NEW MASTERS ROTATING ENSEMBLE OF CONTEMPORARY JAZZ MUSICIANS INTERPRETING SOME OF TODAY’S BIGGEST HITS PREMIERE ReWORKS- VOL. 1 EP AVAILABLE EVERYWHERE NOW INCLUDES COVERS OF HIT SONGS BY CARDI B, CHILDISH GAMBINO, DRAKE, JUICE WRLD, KENDRICK LAMAR & SZA, AND THE WEEKND AS PERFORMED BY SULLIVAN FORTNER,ERIC HARLAND,KEYON HARROLD, GILAD HEKSELMAN, BURNISS EARL TRAVIS & IMMANUEL WILKINS
NEW YORK, NY (July 12, 2019) – Sony Music Masterworks today releases the debut EP from NEW MASTERS, a rotating ensemble of leading, up-and-coming and established jazz musicians, as part of a new genre-defying project entitled ReWORKS. Available everywhere now is ReWORKS – Vol. 1, a collection of some of today’s top hits reinterpreted by this impressive lineup of brilliant representatives of the jazz world.Embracing jazz in all of its crazy polarities, ReWORKS – Vol. 1 is New Masters’ debut offering,serving as a fresh, creative reaction to the distinct challenges of an age when playlists and brands,more than albums and bands, are in prominence.
Boldly focusing on songs drawn from the top of today’s pop charts,today’s EP includes all-new renditions of Cardi B’s “Ilike It,” Childish Gambino’s “This Is America,” Drake’s “God’s Plan,” Juice WRLD’s “Lucid Dreams,” Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s “All The Stars,” and The Weeknd’s “Call Out My Name.” The first edition of the New Masters ensemble includes pianist Sullivan Fortner, drummer Eric Harland, trumpeter Keyon Harrold, guitarist Gilad Hekselman, bassist Burniss Earl Travis and saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins.Adding his trademark spark and cohesion to the project as well as respected percussionist Bashiri Johnson. The membership of New Masters is intended to rotate in the future, to elevate attention of the project and expand the audience for the individual players.
Matt Pierson, the veteran jazz producer who initiated ReWORKS,recruited these performers from among the top tier of today’s burgeoning jazz scene,improvisers both steeped in the jazz tradition and in tune with current musical trends. There was a level of familiarity as well: some had experience playing with each other,but there was the added spark of a few first-time encounters.
“Fifteen years ago I would have signed each of these guys, but that’s not possible today,” says Pierson, known for helming Warner Brothers’ forward-thinking jazz imprint in the ’90s and into the new millennium. “The challenge the jazz and jazz-adjacent community currently faces is that our existing audience hasn’t embraced the streaming platforms, while those already utilizing the platforms aren’t being directed to jazz.The intent of the ReWORKS concept is to proactively bridge this gap,using a streaming mentality to creatively subvert how consumers find tracks online and work these newer, singular jazz artists into search results and playlists.”
The song choices on ReWorks – Vol. 1 also serve as generational signifiers- present day hits by familiar stars, as relevant to the youngest tier of listeners as they are pervasive among all who listen with open ears. Four out of six tunes were nominated for a Record of the Year Grammy• Award,and on average each has streamed more than one billion times. It’s a concept with much precedent;in fact one could say that jazz has repeatedly proven itself to be among the most wide-eared of styles in the general family of music, ever curious and attentive to the twists and trends that popular music – despite the prevailing notion that jazz is somehow ant-i commercial. To hear it from Pierson,the project is as much a product of that longstanding imperative in jazz as it is a product of the current age.
“Of course, for this particular effort to be effective long·term, the material needs to be familiar, leading with groove and melody,while remaining artistically uncompromising,” he says. “I’m confident that these first six tracks achieve this goal, and give us a shot at expanding the audience for undeniably great,creative music and remaining true to the musicians who make it happen.”
In the 1920s and ’30s,it took the songs created for Broadway and Hollywood that made it onto the Hit Parade of the day and turned them into timeless standards; in the ’60s and through the ’70s,it drew inspiration from the groove· fueled music of Motown and soul. Today, countless jazz musicians embrace broken-beat rhythms while drawing on other ideas and technologies borrowed from the world of hip-hop. This cross-pollination continues to be the way in which jazz grows anew, thriving through change and adaptation -which is precisely the strategy that gave birth to the groundbreaking ReWORKS project, and the all-star group-New Masters- with which to develop it.
ReWORKS- VOL. 1 EP TRACKLIST1. “God’s Plan” (Drake)- featuring Sullivan Fortner
2. “Call Out My Name” (The Weeknd)- featuring Immanuel Wilkins
3. “Lucid Dreams” (Juice WRLD)- featuring Gilad Hekselman
4. “All the Stars” (Kendrick lamar,SZA)- featuring Burniss EarlTravis
5. “This is America” (Childish Gambino)- featuring Keyon Harrold
6. “I Like It” (Cardi B,Bad Bunny & J Salvin)- featuring Eric Harland
SULLIVAN FORTNER/ DRAKE’S “GOD’S PLAN”
A leading pianist of his generation, Fortner’s formidable fluidity and inspired originality derives from his ability to tas tefully draw on vocabulary reaching from the music’s traditional roots through its most avant-garde modernity.
