record label: current releases
The SpokesThe Spokes is a unique wind trio co-led by three composer/instrumentalists, who each have a distinctive musical personality and diverse history on the New York music scene: Andy Biskin (clarinet), Curtis Hasselbring (trombone) and Phillip Johnston (soprano saxophone). All three compose for the group with their own personal approach, but their music is linked by a lyrical sense of melody, a wry sense of humor, and a distinctive, idiosyncratic compositional voice.
On this debut recording, The Spokes channel influences from early 20th-century chamber music, New Orleans jazz, Third Stream music, Civil War brass bands, and contemporary classical idioms, all delivered with wit and agility (think Jimmy Giuffre’s trios, Debussy’s chamber pieces, or Raymond Scott’s horn section). Also influential are the many groups led by the composers in their individual careers, such as The Microscopic Septet, Trio Tragico, The New Mellow Edwards, Fast ‘N’ Bulbous, and Decoupage.
Edward RatliffOn this latest disc, Ratliff’s horn and accordion-driven music creates an infectious swirl of influences – all the way from nuevo tango and movie soundtracks, to an Eastern European blow-out and a French Baroque funeral march. Those Moments Before is a very visual, cinematic and cosmopolitan sound for life in the modern metropolis – a forward-looking fusion of contemporary sounds inspired by traditional styles. Featuring some of the top players on the New York scene including Doug Wieselman, Michaël Attias, Beth Schenck, Nate Radley, Wes Matthews, Take Toriyama and Sean Conly, and mixed by the Grammy Award-winning team Good and Evil.
"Whether it's a tribute to Hong Kong action films or the sound of Johnny Hodges, Those Moments Before is a very satisfying and entertaining show."
Richard Kamins, AllAboutJazz.com
"Multi-instrumentalist Edward Ratliff brings a wide tapestry of sounds to Those Moments Before... he has assembled a stellar cast of musicians to help realize his ambitious canvas. The portrait he presents is a dynamic, moving one.... Ratliff is comfortable in several zones and his music proves the point with instrumental virtuosity that underscores his artistry."
Jerry D'Souza, AllAboutJazz.com
Andy BiskinThe beautifully crafted miniature compositions on this album fuse jazz, classical, and social music into highly personal hybrid forms. Biskin's composing for Trio Tragico emphasizes ensemble balance and its overall sound, rather than individual soloists. Joining Biskin are two virtuosos of modern improvised music, Dave Ballou (trumpet) and Drew Gress (bass).
“If today's fragmented jazz community resembled the fraternity it was during the classic periods of labels such as Blue Note and Contemporary, clarinetist Andy Biskin's compositions might be showing up on many albums besides his own.... Trio Tragico is at once relaxed, ambitious and deceptive. It's a chamber-jazz record in the most veracious sense.”
K. Leander Williams, Time Out New York
Andy BiskinThis CD features songs by Stephen Foster, as well as six Biskin originals. Although Biskin takes liberties with Foster's tunes, he preserves the beauty and sentiment of the songs while casting them in a new light. Biskin's own pieces for the quartet are equally melodious and varied in form, uniting elements from early and modern jazz with dance and classical music. The quartet features some of New York's most searching and genre-defying musicians, including John Hollenbeck (percussion), Pete McCann (guitar/banjo), and Chris Washburne (trombone/tuba).
“Mixing mania and melancholy in a rather uncanny way, the clarinet player brings a new vibe to Stephen Foster's nuggets on the recent Early American. A gleeful modernist, his arrangements have no problem giving the material a hotfoot while still allowing their melodies and sentiment to radiate.”
Jim Macnie, The Village Voice
Edward Ratliff with Rhapsodalia and FriendsTravel, dislocation, empty train stations and the cultural mix of Barcelona all influence the wide-ranging music on this CD, the soundtrack to the film Barcelona in 48 Hours. Sounds from North Africa and Latin America to electronica and the night-time wail of a surf guitar all find their way in this musical journey. Featuring a cast of stellar New York City musicians including Kevin Norton, Doug Wieselman, Charlie Giordano, Sam Bardfeld, Seido Salifoski and Michaël Attias.
“An intriguing tone poem that repays repeated listening”
“Fetching, globe-trotting, and insatiably romantic, [this is] a record that entrances within seconds, begs you to get involved, and ages with grace.”
Edward Ratliff's RhapsodaliaAn urbane, groovy mix of avant-jazz and world musics, from Kung Fu movies to cha cha. Featuring “The Wong Fei-Hong Theme” and a tribute to Hong Kong martial arts actor Hung Yan-Yan. With Michaël Attias (saxophones), Sam Bardfeld (violin), John Hebert (bass), Kevin Norton (drums and vibraphone) and Edward Ratliff (compositions, trumpet, cornet, trombone, euphonium, accordion).
“This ensemble achieves a wonderfully large sound for a quintet, in the manner of the grand old Mingus groups where the whole was always greater than the sum of the parts.... A great disc.“
Robert Spencer, Cadence
“...composer-brassmeister-accordionist Ratliff has fashioned a little quintet that sustains its tenderness and agility while still blowing like Vesuvius. Factor in the gypsy strain that arrives via the Far East and you've got singularity, too.”
Jim Macnie, Village Voice