Gregg August


Gregg August


Gregg August


Gregg August


Gregg August


Gregg August


Gregg August


Gregg August


Gregg August


Gregg August


Gregg August





In this moment
BASS GUITAR MAGAZINE – FREDDY VILLANO

Freddy Villano catches up with Gregg August and finds out what it takes to be in the zone

“I didn’t even know you bowed the bass until I saw Sting on the video for the song ‘Every Breath You Take’,” admits Gregg August. That’s a pretty funny admission from someone who’s heralded as one of the most sought-after jazz and classical bassists in New York today. “I met him recently and thanked him for that,” he continues. “He apologised – it was a funny exchange.”

Humour aside, August is revered as a true musician’s musician, and is labelled as such because of the incredible swing in his playing and an immense and diverse musical vocabulary, which spans not only jazz and classical, but also the Latin and avant-garde worlds. All of these genres are adeptly showcased on his recently released CD, Four By Six (Iacuessa Records), his third album as bassist, bandleader and composer. Well-crafted songs like ‘For Calle Picota’, ‘Bandolim’ and ‘A Ballad For MV’ bound effortlessly from one style to another, and the performances capture the kind of lively, in-the-moment interplay between musicians that so rarely exists on modern recordings nowadays. Featuring both quartet and sextet band formats, Four By Six embodies what is perhaps most important in music: presence.

In addition to his solo work, August holds down the principal bass chair of the Brooklyn Philharmonic and performs regularly with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. He’s also a member of Arturo O’Farrell’s Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra and remains a member of both the JD Allen Trio and the Sam Newsome Quartet. Oh, and he’s also a faculty member at both the University of Connecticut and New Jersey City University. It’s hard to imagine, with that type of workload, that August almost never even become a bassist.

Though he grew up in a musical environment, August’s passion, as a kid, was for the drums, not bass. His muse was R&B, and sitting behind a drum set playing along to records by Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chicago and specifically, Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key Of Life, was how he spent his childhood. “Rhythm was the thing that was always guiding me musically,” he says. “But my dad, who played the piano and had a band that rehearsed at the house, made me learn to play piano before I could take drum lessons.” In addition to learning basic piano technique, he was also taught theory and harmony by his aunt.

These lessons eventually prepared him for an opportunity to play bass. “When I was in high school we had no electric bass player in the jazz band, and my brother had an electric bass,” he reminisces. “I understood the instrument from playing piano, so I got into it a little bit, but my school didn’t have a string programme.” His brief affair with the instrument ended as a result and didn’t resume again until college. “I wanted to go to school to experience the classical music thing and to become well-rounded, but I didn’t really want to do it on percussion – I didn’t want to lug all those instruments around,” he laughs. “So I started playing bass while I was attending State University New York, Albany and from there went to Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.”

After college, August went to Spain for two years where he became the principal bass chair for the Barcelona Orchestra. But it was a two-week trip to Cuba that really changed his approach to music. “I wanted to get deeper into Latin music and play some gigs, so I drove to Canada and then flew into Havana,” he says. “It was so vibrant – I hadn’t really experienced music on such a visceral level before. The degree of sensitivity and sophistication, and this applies to everything, not just music, is mindboggling: it gave me a new source of inspiration. I was electrified for years.” He went again with Arturo O’Farrell’s Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra in 2010 and while there visited a local conservatory to teach a master class. “The kids played first and I thought, ‘Man, what are we going to play? These kids are so happening’,” he remembers. “They weren’t playing a lot of notes, they were just laying a spacious vamp in the key of E, but the expression was so sophisticated and powerful.”

When traveling to places like Cuba, and just about anywhere else in the world for that matter, August almost always uses a rental bass provided by local promoters, but his main instrument for years was an Italian-made instrument from 1916. He used it exclusively on Four By Six as well as all of the JD Allen Trio recordings. “But it’s almost getting too dark, tone-wise, and it doesn’t really pitch the same way: I don’t feel it any more when I’m playing,” he admits. He recently switched to a newer instrument built in 2006, by Giuseppe Capodivento in Puglia, Italy. “When you’re playing double bass you want to feel it, like a drum,” he says. “The newer bass has that pop.” For amplification he uses a Gallien-Krueger MB150E that he doesn’t “have to take out too much” and a Demeter Tube Direct Box “that’s phenomenal when combined with a DPA 4099B microphone.”

