martes, 22 de agosto de 2017

Playlist for Tom Ossana – The Thin Edge – August 23, 2017 MST 7:00 to 9:00p.m. ~ Use this link to access the show online.

Dial & Oatts / Rich DeRosa / The WDR Big Band “Rediscovered Ellington” New Takes on Duke's Rare and Unheard Music

Dial & Oatts / Rich DeRosa / The WDR Big Band “Rediscovered Ellington” New Takes on Duke's Rare and Unheard Music

WDR Big Band feat. Garry Dial & Dick Oatts Ellington Unheard - Part 1

It’s no secret that jazz composers have been profoundly influenced by classical composers and vice versa. Duke’s version of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite is a fine example. Duke embraced the classical composer’s music with love and respect but transformed it in his own beautifully sincere way – the way it worked most naturally for his band and himself. Miles Davis and Gil Evans fell in love with Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez which became part of their project Sketches of Spain. 

Rediscovered Ellington is presented in the same respectful manner. To continue Ellington’s legacy, we resurrected these compositions with our perspective through personalized arrangements. Although a few of them suggest a “tip of the hat” to Duke’s sound, most of these renditions showcase how quality music may be transformed into something new and refreshing while respecting the original essence of its composer. We hope you enjoy these compositions in this context.

Garry Dial, Dick Oatts, and Rich DeRosa.

In 1979, my mother, Ruth Ellington, and I wanted to record and archive all of the Tempo Music catalogue. This included compositions by my uncle, Duke Ellington, and many of his musical associates. We hired Garry Dial to do this job. I am thrilled, that after 38 years, Garry has revisited the more obscure tunes of Duke Ellington. Rediscovered Ellington will bring this beautiful, rarely heard music to the public eye. Garry Dial, Dick Oatts and Rich DeRosa, along with the WDR Big Band, have managed to capture the essence of Ellington. I am proud of their swinging contribution and I know my mother and uncle would be smiling.  

Stephen James
Nephew of Duke Ellington

Here’s the story of how a poodle named Bravo inadvertently became responsible for this collection of rarely heard gems by the great Duke Ellington.

In the late 1970's I had the honor of working with Duke Ellington's sister Ruth and her son Stephen James. They hired me to record in alphabetical order the entire Tempo Music catalogue of Duke's music and his associates for their family archive. Entering Ruth's apartment was quite an experience. There stood Duke's famous white piano with his original painting of Satin Doll hanging on the wall. I was speechless and somewhat daunted. Ruth and Stephen were most gracious and warm to me, putting me at ease.

They described the job and when I saw how incredibly prolific Duke had been, I said, “You probably need ten pianists to complete this project!” I suggested Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Kenny Barron and Dick Hyman among others. “Do you want this job or not?” said Ruth. I gulped and said, “Yessssssss!”

I went to Ruth's apartment for about three months, five days a week. The music was in various forms: a sketch, a score, and even a published lead sheet. I was a kid in a candy store. As I played through the tunes, Stephen and his brother Michael would stop over and give me the eye if I wasn't getting the feel right. A wink meant I nailed it. In this way their wisdom guided me.

When it was time to record, the little poodle Bravo began singing along. It became evident he was not to be silenced. Therefore I suggested to Ruth that I should copy the pages, take them to my apartment and record them there without the barking. That's why 38 years later I am in the unique position of having these scores of Duke's music in my filing cabinets.

Rich DeRosa, Dick Oatts and I have collaborated on many projects together over the years. In 2015, Rich was chief conductor and arranger for the WDR Big Band. He contacted me about doing a Dial & Oatts project with the band. I thought of the trove of Duke Ellington treasures I had on file. Why not resurrect these rare, obscure tunes and present them for a new audience as well as diehard Ellington fans?

We selected nine tunes and got to work arranging them in our own style for the big band. We traveled to Cologne, Germany, where we performed the arrangements with the band at the Philharmonic halls in Cologne and Essen. During the day we recorded this CD in the studio. What a thrill to play our versions of Duke's tunes with these great musicians!

It's always an honor to work with my musical brothers, Dick Oatts and Rich DeRosa. Both Dick and Richie's fathers were great musicians in the era of Ellington. Oatts' dad, Jack, played alto in the style of Johnny Hodges. Richie's dad, Clem, was a drummer and arranger who led many famous bands including the Glen Miller Big Band. These dads would be so proud of their sons and this project!

