Album: When You Were There
Street Date: June 1, 2019
Label: ARC Records
Featuring celebrated young pianist Nick Hetko, and the steadfast rhythm section of bassist Rich Syracuse and drummer Jeff “Siege” Siegel, this release is an homage to a woman who was a mentor and friend to each member of the trio-- the “First Lady of Jazz,” Dr. Lee Shaw. The title track “When You Were There” is a Lee Shaw composition previously recorded with Shaw and her long-time rhythm section of Siegel and Syracuse back in 2003, two tracks “Evie’s Theme” and “Free Fall” were composed by Siegel, “Sleeper” and “The Float” were composed by Syracuse, and “Nica” and “Captain of a Sinking Ship” were composed by Hetko. Though the album features multiple composers, the stunning interplay on each track of this collaborative effort makes for a cohesive sound and a unified voice throughout. On Tuesday, June 11th, the Hetko, Syracuse & Siegel Trio will celebrate the release of “When You Were There” with a 7:30pm performance at the Zinc Bar, followed by a set from Siegel’s Sextet.
Lee Shaw was a band leader, friend and a source of inspiration for Syracuse and Siegel. Performing for 14 years as a trio, the combination of Shaw, Siegel and Syracuse spent countless hours together on stages across the United States and throughout Europe. For Hetko, Shaw was a mentor. In Hetko’s words, Shaw gave him “The confidence to persevere.” In a serendipitous moment, Shaw, prior to her passing, introduced then-timid high school junior Nick Hetko to her rhythm section for a series of recording demos. Siegel notes that even when performing with Hetko at that young age “there was a chemistry that we have continued to hone and refine over years of playing together.” It seems fitting then that, upon recording an homage to the great Shaw, the rhythm section would choose Lee’s talented protégé, with whom they had already formed a deep connection and friendship, to sit in her seat at the piano.
“When you Were There” was recorded at NRS Recording Studio by famed engineer Scott Petito in September 2018. The first track on the album “Sleeper” sets the tone for the record showing the audience Hetko’s stunning facility on the keys, tearing through the changes composed by Syracuse while Siegel drives the group forward with his distinctive, refined comping. As ever, Siegel’s performance on “Sleeper” is a sheer master-class on swing percussion. Moving forward into the tender triple-meter musings of “Free Fall,” the audience is transported to an ethereal space, encapsulating all of the subtle elegances of a Bill Evans Trio recording, “Free Fall” features stellar solos by both Hetko and Syracuse.
“Captain of Sinking Ship,” a 13 minute long odyssey composed by Nick Hetko imbued with all of the passion and intent that you would want from a classical-infused post-bop composition, a virtuosic melody played by Hetko (and, at times, doubled by Syracuse) is coupled with a masterful use of dynamics by the ensemble. The track features a section of stunning improvisation by Siegel over some wildly syncopated hits executed by Hetko and Syracuse. Alongside the dazzling original compositions which grace this album, sits two arrangements of jazz standards “Oscar’s Boogie” (Oscar Peterson) and “I Fall in Love Too Easily” (Jule Styne). “Oscar’s Boogie” sheds light on the trio’s facility in a more traditional context-- and demonstrates just how deep the ‘pocket’ between long-time collaborators Siegel and Syracuse. “I Fall in Love Too Easily” is filled with a humanity and grace that can only be compared to that of the woman whom this album seeks to honor--Dr. Lee Shaw. “We hope this music reminds you of our friend and, if she is new to you, causes you to seek out her work.” Says Siegel, “May she continue to inspire us all to live with and for passion.”
More about the trio:
Pianist/Composer Nicolas Hetko is an award winning pianist and composer. He has shared the stage with the likes of James Moody, Matt Wilson, Chris Potter, Buddy Guy, and Dave Holland at countless clubs and concert halls around the world. He was the grand prize winner of the Six String Theory Competition in 2016, went on tour with Lee Ritenour, and recorded a track for Lee’s upcoming album. He holds two ASCAP Jazz Composer awards and three awards from Downbeat Magazine for his compositions and performances. Before the age of 18, Hetko was selected for the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Residency, Brubeck Jazz Colony, and the Gibson/Baldwin Grammy Jazz Ensemble. He was a Grand Finalist in the Nottingham International Jazz Piano Competition and the Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition, and was a recipient of the prestigious Stamps Scholarship at the University of Miami. Nick Hetko now resides in New York City where he performs and records regularly with a variety of artists spanning an array of different genres as well as leading his own trio, Three Leaf.
