Saturday, July 18, 2009

Justin Time Records Releases Drummer-Bandleader Alvin Queen's "Mighty Long Way"

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Drummer and Bandleader Alvin Queen
Keeps The Jazz Tradition on the Beat with
Mighty Long Way

New Justin Time Records Release

Modern jazz at the change of the century is an art form of many inventions and dimensions, driven by a potpourri of trends, styles, fads, marketing, and media. So much so, that the heart of the music - the rhythmic gravity we call swing - has almost been rendered extinct in some circles.

But the sensational New York-born, Swiss-based drummer/bandleader Alvin Queen has a remedy for that situation with the release of his latest recording on the Justin Time label, Mighty Long Way; a no-nonsense, straight-ahead ten-track recording of original compositions and jazz standards by Oscar Peterson, Horace Silver, Ray Charles, and Wayne Shorter, with an unstoppable band featuring alto saxophonist Jesse Davis, trumpeter Terell Stafford, organist Mike LeDonne, guitarist Peter Bernstein, bassist Elias Bailey and Neil Clarke (Randy Weston's longtime sideman) on percussion. For Queen, who for the past four decades has reigned supreme as one the most formidable drummers in jazz who played with every major superstar - from Peterson and Silver, to Wynton and Branford Marsalis and George Benson - the recording's compositions are a sonic census of a golden age, where the dance-ability of jazz was everywhere; from the inner city to the airwaves.

"I wanted to make the kind of music which would make people stop their cars to listen, because these were the special moments in my life that I felt were coming through the radio station airwaves when I was growing up in the early '60s," Queen says. "[So] I decided to select a certain time in my life, which was from 1962-78, because those were the most important years regarding learning and being creative with the music which I received from such greats as: Ruth Brown, Tiny Grimes, Jimmy Smith, Charles Tolliver, Clark Terry, George Braith, Grant Green, and many more who contributed to my career. What makes this music special is the fact that most people today don't really understand or know the true forms of gospel, jazz, or R&B. This is one of many reasons that I have decided to express this music and myself to the present-day generation."

Buoyed by Clarke's infectious and engaging percussion, Bailey's butter-fat bass lines, Bernstein's gorgeous guitar strains, LeDonne's Jimmy Smith-channeled organ, laced with Davis' down-home sax and Stafford's Brown-like, Hub toned trumpet, Queen's drum talk masterfully conjures Art Blakey's thunder, Max Roach's improvisational architecture, and Elvin Jones' ancestral inventions - all of which are syncopation-ally self-evident on the recording's tracks. The self-titled opener, and the funky, hip-hop-friendly "Lets Us Go Into the House" - both written by gospel composer Joe Pace - are imbued with the spiritual foundations of the African-American church that wet-nursed the music and inspired Queen. "Alba," and "Blues on Q," are Davis-penned numbers that offer contrasting Asian and slow drag/juke joint melodic timbres. Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman" is revived as twenty-first century jump-blues, contrasted by Queen's grooving take on the Wayne Shorter, Art Blakey/Jazz Messenger-era gem "United." Three selections by Queen's ex-bandleaders are included with special significance:

"Horace Silver was one of my mentors whom I worked with for more than five years starting during the year of 1969," Queen says. "He wrote 'Cape Verdean Blues' for his father, who came from the Cape Verde Islands. I chose this tune because it offers the drummer a lot of freedom to move around in; it also takes me back to the early '70s, reminding me of the way things were back then. "Sushi" is a tune composed by the late and great Mr. Oscar Peterson. This particular tune is one of my favorites because Oscar would always feature me on this, so I decided to choose this for my new recording in honor of Oscar, as well as an additional tune written by him entitled, "Backyard Blues." "The Drum Thing" (not to be confused with John Coltrane's composition); an Afro-anthemed percussion discussion between Queen and Clarke that reunites rhythms dispersed by the Middle Passage and recreates the diasporic dialogue between Art Blakey and Olatunji from their spirited "Drums of Passion" shows at the Apollo. "It felt great because both of us were able to be creative spiritually and with joy," Queen says.

Alvin Queen's joyful spirituality was forged in the fertile fires of jazz's Golden Age. Born on August 16, 1950 in New York City, Queen relocated when he was two to Mount Vernon; a suburb north of the city that boasted five jazz clubs and was not far from Harlem's famed Apollo Theater where he heard Nancy Wilson, Art Blakey, John Coltrane, and Cannonball Adderley. His older brother was a percussionist in the school marching band, and the younger Queen played tambourine in the local First Church of God in Christ (where Denzel Washington's father was pastor), started playing the drums at the age of eight, and joined the same marching band his brother belonged to, where he learned the rudiments of drumming. He then came under the tutelage of Andy Lalino, owner of the Modern Drum Studio in his hometown, where he practiced for six years, and studied many drummers including Elvin Jones, Max Roach, Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, Walter Perkins, Louis Hayes, Roy Brooks, Gus Johnson, and Panama Francis. Already a professional at age eleven, Queen appeared in a drum showcase in Birdland, where he was discovered by Jones and introduced to Blakey, Roach, Philly Joe Jones, Charlie Persip, and Mel Lewis. His first recorded date as a sideman was with Zoot Sims, and he sat in with John Coltrane's quartet as a teenager, while playing in many New York clubs.

Queen amassed an impressive resume of sideman work with hundreds of artists: from Ruth Brown, George Braith, Stanley Turrentine, and Wild Bill Davis, to Branford Marsalis, and Larry Young. At the age of 21, Queen traveled to Europe for the first time as a member of Music, Inc; the pioneering ensemble co-founded by Stanley Cowell and Charles Tolliver, and permanently settled there in 1979. He released a number of critically acclaimed recordings as a leader, mostly on his Nilva label including, In Europe, Glidin' and Stridin,' and A Day in Holland. He also released Lenox and Seventh (with Lonnie Smith), I Ain't Looking at You (Enja/Justin Time), Jammin' Uptown (Just a Memory) and Nishville (Moju).

This brings us to Mighty Long Way . Alvin Queen's a swinging time capsule, designed to take us back to the days of rhythm and groove. "I feel strongly that I have a message to deliver; I believe that there is a place in this world for what I have to offer, and I'm just trying to give it back."

Release date: June 30, 2009

For press information, contact:
Don Lucoff/DL / 610.667.0501

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