Heads of State - Search for Peace
Steve Davis - Say When

2015 RELEASES

Vincent Herring - Night and Day
Harold Mabern - Afro Blue
Steve Turre - Spiritman
Eddie Henderson - Collective Portrait

ON 200GRAM AUDIOPHILE VINYL


Smoke Sessions Volume 1 is a collector’s edition sampler of our first four titles. Pressed on 200 gram vinyl by Quality Record Pressings, it is destined to be a rare collectors item as it is limited to only 500 hand numbered copies. The packing is a classic “tip-on style” gatefold jacket featuring original artwork and liner notes, as well as photography by noted jazz photographer Jimmy Katz. All Smoke Sessions releases are produced using vintage techniques and audio paths—i.e. Rupert Neve-designed mixing consoles (Amek-Angela), Studer mastering decks, and Manley tube equalization—in combination with modern high definition recording techniques. Mastered by celebrated vinyl mastering engineer Kevin Gray, these carefully selected tracks include: Vincent Herring’s exhilarating “Elation” from his own The Uptown Shuffle; a classic reading of Kurt Weill’s “My Ship” from David Hazeltine’s For All We Know; George Cable’s jazz-rock classic “Think on Me” from Javon Jackson’s Expression; and Thad Jones’ beautiful ballad “To You” from Harold Mabern’s Right On Time.

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Limited Edition Vynyl Album

Heads of State

Heads of State - Search for Peace

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July 10

Heads of State, featuring four of the most respected and admired jazz artists of our time releases its first recording Search for Peace. A band over 50 years in the making, Gary Bartz, Larry Willis, Buster Williams, and Al Foster had performed together countless times in different combinations and contexts over their storied careers, but it wasn’t until September 2014 that they appeared as a quartet. The occasion that night was a tribute to McCoy Tyner, and the results were so inspired and the response so overwhelming that they knew right away they had something worth keeping. As pianist Larry Willis puts it, “I don’t think there are any bands that are doing quite what we’re doing right now.” Now, their unique chemistry and musicianship is documented on Search for Peace. It features selections by John Coltrane (“Impressions”), Jackie McLean (“Capuchin Swing”), Benny Carter (“Summer Serenade”), Billy Strayhorn (“Lotus Blossom”) and, of course, the moving title track by Tyner (“Search for Peace”) Gary Bartz contributes two compositions (“Uncle Bubba” which Gary performed with McCoy and “Soulstice”) and there are two standards (“Crazy She Calls Me” and “I Wish I Knew” which Tyner famously recorded with Coltrane). It is a well-chosen and balanced set, but the selections are somewhat beside the point; this all-star quartet makes everything sound like magic.

DAVIS

Steve Davis - Say When

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Steve Davis, one of the most beloved trombonists in modern jazz, first dreamed of recording the music of J.J. Johnson some 20 years ago. “Something kept telling me— just wait, just wait.” he says, “Then finally, a year and a half ago, I did the first J.J. weekend at Smoke with this sextet and I finally realized I think I’m ready.” During those 20+ years, Davis was doing a little more than simply waiting, he was busy establishing himself as a worthy heir to his idols: J.J., Curtis Fuller and Slide Hampton. Along the way, he worked with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, the Jackie McLean Sextet, Chick Corea’s Origin, Benny Golson’s New Jazztet, Horace Silver, Hank Jones, Larry Willis, One for All, Freddie Hubbard and the New Jazz Composer’s Octet, the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Stars, as well as the big bands of Christian McBride, Ron Carter, Jimmy Heath and Roy Hargrove. He’s earned the highest praise, too, such as Freddie Hubbard calling him “one of the greatest trombone players in the world,” James Moody commenting that “his solos never cease to amaze me,” and Chick Corea saying that he plays “some of the most melodic improvisations ever heard in jazz.” For Say When, he’s enlisted the support of the very best—Eddie Henderson, Eric Alexander, Harold Mabern, Nat Reeves and Joe Farnsworth—to breathe new life into six Johnson compositional gems, as well as Cole Porter’s classic “What Is This Thing Called Love,” Warren and Gordon’s “There Will Never Be Another You” and Coltrane’s “Village Blues.” It concludes with a surprising rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In” that Davis vividly remembers hearing J.J. perform late in his career. It’s just another reason that Will Friedwald wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “The highly respected contemporary trombonist Steve Davis is a perfect bandleader to present the vast riches of (J.J.) Johnson.” Say When is available for purchase as an 8-panel deluxe CD album complete with 2,000-word artist interview and additional photos, as a Mastered for iTunes download with digital booklet, or as an audiophile 96khz/24bit digital download.