Bassist/Composer Rich Syracuse has been a mainstay on the New York area scene for more than three decades. While performing at an early age in New York City, he was the winner of the prestigious Congress of Strings Award. He went on to receive his Bachelor of Music degree from Manhattan School of Music in New York City. Syracuse has performed with Mose Allison, Kurt Elling, Dave Liebman, Brubeck Brothers, Warren Bernhardt, Sumi Tonooka, David Torn, Mike DeMicco, Pete Levin, Sam Morrison, Bernard Purdy, Vic Juris, Dave Stryker, Chuck Lamb, Jeff “Siege” Siegel, Dena DeRose, John Medeski, Michael Mussilami and Ale DeMogli. Rich has been the long time bassist for Jazz pianist Lee Shaw for 25 years until her passing. Rich is the Professor of String and Electric Bass at Skidmore College, Saratoga, New York, Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut and The State University of New York at New Paltz.
Drummer/Composer Jeff “Siege” Siegel is a veteran of the New York Jazz scene and has worked with a virtual “who’s who” of artists. He came onto the New York scene in 1980-83 as a member of legendary multi-instrumentalist Arthur Rhames’s quartet. After six years with the group Second Sight, which featured trumpeter Dave Douglas, Siegel became a member of the Sir Roland Hanna Trio from 1994-’99. From the years 1990 – present he has co-led several touring ensembles as well as leading The Jeff “Siege” Siegel Quartet. Simultaneously, from 2001 – 2015 Siegel was also a member of the Lee Shaw Trio from whom he also produced several cds and a dvd. As an educator, Siegel is a faculty member at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, Western Connecticut State University, and The State University of New York at New Paltz. Siegel’s diverse career has also led him to perform and/or record with legends such as Ron Carter, Kenny Burrell, Jack DeJohnette, Pat Metheny, Benny Golson, Frank Foster, John Medeski, Stefon Harris, Kurt Elling, Ravi Coltrane, John Medeski, Dave Liebman, Pete & Tony Levin, Steve Turre, and many others. His touring has also led to performances and clinics throughout the United States, South America, China and Canada, Japan and South Africa. Siegel will return to Africa this June, 2019 to perform and teach with his group at the Standard Bank Jazz Festival in South Africa and perform for the US Embassy Eswatini at National Day festivities.
Album: London Live
Street Date: September 6, 2018
Label: ARC Records
August 28: John Birks Gillespie Theater - B’ahai Center of New York, NYC
September 6: Release Show at Zinc Bar, NYC
September 8: Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival, Albany, NY
September 22: Release Show at Rosendale Cafe, Rosendale, NY
Featuring Erica Lindsay on tenor saxophone, Francesca Tanksley on piano and the new and exciting addition of Vienna-native Uli Langthaler on bass, The Jeff “Siege” Siegel Quartet recorded London Live - their second live recording - at Pizza Express Jazz Club, London on the closing night of their fourth European tour as a group in 2010. This eight track opus, which includes six originals - three by Siegel, two by Lindsay and one by Tanksley - alongside Coltrane’s “Peace on Earth” and the African American spiritual “I Want Jesus to Walk With Me”, is penned by the stalwart drummer as a “hard hitting 60’s set”.
On November 3, 2010, having left their last destination on tour in Europe (Marktoberdorf, Germany – Bavaria), the quartet took the train to Munich, flew to London, made their way into the city, got lost, had a taxi adventure and eventually found their way to their hotel. In an unfortunate coincidence, the city’s metro went on strike shortly after their arrival, meaning that many people who would have come to the show at Pizza Express Jazz Club couldn’t make it out of fear of not having a way home. Nevertheless, the group closed their European tour that night in London after two weeks in Germany and Austria and as it conveniently turned out, were given the opportunity to have this concert recorded and videoed.
