In late October of 2011, we began the process of recording my debut album at 58 North 6th Media Labs in Williamsburg (Brooklyn). My dad flew all the way across the country from SF to engineer the session, heading straight to the studio and spending the night there in order to set everything up for our session! 6 of my favorite people/musicians gave their time for two days of recording, filled with vamps, giggles, and lots of Thai food.
"Unfolding" represents my first efforts as a band-leader. It features nine songs, seven of which are my original compositions. The songs are a reflection of all the beautiful music and people I have been exposed to in the last few years. The incredible band includes my dear friends Ivan Rosenberg (trumpet), Chad Lefkowitz-Brown (tenor sax), Pascal Le Boeuf (piano), Ruben Samama (bass), Jake Goldbas (drums) and features special guest Peter Apfelbaum (tenor sax), my musical mentor since childhood.
Growing up in the diverse climate of San Francisco, I have had an eclectic artistic palette from an early age. I grew up playing salsa, latin jazz, brazilian, modern jazz, and world music, performing with many Bay Area luminaries who brought out in me both a reverence for musical traditions, along with a boundless energy to find new ways to interpret emotions through music. I spent much of my childhood exploring theater, dance, and music, all with an equal amount of curiosity, and to this day the dynamic and lyrical nature of theater and dance seep through my musical work. In NYC, I am involved with a number of projects (Trey Anastasio Band, Peter Apfelbaum and the NY Hieroglyphics, Wyllys and the NY Hustler Ensemble, to name a few) that realize the notion of finding new ways to express human emotion with a disregard to "coloring within the lines" of a certain genre.
My vision for this project is to expose the elasticity of genres, to push away musical boundaries and allow styles to blend into one another, and in the process create something refreshing and universal. The music we have recorded encompasses the varied influences of all the great music of today that inspire me, including jazz, indie rock, R&B, folk, and world music. However, the nature of this project is to do away with those labels entirely in order to create a unique hybrid that transcends the limitations of categorization.
NATALIE CRESSMAN: New York-based trombonist/singer/ composer Natalie Cressman has won acclaim for her ability to play fluently in a variety of musical styles with maturity beyond her years. Hailed a "velveteen-voiced brass-blower" by the Denver Post, the 20 year-old has sought to stretch across stylistic boundaries with every project she takes on, each time striking listeners with the depth of her musicianship and her ability to blend seamlessly into so many different musical settings. Enamored with the music of Brazil, Cuba, India, along with the American jazz and folk traditions, Natalie's versatility and enthusiasm for new music has propelled her into a richly diverse musical career.
Growing up in the diverse climate of San Francisco, CA, Natalie had an eclectic musical palette from an early age. By age 15, she was performing regularly in many different musical situations: Salsa (Edgardo Cambon e Orquesta Candela), Latin Jazz (Pete Escovedo''s Latin Jazz Orchestra), World Music (Jai Uttal and the Pagan Love Orchestra), Brazilian (Sandy Cressman''s Homenagem Brasileira) and avante-garde Jazz (Peter Apfelbaum and the New York Hieroglyphics). Upon graduating high school, she had already performed alongside luminaries such as Miguel Zenon, Joe Levano, Ambrose Akinmusire, Eric Harland, Josh Roseman, Sheila E., Jesus Diaz, Steven Bernstein, Wayne Wallace, and Carlos Santana. In 2008, Natalie performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival and North Sea Jazz Festival with the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra. In 2009, Natalie was selected to participate in the GRAMMY Jazz Ensembles, Jazz Band of America, California All State Jazz Band, SFJAZZ high school All-stars, Jazzschool Studio Band, and Jazz Band Classic. With Jazz Band Classic, Natalie performed with guest artists Geoffrey Keezer, Ingrid Jensen and Rich Perry in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Symphony Space and Lincoln Center's Allen Room. In 2010 Natalie was selected by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts (NFAA) as a YoungArts Winner in Jazz.
