CalArtians Featured in DownBeat Magazine’s ‘Best Albums of 2019’ Issue

Cover of DownBeat Magazine’s January 2020 issue.

In the January 2020 issue of DownBeat Magazine, a number of CalArtians were among those featured in the “2019: The Year’s Top-Rated Albums” roundup, so we thought we’d share the news before it gets too far into the year.

Areni Agbabian: Bloom

The cover of Bloom by Areni Agbabian.

Described by The Guardian as, “a creepy and beguiling collection from a real talent,” the album Bloom by experimental vocalist and pianist Areni Agbabian (Music BFA 08), is the artist’s debut with ECM Records. According to the article,”Her cut-glass delivery is more akin to a European arthouse singer, and she has certainly absorbed the folk songs and microtonal scales of her Armenian heritage.”

Stream the album on Spotify.

Harris Eisenstadt: Old Growth Forest II

The cover of Old Growth Forest II by Harris Eisenstadt.

Brooklyn-based drummer and CalArts alum Harris Eisenstadt (Music MFA 01), leads a quartet on the improvised jazz album Old Growth Forest II, which was released by the record label Astral Spirits in September 2019. The band includes trombonist Jeb Bishop, bassist Jason Roebke and soprano saxophonist Tony Malaby.

From a review of Old Growth Forest II (Astral Spirits) in JazzTimes:

The free-floating dynamics are due in part to Eisenstadt, the group’s guiding force both behind the kit and as a writer. A former student of Barry Altschul, he has a similar unfettered command of percussive splatter, hard-swinging grooves, and bold abstractions. But the set’s true strength is in its simpatico vibes; this is a synergetic effort bursting with remarkable harmony and effortless interplay.

Alex Koo/Mark Turner/Ralph Alessi: Appleblueseagreen

The cover of applebluseagreen by Alex Koo/Mark Turner/Ralph Alessi.

Described as “stunningly original” by DownBeat magazine, appleblueseagreen features 12 dreamy, ambient compositions by Belgian-Japanese pianist/drummer Alex Koo, who collaborated with saxophonist Mark Turner and CalArts alum and trumpeter Ralph Alessi (Music BFA 87, MFA 90). The album was released in March 2019 by Clever Tree Records.

James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto

Cover art for An Unruly Manifesto by James Brandon Lewis.

Saxophonist James Brandon Lewis (Music MFA 10) dedicated the album An Unruly Manifesto to the late Charlie Haden, Ornette Coleman and Surrealism. An educator and mentor for over 32 years, Haden founded the Jazz Studies Program at The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts. In the album notes, Lewis describes this album as a call to action. “ Everyday is a chance to discover the truest version of your self and charge after that relentlessly.”

Steph Richards: Take The Neon Lights

The cover art for Take the Neon Lights by Steph Richards.

Take the Neon Lights is acclaimed experimental trumpeter Steph Richards’ (Music MFA 08) second solo project on Birdwatcher records. Exploring the ugly beauty of New York City, her compositions are named from poems by Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou and Allen Ginsberg, to name a few. The album features James Carney on piano, Sam Mianaie on bass and Andrew Munsey on drums.

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