HERRING

Vincent Herring - Night and Day

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Vincent Herring, one of the great jazz saxophonists of our time, matches his soulful, expressive playing with one of the baddest trumpet players around, Jeremy Pelt, in a quintet that also features the hard-driving rhythm section of Mike LeDonne, Brandi Disterheft and Joe Farnsworth. It’s a group of musicians that Herring knows well and there is an obvious rapport and chemistry from the very first note of the funky bebop opener, “Grind Hog’s Day”. Herring was Cedar Walton’s saxophonist for more than 20 years and he remembers him with Walton’s Latin-tinged “Theme for Jobim” and Mike LeDonne’s poignant dedication, “Walton”. Vincent remarks, “All of us are Cedar’s musical children. I wish we could have played this one for him.” There are blistering hard bop anthems, too, like Herring’s original “The Adventures of Hyun Joo Lee” and Donald Byrd’s classic “Fly, Little Bird, Fly”. The full spotlight is on Vincent on a handful of quartet tunes that include “The Gypsy”, which is something of an “alto saxophone classic” made famous by Charlie Parker, Sonny Stitt and Phil Woods. Herring loves to play this one live and he give it an unforgettably moving reading. The other quartet numbers include Tex Allen’s beautiful “There Is Something about You (I Don’t Know)”, the bluesy “Wabash” by Vincent’s closest stylistic model and exemplar, Cannonball Adderley, and Cole Porter’s jubilant title track “Night and Day”. Herring also contributes the infectious, closing blues, “Smoking Paul’s Stash”. Vincent Herring is modern jazz at its best—unpretentious, smart, and timeless. Night and Day is available for purchase as an 8-panel deluxe CD album complete with 2,000-word artist interview and additional photos, as a Mastered for iTunes download with digital booklet, or as an audiophile 96khz/24bit digital download.

MABERN

Harold Mabern - Afro Blue

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Harold Mabern’s second release on Smoke Sessions Records, Afro Blue, is a very special recording featuring guest vocalists Gregory Porter, Norah Jones, Jane Monheit, Kurt Elling, and Alexis Cole. The chemistry of these artists with Harold—the sound of his piano voicings combined with their voices—is extraordinary. Well-known in jazz circles as a consummate accompanist for instrumental soloists, The Mabe also has a special gift for sensitive and supportive playing behind singers. It’s something he takes pride in and has been doing since he first hit the stage at Birdland half a century ago with Betty Carter. “I love vocalists. I love to play for singers because that’s really how you learn how to play the piano jazz-wise. They go through every aspect of music— changing keys, slow tempos to fast, playing rubato, playing verses, all of the Great American Songbook—that’s really how you learn how to play,” says Mabern. There is a lot of music and there are a lot of memorable performances on Afro Blue but Mabern’s soulful, blues-driven style is the constant highlight. He is joined by a stellar supporting cast—Jeremy Pelt, Eric Alexander and Steve Turre form a killer horn section while John Webber and Joe Farnsworth complete his reliable rhythm team. Guitarist Peter Bernstein also makes a special appearance on Steely Dan’s “Do It Again.” Mabern adds, I’ll tell you, it was really the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. It was definitely a challenge, but I think we pulled it off. I’m quite pleased with it, you know.” Afro Blue is available for purchase as an 8-panel deluxe CD album complete with 2,000-word artist interview and additional photos, as a Mastered for iTunes download with digital booklet, or as an audiophile 96khz/24bit digital download.