The album opens with Erica Lindsay’s “Meet Me at the Station”, a composition on which the saxophonist reflects upon life on the road. With the inclusion of “Peace on Earth” and “I Want Jesus to Walk With Me”, Siegel pays homage to two inspiring musicians, whom he has had the pleasure of working with. “Peace on Earth” - a John Coltrane tune - was introduced to Siegel by master saxophonist Dave Liebman, with whom the renowned drummer performed back in 2009 in The Hague, Netherlands at the IASJ. “I Want Jesus to Walk With Me”, arranged by the late, great multi-instrumentalist Arthur Rhames, whom Siegel worked with upon his entrance to New York City in the early 1980s, is performed here in a Latin style as opposed to rubato/swing, reminiscent of how Siegel performed it in the Arthur Rhames Quartet. Inspired by the tuning and drum solo of Elvin Jones from the composition “The Drum Thing” on Coltrane’s “Crescent”, “Crescent Sound” is Siegel’s original composition and ode to the legendary saxophonist. “M Song” is a ballad in honor of the drummer’s wife of 34 years, Myra, while “A New Freedom” is a moving piece written by Francesca Tanksley that, in her words “..offers a sense of freedom – a freedom of the spirit”. “Art’s Message” is a composition, evocative of the Jazz Messengers, led by the legendary drummer Art Blakey. Lastly, “First Movement” is the quartet’s take on Erica Lindsay’s original composition from her 1989 debut album, which first drew Siegel to her writing: “I identified so much with the style of her writing and she remains one of my favorite composers.”
On this experience as a whole, Siegel notes, “we were able to have this concert recorded and videoed and we hope you enjoy the experience of hearing a band after performing several nights on tour. The luxury of working every night together is unfortunately a rare thing these days so we were grateful for this opportunity [to record live] on our 4th European tour as a band, with the new addition of Uli”.
Album: King of Xhosa
Street Date: January 17, 2017
Label: ARC Records
Featuring South African Trumpeter Feya Faku
“Jeff’s musicality is incredible. He is so tasty as a percussionist and he has become a fine composer/arranger.” – NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Heath
On the Jeff Siegel Quartet’s third studio recording, the stalwart drummer merges his high energy, straight ahead post-bop with the deeply spiritual stylings of trumpet master Feya Faku to produce a vibrant sonic tapestry of South African infused jazz. “King of Xhosa” brings together Siegel’s longstanding quartet comprised of saxophonist Erica Lindsay, pianist Francesca Tanksley, and bassist Rich Syracuse with percussionist Fred Berryhill and trumpeter extraordinaire Feya Faku.
Jeff Siegel and Feya Faku first came together in 2014 in Siegel’s home-turf of Woodstock, New York when Faku visited there to perform with Uhadi, his group of select South African musicians. Siegel was immediately drawn to Faku’’s sound. “From the first time I heard Feya in Woodstock, I knew that he had the perfect vibe, sound and soul to fit with my own quartet,” says Siegel. That summer, Siegel embarked on the trip of a lifetime to Cape Town and Grahamstown, South Africa, where he participated in the International Association of Schools of Jazz, and performed at the Grahamstown Jazz Festival. It was during this profound trip that the idea of a collaboration with Faku truly took hold. “Because African music is the roots of what we play as Jazz musicians, there was a feeling of being home while I was there,” he says, “…it was a blessing to meet, hear and play with wonderful musicians and experience the soul of Africa firsthand.
The title “King of Xhosa” is an homage to the South African musician as well as his people. “Feya’s lineage is of the tribe known as Xhosa – the 2nd largest ethnic group in South Africa after the Zulus. They are known as “prophets” and have had several kings,” explains Siegel, adding that although Feya himself is not a “king” per se, he nonetheless “carries and conducts himself in a most regal manner.”