The real secret to August’s tone, however, is in the strings. “You usually want a stiffer string for a classical set-up so the bow will respond properly, but for pizzicato or plucked you’ll probably want a less taut string, so I had to find the right balance. My top string is always a Pirastro Oliv wrapped gut. It’s not thin-sounding. When you pluck steel strings the bottom is fine, but when you get to the top strings the sound is usually too thin and twangy.”

He explains that the reason string instruments sound better with guts is because there’s less tension on them and they can therefore breathe more easily. “Listen to a baroque orchestra playing period-style. Instead of tuning A440 they’ll tune A414, almost like a full step down, and that allows the instruments to resonate really well,” he says. “There’s just so much less tension.” He also recommends checking out recordings made before 1970. “They used gut strings exclusively, and the bass always has a really punchy sound as a result. Nowadays we’re required to play fast and fancy, and you want a string that’s a bit more consistent, and steel is definitely that.”

The issue nowadays for younger players is that there aren’t a lot of opportunities to perform. If you get one gig a month with your own band, you’re considered busy

Consistency and quality are also integral to August’s musical pursuits. The nuances of the genres he so deftly commands demand it. But August is turning heads not just because of technical prowess alone: it’s also the vibrant presence and vital essence he brings to the music he plays, across all the aforementioned genres. So how does he do it? “To be honest it’s just a matter of reminding myself that I can do it,” he confesses. “I have some exercises, but it’s really more of a mental exercise, focusing and making sure that my ears are really working. If I had to generalise, the goal is to get myself into a mental place where I’m really relaxed: that’s what I’m always working towards. If you’re relaxed enough, all kinds of stuff will come out. That’s the biggest challenge as I get older: trying to find that zone. It sounds clichéd, but I’ve experienced it. Not every time I play, but if you’re really relaxed, and let the music come to you, you become a participant and you’re not dictating what’s happening. The trick is to get into that space.”

The 42-year-old does not envy the younger generation when it comes to developing such a broad-based skill set. “The issue nowadays for younger players is that there aren’t a lot of opportunities to perform. If you get one gig a month with your own band, you’re considered busy. And it’s really hard to build anything musically with one gig a month. We think of guys like Bird and Coltrane and Mingus and ask ourselves, ‘How were they able to develop that stuff to such a high level?’ The answer is, because they were studying and playing all the time. Today we study all the time, but we don’t have quite the same opportunities to perform.”

August recommends listening to the Thelonious Monk record from 1957 at Carnegie Hall with John Coltrane (Blue Note, 2005) to understand what he’s talking about. “Their level of interaction and relaxation is phenomenal,” he says. “They were playing nightly at the Five Spot in NYC for months before that, and that’s the only way to nurture that type of performance. When I played with JD Allen at the Village Vanguard we did six nights a week, and at the end of a week, not only was I physically stronger, having played two hour-and-a-half sets each night pummelling the bass, but musically I was also in such a different place. It was like, ‘Man, this is why I do this!’”



Laurence Borden Interviews Bassist Gregg August for DAGOGO
Gregg August Interview


Downbeat 61st Annual Critics Poll – Rising Stars 2013
Gregg August in Downbeat


Where Classical Music And Jazz Collaborate
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL – LARRY BLUMENFELD

Derek Bermel recalled the moment things went awry in 2006 during rehearsals for his composition "The Migration Series." Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis had commissioned the piece, which paired the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and the American Composers Orchestra. All seemed well until the musicians reached a section marked by contrapuntal rhythms.

"I knew something was wrong," Mr. Bermel, a composer, conductor and clarinetist, said in an interview. "I felt the jazz band and the symphony orchestra pulling apart. The orchestra was going with the conductor, and the jazz band was going with the rhythm section—piano, bass and drums."

Mr. Bermel solved the problem by reassigning parts in his score. "Right then, I began to think about how a composer builds hybridity into a piece of music," he said. "How can awareness of the separate cultures of jazz and classical music fit into one musical architecture?"

