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Joyce, Director of Publicity & Promotion
Cuneiform Records

As the 55th GRAMMY Awards Season approaches
please keep in mind
artists on
Cuneiform Records

Wadada Leo Smith
Ten Freedom Summers

The Claudia Quintet +1
featuring Kurt Elling & Theo Bleckmann
What Is the Beautiful?

Containing 4 CDs of music inspired by and dedicated to the American Civil Rights Movement, Ten Freedom Summers is a masterpiece by one of jazz's titans, and should be considered for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. Featuring compositions by Wadada Leo Smith performed by his Golden Quartet/Quintet and by Southwest Chamber Music, it also includes stunning solo performances. The monumental work contains compositions & performances by the jazz & classical ensembles, eligible for consideration in both jazz and classical categories, including Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance;
Best Contemporary Classical Composition;

Best Improvised Jazz Solo
; and
Best Instrumental Arrangement.

What is the Beautiful? is an astonishing project for The Claudia Quintet, John Hollenbeck's all-star small jazz ensemble, whose 5 highly-acclaimed previous releases featured all-instrumental music. Based on the poetry of Kenneth Patchen and featuring vocalists Kurt Elling and Theo Bleckmann, this is the Claudia Quintet's first jazz vocal album, and should be considered for one of the Grammy year's Best Jazz Vocal Albums. Band leader & composer John Hollenbeck provides all the arrangements; his arrangements should be considered for Best Instrumental Arrangement accompanying Jazz Vocals.


Michael Gibbs and the NDR Bigband
Back in the Days

Janel & Anthony
Where Is Home

Raoul Björkenheim, Bill Laswell & Morgan Ågren

For your consideration as one of the year's Best Historical Albums, Back in the Days features British jazz composer/arranger Michael Gibbs leading the legendary 18 piece NDR Bigband.

This cello, guitar & electronics duo weave together a world of influences (East & West, popular & classical) on Where Is Home, which you may consider to be one of the year's Best New Age Albums.

This potent power trio provides what you may find is the Best Rock Performance on "Black Hole" from their album Blixt. You may also want to consider Blixt for
Best Alternative Music Album.


São Paulo Underground
Três Cabeças Loucuras


Alec K. Redfearn and the Eyesores
Sister Death



Rob Mazurek & company combine jazz, Brazilian rhythms and electronics to create a post-Tropicalia jazz that may qualify to be one of 2012's Best Jazz Instrumental Albums.

Containing 12 songs with haunting lyrics and compelling melodies that capture the essence of this visionary Providence band, Sister Death may qualify as one of 2012's Best Alternative Music Albums.

A Norwegian jazz group led by Ellen Andrea Wang that has won accolades across Scandinavia and transfixed the press in the US and worldwide, Pixel has the potential to qualify as one of 2012's Best New Artists.


Positive Catastrophe
Dibrujo, Dibrujo, Dibrujo...

Taylor Ho Bynum and Abraham Gomez-Delgado's intoxicating fusion of avant jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms may qualify as one of 2012's Best Jazz Instrumental Albums.


"Ten Freedom Summers is one of my life's defining works." – Wadada Leo Smith

Wadada Leo Smith :: Ten Freedom Summers
Genre: Jazz / Classical / Creative Music
Release Date: May 22, 2012

 LISTEN/DOWNLOAD: "Martin Luther King Jr." [excerpt] (mp3)

Trumpeter/composer Wadada Leo Smith’s Ten Freedom Summers is the work of a lifetime by one of jazz’s true visionaries, a kaleidoscopic, spiritually charged collection of 19 compositions inspired by the struggle for African American freedom. Triumphant and mournful, visceral and philosophical, searching, scathing and relentlessly humane, Smith’s music embraces the civil rights era’s milestones while celebrating its heroes and martyrs. Blending improvised and notated music in a synthesis of European classical, African American, and creative music practices, the music speaks in a singular, clear and powerful voice unlike any in contemporary music.

Recorded shortly after the music’s October 2011 world premiere in Los Angeles, this four-CD set features one of Smith's most significant working groups, The Golden Quintet with the composer on trumpet, pianist Anthony Davis, bassist John Lindberg, and drummers Susie Ibarra and Pheeroan akLaff, as well as the nine-member, Los Angeles-based contemporary classical group, Southwest Chamber Music, under the direction of Grammy-winning conductor Jeff von der Schmidt. It documents a stunning, career-capping accomplishment by a musical giant in the midst of an astonishing creative surge.

