PIANIST SUMI TONOOKA AND SAXOPHONIST ERICA LINDSAY
RELEASE THEIR FIRST STUDIO ALBUM
INITIATION to be released Jan 12th 2010 on Artists Recording Collective
* Featuring bassist Rufus Reid & the late drummer Bob Braye *
“Sumi Tonooka brings to the music a formidable presence as a composer, player and leader that cannot be denied… a must listen…” — Cadence
“[Erica’s] profound soul-searching technique straddles Coltrane’s spirituality and Joe Henderson's fiery versatility, making hers a name to watch”— Bob Margolis, Ulster Publications
Initiation, the dynamic new Artists Recording Collective CD by pianist Sumi Tonooka (pronounced To-NO-ka) and tenor saxophonist Erica Lindsay, showcases their shared skills as composers and bandleaders. Though they’ve been playing together since they first met in the spring of 1994, this is their first in-studio collaboration. “We wanted to document and reveal something of our musical dynamic together,” says Tonooka.
Initiation features bassist Rufus Reid and the late drummer Bob Braye, both of whom were on Tonooka’s previous trio release, Long Ago Today, which earned critical acclaim and a place on numerous top CDs of 2008 lists. Initiation will be released on October 20, 2009.
An underlying sense of swing and drive, with commanding bass lines and a strong sense of form and harmonic structure create the binding threads in the music of these two female performers/ composers. As Tonooka puts it, “we have been pursuing similar paths as jazz musicians and have happily met up on that path...” They saw early on in their association that their differences would strengthen their artistic visions and desires.
Their initial collaborations took place at Justin’s, a casual and intimate jazz club in Albany, NY when they were brought together by a quartet lead by drummer Hal Miller. Over a period of a few years their creative process solidified as Tonooka and Lindsay shared and developed their compositions in a supportive quartet setting. Tonooka observed that “Erica's compositions drew out something different in my playing and my compositions brought out something else in hers. We felt that together we could create a strong and vital musical expression.”
In 2005 Tonooka’s friend, composer and pianist John Hodian who was leaving for the summer on a European tour with his wife, vocalist Bet Williams gave her the keys to the Woodstock studio. “I knew this was an opportunity to record that I did not want to miss,” Tonooka remembers. “It had been awhile and there was a lot of music-making, compositions composed and life lived to draw from. Erica and I got down to the business of producing two recordings - my trio CD Long Ago Today…and Initiation.” Both artists collaborated equally in producing and each provided five compositions for the project, while Lindsay took on the job of mixing and mastering.
On Initiation, you’ll hear how the music flows through the hands and hearts of both artists. As a composer, Lindsay writes what she knows – herself. She has a brawny, definitive voice, similar to tenorman Joe Henderson’s sound. Shooting straight from the hip, Lindsay’s “Yes,” originally an improvised piece” inspired by a poem by Janice King, dives forward and hits hard. Braye lays down an unrelenting pounding on two and four and then wheels the ensemble into a speedy 4/4. A spontaneous freeing-of-the-minds interlude between Tonooka, Reid and Braye, followed by a collective surge of brilliance brings them back to their previous pace. Lindsay and Reid carry on a conversation that careens between coffee table banter and serious business at the onset of “Serpent’s Tale”.
Tonooka’s rhythm-based and harmonically striking compositions embrace the mysticism, sadness and wonder that come out of life, as well as the sparks that ignite it. On the title tune, she addresses the unpredictability of life and what we can learn from it. “Life happens and many unforeseen events and experiences can thrust us forward (whether we like it or not) to grow, to learn and ultimately share and help others through the trials of life,” she says. She wrote “The Gift” after her mother died “to celebrate her life and… specifically about the time spent together.” Braye’s gentle mallet work and cymbal swishes, like the flicker of a candle’s flame, add solemnity to the occasion. Lindsay sings as Tonooka dances through each note that they play.
Both artists praise the contributions of Braye and Reid. “Bob and Rufus play a critical role in this CD as the music is approached as four equal voices,” Lindsay notes. She and Braye already had a musical history before Initiation, as did Tonooka and Reid. Braye died the January following Initiation’s recording date. Initiation, Long Ago Today and his duo recording with Lindsay, Oceans, were his last three record dates. Tonooka sings his praises as drum master and “an amazing human being. We miss him deeply.”
In addition to playing music together, much goes on in the lives of these two leaders. Tonooka’s worlds of jazz and philanthropy intersect in “A Note of Hope”, a documentary from Citygate Films on the youngest victims of HIV/AIDS in Africa. She tours as part of a sextet featuring her musical compadre of two decades, jazz violinist John Blake, Jr. The group also features Gerald Veasley on electric bass, Rosella Clemmons on vocals and Butch Reed on drums, all musical ambassadors for this cause. You can also hear her with "The Rufus Reid Quintet-Live at the Kennedy Center" CD/DVD on Motema Records.
Lindsay, a faculty member of the Music Department at Bard College in New York, leads her own quartet and performs with the Oliver Lake Big Band, the Baikida Carroll Quintet, the Howard Johnson Hojo5 Quintet, the Jeff Siegel Quartet and the San Francisco-based group, Trace Elements.
Artists Recording Collective (ARC), is an independent label powered by the idea that artists need a home base for their music.
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