Since moving to New York to study at the Manhattan School of Music, Natalie has delved heavily into the world of composition. While performing at many venues (Birdland, Joe's Pub, the Jazz Gallery,Terminal 5, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Miles Café, Kennys Castaways, Drom, National Underground, Le Poisson Rouge, Sullivan Hall) as a sideman with groups including Nicholas Payton's TSO and Peter Apfelbaum's NY Hieroglyphics Ensemble, she has formed her own band to serve as an outlet for the multi-faceted music she creates. Natalie Cressman and Secret Garden have performed at some of New York City's leading venues for young musicians, including The Jazz Gallery, Caffe Vivaldi, The Shrine, Tutuma Social Club, and The Underground Lounge. Drawing on her upbringing saturated with Brazilian and Cuban rhythms, she organically combines elements of jazz, folk, Indian music, and these African-based rhythms to form a refreshing hybrid unique to her own musical life experience. Natalie Cressman and Secret Garden's debut album, "Unfolding" will be released in August 2012. IMR Magazine gave the album 5/5 stars in an early review, stating "her voice has the capability to become as great as some of the Jazz singers we all know and love... What is fantastic about Unfolding is though it's a jazz record, the songs are so beautiful and easily comprehendible that for a moment you don't even realize that it's jazz you are listening to."
In 2010, at the age of 18, Natalie was asked to join Trey Anastasio (of Phish) in his newest solo project. She spent the winters of 2010 and 2011 and fall 2011 touring the United States, playing sold-out shows in major venues with this 7-piece rock band. In TAB, Natalie plays a range of styles, including blues, reggae, funk, latin, and jazz, all under the umbrella term "jam band." Natalie is featured on a number of improvised solos and plays double duty as a vocalist and trombonist in the band. They recently released an album, "TAB at the TAB," a live CD from the 2010 tour on Rubber Jungle Records. With TAB, she has played at venues including The House of Blues (Boston), Terminal 5 (NYC), The Riviera (Chicago), The Fox Theater (Oakland), the Electric Factory (Philadelphia) and has headlined major music festivals such as the Hangout Music Festival and Bear Creek Music Festival.
Natalie has also been honing her skills as an educator. In 2010, Natalie was accepted into the Stanford Jazz Mentors program, a two-year teacher internship program at the Stanford Jazz Workshop. Young aspiring performers are given full-time faculty duties, teaching classes and lessons to students age 12 to 17 with the help of advice from artists-in-residence including Junior Mance, Charles McPherson, Tootie Heath, Marcus Belgrave, Wallace Roney, Jimmy Heath, and Joe Levano, In addition to being full-time faculty members, they are given the opportunity to perform and record as a group as part of the renowned Stanford Jazz Festival. Natalie currently attends the Manhattan School of Music as a junior and is the recipient of the Samuel and Mitzi Newhouse scholarship.
IVAN ROSENBERG: Forward thinking trumpeter and composer Ivan Rosenberg has a knack for creative conceptualization and an eye on the future, while keeping his listeners satisfied, interested, and wanting more.
Originally from Manhattan, NY, Ivan grew up surrounded by music. Inspired by his father, Chris Rosenberg (guitarist for free jazz legend Ornette Coleman), he knew he wanted to be a professional musician from a very young age. Ivan started taking piano lessons from the age of 6, guitar lessons from the age of 8, and trumpet lessons from the age of 9. A few years later, he decided to pursue the trumpet primarily.
This path led Ivan to the Fiorello LaGuardia High School of the Arts, and then to a full scholarship to the prestigious Manhattan School of Music to major in jazz trumpet performance. By this time, he had already played with jazz greats such as Jimmy Heath, Stefon Harris, Antonio Hart, Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman, and others. While at MSM, he became intrigued with the music of more recent generations- genres like indie rock, R&B, hip hop, and electronica, became just as important as jazz, both from a performance and compositional stand point.
Taking inspiration from diverse artists such as Wayne Shorter, Bjork, D'angelo, Robert Glasper, Bon Iver, Kurt Rosenwinkle, Claude Debussy, and Clifford Brown, Ivan's work as a composer can be heard in several bands that he leads or plays with in New York City, including The Boost Trio (featuring live looping with a drummer and a bassist) and RLQ (the Rosenberg-Lefkowitz Quintet). RLQ's self entitled album was released May 2011, and can be purchased on iTunes, eMusic and Bandcamp.
