Esteemed Multi-Instrumentalist Charles Pillow Releases Innovative New Large Ensemble Album Chamber Jazz, Out 2/21

Bandleader, composer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist Charles Pillow is excited to announce the February 21st release of his latest large ensemble venture, Chamber Jazz on SUMMIT Records. The follow up to his critically acclaimed 2018 release Electric Miles, Chamber Jazz brings the richness and refinement of chamber music, a music which conjures images of Ravel and Debussy in the jazz idiom.  Pillow’s large ensemble is made up of trumpeter Scott Wendholt, trombonist Alan Ferber, French horn player Chris Komer, tuba player Marcus Rojas, clarinetist and flautist Todd Groves, guitarist Vic Juris, pianist Gary Versace, bass player Jeff Campbell, bass player Jay Anderson, drummer Mark Ferber, drummer Rich Thompson, percussionist Rogerio Boccato, violinists Hiroko Taguchi, Whitney Lagrange and Lisa Matricardi, viola players Todd Low and Orlando Wells, and cellists Alisa Horn and Allison Seidner.

With stunning arrangements by the bandleader, Charles Pillow explores the warmer sonorities of alto flute, english horn, french horn, tuba and strings, along with a rhythm section and a soloist.  This unusual instrumentation on Pillows’ 8th album as a bandleader provides the ensemble with a strikingly fresh sound, offering audiences an opportunity to hear these jazz luminaries perform in a decidedly new context .“The project came about as a way to fuse elements of classical music with improvisation and to evolve further as a composer. Playing with a string section is deeply satisfying and by adding bass clarinet and a small brass section to the mix, I found additional captivating tonal palette possibilities,” says Pillow.  

While in Pass Manchac” starts the album out on an energetic note, bringing forth images of the Delta. Written about a small area near New Orleans in between Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas, this track introduces the unique sonic opportunities made possible by this thoughtfully crafted outfit of players.  Soloists Scott Wendholt (of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra) and bandleader Charles Pillow display their incredible facility on their instruments with this opening track. 

Charlotte and Evan”, written in dedication to Charles’ children, offers an endearing exploration between a string and horn section.  The featured soloist on this heartfelt composition is Gary Versace, who displays beautiful melodic invention throughout.  “Don’t Explain” is a Billie Holiday composition which acts as a vehicle for the late, legendary guitarist Vic Juris to take flight.  Juris, who passed away this past December, left us with this piece as a fantastic document of his creative output in his final year.  The guitarist was a longtime collaborator of Pillow’s, in Dave Liebman’s Big Band among other noteworthy projects. “When I began to play with David Liebmans’ Big Band, listening to Vic’s virtuosity night after night was a special thrill,” says Pillow, adding, “…besides being one of the best guitarists of his generation, he was a warm human being. After Vic passed, my thoughts led me to remember that the original performance of “Don’t Explain” started on a quartet gig with Vic.”

Pillow pays homage to the Brazilian jazz tradition with a sultry rendition of a classic Brazilian composition.  On “Bebe”, Gary Versace plays accordion and Pillow plays clarinet.  The piece features the percussion of Rogerio Boccato and Rich Thompson.  The ensemble delves into a familiar Tony Williams composition off of Miles Davis’ 1967 album The Sorcerer,Pee Wee”, which features some stunning interplay between a steadfast rhythm section and a beautifully impassioned string section.

Oska T” is a lesser-known Thelonious Monk composition.  Pillow keeps Monk’s innovative, angular compositional style intact with this impressive arrangement of an obscure gem by the jazz icon.  “Abshied, Ray” was written in dedication to Pillow’s father, Raymond Pillow, who passed during the time of this album’s inception. “Parents teach you everything; love, patience, dedication and hard work. This piece is for my father to show my gratitude for his example,” says the artist. Versace shines on this touching memorial, .  Much like “While in Pass Manchac”, “Atchafalaya Fiction” is based upon an area of Louisiana, Near Breaux Bridge, the Atchafalaya basin is the largest wetlands in the U.S. Known for its cypress trees, swamps, Acadian culture, music and food.

More About the Artist:

Saxophonist, flutist, clarinetist, oboist, composer, arranger and leader of the Charles Pillow large ensemble keeps an active profile in the NYC and around the globe.

With 7 solo CD’s to his credit, he is established as one of the premier woodwind multi- instrumentalists of today. Pictures at an Exhibition (2004) and Gustav Holsts’ The Planets (2007), both on Artistshare, and van Gogh Letters (2010) on ELCM, I Believe in You Triocity, with Jeff Campbell and Rich Thompson on Origin, and Electric Miles on MaMa, his first large ensemble CD.

A fluent performer, teacher, and touring musician, he has performed on over 100 CD’s including those of Brad Mehldau, Michael Brecker, Tom Harrell, David Sanborn, Joe Henderson, Dave Liebman, John Scofield, Bob Mintzer, Jay Z, Mariah Carey, and Chaka Khan.

He is an Assistant Professor of Jazz Saxophone at the Eastman School of Music.

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