As Larry Blumenfeld wrote in the Wall Street Journal after attending the premiere: “Ten Years in Three Nights: A Decade's Triumph… Ten Freedom Summers was as striking a display of his expansive vision and his vitality. He still plays trumpet as he always has: with little vibrato and a tone that can be either boldly declarative or soft to the point of breaking… Mr. Smith had made his own statement through instrumental music. And it sounded complete.”

Written over the past 34 years, each of the 19 compositions addresses a different facet of the Civil Rights movement of 1954–1964. The music honors heroes and events in a transformative period of political and cultural liberation, a period that not only shaped all aspects of Smith’s life and art, but all of America as well.

With its emotional depth and power, formal intricacy and elegance, and clarity of execution, Ten Freedom Summers can take its place among the landmark compositions of the past dedicated to the Civil Rights movement, such as John Coltrane’s “Alabama” and Max Roach’s We Insist: Freedom Now! More than any album in recent memory, these four CDs of ambitious, towering music-by turns majestic, tragic, joyful, and contemplative-feel like one for the ages, an album that generations of future listeners will turn to for inspiration and spiritual refreshment. A classic of American music is born.

Ten Freedom Summers was as striking a display of his expansive vision and his vitality. He still plays trumpet as he always has: with little vibrato and a tone that can be either boldly declarative or soft to the point of breaking… Mr. Smith had made his own statement through instrumental music. And it sounded complete."
- Larry Blumenfeld, Wall Street Journal

"Five stars. Although there are many outstanding recordings in Smith's canon, it's hard to avoid calling this his masterpiece."
- Barry Witherden, BBC Music Magazine

“Four stars. Smith’s brash and plangent trumpet and freewheeling improv from his Golden Quintet merges with a written score delivered by the nine-member Southwest Chamber Music ensemble. Full of melodrama, pathos and hope, it is the veteran trumpeter’s defining statement.”
- Mike Hobart, Financial Times

“Four stars. That mystically inclined trumpeter and composer Wadada Leo Smith has finally produced his magnum opus, a four-hour mediation on defining moments in the Civil Rights movement.”
- Ivan Hewett, Daily Telegraph 

"If one had to answer quickly what work will matter most this year in American music (as if matters of mattering arose with some regularity), Wadada Leo Smith's Ten Freedom Summers would trip readily to the tongue."
- Stuart Broomer, Point of Departure

"This may as well turn out to be the most challenging (and emotionally rewarding) release of 2012."
- Bret Saunders, Denver Post

“Four stars. Smith’s playing runs the gamut from slow-bubbling daubs to stark, keening lines, and its force belies the old saw that age is unkind to brass players’ chops.”
- Bill Meyer, DownBeat

“The music of Ten Freedom Summers suite is stirringly beautiful in its own right… Manages to pay tribute to the Civil Rights Movement in a wholly original, wordless way that also holds up as an astounding aesthetic achievement.”
- Michael Casper, Oxford American

“The crowning achievement of trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith’s distinguished career to date.”
- John Sharpe, All About Jazz


John Hollenbeck's The Claudia Quintet +1 featuring Kurt Elling & Theo Bleckmann
What Is the Beautiful?
Release Date: October 11, 2011

 LISTEN/DOWNLOAD: "Job" (mp3) [featuring Kurt Elling]

“Soon it will/Be showtime again,” recites Kurt Elling at the outset of the Claudia Quintet’s sixth CD, What Is the Beautiful? “Somebody will paint beautiful faces all over the sky.”

The sentiment expressed by those lines, penned by poet/visual artist Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972), captures something of the anticipation proffered by the release of a new Claudia album. Bandleader/percussionist John Hollenbeck’s evocative, richly luminescent compositions definitely possess the suggestive power to encourage listeners to look heavenward, searching for those faces in the sky.

Most of the material on What Is the Beautiful? was commissioned by the University of Rochester for its 100th birthday celebration of Patchen in 2011. Patchen “has a wide palette, which I like,” Hollenbeck says. Hollenbeck immediately thought of singer Kurt Elling to give voice to these poems – wholly unaware that Elling is something of a Patchen aficionado. “Kurt is a scholar with this stuff,” Hollenbeck says. “He knew Patchen and knew exactly what to do. He’s amazing.” Elling inhabits these poems as an actor would a role.

