Chamber Jazz
Release Date: February 21, 2020
Label: SUMMIT Records

On Chamber Jazz (via SUMMIT Records) bandleader, composer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist Charles Pillow brings the richness and refinement of chamber music, a music which conjures images of Ravel and Debussy into 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.


Electric Miles
Label: MAMA Records

Coinciding with the 50 year anniversary of Miles Davis’ 1969 album Bitches Brew, saxophonist, flutist and arranger Charles Pillow celebrates the music of the jazz legend within the 1969-72 period. With the support of his 17-piece ensemble, Pillow draws attention to the music that featured jazz stalwarts such as Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Lenny White, Jack DeJohnette, John McLaughlin, Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, Dave Liebman and Dave Holland. Electric Miles centers around compositions from Bitches Brew, Jack Johnson, and In a Silent Way - all skillfully arranged for big band.

The sound of Bitches Brew - the bass clarinet and multiple keyboards - was unheard of at the time. Almost every aspect of this 1969 release was new; the loose, yet guide-post like structures in the music, the post production techniques that Teo Macero used putting it together, the fact that it was a double album, even the liner notes, all pointed to a new direction in jazz.

Commemorating this seminal recording, the Charles Pillow Large Ensemble is joined by special guest saxophonist and Miles Davis alum Dave Liebman on “Black Satin” and “Yesternow”. Trumpeters Tim Hagans and Clay Jenkins are featured as the Miles voice alongside Michael Davis on trombone and Pillow on both alto saxophone and alto flute. Powered by the rhythm section of drummer Jared Schonig and bassist Chuck Bergeron, the band is an array of seasoned pros peppered with younger up and coming musicians. Filling out this ensemble is Colin Gordon (alto sax, soprano sax, flute), Luke Norris (tenor sax, clarinet), CJ Ziarniak (tenor sax), Karl Stabnau (bass clarinet), Abe Nouri (trombone), Jack Courtright (trombone), Gabe Ramos (bass trombone), Tony Kadleck (lead trumpet), Charlie Carr (trumpet), Julian Garvue (electric piano), and Mike Forfia (acoustic bass on “Sanctuary” and “In a Silent Way”).

 

For Chamber Jazz

 

DEE DEE MCNEIL
MUSICALMEMOIRS'S BLOG
"He played straight ahead jazz and big band music with luminaries like David Liebman, Tom Harrell, John Scofield and smooth jazz with David Sanborn. But he’s truly at his best when he leads and records his own band. This is a prime example."Read the full review here.

 

RON NETSKY
ROCHESTER CITY NEWSPAPER
"Pillow has also written four of the tunes and arranged all eight beautifully for 20 musicians, including seven string players. But those feats would mean nothing if the music wasn’t gorgeous from start to finish." Read the full review here.

GEORGE HARRIS
JAZZ WEEKLY
"The textures are  pastoral and always mix the colors well, making each song a holistic idea, with nary a sense of gimmickry." Read the full review here

MORTON SHLABOTNIK
SHEPHERD EXPRESS
"The music is arranged with care and allows room for soloists to take turns in pointing the melodic direction."Read the full review here

 

FILIPE FREITAS
JAZZTRAIL
"The competence of Pillow’s big band is indisputable." Read the full review here

CHRIS SPECTOR
MIDWEST RECORD
"Top shelf sitting down instrumental music with jazz coloration." Read the full review here

JACK BOWERS
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"This is lovely music, lovingly performed by Pillow and his ensemble." Read the full review here

JEFF KROW
AUDIOPHILE AUDITION
"Charles Pillow has exceeded in strong fashion fusing the strengths of classical chamber music with jazz improvisation, in providing a program of gorgeous music that is quite welcome in these trying times." Read the full review here

 
 

For Electric Miles

 

FRANK GRIFFITH
LONDON JAZZ NEWS
"Pillow has thoroughly encapsulated such an important era of jazz in executing these arrangements with rich voicings underpinned with a powerful rhythmic propulsion enabling the music to relentlessly move forward. The sounds herein offer the listener a matured version of Davis’ sound,  integrity and timeless beauty." Read the full review here.

PHIL FREEMAN
STEREOGUM
"I can’t quite figure out what I think about this album, but it’s a fascinating idea." Read the full review here.

SCOTT YANOW
JAZZ ARTISTRY NOW
"Electric Miles succeeds at both paying tribute to Miles Davis’ early fusion records and finding a new and fresh way to interpret the material" Read the full 4.5 star review here.

FILIPE FREITAS
JAZZTRAIL
"Mr. Pillow shaped up Electric Miles with scrupulous arrangements containing fluttering horn lines and expressionistic individual solos. Everything flows with an electrifying poise." Read the full review here.

MIKE SHANLEY
JAZZTIMES
"...the soloists don't relax. Pillow himself adds fire to both of the aforementioned tracks ("Bitches Brew & Pharaoh's Dance")" Read the full review here

DEE DEE MCNEIL
MUSICAL MEMOIRS
"It’s impressive to hear a large ensemble and a gifted arranger tackle fusion and modern jazz with a big band sensibility and still keep the funk alive and powerful." Read the full review here.

D. OSCAR GROOMES
O'S PLACE JAZZ MAGAZINE
"The use of a large ensemble illustrates the music from a different angle." Read the full review here.

ROB TURNER
THE WIRE
"Pillow has managed to inflate the music, rearranging it as a beefy slab of big band jazz." Read the full review here.

SCOTT YANOW
JAZZIZ
"The transformation of Davis' early fusion casts a new light on the often-overlooked material." Read the full review here.

JACK BOWERS
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Fans of Davis—especially those who dug his music from the '70s onward—should find much to absorb and appreciate in Electric Miles." Read the full review here.

MARK CORROTO
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"The music Pillow presents is a ripened, lets say matured version of Davis' sound...This recording makes you wonder what Pillow could do with Thelonious Monk's orchestral performance At Town Hall (Riverside, 1959)." Read the full 4-star review here.

 

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