TURRE

Steve Turre - Spiritman

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STEVE TURRE, ONE OF THE WORLD’S PREEMINENT JAZZ INNOVATORS releases, Spiritman, his debut recording for Smoke Sessions Records. It’s something of a back-to-basics project for Turre who says, “It’s the first record I’ve done in a long time that really focuses on my trombone playing.” It also employs an ideal foil in saxophonist Bruce Williams whose timbre on soprano and alto is a perfect match for the trombone. Spiritman features several of Turre’s new compositions including “Trayvon’s Blues” a poignant, moving, jazz tone poem; “Bu” the record opener dedicated to his mentor Art Blakey; “Funky Thing” written for the Saturday Night Live Band; and “Nangadef” written for Senegalese percussionist Abdou Mboup and featuring Chembo Corniel on congas. His spirited rendition of Miles Davis’ “All Blues” begins with his own mystical “Spiritman“ played on shells. It’s a piece he performed to open the UN’s International Jazz Day concert in Osaka, Japan in 2014. This “All Blues” introduction is also the first recording of a newly developed technique where Turre plays into a piano with the pedal down and the strings open. The shell’s sound vibrates the open strings creating an ethereal, mystical, but acoustic sound. The rest of the band, Xavier Davis, Gerald Cannon, and Willie Jones III, know just what Turre wants and needs from a rhythm section and they help deliver this unforgettable music that also includes swinging standards and classic ballads. It’s music designed to make you feel better. As Turre explains in his thoughts about this recording and music in general, “Music is about giving and about searching. Without spirit, music is just notes.” It’s a philosophy of life and music that continues to produce inspired results. Spiritman is available for purchase as an 8-panel deluxe CD album complete with 2,000-word artist interview and additional photos, as a Mastered for iTunes download with digital booklet, or as an audiophile 96khz/24bit digital download.

HENDERSON

Eddie Henderson - Collective Portrait

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“I DON’T LIKE TO WRITE IN ALL OF THE NOTES,” says legendary trumpeter Eddie Henderson with a laugh, ”Miles always said, ‘just write a sketch and let all the musicians fill in.’ He’d say, ‘A collective portrait is better than a self portrait.’” It was advice that resonated with a young Eddie Henderson who, even after 40-something years, still relies on it as a primary organizing principle for his music. Eddie is someone who thrives on—requires really—a group that embodies the risk-taking and creative freedom that Miles encouraged and for Collective Portrait he has chosen some of the very best: Gary Bartz, George Cables, Doug Weiss and Carl Allen. Eddie says that he knew “instinctively” that this combination would have just the musical chemistry he wanted. Eddie, George and Gary have been making music together since the 1970s when he was still based in California and having them together again, he decided to revisit some of this Blue Note Records “hits” from that era, some of which have been famously sampled in recent years by acid jazz and hip hop artists. With updated arrangements, they breathe new life into “Sunburst,” “Dreams,” “Morning Song,” and “Beyond Forever.” They also delve into some of the iconic works of the hard-bop trumpet canon—“Gingerbread Boy,” “Zoltan” and “First Light”—giving Eddie an opportunity to put his personal stamp on these works made famous by Miles, Woody Shaw and Freddie Hubbard respectively. Of course, no one today plays a ballad quite like Eddie Henderson and there are several memorable ones in this set including “Together,” which Eddie’s wife, Natsuko wrote for him in celebration of their 20 years together. Collective Portrait is available for purchase as an 8-panel deluxe CD album complete with 2,000-word artist interview and additional photos, as a Mastered for iTunes download with digital booklet or as an audiophile 96khz/24bit digital download.

REED

Eric Reed - Groovewise

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ERIC REED DIDN’T WANT TO MAKE A GOOD RECORD, he wanted to make a great one. The celebrated pianist and musician says, “I could have called guys who play exactly what I want; it would have been good and not very interesting. It would have been swinging or it would have sounded nice—there wouldn’t have really been a spark. You don’t just want to sound good. You want it to be amazing.” And, his Groovewise is that killing record. It features a memorable quartet with Seamus Blake, Ben Williams, and Gregory Hutchinson and is the first recorded meeting of Reed and Hutchinson in over 15 years. They are clearly inspired performing in front of a live audience and the creative energy flies off the bandstand. They open with an impromptu rendition of “Powerful Paul Robeson” for Clifford Jordan whose wife, Sandy, who was in attendance and they close with the extended title track “Groovewise” bracketing a thrilling set of live jazz. Several of the compositions are dedicated to the memories of Mulgrew Miller, Cedar Walton, and Marian McPartland and Eric’s “Until the Last Cat has Swung,” is a declaration that jazz remains alive and well in the hands of a new generation. Although Eric might not feel ready to be a “keeper of the flame,” jazz music is much better off that he already is. Groovewise is available for purchase as an 8-panel CD-Deluxe Album complete with liner notes, interview and additional photos or as a high resolution download mastered for iTunes.