Surprisingly, Hollenbeck discovered that engineer Andy Taub was also a Patchen fanatic, with his own collection of the poet’s works. Hollenbeck recalls: “More than your average engineer, he was really involved in the creative process. Vocalist Theo Bleckmann, probably Hollenbeck’s most frequent collaborator, was also enlisted to lend a dreamier, more song-like atmosphere to several of the poems.

Two of the session’s three instrumental tracks were commissioned by the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival and inspired by the Scottish island of Islay, renowned for its wintering geese.

As on their previous CD, Royal Toast, the Claudia Quintet is again supplemented by a +1, in this case Philadelphia-based pianist Matt Mitchell. His virtuosity and spontaneity make him a perfect fit with the long-running core group – Hollenbeck on d rums, Drew Gress on bass, Matt Moran on vibraphone, Ted Reichman on accordion, and Chris Speed on clarinet and tenor sax. 

“…the group’s most compelling album to date. …an intensely compassionate piece of writing, bursting with apocalyptic love for humanity… Supported by a beautifully understated accompaniment, that lets Elling’s delivery exhale just the right amount of gravitas, it’s genuinely moving…vital, living art.”
- Daniel Spicer, BBC

“John Hollenbeck continues to astound as a composer, prone to value accessibility as much he does adventure, on the fascinating What Is The Beautiful?...”
- John Murph, DownBeat

“Long considered one of the scene's most unclassifiable groups, The Claudia Quintet integrates Patchen's iconic verse into their oeuvre with an organic grace that brings his words to life. A unique merger of evocative poetry and avant-garde jazz, What Is the Beautiful? is a sophisticated work of art whose emotional resonance is as profound as the intricate formal elements that support it.“
- Troy Collins, All About Jazz 

“John Hollenbeck never fails to amaze” - Tom Greenland, New York City Jazz Record

"CLAUDIA QUINTET +1 FEATURING KURT ELLING “What Is the Beautiful?” (Cuneiform)"
- Ben Ratliff, "Top Songs [of 2011]," The New York Times


São Paulo Underground :: Três Cabeças Loucuras
Release Date: October 11, 2011

 LISTEN/DOWNLOAD: "Jagoda's Dream" (mp3)

The São Paulo Underground sound dares you to define it, knowing that even when -- not if -- you fail to do so, you’ll still be so deliriously immersed in the group’s dizzying swirl of styles that you’ll simply be happy to surrender to its unnamable charms. Along the way, you’ll reach for such sonic signifiers as “jazz,” “Brazilian music,” “avant-garde,” and “electro-acoustic” in an attempt to tag Três Cabeças Loucuras. Sure, when American cornetist Rob Mazurek gets together with his Brazilian buddies Guilherme Granado (keyboards, electronics), Mauricio Takara (drums, percussion, cavaquinho, electronics) and Richard Ribeiro (drums), all of the aforementioned flavors are on the musical menu, but ultimately, it’s best to just term the end result a kind of joyful “chef’s surprise” that gleefully upends expectations.


Janel & Anthony :: Where Is Home
Genre: Post-Jazz / Experimental Rock / Ambient / Electronic / 21st C. Global
Release Date: May 22, 2012

 LISTEN/DOWNLOAD: "Big Sur" (mp3)

Janel and Anthony is the collaborative venture of two of the fastest-rising stars in DC’s burgeoning experimental music scene, Anthony Pirog, an omnivorous guitarist, and Janel Leppin, a conservatory trained cellist steeped in North Indian and Persian classical music, free improv and jazz. For Where Is Home, the duo have created a lush, orchestral work investigating the treacherous emotional terrain at the hyper-mobile heart of 21st century America. Drawing on everything from Hindustani ragas and surf rock licks to Appalachian laments and post-bop harmonies, the album alternates between intricately lapidary, electro-acoustic soundscapes and brief improvised dialogues. Transcending music genre as well as geographic locale, Where Is Home is rooted equally in the 21st century’s global village and in DC’s vanished past.