A few months after we made the recording, I ran into Duke's granddaughter Mercedes at an event. I told her about our "Rediscovered Ellington" project and she gave us her blessing. Thank you, Mercedes!

I called Stephen, now president of Tempo Music, to tell him about the work. It was like old home week. We reminisced about the days I came to the apartment to help archive Duke's music. I thank him for his support, love of life and belief in our project. Much appreciated, Stephen. Bravo!  

Garry Dial

During the summer of 1961, my father took my brother Jim and me to a joint concert of Duke Ellington and Count Basie at the Des Moines Art Center. My father was a musician and huge fan of both bands. They were all legends in the Oatts house and, at 8 years old, my dream was to get an autograph of Duke and Johnny Hodges. During the short break, I had my pad and pencil ready for anyone in a tuxedo to sign their name. I was very shy but went up to two gentlemen who were standing together near the outside bar. I waited until they were done with their conversation and they saw me standing there wide-eyed. 

They asked if they could help me so I asked for their autographs. They were extremely patient and nice and when they gave them back, I was shocked to read the names Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges. All I could stutter was a "thank you". Then my father came over to translate my surprise and ultimate gratitude. To this day, it was probably the most inspiring musical memory from my childhood. 

As I watched all those great musicians get on the bus after the concert, my dream to play great music as a career began. Mom threw out our baseball cards twenty years later and the autographs probably went with them….  

Dick Oatts

Duke Ellington showed jazz composers and arrangers the concept of writing not only for instruments but, more importantly, for the people who would play them. In my role as arranger/orchestrator for the WDR Big Band, Duke’s model has been a great influence for me. My choices of soloists, written and improvised, were always made for specific members of the band. Consequently, the unique personality of each player is naturally connected to the context of each arrangement. 

Rich DeRosa

Rediscovered Ellington is a rarity that comes along once every few decades, a trove of mostly unheard music by a music legend fashioned into a glimmering yet meditative production. The great Duke Ellington, for whom this album is a tribute, once observed that “there are two kinds of music”, the kind that connects to the audience with sincerity and the kind that doesn’t. Judging by the response of listeners worldwide, Ellington’s music is of the first kind: beautiful, cultivated, resonant, and timeless.  

But for there to be any audience connection at all, the music must first be heard. And that’s what is special about this stunner. Maestros in their own right, Garry Dial, Dick Oatts, and Rich DeRosa, unearthed these compositions from obscurity. They turned musical amnesia into memorable and vivid works that bring Ellington’s life and music into sharper focus not only for the seasoned Ellington diaspora but those new to his sizable repertoire. Dial, Oatts, and DeRosa shaped these compositions with colorful and immaculate arrangements, rendering Ellington afresh and anew. 

Prior to this recording, few of these works had a brief public life. Most were unknown to the general public. While a few of the arrangements suggest an homage to Ellington’s sound, most of the works showcase how music may be given new and refreshing life while respecting the composer’s essence.  

The album opens with Hey Baby, a mid-tempo swing number recorded in 1946 and released on RCA Victor. It’s also a well-known tune from Blue Rose, the 1956 Rosemary Clooney album. It brings the virtuosity of soloists Oatts (soprano sax), Paul Heller (tenor sax), Dial (piano) and Johan Hörlen (alto sax) to the forefront, and showcases the big band’s mighty brass section in multicolored shout sections. Let The Zoomers Drool, an Ellington/Johnny Hodges tune, was originally released as a live album in 1945 on the Jazz Society label. It opens with a ruminating stride piano riff, enveloped by a slower swing feel, rich with a bluesy call-and-response between the piano and ensemble. 

I Like Singing is a gorgeous ballad from Saturday Laughter, a musical Ellington wrote with the still-living lyricist Herbert Martin – and it draws upon Ellington’s classical influence: opening without drums, the sections take on an orchestral quality that features reedy doubles and a plush piano solo by Dial. The drums and bass enter, and the tune transforms into an engaging yet pensive ballad. 