Those are among the challenges addressed by the second class of the three-year-old Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute, which connects composers working primarily in jazz with symphony orchestras to seek a deepened context for such collaboration. The JCOI will present the first of three public readings of new symphonic works by these composers on Tuesday and Wednesday at Kleinhans Music Hall, in Buffalo, N.Y., with the Buffalo Philharmonic (there will be readings with the ACO at Columbia University's Miller Theater June 3 and 4, and with the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus, at UC San Diego's Mandeville Auditorium, Sept. 19 and 20). Thus concludes a process begun in August, when 37 composers attended a weeklong series of workshops and seminars at UCLA's Herb Alpert School of Music (17 of them now get the chance to work directly with orchestras)...

Inevitably, issues of jazz aesthetics arose. Courtney Bryan, a 30-year-old pianist who studied jazz in her native New Orleans and classical music at Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio, asked about "strategies to notate the feeling of improvisation, without asking musicians to improvise." Mr. Bermel, who, as the ACO's creative adviser, worked closely with Mr. Lewis on the workshops, stressed one essential truth. "In a symphony orchestra, rhythm and momentum are driven by the strings," he said. "Most people don't realize that."

At his apartment in Brooklyn, N.Y., bassist Gregg August pulled out the score to his piece "Una Rumba Sinfonica," which will be played in Buffalo. "This middle section came out of Derek's statement about the strings," he said as he pointed out measures in which deconstructed polyrhythms drawn from Afro-Cuban music are scored for violins, violas and cellos. Mr. August, principal bassist with the Brooklyn Philharmonic, is best known for his work in jazz and Latin groups. His JCOI proposal described his belief that "Cuban rumba can inspire an entirely new way of writing for orchestra."

In preparation for orchestral readings, each jazz musician works with a mentor composer. Flautist Nicole Mitchell, a composer in the 2010-11 program, is now among those mentors. "My own orchestra reading was traumatic," she said. "I felt separated from my music up there on the stand while I sat in the audience. Jazz is really an oral tradition. Even though most of us write our music out, a lot of communication happens in real time, and musicians are directly involved with the composer."

Listen Up!
THE NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
Gregg August in the New York City Jazz Record [PDF]

Minimalist and Rich, in the Space Between Funk and Classical

Erykah Badu at the Brooklyn Academy of Music
NEW YORK TIMES MUSIC REVIEW – BEN RATLIFF

Erykah Badu didn’t move much in the time she spent onstage at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House, in front of the Brooklyn Philharmonic and a rhythm section. She stood next to the conductor Alan Pierson in a top hat, high-heel boots, blue tights, heavy necklace, and a long coat, which she never took off. She occasionally made a slow, alert swivel toward the backup singers on her right...

She pointed a finger, rotated a hand or, with restricted hip movements, relayed the groove played by the bassist Gregg August and the drummer Jonathan Barber.

...The funk beats entered in traces, solidifying where they’d been given room, and Mr. August’s bass lines remained spare and open. I’d love to hear this or something like it over again in a less echoey space, with bass and drums more tightly mixed, or in a future album. Something tells me I will. It was better than a starting place.


PRAISE FOR: Four by Six

by GEORGE W. HARRIS – JAZZ WEEKLY

Bassist/composer Gregg August evenly divides his material between both a quartet and a sextet on this impressive release of post-bop jazz. All of the songs have a sophistication to their melodies, harmonies and structure, and it’s a coin flip which one to prefer The foursome with Luis Perdomo/p, Sam Newsome/ss and EJ Strickland form a formidable set of hard bopping on “Affirmation “ and “For Calle Picota” both which include some impressive piano musings by Perdomo. The sextet of John Biley/tp, Yosvany Terry/as, JD Allen/ts, Perdomo/p an dRudy Royston/dr also display some splashy piano chords, as well as some kinetic rhythm work on “Relative Obscurity” and some gracious brass work by Biley on ”For Miles.” August’s bass work is precise, clean and assertive, as he emphasizes all throughout, but particularly on the intricate “For Max” and cascading “A Ballad For MV.” Impressive from the get go.