Homage is a recurring theme on “King of Xhosa” with each of the nine tracks having been composed with specific inspirations in mind. On ‘Totem,’ the album’s opening ‘call to worship’ inspired by Xhosa dancers, Faku’s resonate vocals soar. On ‘Prayer’, composer Tanksley pays tribute to the “power of merciful love”, while Faku composed ‘Courage’ with his teachers in mind. Siegel’s poignant ‘Ballad of the Innocent’ is dedicated to the victims of the Brussells bombing while Tanksley’s ‘Life on the Rock’ is dedicated to each of the musicians on “King of Xhosa”.
All in all, “King of Xhosa” is a celebration of the intersection of cultures. “I hope this music in some way reflects the deep respect I have for the great cultures of both Africa and the United States. While we are profoundly aware of the great pain that resulted in the birth of Jazz music, born from the tragedy of slavery, we are forever blessed with the positive outcome of the joining of these cultures in music. I pray that this recording shall add some positivity, inspiration and strength to a troubled world in whatever small way it can,” says Siegel.
For When You Were There
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Propelled by Siegel's characteristic snappy rhythms and steered by Hetko and Syracuse's sharp melodic rapport, it's a fine tribute full of playfulness and generosity." Read the full review here.
GEORGE W. HARRIS
"Here’s a piano trio that is overflowing with style and lyricism. Pianist Nick Hetko, bassist RichSyracuse and drummer Jeff “Siege” Siegel all contribute writing skill to this album along with a couple of standards, and the album has a clean and fresh quality to it." Read the full review here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
"Together, this incredible trio of excellence presents a well-produced album of beautiful, original compositions... This is an album you will take pleasure in listening to, time and time again,and a trio who has excellently represented the legacy of Dr. Lee Shaw." Read the full review here.
For London Live
"London Live has an uplifting quality deriving from a rich combination of melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic senses that also shows the generous and thoughtful temperament of Siegel’s compositional style." Read the full review here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
"You can hear the tightness and precision of this group, but also the freedom that comes from trusting your musical peers and being familiar and comfortable with each other. This is jazz at its best; Live! Uninhibited and formidable." Read the full review here.
"Leading his working unit from the back of the riser, Siegel captures a timeless underground vibe that keeps awake ears in tow to hear what's coming next." Read the full review here.
DETLEF A. OTT
"Floating, powerful and extensive, the participants create the musical finale of their tour in the highest quality." Read the full review here.
"This is a set of exciting, powerful and intense music, infused by the spirit of Coltrane but not a slave to it. Each of the musicians have their own individual voices." Read the full 4/5 review here.
"In a word, the classic neobop is a great album!" Read the full Russian review here.
"...the entire concert is filled with incendiary soloing and dazzling support underneath each solo." Read the full review here.
"Siegel uses his sticks, brushes and parts of the drum kit to guide and coax the band to excellent effect." Read the full review here.
SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
"...the collective language, in terms of compositions, improvisation and even saxophone sound, is often overtly post-Coltrane to a degree that would usually drive me to distraction. The energy that this quartet generates, however, sweeps away such thoughts on a tide of sheer elation." Read the full 4-star review here.
For King of Xhosa
"This may be the best record you’ll overlook this year." Read the full review here.
"Jeff “Siege” Siegel just might be the hardest-working jazz drummer in the Hudson Valley". Read full article here.
"Siegel is one of the veterans of American jazz." Read full Russian review here.
"A wild ride that will take you many places you never expected to hear, this is a high water mark for creative jazz. Check it out. " Read full review here.
GEORGE W. HARRIS
"This one’s a keeper for fans of classic Impulse! albums." Read the full feature here.
"The new album of the quartet of drummer Jeff "Siege" Siegel demonstrates the extraordinary vitality of the New York jazz scene". Read full review here.
RAUL DA GAMA
JAZZ DA GAMA
"Jeff “Siege” Siegel shows a masterful grasp of the many-splendoured tonal languages of the Xhosa, a facet of his music that is displayed in the brilliance of the writing and in the performances by the wonderful soloists in this ensemble."
"This is a quintessential modern jazz record, and an exceptional one at that." Read full article here.
BIRD IS THE WORM
"Things get plenty evocative and there’s a deft balance between intensity and joyfulness." Read the full review here.