Just A Gentle Word From You Will Do is vintage Ellington with a straight-ahead melody recast across the horn and reed sections. This work was composed mostly by Onzy Matthews, a pianist and arranger who worked with Ellington in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was undoubtedly performed live, but there is no previously-known recording. And to wit, this is some debut rendition, with Oatts on flute and Ludwig Nuss on trombone! 

Introspection has no known recording, and is anything but introspective. The up-tempo swing sets up the WDR to showcase its legendary tightness of sound and precision of phrases. Similarly, Kiki also has no known recording. On this track, the big band is fully portrayed with a full, plush, even lavish aesthetic, which makes this album required listening for those looking to learn or merely just enjoy the craft of large jazz ensemble performance. For example, the trumpet section commands the lead line with alacrity, and John Marshall’s blazing trumpet solo stands out with achingly beautiful timbre. 

Love Came was recorded in 1965 and released on the Red Baron label. The melancholy and longing melodic line is presented by trumpeter Andy Haderer, and the tune opens into a jazz ballad, allowing for one of the quieter and more introspective spaces on the album. 

The penultimate tune of this album, KCOR (rock spelled backward), is thought to have been written late in Ellington’s life. But very little information exists on its origins: this long-form piece diverges so sharply in style from Ellington’s body of work that it probably did not receive much attention through his life. 

The final track, I Must Be Mad, was written by Ellington and Patricia Petremont. She was a lyricist for several of Ellington’s more obscure works such as My Lonely Love, When You’ve Had It All, and This Is Where I Get Off – all from the late 1960s. The searching ballad begins with an alto sax and piano duet that illustrates the uncanny parallel relationship that Dial and Oatts have to Ellington and Hodges. Both Dial and Ellington have a way of orchestrating at the piano that enhances a melody. Although Oatts’ sound is different from Hodges’, both embrace a melody with warmth and soulfulness. Here it is Dial and Oatts who give the album a loving, thoughtful send-off.  

Rediscovered Ellington is a through-and-through treasure, and music lovers should reserve their deepest gratitude for Dial, Oatts, DeRosa, and the WDR Big Band who have given the world the album of the year whose musical genesis spans many decades.

Kabir Sehgal

Primary Artists

Garry Dial - piano, arranger, Dick Oatts - soprano sax, alto sax, flute, arranger, Rich DeRosa - conductor, arranger, big band orchestrations,  The WDR Big Band:  Johan Hörlen - alto sax, flute, and clarinet. Karolina Strassmeyer - alto sax and flute. Olivier Peters, Paul Heller - tenor sax and clarinet. Jens Neufang - baritone sax, bass sax, and bass clarinet. Andy Haderer (lead), Wim Both (alt lead), Rob Bruynen, Ruud Breuls, John Marshall, trumpet Ludwig Nuss (lead), Shannon Barnett, Andy Hunter, trombone Mattis Cederberg, bass trombone and tuba John Goldsby, bass Hans Dekker, drums.

Zoho Media contact:
Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services
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lunes, 21 de agosto de 2017


STUFF is a 5-headed instrumental cyclops. New album ‘Old Dreams New Planets’, is a cross genre groove, spanning broken hip-hop, electronica and jazz-influenced future funk, bringing forth a completely different and exciting sound.

With fans that include Plaid, Kev Beadle, Kutmah, Lefto and Gilles Peterson, STUFF. began life in 2012 when drummer Lander Gyselinck was asked to play live music in-between DJ sets. Collecting together like-minded musician friends, they would keep the vibe of the room bubbling, with spaced-out jams and improvisation, taking elements of funk, RNB, electronica, jazz and hip-hop, forming their own compositions as a result.

“These guys are brilliant … wide open ideas ...” BBC RADIO 6 MUSIC (Gilles Peterson)

“This is what I imagine Flying Lotus’ band to be like” BBC RADIO 1 (Phil Taggart)

Hotly tipped in Belgium as one of the country’s brightest new hopes, they released their first EP in 2012, which included the track D.O.G.G. and it caught the attention of bloggers, 22tracks and DJs across Paris and Brussels. Supports slots with D'Angelo and Robert Glasper soon followed and the band would go on to share the stage at the Dour Festival with Hiatus Koyote, Flying Lotus and Lefto.

In 2014, STUFF. were invited to perform a Boiler Room session for the prestigious global, online music broadcasting platform, the first European live band to do so.