by TONY HALL

Gregg August is a very interesting musician indeed. Classically trained, first principally on percussion, he went to Barcelona, then Paris, Brazil and Cuba to live and study, but when he returned to New York he decided to pursue his strong passion for Latin jazz and the acoustic bass, studying with Andy Gonzalez. Now he combines work as first chair bass with the Brooklyn Philharmonic or The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (which toured Europe with Brad Mehldau) while anchoring JD Allen’s Trio, Sam Newsome’s Quartet and Arturo O’Farrill’s Orchestra. This is his third album as leader, both of the previous two (“Late August” and “One Peace”) having shown strongly in this writer’s “Best of...” annual lists) and features a quartet with Newsome, the ubiquitous Perdomo and Marcus Strickland’s twin, EJ and a Sextet with superb soloists, intelligently supported by Rudy Royston’s drums. August’s bass is prominent throughout both sessions often playing dark, mysterious lines as counterpoint to the main soloists, reflecting the alternating melancholy or exhuberance of his compositions, which are exceptionally interesting. The sides with Newsome (whose albums recently have been strictly solo) are stimulating, but, for me, the most magical tracks are those by the Sextet. The voicing – and just the overall brooding feel, which is particularly personified in the closing “For Miles” (which he’d have loved) – is harmonically challenging throughout and the solos by Perdomo, JD, John Bailey (also on Gregg’s earlier CDs, but whom I regrettably forgot to mention at the time) and especially Yosvany Terry (who is rapidly developing into a major league player) are really special and full of story-telling emotion. Gregg August, a richly talented bassist-composer, really deserves your support. Please check this out.


Gregg August at Birdland
by NICHOLAS FERNANDEZ – FEAST OF MUSIC

Every now and then, Birdland jazz club offers a one-off 6PM show, allowing me to catch a set on the way home from work. The early-evening concerts typically showcase lesser-known performers with creative takes on the jazz tradition, and Thursday's album release celebration by bassist and composer Gregg August was no exception; his sextet delivered a sharp set of tight vamps, metric modulation, and careful attention to rhythm at all levels of orchestration.

August is a multigenre talent, who has made a name for himself as a long-time member of tenor saxophonist J.D. Allen’s trio, and is currently touring in support of his new album, Four by Six. August displayed his composing skills with an eclectic, yet coherent, set of songs that felt as if they were composed from the bottom up. Almost every piece had intricate bass vamps that lined up with winding piano ostinati and drum patterns that prioritized rhythmic accents over timekeeping.

At times, the melodies appeared an afterthought; the horn trio of trumpet, alto saxophone, and tenor saxophone spent the majority of “Affirmation” articulating downbeats. Yet August’s innovative conception of form resulted in solo sections that traversed through multiple rhythmic and tonal environments, offering direction and development to the improvisations.

Even more interesting was August’s scoring for the horns. At first, the frequent unisons and rhythmic melodies gave off the impression of simplicity. But as the set progressed, August’s artistic vision became clear. By often placing the tenor and trumpet in unison, with the alto voiced an octave above, August elicited a haunting sound that exploited trumpeter John Bailey’s lower register.

Bailey was one of the evening’s standouts, channeling many aspects of Miles Davis' legacy and making extensive use of the lower range during colorful, expressive solos. But the night belonged to August. Between determining the harmonic language and offering virtuosic solos, August presented an unusual take on the bassist as leader.

Instead of a bright, treble sound that cut through the band like a horn, August embraced the natural full, woody tone of the acoustic bass. As a result, he was most effective when contributing to the rhythmic pulse of ensemble playing or when soloing unaccompanied. To end the concert, August gave us one such moment, an extended bowed cadenza that highlighted his significant classical chops. Combining double stops and harmonics, August celebrated the acoustic bass in all its glory.


JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN

Dark Latin Jazz Intensity from Gregg August
-LUCID CULTURE

Gregg August validates the theory that a good bass player always has a gig – to the extreme. He’s as comfortable servimg as first chair bass of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, or with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, as he is with the JD Allen Trio and Quartet and with his own bands. Versatile as August is, his passion is latin jazz. In his world, that extends to Spanish music, a genre he knows a little something about, having first honed his symphonic chops with orchestas in Spain. His playing is terse, direct and hard-hitting: much as he has chops to rival anyone’s, he chooses pulse and melody over any kind of gratuitous display. Because of that, it’s refreshing to hear his instrument as prominent in the mix as it is here: he invariably leaves you wishing for more. His compositions are nimble, energetic, and relevant: August does not shy away from darkness or from confronting issues of justice and social inequality. His new album Four by Six is not lighthearted, but it is often exhilarating. Here most of the tracks alternate between his quartet with Sam Newsome on soprano sax, Luis Perdomo on piano and E.J. Strickland on drums, and with his sextet with Rudy Royston on drums plus Perdomo, Yosvany Terry on alto sax, John Bailey on trumpet and Allen on tenor.

