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October 2, 2012
WBGO’s Josh Jackson talks to producer Rio Sakairi about making the benefit recording, Home – Gift Of Music: Japan Earthquake/Tsunami Relief (Sunnyside). Listen here.
September 25, 2012
Rio Sakairi is a major figure in theNew York City jazz scene today. As the Director of Programming at The Jazz Gallery, she has created an internationally recognized breeding ground for blossoming musical talent, helping to launch the careers of dozens of today’s finest young players. When a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Japan on March 11, 2011, spawning devastating tsunamis and a subsequent nuclear crisis, Ms. Sakairi, who was born and raised in Tsuchiura, Ibaraki(just two hundred miles from the severely ravaged Sendai area) was inspired immediately into action.
She called upon an esteemed roster of friends and colleagues, and they came together to create a gift to those who suffered such incredible loss.HOME – Gift of Music is an eight-song note of support from some of today’s most innovative musicians in jazz and beyond, including Gretchen Parlato, Doug Wamble, Becca Stevens, Alan Hampton, John Ellis and Claudia Acuña. The artists donated their time and talents, penning personal songs specifically for this project. All proceeds from HOME – Gift of Music will go to Habitat for Humanity Japan, where volunteers are working tirelessly to rebuild homes for those affected. Studio time, engineering, artwork, graphic design, distribution, marketing and PR services were also generously donated.
I spoke with Rio about the project, and she expressed her gratitude to all. The word “family” is used most often by her to describe this group of musicians, who have stepped forward with assistance. The Jazz Gallery is undergoing dramatic changes, as it lost its lease due to rezoning and will move to a new location (as yet undetermined) in December. She plans a series of retrospective concerts to honor the space and its history, most notably a benefit concert on Wednesday October 24 at Rockwood Hall, featuring Steve Coleman, Larry Grenadier, Miguel Zenon, Johnathan Blake, and other artists who she promised would top all of these notables in star power.
Click here to listen to out conversation on Podcast 303, featuring musical selections from the CD including:
John Ellis – “Home” from HOME – Gift of Music. Ellis is a long-time associate of Rio’s, commissioned three times for The Jazz Gallery’s notable commissioning program. When called upon to write the title track for the album, he did not hesitate, even when she asked him to make his recorded singing debut.
Doug Wamble – “Fear Not the Fall” from HOME – Gift of Music. A sparse, almost hymn-like song, Rio told me it was recorded in one take, just Wamble and his guitar.
Sachal Vasandani – “Doves” from HOME – Gift of Music. The album ends with a large group effort, featuring pianist Taylor Eigsti, , guitarist Adam Rogers, bassist Ben Williams, and drummer Johnathan Blake. They ably back Vasandani and guest singers Gretchen Parlato and Becca Stevens in a song that begs for interpretation
September 21, 2012
By Dan Bilawsky
Tragedy on a grand scale tends to attract philanthropic and righteous individuals looking to do the right thing and help in some way, but short memories and attention spans often plague these same generous souls. People are quick to open their hearts and wallets when the worst is in front of them, but time passes and people move on; the devastation, however, rarely ends with a swift resolution.
The triptych of horror—earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster—that struck Japan on March 11, 2011 is still a fresh wound for the Japanese people. While at-the-time donations helped many in need, countless others still require relief and Rio Sakairi is doing his part to help. Sakairi, the Director of Programming at The Jazz Gallery in New York, gathered many of his talented friends and put together a heartwarming collection of music to help raise some much-needed funds. Everybody from the artists involved to the recording studio crew to the PR people to the label generously donated their time and services to help Sakairi in his mission and the result is a heartwarming collection of songs that heals the soul and helps those in need; all proceeds from the sale of this album will be directed to Habitat For Humanity, Japan.
The majority of the music on Home was written on short notice, but these aren’t throwaway tunes. In fact, several artists really hit compositional pay dirt on this project. Multi-reedistJohn Ellis makes a stunning debut as a vocalist (“Home”), delivering a winning Paul McCartney-meets-Rufus Wainright-styled performance that’s heavy on the bittersweet beauty, while guitarist/vocalist Doug Wamble dabbles in slow, folkloric territory on his own poignant contribution (“Fear Not The Fall”). Sachal Vasandani‘s “Doves” starts off in contemplative serenity, but soars to greater emotional heights as it develops, Alan Hampton‘s “If It Was” features some peaceable vocals from Hampton and Gretchen Parlato, and Becca Stevens conjures thoughts of Moss interpreting Björk on her own overdub-enhanced “Coming Home.” Stevens and Parlato serve as a vocal finishing school for some of this material, mixing their voices with other artists and helping to provide added luster to the finished product.
A spine-tingling, Nick Drake-like tenderness surrounds much of this material, which makes perfect sense considering the impetus behind its creation. Wispy beauty is everywhere on this disc and, while the running time is short, the emotional quality of the music more than makes up for it. Home is far more than an album; it’s an artistic plea for help that reverberates deep into the ears and consciousness.
Track Listing: Gambare Nippon; If It Was; Coming Home; Home; Music Is The Magic; Tillery; Fear Not The Fall; Leaves Rebirth; Doves.
