Release Date: February 10, 2023
Label: Sugah Hoof Records
Saxophonist and composer Greg Ward presents Dion’s Quest, the eagerly-awaited sophomore release from his sensational five-piece ensemble Rogue Parade. A follow-up to 2019’s critically-acclaimed Stomping Off From Greenwood (Greenleaf), Dion’s Quest strikes an even more personal note with composer Ward, chronicling his own journey through life personally and artistically. Marking the inaugural release from Ward’s own Sugah Hoof Records, this release once again features Ward alongside the stellar rhythm section of bassist Matt Ulery and drummer Quin Kirchner, further amplified by the incomparable sound of guitarists Matt Gold and Dave Miller.
January 2019 saw the release of Ward’s Stomping Off From Greenwood, introducing audiences to his dynamo outfit Rogue Parade. Fresh off of his tenure as a sideman with such notable artists as Prefuse 73 and Lupe Fiasco, Ward’s new release was surely expected to receive attention – however, nothing could’ve prepared Ward for the wide-sweeping support received from the media and fans alike. Garnering glowing reviews from such prestigious outlets as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and NPR, Stomping Off From Greenwood broadened Ward’s listener-base and galvanized his stature as one of the forefront compositional minds within the modern jazz idiom. Dion’s Quest picks up where Stomping Off From Greenwood left off.
If Stomping Off From Greenwood is a love letter to Ward’s Chicago roots, Dion’s Quest tells the story of Ward’s building a career that has taken him all around the world, all while still calling Chicago home. Ward indicates: “Dion’s Quest is about my journey through this life as a person and artist. This adventure is full of peaks and valleys and I remain determined and excited to push through all of the challenges that come my way in search of my voice.” This powerful document of Ward’s ongoing journey makes statements about the Covid-19 pandemic, the murder of George Floyd and the 2020 election cycle. The music on Dion’s Quest showcases the band’s collective sound – a unique sound that they have developed over the past seven years – a sound that is raw, eclectic and full of passion. “I couldn’t create any of this music without each of these specific musicians. I trust them to bring my ideas to life! Everyone contributes something that I couldn’t imagine on my own.”
The album begins with “Crimson Clay”, a piece inspired by Ward’s trips to South Africa. Ward reflects that “the people I met and spent time with were so joyful, kind and full of love. I remember feeling so different when I returned to the U.S, like I had taken some of that with me.” Evidenced immediately upon the first downbeat is the stellar interplay between each arm of the 5-limbed beast that is Rogue Parade, and notably, guitarists Matt Gold and Dave Miller soar to new heights in creating dual-guitar textures on which Ward can soar melodically.
The album continues with “Dashing Towards First Light”, a track that features a hope-inspiring melody played by Ward and doubled by guitarist Matt Gold. The piece features stellar solos by Ward and guitarist Dave Miller. Ward notes “this was a commission that I received from the Jazz Coalition. I was very grateful to receive this during the COVID-19 pandemic. I thought about how little glimmers of hope kept me moving forward during that time.” “Blues of the Earth” is a response to modern times, including the pandemic, the murder of George Floyd, riots, and the 2020 election cycle.
“Porthole Dreams” is a piece that speaks about the social isolation of the pandemic, Ward notes “I remember looking out of my back door through a little window and watching people line up, every day, at the grocery store. The line would stretch down the block. Also, this represents how I watched life go by through my electronics as we all tried to navigate these uncertain times.” The album concludes with “Ocean of Faith”. Ward mentions “I consider myself a very optimistic person and always tell myself that, no matter how bad or uncertain things seem to get, everything will work out. Keep moving forward! Keep fighting! It’s all worth it.” This final piece imbues this soulful message of hope from Ward. This rubato piece is driven by human connection – the ensemble’s understanding of each player’s melodic inclination and internal pulse. A repeated melody is stated here, building throughout like a mantra.
Ward remarks, “I feel very fortunate to have known these wonderful people for such a long time and you can feel that in the music. We trust each other. We push each other. We have a group sound, which is the most important thing for me. I feel that you can hear everyone reaching on this recording, and I hope that the listeners feel that.”
Stomping Off From Greenwood
Street Date: January 11, 2019
Label: Greenleaf Music
Considered one of the most versatile saxophonists of his generation, bandleader, composer and arranger, Greg Ward is proud to launch his new group Rogue Parade with the release of Stomping Off From Greenwood. A quintet of heavyweight creative Chicago musicians, Rogue Parade features guitarists Matt Gold and Dave Miller, bassist Matt Ulery and drummer Quin Kirchner. Stomping Off From Greenwood follows his critically acclaimed Greenleaf debut Touch My Beloved’s Thought (2016), which focused on the music of Charles Mingus.
