MICHAEL CARVIN EXPERIENCE FLASHES FORWARD WITH NEW MOTEMA RELEASE
Acclaimed Drummer Introduces His New Band on Flash Forward (August 19, 2014), His First Release in Eight Years
Master drummer Michael Carvin waited eight years after releasing his last album (2006’s Marsalis Honors Series: Michael Carvin) to add another recording to his impressive catalog, for one simple reason. “I just didn’t feel like it. I wanted to take a break,” explains the 70-year-old Carvin, whose talents have been on display for five decades, through his work with such artists as BB King, Freddie Hubbard, Dizzy Gilespie, Pharoah Sanders, Hampton Hawes, McCoy Tyner, Illionois Jacquet, Pat Martino, and Jackie Maclean, as well as on ten albums as a leader. Now, with the August 19 release of Flash Forward, his debut release on Motema Music and his first with his new band, Michael Carvin Experience, Carvin is eager to impress fans old and new with a reinvigorated sound, one which layers a modern approach over a strong traditional foundation.
“This band is the first I’ve worked with in a very long time where I could go home after a session, lay my head down and fall fast asleep,” continues Carvin. “I was that comfortable working with them. There was no drama, no ego. It’s the band I wish I’d found years ago.” That band – Jansen Cinco (Sean Lennon, Estee Maria) on bass, Yayoi Ikawa (Reggie Workman, Charles Fambrough, Harlem Renaissance Jazz Orchestra) on piano, and Keith Loftis (Benny Carter, Cedar Walton, Nancy Wilson) on tenor sax – represents more than the melding of generational influences. In the Michael Carvin Experience, the drummer has assembled a band that shares his vision, and that allows him to express the scope of his vast experience through the filter of their fresh perspective.
Flash Forward features eight tracks composed by such legacy jazz artists as Miles Davis, Horace Silver, and Dizzy Gillespie. “These are the songs that made me fall in love with jazz,” says Carvin, “but this time I set out to deliver them with a fresh rhythm in the hope that they’d excite the young players in my band the same way they excited me back in the day.” Ballads, such as “Autumn Leaves” and “You Stepped Out of a Dream,” are here infused with a vital energy, and up-tempo tracks, such as “Night in Tunisia” (Carvin’s own arrangement that he brought to Dizzy Gillespie when he was working with him) and “So What,” seethe with an unbridled momentum. The album’s two selections that are not standards (Bobby Hutcherson’s “Same Shame” and Horace Silver’s “Sayonara Blues”) – so very dissimilar in tone and texture – are both indicative of the intimate connection the four players in the band share.
Carvin is markedly expressive when discussing his three band-mates’ roles. “Jansen, he’s the anchor. He keeps us in place,” he says of the Philippine-born bassist. “Keith is the poet. He delivers the lyrics with his saxophone. And Yayoi, she’s the decorator, adding sparks to the music with her beautiful embellishments.” And how does Carvin see himself? The drummer describes his role as “the painter.” “I use certain colors to evoke a specific reaction, or to capture an emotion,” he explains. “Somehow all these various elements combine to create an entirely unique whole, something that couldn’t otherwise come into existence.”
“Another way to understand how it all comes together is to think of the music like an ensemble of clothing,” continues Carvin. “Unless they match, a pair of pants and a jacket don’t even make a suit. Once you’ve got a suit, you add all the accessories, and you’ve got yourself an outfit. You’re really happy when someone notices and says to you, ‘Where did you get that outfit?’”
After appearing on over 250 albums in the course of a career that began when he was a 12 year old in Houston, Texas, Carvin certainly knows first-hand about successful ensembles. His career as a touring musician began when he hit the road with Rhetta Hughes and Tennyson Stevens in 1964, and was interrupted by his two-year tour of duty with the US Army in Vietnam. His military duty left an indelible mark on him, perhaps best denoted by his work some 40 years later on two projects with fellow Vietnam veteran violinist Billy Bang – Vietnam: The Aftermath and Vietnam: Reflections (both on Justin Time Records.)
After receiving his Honorable Discharge from the army, Carvin settled in Los Angeles, where he spent two years as a staff drummer at Motown Records in the late 1960s. In addition to extensive studio and television work, he also performed in support of BB King, Hugh Masekela and others. After working with jazz greats Bobby Hutcherson and Freddie Hubbard , he moved to New York in 1973, which coincided with his first major jazz recordings (with Jackie McLean, including the innovative duo performance Antiquity), followed by associations with the likes of Pharoah Sanders and Dizzy Gillespie.
1973 also marked the debut of his Michael Carvin School of Drumming, which has given Carvin the opportunity to shape the conceptions of some of the most important drummers from all over the world, and in the process to establish himself as one of the world’s most respected drum coaches (he prefers that term to ”teacher”) and clinicians. He’s attracted students from Europe, South America, Australia, Japan and India. Now in its fourth decade, the school has a list of distinguished alumni that includes Billy Martin (of Medeski Martin and Wood), Michael Shrieve (of Santana), Ralph Peterson, Jr., Eric McPherson, Nasheet Waits, Allison Miller, Kim Thompson (Beyoncé) and Rodney Green, among many others. Carvin has also shared his knowledge through ongoing relationships with the New School, the University of Hartford and the University of Kansas/Kansas City.
With his new band, new label and new album, Michael Carvin is doing precisely what the title of his new release implies. With its balance of traditional compositions and adventurous musicality, Flash Forward represents a grand leap toward the future by this dynamic artist, who is powerfully bringing the finest that the jazz tradition has to offer along with him as he ventures into fresh and exciting new territories.
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