Personnel: Claudia Acuna: vocals (5); John Ellis: vocals (4); Alan Hampton: vocals, (2), guitar (2); Gretchen Parlato: vocals (2, 6, 8, 9), percussion; Becca Stevens: guitar, vocals (3, 4, 6, 9); Leron Thomas: vocals (8); Sachal Vasandani: vocals (9); Doug Wamble: guitar (7), vocals (7); Dayna Stephens: tenor saxophone; Taylor Eigsti: piano (2, 8, 9); Adam Rogers: guitar (5, 8, 9); Ryan Scott: guitar (4); Danton Boller: bass (4); Chris Tordini: bass, vocals (6); Ben Williams: bass (5, 8, 9); Jonathan Blake: drums (5, 8, 9); Bill Campbell: drums (4).
Record Label: Sunnyside Records
SEPTEMBER 10, 2012
By Danny R. Johnson
LOS ANGELES – When We Are the World was recorded in 1985, to benefit famine relief in Africa, Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones succeeded in spearheading a host of celebrities and singers to convene in a short space of time and produced some memorable and pivotal lines which became an overnight sensation, and raised millions for African famine relief. Now Rio Sakairi, Director of Programming at The Jazz Gallery, an internationally recognized breeding ground for young musical talent in New York City, shows up in the same spot, using an extraordinary cast of talented musicians to share with the world a benefit album called HOME-Gift of Music.
HOME-Gift of Music, released on September 11, 2012 on the Sunnyside Records label, is an eight-track listing of compelling and moving original compositions, and is the brainchild of Sakairi, which began to take shape shortly after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Japan on March 11, 2011. Marking one of the worst natural disasters on record, the earthquake spawned devastating tsunamis and a subsequent nuclear crisis. The insurmountable destruction claimed tens of thousands of lives, and the world watched in horror. For Sakairi, born and raised in Tsuchiura, Ibaraki – just two hundred miles from the severely ravaged Sendai area — it was more than an unfathomable tragedy; it literally hit home.
HOME was produced by Sakairi, but she had a host of artists from every facet of the jazz music spectrum who assisted in lending their voices and talents to the cause. Those artists consisted of singers-songwriters: Claudia Acuña, John Ellis, Alan Hampton, Gretchen Parlato, Becca Stevens, Leron Thomas, Sachal Vasandani, Doug Wamble, Dayna Stephens, Taylor Eigsti, Adam Rogers, Ryan Scott, Danton Boller, Chris Tordini, Ben Williams, Johnathan Blake and Bill Campbell.
Sakairi stated that “these are some of the most innovative and gifted musicians on the contemporary jazz scene and for them to donate their time and efforts to this cause was simply a work of humility.” All proceeds from HOME – Gift of Music will go to Habitat for Humanity Japan, where volunteers are working tirelessly to rebuild homes for those affected.
John Ellis, Bacca Stevens, and Sachal Vasandani, joins the songwriting credits by adding beautiful and riveting melodies which tears at the heart of what this album is all about. Coming Home, Home, and Doves are songs thankfully without the gloss, but turns out to be durable, meaningful and they connect us to the one humanity we should be striving to become. The inspirational lift of these three particular songs contains lyrics which are free from their potential narcissism, and coveys a universal message that we are saving our own lives when we help others in need.
Rio Sakairi and her entourage of ambassadors for peace and world harmony should be commended for their dutiful dedication and sincerity. The universal declaration of hope passionately displayed inHOME-Gift of Music is to insist that all the stars are indeed singing about worldwide community and solidarity.
For more information on Habitat Humanity Japan, please visit: habitat.org
Danny R. Johnson is San Diego County News’ Jazz and Pop Music Critic.
September 2, 2012
Various Artists, Home – Gift of Music, Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief (Sunnyside, avalable Sept.11). An uncommonly lovely disc with an uncommonly beautiful purpose. To most of us, the 9.0 magnitude earthquake in Japan in 2011 was a succession of utterly unfathomable TV news pictures of wreckage and gigantic tsunamis sluicing cars and trucks inland like so many discarded candy wrappers, To Jazz Gallery programming director Rio Sikairi, it was “unprecedented disaster” whose “need for relief remains.” And so she collected this exceptional collection of singers and musicians to create a disc for Tsunami Relief. Its beauty is often stunning and its combinations of musicians so rare as to be singular – Alan Hampton and Gretchen Parlato, for instance, with pianist Taylor Eigsti on “If It Was.” Claudia Acuna – so winning in her performance at the Albright-Knox Gallery – is beautiful on Abbey Lincoln’s “Music Is the Magic” and the two songs by Becca Stevens (“Coming Home,” “Tillery”) give you a post-Norah Jones artist whose combination of “folk music” and jazz is so fresh but yet so natural you think you’ve been hearing it all your life. Reedman John Ellis contributes his first recorded vocal to the disc’s title track, which he wrote. Nor is he the only instrumentalist singing here. Listen to trumpet player Leron Thomas singing with Parlato on “Leave Rebirth.” All the proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity, Japan for volunteers to rebuild homes destroyed. Every participant donated time and compositions. A beautiful project well realized. 3½ (J. S.)