Pixel :: Reminder
Genre: Jazz / Pop / Rock
Release Date: May 8, 2012

 LISTEN/DOWNLOAD:  "Call Me" (mp3)

Pixel, the powerhouse indie-jazz ensemble from Norway, makes an indelible first impression with Reminder, an audaciously creative debut. Led by the remarkable bassist/vocalist Ellen Andrea Wang, the protean quartet (with saxophonist Harald Lassen, trumpeter, Jonas Kilmork Vemøy, and drummer Jon Audun Baar) is the most alluring band yet to explode out of Norway’s burgeoning improvised music scene. Combining indie rock energy with the improvisational flexibility of a post-bop combo, Pixel breaks down familiar musical elements and recombines them in a succession of startlingly original soundscapes. Earthy and ethereal, wistful and aggressive, sensuous and pummeling, the band refuses to settle into one mood or sonic space for long.


Michael Gibbs and the NDR Bigband :: Back in the Days
 Genre: Jazz / Big Band Jazz
Release Date: January 31, 2012

 LISTEN/DOWNLOAD:  "June the 15th 1967" (mp3)

With a career spanning more than half a century and at least three continents, trombonist, composer and arranger Michael Gibbs is a jazz giant who has spent recent decades writing arrangements mostly for other artists. Documenting his tremendously rewarding collaboration with the vaunted 18-piece NDR Bigband, Back In the Days is an invaluable addition to Gibbs’ fascinating but unfortunately sparse discography as a leader.  While the album’s title smacks of nostalgia, there’s nothing sentimental or backward looking about Gibbs’ music. Making full use of the NDR’s vivid soloists and finely honed sections, he supplies the orchestra with a series of luscious settings, marked by gracefully swooping lines, exquisitely detailed cross voicings, and an expansive harmonic palette.


Alec K. Redfearn and the Eyesores :: Sister Death
Genre: Rock / Avant-Rock / Visionary Americana / Art Rock
Release Date: September 25, 2012

LISTEN/DOWNLOAD: "Unawake" (mp3)

Alec K. Redfearn and The Eyesores have been surprising audiences with their hypnotic, gently explosive rock music for more than a decade. Never one to follow trends, Redfearn’s kaleidoscopic visions, anchored by his extraordinary accordion work and sonorous vocals, exist on the fringes of pop music, songs that are as familiar and individual as snowflakes. Sister Death explores the mysteries of life, death, love, loss, creation, and destruction, subjects that have informed Redfearn’s songwriting since the early 90s. Sister Death continues Redfearn’s penchant for music that’s profound, primeval and cinematic, with echoes of folk influenced melodies still drifting through the mix. Spellbinding, and tantalizing, Sister Death is a rich, complex work that gradually reveals its musical and emotional mysteries over with each listen.


Positive Catastrophe :: Dibrujo, Dibrujo, Dibrujo...
Genre: Jazz / Latin Jazz / Alterna-Latino
Release Date: May 8, 2012

 LISTEN/DOWNLOAD: "Café Negro Sin Azucar" (mp3)

Mad, obsessive and beautifully reckless, the avant Afro-Caribbean little big band Positive Catastrophe returns to action with Dibrujo, Dibrujo, Dibrujo…, a sophomore session featuring extended suites by the band’s co-leaders, alchemist cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum and iconoclastic percussionist/vocalist Abraham Gomez-Delgado. The album documents a band that has devised a wondrously idiosyncratic musical vocabulary built upon raucous Puerto Rican rhythms, extended instrumental techniques and gleeful disregard for distinctions between inside and outside blowing.

“This raucous 10-piece ensemble…nails its distinctive blend of Afro-Cuban rhythm and freewheeling improvisation.” 
- The New York Times


Bill Laswell, Raoul Björkenheim, Morgan Ågren: Blixt :: Blixt
Release Date: October 11, 2011

 LISTEN/DOWNLOAD: "Moon Tune" (mp3)

Blixt is an unholy marriage of rock and jazz, riffs and improv, the viscera and the cerebrum. The most intense tracks kick off at levels with which most bands climax a jam – and keep on lacerating. “Black Whole,” “Moon Tune” and “Tools,” the pieces which start the disc, are full frontal assaults from the get go. But there is shelter and cooler heat on the disc too, and Björkenheim’s gift for novel sonorities is not confined to high decibel, shamanistic pyrotechnics. For close on thirty years, Björkenheim and Laswell have been rattling the cage of normality, and shoulder to shoulder with Ågren, they break the bars and let the spirits soar.


Cuneiform Records Publicity & Promotion Team (director, press & foreign radio) (North American radio & foreign radio)

tel. 301-589-8894 
P.O. Box 8427
Silver Spring, MD 20907-842
[Washington, D.C.]

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