The band’s self-titled debut album, released in 2015, received critical acclaim, with the Belgian press citing the release as the “record of the year” and “the best thing that happened musically in Belgium since the last 25 years”. Mastered by Daddy Kev (Flying Lotus, Thundercat, Jon Wayne), several tracks from the album received airplay on leading dance and electronica radio stations across Europe, and included support from Gilles Peterson on BBC Radio 6 Music and Phil Taggart on BBC Radio 1.

STUFF. have performed sold out shows across Europe and have gained a growing reputation for their explosive eclectic live sets, playing over 150 shows on such diverse stages as the North Sea Jazz Festival (Netherlands), Pukkelpop (Belgium), Secret Garden Party (UK), Shambala festival (UK), Dimensions (Croatia) and Fusion (Germany). The band were also personally invited by Gilles Peterson to perform at On Blackheath, London.

Accolades in Belgium include two MIA’s (Belgian Music Industry Awards) for ‘Best Musician’ (Lander Gyselinck) and ‘Best Artwork’ (Rinus Van de Velde).

STUFF are Andrew Claes (ewi/sax), Lander Gyselinck (drums), Joris Caluwaerts (keyboards), Dries Laheye (bass), Mixmonster Menno (turntables)

The band are set to perform at Archspace London this Thursday 24th August. Guestlist available on request.

domingo, 20 de agosto de 2017

Paa Kow - Cookpot (release: October 13, 2017)

Polyglot Polyrhythms: The High-Energy Drum-Powered Highlife, Funk, and Jazz Jams of Paa Kow

New album and US tour:

08/23/2017, Lincoln, NE, Zoo Bar, 9:00 PM
08/24/2017, Omaha, NE, Reverb Lounge, 9:00 PM
08/25/2017, Iowa City, IA, Friday Night Concert Series, 6:30 PM
08/26/2017, Des Moines, IA, Wooly's, 8:00 PM
08/27/2017, Iowa City, IA, Cafe Paradiso, 8:00 PM
08/28/2017, Minneapolis, MN, The Cedar Cultural Center, 7:30 PM
08/29/2017, Chicago, IL, Law Office Pub and Music Hall, 7:30 PM
08/30/2017, Madison, WI, The Frequency, 8:30 PM
08/31/2017, Chicago, IL, Martyrs', 8:00 PM
09/01/2017, Evanston, IL, 210, 9:00 PM
09/02/2017, Buffalo, NY, Nietzche's, 9:00 PM
09/06/2017, Syracuse, NY, Funk 'N Waffles, 8:00 PM
09/07/2017, New York, NY, Club Bonafide, 7:30 PM and 9:30 PM
09/09/2017, Bridgeport, CT, BRYAC, 9:00 PM
09/11/2017, Asheville, NC, Altamont Theatre, 7:00 PM
09/12/2017, Knoxville, TN, Red Piano Lounge, 8:00 PM
09/13/2017, Memphis, TN, Hi Tone, 8:00 PM
09/14/2017, New Orleans, LA, Cafe Istanbul, 9:00 PM
09/15/2017, Houston, TX, Dan Electro's Guitar Bar, 9:00 PM
09/16/2017, Austin, TX, Flamingo Cantina, 9:00 PM

Colorado-based drummer Paa Kow speaks a dozen musical languages, from the deep rhythmic traditions of his native Ghana to the patois perfected by the likes of George Clinton and George Benson. “My music isn’t traditional, but it has deep roots. I want to invent my own style,” he explains. “The highlife music is there, but when you listen, it’s kind of jazz, too. It’s funk. It’s the way the music comes to me.”

Whatever the style, Paa Kow’s tracks hit the sweet spot between addictive groove and delectable complexity on his latest album, Cookpot (release: October 13, 2017). Lines shift and lock, all entwined with Paa Kow’s effortless precision, showcased prominently on solo track “Details.” “Forced Landing” switches from funk to highlife and back again, while tracks like “P𝛜t𝛜 P𝛜t𝛜” and “Meetu Ehum” speak loudly to Paa Kow’s Ghanaian side. 

“I feel like music is all about the ingredients. You have different backgrounds, someone from the US, from Europe, from Ghana,” muses Paa Kow. “Then the pot part, that’s the container, the way the groove set. It’s like something’s boiling on the fire. The whole album brings together all these different energies and inspirations together.”

