and repertoire reach into the Blues, R & B and Classic / Southern Rock genres. The label has since been able to build a powerful catalog under the ZOHO ROOTS imprint, with American artists Bonnie Bramlett, Jimmy Hall, and the legendary Ike Turner. In 2006, ZOHO signed a multi-year cooperation agreement with Cote Basque Productions, a British production company specializing in British Blues, R & B and Classic Rock acts: the first three joint projects presenting Arthur Brown, the Malchicks and the Pretty Things are expected to be released in the summer of 2007.

ZOHO is mindful of the current, grim state of the recorded music industry and of the formidable challenges in running, let alone operating profitably, an indie music label. Where many fail, the most dynamic, savvy, persistent, fearless, and resourceful can and will be successful: ZOHO has been blessed with having some of the world’s finest artists, distributors, photographers, designers, publicists, consultants, attorneys, and others on its team.”

Jim Eigo of Jazz Promo Services sent along a preview copy of guitarist Greg Diamond’s forthcoming Zoho CD Avenida Graham (Zoho ZM 201615) which has a Street Date of November 4, 2016 and it is a classic example of what’s going on at the label and the type of artist it represents.

GREG DIAMOND Guitar, STACY DILLARD Tenor and Soprano Saxophone (1,4-6,8,9), SEAMUS BLAKE Tenor Saxophone (2,3), MIKE ECKROTH Piano, PETER SLAVOV Bass, HENRY COLE Drums , MAURICIO HERRERA Congas & Percussion (1,3,5,9)

Here’s the press release that Jim sent along which centers on Bill Milkowski’s insert notes to Greg excellent CD.

“Modern musicians living in New York City - those with their antennae up and with the open-mindedness to soak in their musical surroundings — are invariably the beneficiaries of what the city's former mayor David Dinkins once referred to as "a gorgeous mosaic."

Rather than depicting the city as a melting pot, in which myriad cultures blend into one homogenized mass of assimilation, Dinkins talked about the beauty of keeping rich cultures together, side by side, in his Inaugural Address of 1990. And so, it is possible, in walking through different neighborhoods in the boroughs of NYC, each with its own distinctive character, to experience Puerto Rican plena and bomba, Dominican merengue and bachata, Colombian cumbia, Peruvian festejo and lando and various other rhythms from the African diaspora in their pure form. And for eager musicians like Greg Diamond, those sounds and rhythms are bound to seep in.

A self-described 'hybrid musician/ guitarist-composer Diamond grew up in Queens, and later in a suburb of New York City, with a rich musical heritage in his own household, before he began experiencing the cornucopia of sounds the city had to offer. "I'm half Eastern European Jewish and half Colombian. My father's a New Yorker, born and raised. He was an opera singer who studied classical piano at Juilliard, so I was listening to that music growing up. And my mother is Colombian, so I definitely grew up with that component as well,"

Spending two years in Colombia after graduating from high school was a kind of roots journey that led him deeper into his appreciation of Latin music. "When I moved back to the city in '99, my main focus was jazz, learning the tradition," Diamond explains. "Yet at the same time my interest in Latin music in its various forms continued further."

From 2002-2013, when he lived near the intersection of Graham Avenue (aka Avenue of Puerto Rico) and Broadway in Brooklyn, Diamond would soak up the sounds of Hector Lavoe and Willie Colon blasting out of cars, apartment windows and porches in the neighborhood. "I got a good amount of inspiration living in that neighborhood, but more importantly, it represents a period of important growth," he says.

Today Diamond is a quintessential product of New York City's gorgeous mosaic, and Avenida Graham is a reflection of all his varied influences that have come together organically in his music. "I devote a lot of time studying the great masters but I also try to nourish another need to listen to other kinds of genres. I try not to limit myself to one part of the spectrum. Music is a universal language and we live in a rapidly globalizing and pluralistic society - I believe that a lot of music coming out today is a reflection of that."