The album opens with Affirmation, an acerbic, somewhat acidic strut for the quartet. Newsome throws some elbows and they swing it back and forth. Another quartet tune, For Calle Picota is catchy as hell – it has the same kind of majesty and gravitas and economy of notes that Allen is known for, Strickland and Perdomo working toward a salsa swing as Newsome somersaults amiably.

For Max, the first of the sextet numbers, begins with a lush, flamenco-esque chart straight out of the Gil Evans book circa 1959 that Perdomo and then Allen follow in the same vein. The slowly slinking bass solo as the horns rise majestically over August’s roaring chordal pedalpoint is nothing short of transcendent. By contrast, Bandolim shifts quickly from a lively, tricky ensemble tune to free and spacious, with some marvelously judicious work from the whole band over whispery, nebulous rhythm bookended by sudden bursts of swing.

Newsome stars on the pensive salsa swing of Strange Street, taking his time achieving altitude, handing off to Perdomo, who goes for loungey and then lets August take it deep, deep into the shadows: his nonchalant chromatics are absolutely chilling. A Ballad for MV follows: the two pieces are essentially a diptych, this one more boisterous, Strickland’s clenched-teeth cymbals refusing to let go as Newsome sails apprehensively and Perdomo holds it down with a moody glimmer.

Relative Obscurity, for sextet, quickly shifts from a lushly syncopated horn chart to unchecked aggression by Bailey and then tensely hypnotic circularity from August. The album ends with a low-key, brooding knockout, For Miles, opening as a morose jazz waltz driven by Perdomo’s Satie-esque minimalism, Terry taking it just short of a triumphant hail-mary pass but instead alley-ooping to Perdomo who takes it up…and then down again into the eerily glimmering depths. August plays the album release show for this one at Birdland at 6 PM on Dec 6 with a slightly different cast; he’ll be at Shapeshifter Lab with the quartet on Dec 14 at 8 PM.

- Lucid Culture (December 4, 2012)


Liner Notes from Four by Six

BOTTOM ON TOP

So much of the fluff of our moment smothers into silence the reality of music in favor of clichéd claims. We often see such fluff in the overly used words “great” and “genius.” This has become so much of the way those in show business think of themselves that they feel disrespected if they are not called great musicians or a genius on the prowl by critics and publicists. The unspoken truth here is that few are ever actually great and even fewer are geniuses. Those who are truly serious are much less ambitious and much more reasonable about themselves. In common with most is the desire to be thought of as someone who consistently does two things: sounds good and knows how to bring that good sound to every job on high levels of quality.

That is what makes Gregg August stand out and what made him stand out the first time I heard him. He had a big sound that was close to perfect in pitch and he could do more than that because there are many virtuoso bassists out here today who have a lot of technique and good intonation. Few of them can swing though and they will tell you that swinging is old fashioned, that the music has gone beyond that, that it is too original now to depend on something like swinging.

 Gregg August has not swallowed that factoid. He is one of those contemporary musicians who does not hide behind superficial data about music that denies the importance and singularity of swing. As an artist, he knows that he must live up to the standards and the achievements of the past while pursuing his own talent and all of its nuances. He knows that what Louis Armstrong laid down out here was constantly striven for in every style, all the way up to Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, Bobby Hutcherson, and others until the arrival of fusion when pop rhythms incapable of swing and contemptuous of it were heralded as something new.

He does not think as he does because he is incapable of anything particularly important to those seeking pop fame and pop star salaries.  What is important to him is quality. August is the Principal bassist with the Brooklyn Philharmonic, which means that he can not only read but that he brings a vibrant presence and a vital essence to written music that many other bassists do not. Otherwise he would not be the principal, one of them would. That is a fact of the public record.

Being hired for years to hold Latin grooves and Latin rhythms is another kind of information, since all musical information is about learning to deliver a FEELING, which is the ultimate definition of a note in any music, not its register or its place in a scale or a pattern. August is hired because he knows how to get with Latin musicians and produce the thing that separates Latin music from all others while still being universal. This means that those audience members who can hear it can like it, and those performing musicians who can feel it, help define it in terms both distinctly different but also universal. August is one of those musicians.