EVANS

Orrin Evans - Liberation Blues

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ORRIN EVANS—PIANIST, BANDLEADER AND NOTORIOUS MUSICAL CATALYST—is a bona fide, jazz original. Brimming with music and ideas, Orrin’s Liberation Blues debuts one of his most impressive projects yet, a new quintet lineup that includes Sean Jones, JD Allen, Luques Curtis, and Bill Stewart. The recording, made live at Smoke Jazz Club in New York City, occurred immediately following the passing of bassist Dwayne Burno, and the opening selections comprise the “Liberation Blues Suite” dedicated to his memory. Orrin explains, “In my eyes, Burno is now a ‘Free Man’ … but with that freedom, we’ve lost a great man right here on earth. So, there’s still a blues we feel missing our brother and friend.” Simply put, the playing is inspired. Sean Jones and JD Allen are a brilliant pairing and it is hard to miss Bill Stewart’s presence. Orrin says, “Let me do something that people wouldn’t expect, somethin’ that I wouldn’t even expect. Listen … now is the time for Bill Stewart.” After mining the compositions of Paul Motian, Trudy Pitts, Miles Davis, and, of course, Orrin Evans, the night concludes with a memorable encore visit from Philadelphia vocalist Joanna Pascale for a sultry version of “The Night has a Thousand Eyes.” Liberation Blues is available for purchase as an 8-panel CD-Deluxe Album complete with liner notes, interview and additional photos or as a high resolution download mastered for iTunes.

CHESTNUT

Cyrus Chestnut - Midnight Melodies

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THIS NEARLY PERFECT PIANO TRIO SET BY CYRUS CHESTNUT, captured at Smoke Jazz & Supper Club in New York, is his first live recording date. It retains all of the feeling and power of his thrilling live performances but also benefits from Smoke’s Steinway B that Cyrus claims is the best piano in the city. “It’s just my ticket. We connect. It’s warm and it’s sharp at the same time with a lot of earth in it. I like clubs like the Jazz Standard or Smoke, where you can sit down at the piano and get down-home, because that’s the kind of audience they attract.” Joining Cyrus are bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Victor Lewis who both worked with the late John Hicks who was an important mentor and friend to Chestnut. Together, they take listeners on a musical odyssey that includes the music by Billy Strayhorn, John Coltrane, and, of course, John Hicks. There are also originals by Victor Lewis and Cyrus culminating in an impressive extended version of “Naima’s Love Song.” Cyrus is one of the great piano voices of his generation—or any generation—as he proves again with this rewarding live debut. Midnight Melodies is available for purchase as an 8-panel CD-Deluxe Album complete with liner notes, interview and additional photos or as a high resolution download mastered for iTunes.

COBB

Jimmy Cobb - The Original Mob

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THERE’S NO ONE ELSE LIKE JIMMY COBB now in his seventh decade in music and swinging as hard today as he did when he started in 1950 with Earl Bostic. His surgical skill at the drums and his artistic genius generally is the stuff of legend from his work with Dinah and Cannonball to Sarah and Wes. Jimmy is best known for his time with Miles Davis that included the recording of several history making albums including the classic Kind of Blue. His new release, The Original Mob, features three former students who have all become successful artists themselves. Brad Mehldau, Peter Bernstein, and John Webber were just getting their own careers started when they approached their teacher, Mr. Cobb, about working together as a quartet. It wasn’t a hard sell, as Jimmy knew from experience that they were special talents. Soon after, they got some gigs as Jimmy Cobb’s Mob and the rest is history. The Original Mob is the first recording of this particular lineup in many years and their first recording together under Jimmy’s leadership. It’s a swinging affair that includes two of Jimmy’s original compositions, and one each by Brad, Peter, and John. The opening standard, “Old Devil Moon,” was spontaneously arranged at the date when Brad suggested this novel introduction. Other highlights include the standards “Stranger in Paradise,” “Sunday in New York,” and “Nobody Else but Me.” The Original Mob is the first Smoke Sessions Records release to be recorded using Smoke Jazz Club as a traditional recording studio—a process that Jimmy compared to recording in master engineer Rudy Van Gelder’s living half a century earlier. He adds, “it just sounds like us…like when we first started to play together years ago, but I remember like it was yesterday. I always enjoyed the way we played together.” The Original Mob is available for purchase as a 8-panel CD-Deluxe Album complete with liner notes, interview and additional photos or as a high resolution download mastered for iTunes.