Ivan has won two Downbeat Student Music Awards, one in 2009 and one in 2008, both for Best Jazz Performance in the high school category. Ivan was selected to be a part of the 2009 Grammy Jazz Ensemble's Big Band. In 2008, he was chosen to be in the Thelonious Monk All-Star Septet from high schools around the country. This group performed at the 2008 Thelonious Monk Saxophone Competition. Ivan is a recipient of the ASCAP scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music, where he studies with Laurie Frink.
CHAD LEFKOWITZ-BROWN: Chad Lefkowitz-Brown, 22-year old New York saxophonist, is a graduate of the Brubeck Institute in California, and a multiple DownBeat Magazine Student Music Award winner. During his scholastic career he won a total of 15 DownBeat SMAs including Best Jazz Soloist, Best Original Composition, and Best Jazz Group. Chad currently performs and records with many different musical groups throughout New York City and abroad. Most recently, he has recorded as a sideman for Ron McClure (Charles Lloyd/Joe Henderson) and Clarence Penn (Michael Brecker/Dave Douglas). Chad is also touring the U.S. as an R&B/Soul saxophonist with America's Got Talent finalist Alice Tan Ridley. Venues Chad has performed at include Carnegie Hall, the North Sea Jazz Festival, and Dizzy's Club Coca Cola.
"The intrigue and beauty of Chad's playing defies conventional wisdom." – Harry Skoler
RUBEN SAMAMA: Born in 1985, New York based bass-player Ruben Samama started to play and write music from the age of 12. Born into a musical family, as the son of a flautist and a composer, Ruben grew up with music all around him, "I always wanted to make music and I don't think I ever considered any other future profession, it just happened, music was a natural thing for me to do, the only question was: "What kind of music?" This was solved soon enough when I found out 'All kinds of music'. Because of this, improvisation seemed to be the best vehicle for blending and mixing all the musical styles I loved."
JAKE GOLDBAS: Jake Goldbas has made a name for himself as an in demand percussionist, educator, and composer around the world. Growing up in the Hartford, CT jazz scene gave him incredible opportunities at a young age to perform with jazz greats such as Kurt Elling, Jon Hendricks, Jimmy Greene, Dave Brubeck, and Nat Reeves.
As a senior in high school Jake received the highest honor for an 18-year-old artist, the NFAA Young Arts award in Jazz Percussion. Through this wonderful organization, Jake has preformed multiple times at the prestigious Kennedy Center in Washington DC. This successful relationship with NFAA has led to collaborations in all disciplines in the art world; working with dance phenomenon Desmond Richardson and theater legend Allan Alda. He has also had the privilege to perform at Carnegie Hall and various prestigious jazz clubs and concert halls in New York, France, Switzerland and Russia. Most recently in the summer of 2011 Jake preformed at the Umbria Jazz festival in Italy with Singer Allan Harris.
In addition to keeping a busy touring schedule, Jake has been on numerous recordings in the past year that have received critical acclaim. He was on the Grammy nominated "KENYA Revisited Live!!" album with Bobby Sanabria and the Manhattan School of Music Afro Cuban Orchestra featuring Candido Camero. Jake's work on Dana Lauren's "It's You Or No One" along side an all star team of Christian Mcbride, Joel Frahm, Manuel Valera, and Luques Curtis got rave reviews from music publications across the nation.
Goldbas's love for education has brought him to teaching residencies at over five
different New York City public schools, including a recent eight week residency at Coalition High School in East Harlem. Currently, Jake is a candidate for the Master's Degree from Manhattan School of Music as a recipient of the Gordon Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation Scholarship.
PASCAL LeBOEUF: Cohesion is the truest constant in the music of Pascal Le Boeuf, a visionary whose music resides on the borderland abutted by electronic-rock, jazz and trip-hop, without seeming to give much thought to the borders. His broad range of abilities from electronic production and sound design, to jazz piano and focused vocals, highlight his natural talent as a renaissance man among musicians.
Since moving to Harlem, New York in 2004, Pascal has built upon an impressive array of awards and conservatory training. He received Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Jazz Piano at the Manhattan School of Music and majored in Electronic Production and Sound Design and Songwriting at the Berklee College of Music to create a truly singular voice within the musical world. By combining compositional intuition and virtuosic improvising, Pascal has created a diverse, loyal fan base in the United States and Canada. His various musical projects have received awards such as the 2008 International Songwriting Competition and the 2006 Independent Music Awards.