Because he can perform and interpret European concert music on a high professional level, August is part of a kind of bassist that has become more prominent in jazz since about 1950. Major players of the bass like Charles Mingus, Ron Carter, Richard Davis, Scott LaFaro, and David Izenson were all very different because they played European music so well that it did not intimidate them into misunderstanding the meaning of why jazz was a major Western music as independent of the Third World as it was from Western convention.

Jazz has taken from here, there, and everywhere, but the laboratory has always been blues and swing, as trumpeter Bobby Bradford pointed out about Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. “Bird and Diz, he said, “used the blues and swing to test out what they thought might be new. If it didn’t fit either one, they either worked at until it did or they went onto something else.”

All of that is reflected in this recording. It makes use of the best things that have come through in jazz since the 1960s, since the emergence of Wynton Marsalis in the 1980s, and all of the explorations of various musics that have been used to expand the stretch of jazz, while still maintaining its identity, the individuality of the leader, and the personalities of the musicians with whom he makes the music.

“I chose all of these musicians because they are at least competent readers, but mostly because when they move into the soloing you get something from each of them that you cannot write down. Each guy has his own kind of fire and his own kind of lyricism. He will bring a certain sense of time to the playing and will listen to the rhythm section as forcefully as he plays, and we listen as forcefully to him as we play.

"This always, at its best, results in the kind of excitement that can arrive almost second by second if the players are sensitive enough. That is what a player can get out of jazz that his musicians and the listeners do not get anywhere else. The newness of the moment, the music itself, not the material. A lot of times people feel that they are making something new because they use contrived materials or contrived patterns. If a guy makes something beautiful and exciting, that beauty transcends style. My experience has taught me that. Something from the baroque era can be as beautiful as anything ever made. The same is true of jazz. True jazz playing is stronger than any single style. Just play and listen to the other musicians and don’t worry about it as long as it sounds good. If it gives you the feeling, then it is good.”

I think that about says it all. Gregg August and his musicians know how to listen to each other and how to express themselves as individuals. You will hear that on every track, whether made by four players or six, you will never doubt that you are hearing jazz. But the excitement and the beauty of the music is what is most important, as it always is.

STANLEY CROUCH


RETURN TO TOP

CONCERT REVIEW: The Gregg August Large Ensemble at the Jazz Gallery, NYC 4/10/09

"August's richly melodic, aptly
relevant compositions created a
program that screams out to be
recorded"

-LUCID CULTURE

“This year the Jazz Gallery has been commissioning big band projects. More musicians should do what bassist/composer Gregg August (whose powerfully melodic contributions appear on the latest JD Allen Trio cd, reviewed here recently) did with his. Leading a ten-piece all-star ensemble on Friday night, August proved every bit as potent a composer as an instrumentalist, playing a thematic series of pieces inspired by and frequently including poems that explore race relations. Interpreting the texts both literally and thematically, August’s richly melodic, aptly relevant compositions created a program that screams out to be recorded.

August’s arrangements maximized the ensemble’s diverse talents:Jaleel Shaw’s ecstatically fiery alto sax flights, Sam Newsome’s rapidfire fluidity on soprano, JD Allen’s darkly direct terseness on tenor and pianist Luis Perdomo’s vividly bittersweet, concise chordal work along with his own straightforwardly melodic, sometimes latin-inflected lines, many of them echoing horn voicings. Drummer Donald Edwards’ strategy shaded toward darkness with innumerable well-placed cymbal accents and flourishes. The night opened on an auspicious note with an interpretation of Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Shaw building his final solo to screaming, gritty overtones illustrating the exasperation of confinement over the rhythm section’s staggered beat. Sweet Words, based on a sacastic Langston Hughes poem about (what else) bigotry proved to be a pretty straightforward, tuneful ensemble piece highlighted by a relentlessly intense, expansive Perdomo solo.

