Album: Visitors
Street Date: January 16th, 2019
Label: Tone Rogue Records 

After almost a decade of working together - a period which included a collaboration on Bono’s 2013 From Where You Are - piano/guitar duo Christian Li and Mike Bono are now excited to release Visitors, as a souvenir of the past and a blueprint for the future. Li and Bono bring this nine-track collection of originals to life with the help of Alex Hargreaves on violin, Chris Marion on strings, Dayna Stephens on saxophone, Jared Henderson on bass and Jimmy Macbride and Lee Fish on drums.

Recording an album of improvised music, in which communication and connection are vital to success, can be difficult in the artificial environment of a recording studio. Pran Bandi, who engineered the record, worked to make the musicians on this album feel as comfortable and natural as possible. The professionalism and profound musicality of the people involved, coupled with a rapport cultivated from years of working together, overrode these obstacles. The resulting product is a recording session that truly replicates the scintillating energy of a live performance.

The album opens with “Puddles” - a tune written by Bono, during a time in which he was exploring fast right hand finger style patterns.  “I was trying to create fluid, cascading sounds with some unconventional harmonies and previously undiscovered finger-picking patterns. When I finally arrived at it, the melody I was hearing in my head made very clear where the harmony needed to go, thus paving the way for the rest of the song.” The album moves on to “Little Rascals” - a true testament to the close musical rapport that has developed between this acclaimed pair. As Mike explains, “the free improvisation works because of how well we know each other as people, and how vivid and clear the imagery is when playing the song.” Although Li and Bono have contrasting styles of writing, both have always felt at home on each other’s compositions. Li explains how Bono’s “Tango”, with its thorny harmonies and serpentine melody, feels somehow familiar to him even though it represents his musical world - “There is a tremendous comfort in knowing, when playing Mike’s compositions, that I am free to explore my own ideas and values as a musician without fear of causing (undue) harm.” Li’s “Space  Invaders”, another stand-out track from the album, was an ill-advised compositional experiment that the composer didn’t expect to work. With the help of Bono and this talented ensemble, through their skilled improvisation, the imagery of the piece was brought into clearer focus than Li could have ever imagined.

Visitors displays the fortified musical bond between Li and Bono, and simultaneously presents a teaser to what’s to come from this esteemed duo.


Mike Bono is a guitarist currently based in NYC. He has performed at venues in the city such as Carnegie Hall, Town Hall Theater, Birdland, The Blue Note, and many other clubs around town.  Aside from playing in New York, Mike has played at several clubs and festivals throughout Europe and Africa. Over the last few years, Mike has had several opportunities to play with artists like Erykah Badu, Chris Cheek, Andra Day, Dayna Stephens, Julian Lage, Rich Perry, Natalie Cressman, and Michael Blume, amongst many others.  He has one album out as a leader called ” From Where You Are”, a co-led album with Natalie Cressman called “Etchings in Amber”, and is about to release a co-led album with pianist Christian Li. His latest endeavor in NYC has been subbing for the broadway musicals Dear Evan Hansen, Frozen, and Spongebob. In addition to playing and recording, Mike is on faculty at The Calhoun School, Trevor Day School, and teaches private lessons around the city, and over Skype.  Mike is endorsed by ZT Amplifiers, Wire World Pro Audio Instrument Cables, Master Strap, and Source Audio.



Christian Li is a pianist, composer, and arranger based in New York City. Born in Montreal, Quebec and raised in the small town of Horseheads, NY, he began performing regularly at the age of twelve. He has since been mentored by a colorful cast of musicians, including Danilo Perez, Ben Street, Greg Osby, Hal Crook, Joe Lovano, Joanne Brackeen, John Patitucci, and Alain Mallet. Christian has appeared in such notable venues as The Newport Jazz Festival, The Panama Jazz Festival, Jazz En Comminges, The Monterey Jazz Festival, The Blue Note, Birdland, and the Detroit Jazz Festival. He has performed with several renowned artists, including Greg Osby, Dave Liebman, Chris Cheek, Rich Perry, Adam Cruz, Jason Palmer, and Chad Lefkowitz-Brown. Christian has also given workshops in Panama as a part of the Fundacion Danilo Perez as well as at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. He is also a visiting artist at the Calhoun School.


Read full German review here.

"Though credited to a duo, the identity of this album changes considerably depending on who else is joining pianist Christian Li and guitarist Mike Bono in the studio." Review here


Auditions Round-Up: Jazz Artists Weave Strings into Their Sonic Tapestry. Read full feature here.

"Gentle thoughts prevail on this album, with Stephens’ warm tenor siging on the serene “Puddles,” cantering with Li’s keys on the title track and longing over the ivory ripples on “Awake.” Read the full review here.

"Gentle thoughts prevail on this album, with Stephens’ warm tenor siging on the serene “Puddles,” cantering with Li’s keys on the title track and longing over the ivory ripples on “Awake.” Read the full review here.

"Visitors brings with it the energy and the emotions of a group of talented musicians who are thrilled and delighted in playing together a music without strict borders."  Read the full review here.

Check out "Puddles" featured on New Music Monday here.

"Easy stuff to kick back with, this is some fine playing by some fine players." Read the full review here.

"Throughout Visitors, musicianship is at a high level, and the writing and performances impress, too." Read the full review here.

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