For The 63rd GRAMMY AWARDS
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and: @OzmosysBand feat Rachel Z Omar Hakim Kurt Rosenwinkel Linley Marthe
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“The combination of the four of us inspires wildly exciting improvisational conversations without losing the momentum of a strong groove…no matter the style we are exploring. – Rachel Z”
The creation of a supergroup is like the formation of a new solar system in the galaxy of music: an assemblage of musical planets circling in an orbit of inspiration around a sun exuding rays of artistic creativity. The birth of the ensemble OZmosys is an event of galactic proportions, and the release of their debut CD, Eyes to the Future, is destined to alter the shape of music to come in the 21st century.
A musical kaleidoscope composed of the multi-genre history of all the band members, OZmosys is led by two superstars: Omar Hakim : the child prodigy from Queens, New York, and a graduate of that city’s famed High School of Music and Art, who is arguably the world’s most widely-recorded drummer, who worked with everybody in the past four decades, from Michael Jackson and Miles Davis to Sting and Weather Report, and his wife, the Manhattan born Rachel Z, who has reigned supreme as the most original, eclectic, and enduring keyboardists of her generation. As an elite sideman for 4 decades, she has been performing with diverse talents, such as Wayne Shorter, Peter Gabriel, Steps Ahead ,Neal Schon, Najee, and Pino Daniele, while maintaining a solo career which bore the fruit of 12 CDs comprised of her original arrangements and compositions! She has won several Grammys for her work with these artists.
Joining the Hakims on this recording is the Philly-born, Germany-based guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel ,the most influential musician on his instrument in this generation, as evidenced by his sideman work with Donald Fagen, and A Tribe Called Quest, and Q-Tip, who co-produced Rosenwinkel’s impressive 2003 CD, Heartcore, which is also the name of his record company. With twelve CD’s as a leader, including, The Next Step, Our Secret World, and the Brazilian-influenced Caipi, Rachel lauds Rosenwinkel for his ability to “play over any changes.” As Rosenwinkel notes, he loves, “finding the shape of the song within my role and bringing my whole spirit to the music. Its a band that touches upon many kinds of musical genres which I love from jazz, rock and funk and pop music, all of which I am active in in different ways, so it’s really satisfying to embody many different [aspects] of my own musical personalities.”
Bassist Linsey Marthe hails from the multiracial and multicultural African island of Mauritius. He met the Hakims in a recording session, where their mutual admiration for each other began immediately. “He’s ridiculously funky. He’s an angel of the groove on the bass,” Rachel says, while Omar declared that “he is the first bassist I ever played with who can really get into some odd meter stuff.” Marthe credits his country’s polyglot musical culture for his gift for playing tricky rhythms. “We listen and play every type of music,” he says, “but our identity music is called the sega. It’s a rhythm in twelve, which is very good for dancing and singing and partying. I was playing in so many hotels resort there and so many different types of music as well: pop, rock, waltz, bolero, salsa, tango, mazurka and zouk, which opened my musical experience at a very large level.” Marthe performed with Mino Cinelu and Richard Galliano, but his most prominent work as a sideman was as a member of Joe Zawinul’s Zawinul Syndicate. His latest recording as a leader is Island Jazz with vocalist Monika Njava.
“When we expanded our group to include master improvisers and legendary voices on their instruments, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Linley Marthe, we added authentic alternative and Americana guitar elements as well as deeply spiritual bass grooves to the mix,” Rachel says. “Their contributions as composers is already starting to add new colors to our bands ever-expanding direction. Both artists bring extensive harmonic knowledge and their own unique palette of musical experiences ranging from world music to deeply complex jazz.”
Formed in 2017, the origin of this quantum quartet originates from a musically bold axis of love, stemming from the Hakim’s first recording, The Trio of OZ (2010, Ozmosis Records) with bassist Solomon Dorsey; a swinging collection of pop and alt-rock covers of selections by Sting, Ben Gibbard, Stanley Layne Thomas and Guy Berryman. “The record made some nice noise for us,” Omar says. “We toured all over the world with it, but acoustic trios aren’t headlining festivals. So I said to Rachel, that we need to create a project with a more groove-oriented, bigger sound. Rachel has always been into production and synthesizers, so she’d get back into that for this project.” The keyboardist imbued the foursome’s recording with music inspired by what her New School students were listening to. “They were listening to progressive house by DJ/producers like Deadmau5, Zedd, Knower, Hudson Mohawke and B.T. [Brian Transeau], the father of the stutter beat.”
Rachel continues. “A few years ago when Omar was performing with Kate Bush in London, we set out to expand our original vision that we started with TheTrio of OZ. ”Omar and I were looking for a sound that ranged from the beautiful intimacy of acoustic trio, but with synth colors and interesting electronica to some raging dance, house, world and alternative rock beats found in today’s music that we love. I used Omar’s loop loft sample library as the groove foundations to create the synth electronica orchestration sequences in [Digitsl Audio Workstation] Ableton . Some of our melodies were inspired by being swaddled in Kate’s luscious vocals and living inside the set of her visually mesmerizing and artistically stimulating show. Through many many many rehearsals and some heated concepts discussions, these became our new release Eyes to the Future. These initial recordings influenced by Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, which married killer synth electronica with Omar Hakim’s live drum grooves.”