HAYES

Louis Hayes - Return of the Jazz Communicators

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DRUMMER LOUIS HAYES, one of the chief architects of modern jazz drumming, was the rhythmic drive for historic recordings by Horace Silver, Cannonball Adderley, Oscar Peterson, Joe Henderson, Dexter Gordon, and McCoy Tyner. His playing has a rhythmic intensity that is as subtle as it is complex creating a musical feel and vibe on every track that is unmistakably Louis Hayes. When he reformed this band that he co-founded in the late ’60s with Freddie Hubbard and Joe Henderson—which Freddie dubbed the Jazz Communicators—Louis purposefully deviated from a conventional quintet lineup by featuring a vibraphone / tenor saxophone out front. It’s the esteemed pair of Steve Nelson and Abraham Burton, respectively, and their chemistry with Louis, pianist David Bryant and bassist Dezron Douglas makes The Return of the Jazz Communicators an inspired and rewarding set of music. The selections include a nice balance of standards and originals such as a ballad-feature for Nelson, Lush Life, and one for Burton, A Portrait of Jennie as well as the deep, loose groove of Mulgrew Miller’s Soul-Leo, which opens the record. Return of the Jazz Communicators captures this important jazz quintet in front of an enthusiastic and appreciative live audience. In the words of Louis Hayes, “I try to do what I do best and what makes me feel good…I guess I might as well keep on swinging. And, that’s basically what I’m going to do.” Return of the Jazz Communicators is available for purchase as a 8-panel CD-Deluxe Album complete with liner notes, interview and additional photos or as a high resolution download mastered for iTunes.

HAZELTINE

David Hazeltine - For All We Know

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PIANIST DAVID HAZELTINE, a musician’s musician known for his harmonic sophistication and elegant pianism, delivers a thoroughly beautiful recording with his latest For All We Know. His rich sound and comping is often reminiscent of the late, great Cedar Walton and Hazeltine honors the piano master with several original compositions including “Et Cedra,” “Lord Walton,” and “Pooh,” as well as Kurt Weill’s “My Ship.” For All We Know also captures the first meeting between tenor saxophone sensation Seamus Blake and Hazeltine. It is abundantly clear on tracks like Charlie Parker’s “Cheryl” and Hazeltine’s “Eddie Harris,” that this collaboration is one worth returning to again and again. For All We Knowis available for purchase as a 8-panel CD-Deluxe Album complete with liner notes, interview and additional photos or as a high resolution download mastered for iTunes.

JACKSON

Javon Jackson - Expression

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SOULFUL TENOR SAXOPHONE great Javon Jackson makes a crowd-pleasing statement with his new, Expression, featuring the Javon Jackson Band with Orrin Evans, Corcoran Holt, and McClenty Hunter. Expression is serious jazz music at its accessible best. Javon and company rework Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ’Bout a Thing,” Hathaway and Flack’s “Where is the Love,” and Nat Cole’s “When I Fall in Love.” Actually, every track aims to please including George Cable’s ’70s classic “Think on Me,” Wayne Shorter’s “One by One,” as well as several Jackson originals. It’s a set you’ll return to again and again. Expressionis available for purchase as a 8-panel CD-Deluxe Album complete with liner notes, interview and additional photos or as a high resolution download mastered for iTunes.

HERRING

Vincent Herring - The Uptown Shuffle

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PLAYING ALTO SAXOPHONE that Cannonball, Stitt and Woods would love, not to mention Bird, Vincent Herring shows again on his new record The Uptown Shuffle why he belongs in their company. Like his heroes, he doesn’t rely on gimmicks or tricks, he just flat out swings. It’s a timeless approach that is paired perfectly with the incomparable comper Cyrus Chestnut who contributes several powerful solos of his own. This entertaining record includes classics like, “Love Walked In,” “Tenderly,” and “Strike Up the Band” and originals like Herring’s “Elation,” and Chestnut’s “Uptown Shuffle.” Herring has himself a thrilling straight-ahead record propelled in no small part by Brandi Disterheft and Joe Farnsworth. The Uptown Shuffleis available for purchase as a 8-panel CD-Deluxe Album complete with liner notes, interview and additional photos or as a high resolution download mastered for iTunes.

MABERN

Harold Mabern - Right On Time

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ANY DAY THAT YOU GET to hear jazz pianist Harold Mabern is a great day, and on his new release, Right On Time, you get two of those days with his trio distilled into one irresistible record. The recording weekend was a 77th birthday party, after all, and the extra energy on these tracks is unmistakable showcasing the complete Mabern experience. Right On Time delivers everything from classic blues and swinging standards to delicate ballads and modal tempests. There are definitely all the makings of a new classic here, an important addition to the Harold Mabern discography. Right On Timeis available for purchase as a 8-panel CD-Deluxe Album complete with liner notes, interview and additional photos or as a high resolution download mastered for iTunes.