A product of New Orleans’s music schools and programs,he’s known for his stints in groups led by vibraphonist Stefon Harris trumpeter Roy Hargrove,his collaborations with singer Cecile Mclorin Salvant (including their recent Grammy•-winning album,The Window) and his own solo excursions.
“For ‘God’s Plan,’ I decided to stay close to the original version of the tune so that the structure is recognizable. I used the saxophone and trumpet players to play countermelodies, bass and guitars for ostinato, while orchestrating the melody with the piano. There are some re-harmonizations, as well as counter themes that are reminiscent of Bach. The project overall was an educational and enlightening experience for me.It definitely stretched me as an arranger and working with such extraordinary musicians and arrangers made the project even more stimulating.”
IMMANUEL WILKINS / THE WEEKND’S “CALL OUT MY NAME”
Saxophonist Wilkins is the group’s junior member having just graduated from Juilliard School of Music,and hails from Philadelphia where his entry into music came from his church background as well as dedicated jazz programs. His musical experiences have taken him in and out of the jazz circle; he’s performed and/or recorded with Jason Moran,the Count Basie Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis and Gerald Clayton, as well as Lalah Hathaway,Solange Knowles,and Bob Dylan.
“The Weeknd is one of my favorite popular artists today, mostly because his songs have strong melodic content. Strong melodies are what connect to me, and so Iwas excited to be able to reimagine one of his songs for a completely instrumental context.”
GILAD HEKSELMAN / JUICE WRLD’S “LUCID DREAMS”
The Israeli-born Hekselman is a standout voice in jazz guitar today, who arrived in New York City in 2004 and is already a major influence on other guitar players of his generation. He’s played in bands led by a diverse range of players- Anat Cohen and Chris Potter,John Scofield and Esperanza Spalding – proving his flexibility in dealing with different approaches and situations. He’s led his own groups for fifteen years and recorded five albums as leader.
“It was definitely a challenge to take on ‘lucid Dreams’ because it was a song that was completely off my radar (although I’m familiar with ‘Shape of My Heart,’ the Sting tune it’s based on). Only after recording it did I start noticing how many times this song would be playing out of cars or on the radio- it was a good opportunity to get out of my jazz bubble and connect to what’s popular these days.Itried to do something with it that respects the original, yet offers a platform for the band’s expression. Of course Ihad no doubt that in the hands of these master musicians, no matter what I did or didn’t do with it, it’d turn into something beautiful,and it did.”
BURNISS EARL TRAVIS / KENDRICK LAMAR & SZA’S “AlTlHE STARS”
Travis didn’t begin his musical journey on bass nor was he drawn to jazz;he was a violinist who first loved hip-hop and the local dance scene in Houston. We have vibraphonist Stefon Harris to thank in part for convincing him to pursue a future playing jazz bass. Early experiences included playing in bands led by trumpeter Roy Hargrove and pianist Eldar- the last for almost three years-and he’s now a go-to bassist for the like of keyboardist Robert Glasper, singer Gretchen Parlato,and MCCommon.
“Obviously, I’m a huge Kendrick fan. Thankfully, of his songs, ‘All the Stars’ has a lot of melodic content to work with in an instrumentalsetting. In terms of the arrangement,as is usually the case for me,the bassline came first, inspired by the melody. From that point, to be honest, rather than considering the original version, I just went out on the roof of my building at night,and looked up at the stars for inspiration. In particular,the second half of the track represents the beautifulchaos Iimagine if Icould witness stars being born.”
KEVON HARROLD / CHILDISH GAMBINO’S ”THIS IS AMERICA”
Harrold could easily be the most heard trumpet today that no one can name, simply because since graduating from the New School he has become one of the most requested sidemen-on tours and recording projects- by a number of well-known R&B and neo Soul artists, as well as jazz leaders. He’s played with Commor1,D’Angelo, Mary J. Blige, Beyonce and Maxwell, and was the trumpet heard in all scenes in Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead. He’s recently come into his own as a leader,having recently released the genre-bending album The Mugician. Raised in Ferguson,Missouri he unsurprisingly focuses on tunes of message and socialawareness.
“‘This is America’ is the Record and Video of the Year and it shows the impact a song can have when an artist goes for it, putting his feelings on his sleeve. With the opportunity to reimagine this song in an instrumental way,I took the chance to viscerally pull out even more of the emotions I feelseeing how this society often portrays African Americans in the media. My idea was a ‘calm before the storm’ approach: the melody sung softly and sparsely by my horn,accompanied by Sullivan on piano.By the end, there’s this fully distorted world of re-harmonized, impressionistic,rocked out fire with Eric, Gilad,Sullivan,Burniss, Immanuel,and myself, allgoing for it. This is America.”
ERIC HARLAND / CAROlB’S “I LIKE IT”
At 43, Harland is the senior member of New Masters,who’s established as the go·to drummer for a number of jazz legends, including saxophonist Charles lloyd, bassist Dave Holland,percussionist Zakir Hussain and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinke.l He’s a graduate of Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts from which many other jazz players of note originated, has recorded several albums as a leader, and continues to be one of the most distinguished and in demand drummers on the scene today.
“I was blessed to have [arranger) Gil Goldstein transcribe ‘ILike It’ for me.So mostly I just had to allow ideas to flow in a way that could keep the tune recognizable and allow the band to feel like they could be themselves within that. Also having a great producer like Matt Pierson doesn’t hurt – he was able reveal key points about the song and instrumentation that would help bring my idea of the song to life.”