Some of the pieces on Avenida Graham had their beginnings as far back as 2009. Others were written a few months before the May 2015 session at Sear Sound Recording Studio in Manhattan. All in all it's some of his most accomplished writing to date. Diamond, who exhibits a warm, unaffected tone in his cleanly picked lines throughout this spirited recording, is joined by a stellar crew. Drummer Henry Cole (who plays with Miguel Zenon) and pianist Mike Eckroth (formerly of John Scofield's band) are both returning from 2012's Conduit as are tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake (who appears on two searing tracks here) and percussionist Mauricio Herrera. Rounding out the lineup are saxophonist Stacy Dillard and bassist Peter Slavov.

The collection kicks off with the churning, odd-metered groover Synesthesia which is fueled by Cole's polyrhythmic pulse and Herrera's percolating percussion. Dillard, on soprano sax, engages in some tight unisons with Diamond on the head, and as the piece opens up each contributes free-flowing solos that uplift the proceedings. Cole is also turned loose over a long tag at the end, bringing this opener to an exhilarating conclusion.

Rastros ("Traces") opens on a tender note with Diamond's fingerpicked arpeggios against Blake's melancholy tenor tones. As the piece develops, it reveals a subtle tango flavor and gradually builds in intensity with Blake playing passionately over the top while Cole underscores with dramatic fills. Diamond's solo here is elegant and introspective. 'That's one of my favorite tunes on the record," says Diamond. 'The harmonic progression is based on an etude that I wrote for guitar. The melody is very simple but there's a flow to it that I like, and the mood of the piece is very somber and meditative." He explains this track's title: "Traces' is about posterity. It also signals the importance of endeavoring to create music that is transcendent and timeless, in the face of a rapidly changing world that is becoming increasingly chaotic and ephemeral."

El Coronel is a buoyant piece that incorporates an infectious son montuno jam in the middle section. Blake and Diamond have some lively exchanges and Cole erupts on his kit at the tag. "It's an homage to a character from Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude," explains Diamond. "It was one of the more challenging pieces for me to write and record. But in essence, I think the song itself, and many of my compositions for that matter, is all about creating a singable melody that can be seamlessly interwoven into a framework that can be both rhythmically and harmonically complex."

Diamond plays fingerstyle archtop on the solo intro to the tender A Hint of Jasmin for more acoustic effect. This moving piece is also a brilliant showcase for Dillard's expressive tenor playing. Gentrix, a rhythmically deceptive piece in five, incorporates lots of tricky subdivisions as the tune progresses. The presence of Herrera's conga here also gives it a kind of Afro-Caribbean feel. Laia, on the other hand, is full of complexity as it opens with a rubato intro before leaping through different tempo changes and meter changes over the course of 8:26. Dillard soars on soprano here while Diamond contributes another remarkably fluid solo, spurred on by Cole's scintillating and interactive pulse.

Ultima Palabra is a contemplative, graceful number that incorporates an alluring Argentine milonga rhythm. Eckroth contributes a particularly moving piano solo on this thoughtful number. Cascade is a lively, affecting piece that shows Diamond's fondness for melody as a composer and also showcases Dillard's outstanding soprano sax work.

The collection closes with Diamond's most ambitious work, Motion Suite, a kind of sequel to his "Inertia" (from Conduit). "It took roughly two years to complete," he explains. "This one has more complexity than 'Inertia' in terms of tempo changes and changes in meter. I suppose that there's a lot going on here, I'm just really happy that we could make it all come to life in the studio."

Indeed, there's a lot going on throughout Avenida Graham, an auspicious and richly appointed outing from this promising talent on the New York scene.”

- Bill Milkowski

Artist Website:

ZOHO ® is distributed by Music Video Distributors 203 Windsor Road Pottstown, PA 19464

Zoho Media contact: Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail:

The following video features Greg’s El Coronel as set to the photographs of Anthony Hernandez whose work is currently on display at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave your comments here. Thank you.