In 2004 Pascal released his debut album "Migration" and in 2009 he followed up with "House Without a Door" featuring his twin brother, Remy Le Boeuf, Ambrose Akinmusire, Marcus Strickland, and Clarence Penn (among others). A collection of 12 original songs, "House Without a Door" was hailed by the New York Times as "an impressively self-assured new album, which reaches for the gleaming cosmopolitanism of our present era."
In the coming year Pascal will release a number of new projects including "Kissy Girls" a trip-hop collaboration with New York based singer/songwriter Emily Greene, "Two Worlds" a production based jazz album as the "Le Boeuf Brothers" and a solo album of electronic rock songs simply titled "Pascal".
ANECDOTAL & INSPIRATIONAL TRACK INFORMATION
1. Flip: This piece was an exploration of contrasts. I wanted it to reflect the surprises of human personality, the complex sum of contrasting parts that makes people who they are. It starts very aggressive and driving, then all at once becomes precious and delicate, then later on in the tune an air of bittersweetness lingers.
2. Whistle Song: I wrote this song about my grandmother, who has Alzheimer's. I wrote this because I felt like the grandmother I knew was slipping away from me. The moment where she no longer recognized who I was had a big impact on me and I wrote the lyrics to reflect that feeling: "As I say goodbye to you I try to believe love still resides in the depths of your clouded eyes."
3. Honeysuckle Rose: My friend Christian Sands and I were playing around with the idea of taking this incredibly classic song and adding tinges of modern harmony and a backbeat! This is what came out of our experiments. I think the harmony adds a subtext to the lyric's meaning, as if perhaps this love is unrequited or less than perfect.
4. Echo: This composition was the first time that the title of the song came first, and I merely tried to evoke the idea of an echo in musical terms. The intertwining/overlapping nature of the melodies is supposed to weave together to create one fabric. This is to mimic the idea of an echo's ability to mask the original sound source and create this magnificent wash. Also, I took a more classical approach in terms of harmony and counterpoints. It seems very melancholy and wistful to me.
5. Skylight: This is the first tune I ever wrote. I called it Skylight because to me it expresses a certain airiness and open quality of sound. The melody seems to reach out towards something undefined, like the infinite sky above us. Again, I wrote these interweaving counter melodies that create a continuous path for the ear to follow.
6. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat: Joni Mitchell is one of the more constant sources of inspiration to me. Growing up, I became obsessed with her albums and her songwriting style. I think the way she writes words and melodies feels really natural, and listening to her work always leaves me with new discoveries about music. I was very taken with her collaboration with Charles Mingus, and the vocalise she constructed from John Handy's classic solo on "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat". The words seem drenched with sorrow, so I tried in my arrangement to honor the root of the song's emotions. I infused it with a more driving Afro-Cuban 6/8 feel to embody the sharp pain of racism, how the pictures Joni paints of the harsh realities of the past really sting to even envision, let alone experience firsthand.
7. Waking: In this song I tried to create a mood of warmth and hope. The delicate entrance and regal, stately sound of the drum mallets is a big change of pace from the rest of the album. To me the melody reminds me of waking up to a breathtaking sunrise and the feeling of looking forward to the day ahead.
8. Reaching for Home: This song literally came pouring out, I wrote it in probably about an hour. At first I had intended it to be instrumental, but I thought adding lyrics would bring clarity to the mood of the song. Piecing together words with such an angular melody was a challenge, but in the end I think it creates something unique. It's the difference of the melody lightly floating above the harmony rather than being this static anchor of the song, which is more typical. I think the vibe of this is just as indie rock as it is jazz, which is something I'd like to do more of.
9. That Kind: This piece probably is the most revealing of Peter Apfelbaum's influence on my writing style, so it's fitting that he is the featured guest. In all I write, I try to stay away from the "stock" grooves and forms of jazz, as my intention is to surprise the audience with unexpected twists and turns in the music. That Kind definitely highlights my background in both rock and Brazilian music. I still like to think that over this driving earthy rhythm, the melodies in this piece are contrastingly lyrical at times.
