Guitarist Celebrates Release of Debut Album: ‘Claudio Tolousse: The Story of, Part One’

claudio-shotClaudio Tolousse: The Story of, Part One (indie) paints a portrait of the young man as an artist, or perhaps more accurately, of the young man claiming his place in the world as an artist. Its epiphanies and self-encouragements are wrapped in energetic music that pulls from soul, R&B, pop, and rock—all enlarged by a jazz sensibility, not to mention remarkable musicianship from guitarist Claudio Tolousse and his sidemen. This Friday, Tolousse will bring together musicians from New Orleans and Albuquerque to celebrate the launch of his recording career. Continue reading

New Releases from Carol Liebowitz/Nick Lyons and Maryanne de Prophetis

Fearless improvisation hallmarks two new releases: First Set, from pianist Carol Liebowitz and saxophonist Nick Lyons, and Tell a Star, from vocalist Maryanne de Prophetis. Continue reading

Claudia Villela and Vítor Gonçalves: Alive in the Moment

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Claudia Villela

Brazilian vocalist/pianist/percussionist/composer Claudia Villela possesses several gifts rarely found together in a single person: an astonishing vocal instrument, a wide-open heart, a profound sensitivity to the present moment, and the improvisational daring to follow the music wherever it may lead her. In short, she can transport an entire room of strangers to a separate, blissful reality that leaves the everyday in the dust. My advice for anyone attending her concert with Brazilian pianist/accordionist/composer Vítor Gonçalves this week at the Outpost is to be prepared for anything and to go gladly wherever she takes you. Continue reading

Guitarist Joshua Breakstone’s Cello Quartet: Fueled by Tunes

Joshua Breakstone. Photo by Steven Sussman.

For guitarist Joshua Breakstone, inspiration comes from the tune, and his cello quartet, inspired by a happy accident, provides an unusual vehicle for elucidating the tune’s heart. This Thursday, the quartet—with Mike Richmond (cello), Chris Conner (bass), and John Trentacosta (drums)—will explore tunes on Breakstone’s latest release, 88 (Capri Records), an homage to pianists, which has been rising on the airplay charts. Continue reading

‘Letters from Iraq’: Rahim Alhaj’s Communiqué from the Heart of Compassion

Rahim Alhaj. Photo by Douglas Kent Hall.

Rahim Alhaj. Photo by Douglas Kent Hall.

A mother and child are walking through an open-air marketplace in Baghdad when an explosion shreds the air. The smoke clears, the mother is gone, the child searches for her in vain.

Homing pigeons circle desperately over a house whose roof, blown away by a direct hit, once served as their nesting place—and as the secret meeting place for forbidden trysts between a Sunni and a Shiite.

A handicapped teenage boy frantically attempts to flee from an attack by car bomb and automatic weapons, all but certain of his impending death.

In many Iraqi conversations, anxious relief surfaces in phrases such as “The explosion happened. I was so lucky” or “I was almost. . . .”

Oud player/composer Rahim Alhaj, a native of Iraq and a naturalized American citizen, came into possession of a number of letters written by Iraqis who described such events, experienced during the American occupation and the subsequent hideous sectarian violence. Their personal stories so touched Alhaj that he determined to give them voice in music, composing Letters from Iraq, Music for Oud and String Quintet, in a white heat in 2014 and 2015. The eight short pieces, faithful and powerfully emotional reflections of the writers’ experiences, will make their New Mexican debut this Sunday at Chatter, and the album, recorded in Albuquerque by New Mexican musicians, will be released on February 10 on the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings label. Continue reading