With seven tracks totalling about an hour’s worth of music, Eyes to the Future – the title comes from something Rachel’s mother said in reference to her nuptials to Omar in 2010 – is an amazing summation of what came before, and a showcase of what’s happening in music now. “I wanted to create a live IEDM-improvised dance music which would feature organic grooves that would create a pulsating mantra that stimulates mind body and soul. It had been my mission to marry these worlds!,” Rachel says. Imagine the futuristic sonic landscape of Weather Report and the propulsive passion of Return to Forever addressing the popular song forms of today! Some of the songs on the CD include, the infectious title track, that bounces with sonic sketches of house, bass, and alt-rock genres. “Uh Oh” is a similarly syncopated composition that boasts a tropical tinge. Lightness” is a solemn shout-out to all of the sonic traditions of all the world’s spiritual traditions. The subject matter of “Humor and Nudity” refers to the two things the Hakims feel make a marriage successful.
The group launched a ten-city, summer and fall tour of the United States, Europe and Asia that included the Rochester International Jazz Festival, the Jarassum Jazz Festival (South Korea), and the London Jazz Festival, where they received a standing ovation, and British publication Jazzwise wrote, “[e]ach player is at their unrestrained best. From the potentially explosive timbral variety of Hakims which feeds the thunderous rhythms and eternal dexterity of Marthe, to the harmonic sophistication … served up by Rachel Z and Rosenwinkel.” The quartet is scheduled to perform at Saratoga Jazz Festival in June, 2020, and released an EP, Eyes to the Future, Vol. 1, with Vol.2 forthcoming.
Performing, composing, and arranging at the zenith of the keyboard continuum is something Rachel Carmel Nicolazzo has been doing ever since she burst on the scene in the eighties, thanks to her profound Herbie Hancockand McCoy Tyner-inspired pianism and her Joe Zawinul/Jan Hammer-inspired synth arrangements. As a sidewoman, she worked with a number of jazz stars including Bobby Watson, Stanley Clarke, Regina Carter, Wayne Escofferey, and Terri Lyne Carrington. She is well-known for her work in the pioneering ensemble Steps Ahead with vibraphonist leader Michael Maineri. She also drew critical acclaim for her work on Wayne Shorter’s 1996 release, High Life, which won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. She worked on the album’s pre-production with bassist/producer Marcus Miller, blending the synth arrangements with the live instrumentation to create an evocative sound world for Mr. Shorter to explore. In 2002, she toured and recorded with rock icon Peter Gabriel for four years and appeared on his albums Hit, and Still Growing Live & Unwrapped, and in his movies, Growing Up Live and Still Growing Up Live.
Her ten jazz recordings as a leader from 1992 to 2007 include: her debut, Trust The Universe, A Room of One’s Own (a salute to women, when Mrs. Hakim was decades ahead of today’s advocacy for female musicians), Love is the Power, her tributes to Wayne Shorter and Joni Mitchell, On The Milky Way Express, and Moon at the Window, and The Dept. of Good and Evil. A graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music, Rachel Z currently teaches Theory and Performance in the New School’s Jazz Department in New York City. She is currently earning her Masters in Studio Composition and Elctronic Music at Suny Purchase.
Omar Hakim is the son of trombonist Hasan Hakim, who played with Count Basie and Duke Ellington. He developed a formidable and flexible drumming style derived from Elvin Jones and Max Roach, and is arguably the world’s most widely-recorded drummer. He’s worked with everybody in the past four decades, from Michael Jackson (HIStory) and Miles Davis (Tutu, Amandla) to Dire Straits (Brothers in Arms) and David Bowie (Let’s Dance), and he toured with Madonna in 1994. His highest profile gig was with Sting on his 1985 solo debut, The Dream of the Blue Turtles. He was a member of Weather Report, from 1984 to 1986, and recorded on the albums, Procession, Domino Theory, Sportin’ Life, and This is This! In 1989, his first album as a leader, Rhythm Deep – an amalgam of jazz, funk and R&B – was nominated for a Grammy. In 2000, he released The Groovesmith, and his latest recording, The Omar Hakim Experience, was released in 2014. He is the former Chair of Berklee College of Music’s Percussion Department.
The Hakims had known each other for decades, and played in several settings before they became a couple and married in 2010. Their union is one of musical and personal compliment and compromise. “Omar is a role model for being in the flow of creativity, and that helped me a lot,” Mrs. Hakim says. “I can be competitive, and being a woman in jazz has made me slightly defensive, and to fight using the anger from the pressure of living a life as the different one in the band. So being with Omar mellowed me out a lot of those tendencies and helped me focus on the task at hand.” Mr. Hakim – who sees his wife “as a fantastic pianist, rather than a female pianist” – is a seeker by nature, and for him, his wife “gives my explorations form.”
It is the exploration of form that is the real goal of Eyes to the Future: an exploration toward a new, as yet defined genre of music, an undiscovered country of sound. “You can only do this kind of record after you’ve had our vast experience in the business,” Omar says. “We are blending things together here, even in a way that I don’t know if we want to overthink it. We just need to show up … And if you do it that way, you almost defy and challenge existing genres. I’m not sure what this [music] is, But I know that it is uniquely Rachel, myself Linley and Kurt. And it’s a wonderful thing.”