REVIEW BY ANDY GILBERT
A Not-So-Hidden Treasure Revealed with Unfolding, the Entrancing Debut by 20-Year-Old Trombonist/Vocalist Natalie Cressman & Secret Garden, with Special Guest Peter Apfelbaum
If you listen closely to Unfolding, the extraordinary debut album by Natalie Cressman and her band Secret Garden, she provides all the clues necessary to uncover the treasure trove of influences and inspirations behind her music. Hailing from an illustrious musical family, the San Francisco-raised trombonist, vocalist and composer has been adopted by a disparate cast of masters, and at 20 years old she's honed a preternaturally worldly conception of her own.
An accomplished improviser who has performed with Nicholas Payton and Peter Apfelbaum's NY Hieroglyphics Ensemble, she's gained her widest exposure through two years of touring with Phish's Trey Anastasio. At the same time she's managed to excel in her studies at Manhattan School of Music and perform at top New York jazz spots with her own band. Unfolding captures her rapidly blossoming sensibility, a sound shaped by her love of Cuban, Brazilian and West African music, indie rock, funk and the post-bop continuum.
Whether playing an original, reinterpreting a standard or exploring a jazz classic, Cressman fully embraces the imperative to render the music in her own image. What her work with Secret Garden reveals is an utterly contemporary artist steeped in several traditions, an artist who sees no barriers between the incalculable accomplishments of the past and the urgent demands of the present.
"I wanted to put together an album that shows who I am, standing apart from all the sideman work," Cressman says. "I thought this was a great opportunity to pull from modern influences and make jazz relevant to a larger audience, though the music reflects what's in my head, and wasn't tailored to a certain genre or audience."
Very much a generational statement, Unfolding features a prodigious group of young players who are just starting to make their mark on the New York scene. Trumpeter Ivan Rosenberg, 20, is a classmate of Cressman's at the Manhattan School of Music, and like her was raised in a hothouse of creative music (his father is Ornette Coleman guitarist Chris Rosenberg). A graduate of the prestigious Brubeck Institute, tenor saxophonist Chad Lefkowitz-Brown has forged close tied with Rosenberg as the co-leader of the Rosenberg-Lefkowitz Quintet (which released an impressive, eponymous debut album featuring Cressman in 2011). She met drummer Jake Goldbas at Manhattan School of Music, where he's a graduate student. Deeply versed in Afro-Caribbean idioms, he has recorded with jazz stars Christian McBride, Joel Frahm and Manuel Valera.
Dutch bassist Ruben Samama, who earned a masters degree from the Manhattan School of Music in 2009, was a late addition to the ensemble. He rose to the occasion in the studio, supplying his supple sense of time to the panoply of grooves. And at 25, Santa Cruz-raised pianist Pascal LeBeouf is the old man of the band, a remarkable player and composer who has performed and recorded widely with his twin brother, saxophonist Remy LeBeouf, most recently on the acclaimed album "In Praise of Shadows" (Nineteen-Eight Records). Like Cressman, he's a bold improviser whose embrace of popular musical idioms greatly enhances his jazz vision.
Unfolding opens with "Flip," a tune that serves as an introduction to Cressman's urbane aesthetic. It's a kaleidoscopic piece marked by contrasting sections, from the opening Lee Morgan Blue Note groove to a lilting bossa nova section to the power ballad climax with Cressman's ethereal wordless vocal adding to the already thick textures. While Cressman possesses a highly expressive voice on trombone, smooth and gleaming one minute and gruff and earthy the next, the album's biggest surprise is her crystalline singing voice, a thing of jaw-dropping beauty.
Part of what makes Unfolding such a enthralling listening experience is the way Cressman's voice and horn interact with each other. She turns the Fats Waller/Andy Razaf chestnut "Honeysuckle Rose" into a moody R&B seduction, complete with sensuous gliding solo. Her rendition of Mingus's gorgeous elegy for Lester Young, "Goodbye Porkpie Hat," is clearly inspired by Joni Mitchell's version, though she re-harmonizes it around the edges and sets the second half to a propulsive 6/8 Latin groove. She credits Mitchell's recording with inspiring her to start singing in high school.