A New Orleans tableau, Sky, based on poet Richard Katrovas’s encounter with a possibly homeless young black man painted a stark picture of a balmy morning tinged with misunderstanding and regret, Allen’s lyrical tenor opening against pensively crescendoing piano and bowed bass, the group pulsing through a funereal arrangement colored by rubato drums. Perhaps the high point of the night was Your Only Child, a literal illustration of Marilyn Nelson’s poem A Wreath for Emmett Till, a recording of Till’s mother describing her murdered son’s mutilated body playing over the ominous atmosphere of the intro, singer Miles Griffith echoing the song’s theme and ending with a fervent evocation of sobbing agony.

The second set maintained the captivating intensity of the first, opening with the slinky, insistent I Rise (a musical translation of the famous Maya Angelou poem) highlighted by a joyous solo from Shaw followed by a characteristically thoughtful, matter-of-fact one from Allen. The lushly orchestrated, Mingus-inflected I Sang in the Sun (from the Carolyn Kizer poem) brought back the vocals, lowlit by some marvelously succinct shading by Thomas. A Cornelius Eady poem about an encounter with a racist in an ice cream parlor provided a solid platform for a slyly bluesy trombone solo and some funky work by August. The night wound up with Letter to America (on a Francisco Alarco poem), impassioned vocals echoed by John Bailey’s blazing, bluesy trumpet and yet another uncompromisingly confrontational solo by Allen building to a casually intense coda. In a year of some extraordinary live jazz, a packed house got to witness what has to be one of the highlights of the year so far."

- Lucid Culture (April 12th, 2009)


RETURN TO TOP

PRAISE FOR: ONE PEACE

"One Peace offers super fresh
and complex jazz that manages
to be soulful, intellectually
stimulating and hard-hitting"

-DAVE WAYNE (JAZZREVIEW.COM)

“What a wonderful surprise this CD is! Bassist Gregg August is a new name to me, and "One Peace" is his second recording as a leader. Here, August leads a formidable cast of established jazzmen (pianist Luis Perdomo, reedman Myron Walden), rising young stars (drummer E. J. Strickland and saxophonist Yosvany Terry), and a couple of fine lesser-known players (saxophonist Stacy Dillard and trumpeter John Bailey) through 10 original compositions.

I was bowled over right from the start! “One Peace” evokes the best post-Coltrane, post-free jazz of the late 1960s and early 1970's. Back then, artists such as McCoy Tyner, Lee Morgan, Stanley Cowell, Woody Shaw, Joe Henderson, Norman Connors, Carlos Garnett, and many others who had tired of playing standards or free jazz, and didn't want to go the fusion route, began experimenting with extended forms, exotic Eastern harmonies, odd time signatures, and African or Latin-derived rhythms. The music they came up with was daring, distinctive, driving, and passionate, and deeply connected to the emerging Black Consciousness movement. Instead of recreating the music of the glory years, August re-invents it for the adventurous souls of the 21st Century. Best of all, there's not a single weak track here.

A classically-trained bassist who has worked with Ornette Coleman, Ray Barretto, and James Moody, August also has major league compositional chops. 'Hand to Mouth' opens the set with a sinewy, asymmetrical bass line and E. J. Strickland's bustling drums. Stabbing bittersweet-and-sour horns, bass and piano state the twisting, stop-and-start theme before the bass ostinato returns to pave the way for Strickland's punch'n'roll drums and bright, energetic solos by Walden and Bailey before the tune winds down a little for an excellent solo by the leader.

'Nastissimo' continues in a similar vein – a multi-sectioned head with contrasting rhythms and darkly harmonized horns, urgent drums crashing and tumbling over a standing wave of bass, which opens up into a solo section comprised of alternating slabs of hard-swinging 4/4 and a churning Afro-Latin 5/4. Strickland and pianist Luis Perdomo shine especially brightly here.

Another highlight is the Mingus-like 'Sixth Finger', which starts as an almost comically swaggering blues, and then takes off unexpectedly into triple time as the horns hocket a completely different melody.

'Modal Tune' conjures up the early 70s with its restless Afro-Latin rhythms, Perdomo on sparkling Rhodes piano, and a melody that sounds like a great lost Woody Shaw tune. I could go on and on. Suffice it to say that the rest of “One Peace” is just as interesting and just as strong.