Paa Kow knows how to harness these varied energies, blending differences in his own unique way. Two years ago, for example, Paa Kow headed back home, to rural Ghana. He wanted something rare: A traditional drum set. Paa Kow knew exactly what size, what drums. He tracked down a drum maker who was up to the task. 

“We had talk a lot about it. It was hard to find a bass drum that big. The makers told me ‘We don’t think we can get this for you,’” Paa Kow recalls. “One day, I woke up and they told me they had found a tree. The bass drum is made from a single tree. It gives me a really nice sound that I love. It’s the same drum kit I used on the album.” 

Paa Kow was used to crafting his own kit, something he did obsessively as a small boy, using whatever he had on hand, old buckets, cans, sandals, anything. From a musical family, he grew up living and breathing music, to the point he would stow away in a bass drum in hopes of getting to gig with his relatives instead of going to school. With time, he became a regional whizkid, eventually landing in Accra and gaining a reputation for astounding playing, despite his youth. 

There he met another young percussionist, American Peyton Shuffield, who was visiting Ghana as part of a semester abroad. He kept hearing about this young, brilliant drummer and sought out Paa Kow as a teacher. The two hit it off. Their friendship opened a door for Paa Kow, who came to Colorado at first to teach, and then to live and play.

He settled in the Denver area and decided to start a band to play his original music. “I had lived in Ghana my whole life. I’d played with successful bands and toured Europe. But I trusted this was what I wanted to do. I wanted to spread my music,” says Paa Kow. “I love Colorado, and there’s lots of opportunity if you want to take advantage of it. I’ve played with a lot of different musicians, and some of them come and go. But I write my own songs, and gradually it’s leading me where I want to be.”

Where he’s going requires fellow travelers, ones passionate about learning all they can about Paa Kow’s musical worlds. “I believe that music is a language. But it’s not universal, you have to learn it. You learn, oh, you don’t say that in our language. It’s a conversation. You don’t have to be from Ghana, say to learn my language,” notes Paa Kow. “When the musical skills are there, I have been able to get American musicians to speak the same language I speak. They love what I do, and what they do. It makes it a lot easier.”

Dedication to music “is like breathing,” adds Paa Kow. “I didn’t go to music school to start playing. The more I learn, the more it comes to me. I love every minute of it.”


Fifteen years after the spectacular worldwide success of the first album by the Tribalistas, Marisa Monte, Arnaldo Antunes and Carlinhos Brown are getting together again for a new musical adventure. The new album will arrive by the end of ths month on digital platforms.

On a surprise Facebook Live this Wednesday night, August 9th, Tribalistas revealed, first hand, four of the ten tracks of their brand new album. The unexpected show of the trio formed by Arnaldo Antunes, Carlinhos Brown and Marisa Monte started at 11 PM, Brazil time, and was streamed live at the artists's and Spotify's fan pages on Facebook. Thousands of followers inBrazil and in more than 50 countries joined the 60-minute performance that was broadcasted live from a studio in Rio de Janeiro.

Accompanied by musicians Dadi, Cézar Mendes and Pedro Baby, Tribalistas performed their new songs Diáspora, Um Só, Fora da Memória and Aliança. The trio also answered a few questions sent live by fans and Spotify and explained why it took them 15 years to release a new project.

From today on, the first four singles were made available in Spotify and all digital platforms worldwide. The videos of the four songs, directed by Dora Jobim, can be watched on Itunes/Apple Music and Facebook. The group, in a partnership with Spotify and Facebook, also developed specially for the release an exclusive mobile interactive tool that innovated the digital music consumption: the Hand Album. Whoever access any of their pages on the social network via smartphone will find in a single environment all content related to the songs: lyric videos, chords, production credits, backstage photos and videos excerpts in vertical format. The tool also allows the user to access Spotify to listen the songs.

Released in 2002, the first CD/DVD od Tribalistas reached a more than 3 million sales mark and soon became a phenomenon in many countries around the world - notoriously in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Argentina, United States and Colombia.

INVITE: Hot Jazz, A Swing Dance Lesson = Fall Fun: Sweet Megg & the Wayfarers Album Release Party September 14th!