"The vocalese Joni wrote is heartbreakingly beautiful, and I didn't want to do too much," Cressman says. "Singing is something that I'm becoming more interested in. I'm kind of hooked on it. Every time I get to sing with the band, I'm more comfortable trying new things, more sure of myself, and more creative."
As the title suggest, Cressman's "Echo" is built on interwoven contrapuntal horn lines. Opening like a classical etude, it blooms into a Brazilian-inflected soundscape. Even more striking is "Reaching for Home," an original lyric Cressman set to an angular melody with vertiginous interval leaps that she executes with balletic grace. The album closes with another stunning original, "That Kind." Joined by Peter Apfelbaum on tenor saxophone, the band gradually dials up the intensity as the rhythm section churns with a rocking maracatu groove.
Cressman was practically weaned on jazz and Brazilian music. Her mother is the esteemed American-born Brazilian jazz vocalist Sandy Cressman, who's assembled a vast treasure trove of tunes by Brazil's best contemporary composers. Her father is recording engineer and trombonist Jeff Cressman, a longtime member of Santana. While Natalie evidenced a real gift for trombone at an early age, as a child she channeled most of her creative energy into dance as a ballet devotee.
When an injury kept her off the barre for three months in her junior year of high school, she turned her focus to music. She quickly started working at a professional level, playing salsa with Uruguayan percussionist
Edgardo Cambon e Orquesta Candela, Latin Jazz with Pete Escovedo's Latin Jazz Orchestra, spiritually charged world music with Jai Uttal and the Pagan Love Orchestra, Brazilian jazz with Sandy Cressman's Homenagem Brasileira, and global avant-garde jazz with Peter Apfelbaum and the New York Hieroglyphics. A close family friend, Apfelbaum stepped in as a mentor for Cressman eventually inviting her to join the New York Hieroglyphics at the 2008 Monterey Jazz Festival.
"Pete Escovedo was another really important influence for me," Cressman says. "He started hiring me to play subbing for my dad, sitting next to Wayne Wallace in the horn section. John Calloway was one of first people who said you should sing more. I sang coro in his Latin jazz Youth Ensemble and he said you should lead on this. I have so much gratitude for the Bay Area and the amazing musicians and human beings there."
Taking advantage of the Bay Area's many musical opportunities, she earned a spot in virtually every one the region's elite high school ensembles, including the Monterey Jazz Festival's Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, the GRAMMY Jazz Ensembles, and the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars. Earning a scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music would be heady stuff for most high schoolers, but in 2010, at the age of 18, Cressman joined Trey Anastasio new solo project. She spent the winters of 2010 and 2011 and fall 2011 touring with the stylistically expansive jam band, which draws on everything from blues reggae and funk to jazz and Latin grooves. Featured on a number of tunes, she also contributes horn solos and vocals on the recently released live album TAB at the TAB (Rubber Jungle Records).
A self-described late bloomer when it comes to music, Cressman credits her spectacularly rich cultural upbringing for providing the creative fuel behind her rapid ascent. With Unfolding, Cressman leaves no doubt she's one of the most exciting young players on the New York scene.
"My parents have been great role models," she says. "They're incredibly hard working. They set a very high bar as people and musicians, and I'm trying to emulate them. When I got serious about playing I felt inexperienced in a lot of straight ahead jazz stuff in the all-star high school bands, but I knew all this stuff they didn't know. Growing up in San Francisco with my parents had a lot to do with that."
2012 GIGS & INTERVIEWS:
* July 3rd 5:00 pm pst KKUP Interview w/Afrikahn Jahmal Dayvs www.kkup.org
* July 8th 4:30 pm pst Bird and Beckett Books, SF, CA
* July 13th 7:30 pm pst Caffe D'Melanio SF,CA
* August 8th 9 am pst KCSM Interview w/Alisa Clancy www.kcsm.org
* August 10th 8 pm pst Freight and Salvage Berkeley, CA
* August 12th 1 pm pst San Jose Festival San Jose, CA
* Sept 1st 7 pm est Wall Street Jazz Festival Kingston, NY
* Sept 6th 6-9 pm est CD release @ Drom New York, NY