Lenora Zenzalai Helm Returns After Nine-Year Recording Hiatus with FOR THE LOVE OF BIG BAND
Nine years since her last recording hit the charts, Lenora Zenzalai Helmreturns to the recording industry with FOR THE LOVE OF BIG BAND (FTLOBB)featuring Tribe Jazz Orchestra™in a unique approach to the music of the big band tradition. Released on March 9 on Zenzalai Music, the new album is Helm's seventh record and her first leading a big band.
"I was burning the candle at both ends while completing my doctorate degree in Musical Arts at Boston University and teaching Jazz Studies at North Carolina Central University (NCCU)," said Helm. "I was thrilled to immerse myself in these fabulous stories by some of my favorite composers after being out of the studio for so long. To have the privilege to work with all of these talented musicians and to record with my own big band for the first time is truly a blessing."
FTLOBBwas recorded live over two days before an audience at Hayti Heritage Center, an historic church near downtown Durham, NC. The music is a mix of jazz standards, which came to life at the swinging and soulful concert. Guest conductor, Brian Horton, and Helm guided the band through the new arrangements by Stanley Cowell, Cecil Bridgewater, newcomer Maurice Myersand Horton. Special guests include Joey Calderazzo, piano; Ameen Saleem, acoustic bass; Kobie Watkins, drums; Ira Wiggins, flute; with vocals by Myersand the North Carolina Central University Vocal Jazz Ensemble.
FOR THE LOVE OF BIG BANDkicks off with Nina Simone's Blues for Mama. Although happily married to the love of her life for nine years, Helm puts her foot in the blues and is so convincing that one might actually believe she is wrapped up in the my-man-done-me-wrong drama of the song. She swings on to Gillespie's Bebop, with Calderazzo ruling the keys and Helm and her Orchestra doing the composer`` and bebop proud.
Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke provided the music and lyrics for the beautiful ballad It Could Happen to You; however, it gets a special twist withCecil Bridgewater's rhythmic arrangements with hints of 3 against 4 while taking a swing feel for the solo sections and horn shouts. "Cecil took a very innovative approach to a timeless standard. It begins and ends with rubato vocal and horns underneath. It's a lot of fun to sing," says Helm. Everything but Youby Duke Ellington and Harry James is also enjoyable with its quirky lyrics about getting everything from horses to baked beans to Peruvian coffee pots, but not the one you love.
Helm declares to her audience that she "loves old jazz standards ... they have nice stories and tell of love the way we hope it is." The rest of the album is a testament to the beauty of the music and Helm's devotion to singing it. Rounding out the CD are Chega de Saudade: No More Blues(A. Jobim, J. Cavanaugh/V.de Moraes, J. Hendricks), Soul Eyes(M. Waldron),I Didn't Know About You(D. Ellington/B. Russell), Sandu(C. Brown/D. Townsend), But Not for Me(G. Gershwin, I. Gershwin), Mississippi Goddam (N. Simone) and Stella by Starlight(V. Young/N. Washington). Abonus track with the Tribe Jazz Orchestra Septet, Helm's lyrics to John Coltrane's composition Conversation with God(Dear Lord)is a highlight of the recording with Myers' vocal arrangement featuring the NCCU Vocal Jazz Ensemble, directed by Helm.
In addition to the special guests,FOR THE LOVE OF BIG BANDpersonnel is:Lenora Zenzalai Helm, voice; Ernest Turner, Lydia Salett Dudley, Ed Paolantonio, piano; Baron Tymas, guitar; Ginnae Koon, bass; Thomas Taylor, Dorien Dotson, drums; James "Saxsmo" Gates, Sam King,Brian Miller, Matt York, Ariel Kopelove,Shaena Ryan Martin, reeds: LynnGrissett, Al Strong, Zoe Smith, Tyler Perske, trumpets; Robert Trowers, Isrea Butler, Tenay Harrell,Reggie Greenlee, Cameron MacManus, trombones. The band's conductor is saxophonist/composer/arranger, Brian Horton.
Helm, Paolantonio, Tymas and Taylor along with Timothy Holley, cello; Salome Serena Wiley, tenor saxophone; Lance E. Scott, Jr., acoustic bass; with special guest vocals by Maurice Myers and the NCCU Vocal Jazz Ensemble, make up the Tribe Jazz Orchestra Septet.
The Live Recording, Mix & Mastering Engineer is Rob "Wacko" Hunter.
The Tribe Jazz Orchestra™ is an ensemble of musicians led by vocalist/composer/educator Lenora Zenzalai Helm. Representing one of the few vocalist and woman-led big bands, TJO features a diverse amalgam of some of the top men and women performers in Jazz. The instrumentation comprises a combination of Jazz orchestra with a modern chamber ensemble perspective. The members all have ties to, or are based, in North Carolina, have performed together in various configurations and have appeared in noted concert venues and international music festivals worldwide.
FOR THE LOVE OF BIG BANDis Helm's seventh commercial release. Her previous recordings include I Love Myself When I'm Laughing, Chronicles of A Butterflyand Precipice. She has performed and recorded with some of the biggest names in Jazz while leading her groups at renowned jazz festivals and venues worldwide, including Jazz Standard, Dizzy's Club Women's Jazz Festival, Schomburg Center's Women in Jazz Festival, Blues Alley, JVC Jazz Festival, Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, Cape Town Jazzathon, University of Pretoria Jazz Festival, Essentially Ellington Regional Festival at Brigham Young University and Fiji Jazz & Blues Festival. She is on the Jazz Vocal Advisory Board for Juilliard Jazz, joining esteemed colleagues Dianne Reeves, Kurt Elling, Carmen Lundy, Carla Cook, Charenee Wade and Hilary Gardner. Helm has amassed numerous composer and music awards, including Chamber Music America's New Jazz Works, and served as a U.S. Jazz Ambassador.
For more information, visit www.LenoraHelm.com.