Sweet Megg & The Wayfarers bring humanity and spontaneity to their shows, creating music people can relate to. Inspired by blues, gypsy jazz, country, and modern jazz, the band has a sound that it’s truly their own: vibrant, modern, and eclectic but honoring the great musical greats of the past. 

Their debut single from their self titled album "Here Comes the Man with The Jive", was written by the great Stuff Smith.  The Wayfarer's version, incorporates a lot of horns to give the feel of a party.  Stuff Smith was one of jazz music's preeminent violinists of the swing era. "Here Comes the Man with The Jive" was one of the anthems of marijuana enthusiasts of the Twenties. Referring to themselves as "Vipers". 

“We selected 'Here Comes the Man with The Jive" cause we are really a live band and we thought that this tune captured our live feel the best.  We are known at our live performances to get rowdy and get the crowd going, particularly with this number.  We did a few takes  in order to really capture the live feel.  Everything was recorded live in the studio.  This is the tune we usually end our sets with cause it gets the crowds going." says Megg Farrell (Sweet Megg).

The band has have been a mainstay of the NYC jazz scene since their debut in 2012. Holding residencies at The Standard Hotel, House of Yes, The Wayland, St. Mazie’s, and The Belfry.  This fall will debut their first full length album, they will celebrate with an intimate album release show at The Paperbox on September 14th!  Special guests and a swing dance lesson at 8:30 by Cait and the Critters are also part of the bill!

I would like to present you with the opportunity to list the album release party, interview the band, and attend the album release party on September 14th! Their goal is to not recreate the past but to explore it and mix it with the future. 

About Megg Farrell

Born in Manhattan, raised in New Jersey, matured in Paris, Asheville, and Brooklyn, Megg Farrell's music encapsulates all of her travels and experiences into one beautifully eclectic blend of honest simplicity and musical sophistication.



sábado, 19 de agosto de 2017

Guy Mendilow Ensemble - Music from The Forgotten Kingdom (October 6, 2017)

The Musical Lessons of Lost Worlds: How Guy Mendilow Ensemble Engages Creatively with the Sephardic Past to Inform the Present on The Forgotten Kingdom

The past can feel distant, foreign: its communities erased, its memory buried. Yet we can sometimes access it through the fantastic, through storytelling that resonates with lived experience.

Composer and artist Guy Mendilow has followed this path to the past, weaving together vignettes, glimpses, and fragmented stories from and of Sephardic communities around the Mediterranean and Balkans. Many of these communities have been wiped off the map, even their language nearly forgotten. But the characters who sprang from them feel fresh and present, and to Mendilow, their adventures and trials suggested a Sephardic epic of sorts, complete with powerful music and universally resonant emotions and messages.

Rethinking the role of musical aesthetics and spoken word in re-creating these impressions, Mendilow and his Ensemble has recorded The Forgotten Kingdom (release: October 6, 2017). The album has two versions, one with just the music from the show, one reflecting the interwoven stories, complete with spoken interludes. Its vignettes propel listeners from old world and into new, from the mythical (“La Sirena/The Siren”), the actual (“La Vuelta del Marido/The Husband’s Return”) and concluding with the harrowing symbol of the trains to Auschwitz (“De Saloniki a Auschwitz”) that bring this older age to a definite, violent end.

“What has haunted me as I’ve created this production is how it gives us a glimpse into the end of an era, the destruction of an older world,” says Mendilow. “I wanted to explore what it was like to see the breakdown of empires, the glimmers of hope that then evaporate. What is it like to be caught on the wrong side, in that kind of nightmare? What is like to witness your world ending? How did the moment, which seems so inevitable in our historical hindsight, actually feel to those living it?”

{full story below}

The product of years of performance, research, and revising, The Forgotten Kingdom’s intertwining music and storytelling conjure an imagi-nation lost to war and upheaval, recorded in a language that blends archaic Spanish with Arabic, Turkish, Hebrew, and Greek. “As far as I know, The Forgotten Kingdom is America’s first semi-theatrical touring production made of Ladino songs from Balkan and Mediterranean communities destroyed in WWII,” says Mendilow. “It’s an evocative trek through former Ottoman lands, an allegory that ultimately begs some questions about ourselves today, and the ways these stories continue to play out, in a modern guise.” Mendilow and ensemble get the adventure to burst “with artistry, refinement, and excitement." (Hebrew Union College).