Having earned wide acclaim as a sideman with artists like Prefuse 73, Lupe Fiasco, Tortoise, William Parker, Andrew D'Angelo, and Mike Reed, Greg Ward is now excited to introduce his wide-spanning audience to his new, innovative group, Rogue Parade. Following a 2016 performance at The Whistler, as part of Relax Attack Jazz Series, Rogue Parade was approached by the Chicago club to present a month-long residency. The ensemble honed their sound by following this residency with an extensive Midwest tour, before heading into the studio to capture their collective energy on record. This nine-track collection explores Rogue Parade’s unique two guitar instrumentation and ultimately blends the sonic worlds of acoustic and electronic.
In the lead up to the release of Stomping Off From Greenwood, Ward is excited to release three singles from the album: “Metropolis”, “The Contender” and “Excerpt 1”. Due to be released on November 30th, “Metropolis” will simultaneously mark the album’s pre-release. Inspired by the time Ward spent in Chicago and New York, “Metropolis” serves as an ode to the many life-changing experiences the saxophonist has encountered in both of these vibrant cities. During his time in Chicago, Ward worked with the International Contemporary Ensemble, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Chamber Music Series, and was commissioned by the Jazz Institute of Chicago for a new composition, which was performed at the Chicago Jazz Festival in 2009. Upon moving to New York, the Illinois-native also received a commission/residency from the popular NYC Jazz Gallery. These two metropolitan cities have continued to inform Ward’s creativity. The NIU-graduate enthuses, “on this recording, I hope you can feel the energy that I experience on a daily basis living in a place where so many different lives and perspectives are intertwined.” This track features a duet by guitarists Dave Miller and Matt Gold and leads to a trio with Ward on alto saxophone.
The second single, due to be released on December 14th is titled “The Contender”. Although Ward has always made time in his routine for exercise, it was only recently that he delved into boxing. Featuring a solo from both Ward and Matt Gold, “The Contender” translates some of the saxophonist’s boxing combinations into music.
The third single from the album, “Excerpt 1” is due to be released on December 28th and represents an important ritual included in the composer’s daily routine. Ward understands the importance of developing his current compositional talents and so, makes a conscious effort to compose something, however short or long, almost every day. “Usually, I'm just working on thematic development of some sort with hopes of coming out with even a small fragment that's worth turning into a new piece. Sometimes, a short thought presents itself. “Excerpt 1” is one of these”, Ward explains.
With the support of receiving an Individual Artist Grant from the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events in Chicago, Greg Ward is excited to present Rogue Parade on Stomping Off From Greenwood, the ensemble’s debut studio recording. The group will celebrate this music at The Green Mill, Chicago on January 11th & 12th.
for Dion's Quest
“All three instruments at play in the last couple of minutes mark some of the most sublime moments on the record” Read the review here.
THE BIG TAKEOVER
"If the band’s first album was an explosion of talent reigned in by the leader’s will, this record finds the group in more seamless form." Read the review here.
“Ward is blowing fierce, anthemic ’70s style “stadium jazz” riffs as the band pounds the downbeats home like carpenters, and the guitars head into a bizarro harmolodic Allman Brothers zone." Read the full article here.
“The compositions on Dion’s Quest are every bit as intricate and prismatic as those on Stomping Off From Greenwood..” Read the review here.
'“Crimson Clay” is the opening track from saxophonist/composer Greg Ward’s re-introduction of his stellar outfit Rogue Parade on Dion’s Quest.' Read the Editors' Choice article here.
"Chicago-based alto saxophonist and composer Greg Ward, an empathetic sideman (Makaya McCraven, Mike Reed) and respected bandleader, blends musical styles with extraordinary facility." Read the review here.
SHANLEY ON MUSIC
“..as he liberates himself from the rhythm section, it becomes clear that this is a spontaneous statement.” Read the review here.
for Stomping Off From Greenwood
Ward is not lost in overdrive or feedback, though. The guitars are deployed like knives and like light, depending on the arrangement, and Ward's nimble alto slithers through all of it, sounding more human and more vocal than anything else in the band: truly the vocalist who takes center stage. Read this full article here.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
"Ward bobs gracefully through a coolly plotted improvisation on “The Contender” as his rhythm section handles a stop-and-start polyrhythm, creating friction and expectation and the illusion of an incline for Ward to climb." Check out "The Contender" on The Playlist here.