To make the work live and breathe, Mendilow learned these women's songs, traditionally sung a cappella in homes and communal celebrations, by listening to gritty field recordings. He then set aside notions of purity or authenticity, in favor of finding emotional connection. As he described his ideas to an established Ladino scholar, York University’s Judith Cohen, she laid it on the line: You either keep strictly to tradition and abide by its ways, or you pursue your own ideas, but without calling it traditional. Mendilow opted for the latter.

“That’s one of the most challenging things about the project, the moment that demanded the most soul searching,” he reflects. “The conclusion I came to was that we needed to call a fig a fig. I don’t want someone to think they’ve heard Ladino music when they’ve come to this show. It’s not about that; it’s about rendering a traditional way of life in bold, relatable colors.”

These stories speak to our age, Mendilow feels, which is why this project absorbed him for so long. “The Ladino story is a case study in resilience, in collaboration across ethnic and religious divides, and in evolving identities due to immigration,” says Mendilow. “And I feel this story begs the question: Are we also straddling an older, familiar world, and a newer one we can hardly imagine, like those in the stories did back then?” Mendilow and his fellow musicians strive to set the scene, to craft lively portraits of the characters, leaving ample space for listeners to invest in the tales, outside of the cultural and historical specifics.

Stories get better with the telling, and The Forgotten Kingdom proves no exception. Mendilow and his Ensemble, whose members play with everyone from Amanda Palmer and Snarky Puppy to Yo Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin, started developing the live performance of The Forgotten Kingdom several years ago. The group toured the show extensively, gathering responses from audiences who had never heard of Ladino, from elders who spoke it and knew the songs from their Sephardi homes decades ago.

Mendilow felt it was time to take to the studio. The group strived to capture the energy and flow of the performance as much as possible, then dove into the texture and nuance in a way that only studio work can allow. He also expanded the project into multimedia thanks to an artist award from the NEA, tapping Ukrainian sand painters  and German shadow artists to create animated versions of songs. (Two of these videos will be released around the same time as the album)

“Our goal is to sweep up audiences in an emotional experience,” says Mendilow. “We hope it’s so powerful that those with no prior knowledge or connection to Ladino will leave caring deeply about the culture and the world it creates for us. The stories are too good to be ignored, and the communities from which they come too important in terms of what they represent—from models of integration and inter-ethnic cooperation to their own rich heritage—to be dismissed.” 


GUY MENDILOW ENSEMBLE "An international tour de force” (Bethlehem Morning Call) from Israel, Palestine, Argentina and the USA, the Guy Mendilow Ensemble operates on the notion that incredible stories and emotionally sweeping experiences can do far more than just entertain. They can spark resonance, fascination and motivation to care beyond our day-to-day.  With this premise in mind, the Guy Mendilow Ensemble combines world-class musicianship with cinematic storytelling in shows that “explode with artistry, refinement, and excitement” (Hebrew Union College), conjuring voices lost to war and upheaval, whisking audiences to distant times and picturesque places and, ultimately, inspiring the motivation to explore lesser known cultures and histories.

The Guy Mendilow Ensemble tours four shows: The Forgotten Kingdom; Three Sides to Every Story (ft. Philadelphia Girls Choir); Heart of the Holidays — A Global Celebration in Song; and Around the World in Song family concerts. Highly skilled educators, the ensemble specializes in community engagement including tailor-made residencies, choral/string collaborations and a breadth of interactive workshops. The Ensemble is an artist-in-residence with Celebrity Series of Boston's Arts for All since 2014.  

In 2017, the National Endowment for the Arts selected the Guy Mendilow Ensemble for its Art Works, a grant for the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art and the strengthening of communities through the arts.

Alongside touring with the Guy Mendilow Ensemble, members are on the faculty of music schools like the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music in India and tour/record with the likes of Bobby McFerrin, Yo Yo Ma, Snarky Puppy, the Assad Brothers, Christian McBride, the Video Game Orchestra, Amanda Palmer and Simon Shaheen. Formed in 2004, the Ensemble is based in Boston, MA and New York, NY, USA.