"This album welcomes everyone to hear their own impressions of the music. Ward’s Stomping Off From Greenwood has all the excellence of modern jazz without a hint of the grandiosity. You can make your imagination at home here." Check it out here.
POINT OF DEPARTURE
"Accessible but adventurous, Stomping Off From Greenwood is the latest indication of Ward’s growth as a bandleader, composer, and improviser. Imbued with the exploratory fervor of Chicago’s finest, Rogue Parade gracefully negotiates the tenuous divide between progressive jazz and the city’s current avant-rock scene." Full review here.
"Saxophonist Greg Ward turns in a program that’s as eclectic as it is electric with Stomping Off From Greenwood." Read the full EDITORS PICK piece here.
Ace Chicago sax man Greg Ward celebrates his Rogue Parade. Full feature here.
"The composition serves as an ode to the many life-changing experiences the saxophonist has encountered in both of these vibrant cities." Listen to the track premiere for "Metropolis" here.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Stomping Off From Greenwood sings with a depth of harmony to crack the hardest heart." Read the full review here.
"...one of the most versatile saxophonists of his generation..." Check out the full track premiere for "Stardust" here.
"In the nine tracks that make up the album there are the characteristic features of the intimate and sensitive treasures of Ward's musical life." Read the full Italian review here.
"In this recording, Ward’s appealing jazz-centered music takes several directions, achieving cohesiveness as a whole." Full review here.
"Ward has been turning in important work on record and in concert for years. The “Stomping Off from Greenwood” music stands as his newest high point." Concert review here.
"Greg Ward is a Chicago-based alto saxophonist who knows how to reconcile different elements: acoustic and electronic, precise and volatile, inside and “out.” He has an arresting new album, Stomping Off From Greenwood, that brings this gift into clear focus, with a batch of new compositions for the band he calls Rogue Parade." Full feature here.
"...the band’s interplay gestures beyond that storied starting point; its sound—intricate and yet edgy, melodic but distorted, with stomping rhythms and a confrontational mien—has as much in common with proto-punkers Television as with post-rockers Tortoise. It’s a zesty development—and, despite its three-piece command crew, a thoroughly individual one for Ward et al." Album of the Day feature here.
"It’s one of the best albums of the young year." Read the full review here.
"Armed with a bright, smooth tone and agile delivery, Ward's versatility is well-accounted for, yet while he's front and center (and the composer of all but one tune plus the arranger) the album plays like a group effort in the fullest sense." Read the full review here.
"...Ward deftly applies a delicate touch to a big sound, and by manipulating an uneasy alliance between brutish and eccentric expressions, the alto saxophonist manifests a work of a curiously riveting grace." Read the full feature here.
IN ON THE CORNER
"Stomping Off From Greenwood contains super-catchy tunes, conveys a wide breadth of moods, and it is just a total blast to listen to." Read the full review here.
"...an autobiographical account of a musician straddling the musical hotbeds of New York and Chicago. "Stomping" is everything a listener could ask for in a recording - and in a city." Read the full review here.
CHICAGO JAZZ MAGAZINE
"Stomping Off From Greenwood is one of those rare recording that is explorative yet accessible, cerebral without sacrificing the emotive and simultaneously intimate and expansive. In sum it is a mature and refreshingly original work." Read full review here.
"It is a band with a lot of potential and this album by Ward leaves me interested in where he will go from here." Read the full review here.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"His results may be not "jazz" in the usual sense, but they do make for a creative blending of genres and styles that results in fresh and intriguing music." Read the full 4-star review here.
"Ward’s breath-softened, woody tone sustains a bedrock of naturalness even as he breaks into unfettered flights, tempered on occasion by a pristine, neo-classical precision—a blend of fearlessness, merriment, pathos, and perhaps a measure or two of irony." Read the full review here.
BEST OF 2019
"The title evokes the rambunctious spirit of saxophonist Ward’s album, but there’s more to this music than just its high-level energy. Ward’s unusual instrumentation, unorthodox sonorities and intricately layered music-making give listeners a great deal to ponder amid all the hyperactive improvisation. Ward’s signature tone on alto – keen and penetrating yet remarkably supple – captivates the ear." Feature here.
BEST LIVE PERFORMANCES OF 2019
"If the recording stands as a high point in Ward’s career, the live performance of its repertoire was still more striking. The cohesiveness of the ensemble sound, the alluringly dusky character of Ward’s alto and the immensely appealing complexities of the repertoire underscored Ward’s value to music in Chicago and beyond." Review here.