Gregg August's music is the sort of stuff that scratches the itch you don't even know you have. It's definitely not paint-by-number, straight-ahead jazz, not really avant garde, and certainly not fusion – it's not easy music to pigeonhole. “One Peace” offers super-fresh and complex jazz that manages to be soulful, intellectually stimulating, and hard-swinging. Whenever I found myself casting about looking for something to listen to, I kept coming back to this CD. It was either that, or dig through my vinyl for my old Joe Henderson, Billy Harper, and Gary Bartz LPs! Highly recommended."

- Dave Wayne, JazzReview.com


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An exceptional example of
completely original modern jazz"
4 Stars

-ALL MUSIC (AMG)

“Bassist and composer Gregg August takes his experience in Latin music and fuses it with hot modern jazz to produce this meaty collection of original music in sextet trim. August, pianist Luis Perdomo and drummer E.J. Strickland combine for a formidable rhythm section, backing a three horn front line consisting of saxophonists Yosvanny Terry and Myron Walden, trumpeter John Bailey, at times omitting Terry for Steve Dillard, and in one case expanding to a septet with bass clarinetist Mike Lowenstern. This music is quite progressive and daring -- episodic as liner notes writer Jim Macnie observes - using a demanding, extensively arranged and precisely played series of charts, challenging for the musicians and the astute listener. It's impressive on many levels, and deserves more than one sitting. Using a wild unharnessed 6/8 rhythm on "Hand To Mouth" or dense 5/4 on "Nastissimo," the music flows with an upbeat powerful kineticism that is hard to deny. "Sixth Finger" starts bluesy but then is supercharged and injected to a frenetic hard bop, while a spiky bop stance informs "Change Of Course." Latin spice comes to the surface on the frenetic "Modal Tune" driven by the leader's bass, while the breezy "Cascading" and laid back "One For Louis" shows a softer side, the latter piece a bit slanted harmonically in a somewhat measured manner ala Wynton Marsalis. Bailey is one of the true unsung heroes in contemporary jazz, as his chops, facility and inventiveness are second to none. Terry and Walden work quite well as a team, and Perdomo is consistently out of sight, his startling piano offerings always greatly enhance the proceedings. An exceptional example of completely original modern jazz, with nothing straight laced and very little derived from sources or influences, August has a tiger by the tail on his effort, which comes highly recommended."

- Michael G. Nastos, All Music (AMG)


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A blues beneath a wreath of varied lines,
all orchestrated by bassist Gregg August"

-JOHN EPHLAND (DOWNBEAT)

“A blues beneath a wreath of varied lines, all orchestrated by bassist Gregg August, kicks things off on One Peace. "Hand To Mouth" is a clever medium-tempo swinger that highlights the band's strengths, providing room for notable solos from the leader as well as tenorist Yosvany Terry (channeling Warne Marsh at points). Despite the fact that the "sextet" here is actually a quintet with shifting personnel at the sax position, One Peace is a cohesive program.

August puts the music together to let his bass breathe a little more than normal; but he's also created an environment for two of his principal soloists, pianist Luis Perdomo and trumpeter John Bailey. They get nice shots on the uptempo "Natissimo," as does drummer E.J. Strickland. The gentle waltz "One For Louis" features horn choruses reminiscent of classic Blue Note recordings from the 1960s (think McCoy Tyner), as an alluring two-chord refrain keeps things cool despite Bailey's heated trumpet playing. "Modal Tune" has a funky demeanor that's furthered along by Stacy Dillard's tenor work and some light and tasty Fender Rhodes from Perdomo. August's solo highlights his facility with the beat, as his drum roots come in handy. And if the listener would like to hear some blowing at full steam, "Sixth Finger" combines fierce, swinging exchanges between Myron Walden on alto and Terry's tenor. The roof is still on the house, but the room's temperature has gone up a bit.

The band's heartfelt side is best displayed on August's "In Dedication," a song he wrote for his late friend and musical inspiration Alexandro Montano. It combines long lines played at ballad speed with rising and falling temperatures. Lyrically, the sweetest sounds are heard on the lilting "Crescent Mood," perhaps the album's best composition, which features evocative work from Perdomo and Terry across its lovely melody. The sextet becomes a septet for the closing "Cascading," another pretty number, this time with cascading lines courtesy of fulsome horn charts."

- John Ephland, Downbeat (May 2008)


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The challenges issued by his composing
bring out the best in every player on this excellent work

-ALL ABOUT JAZZ

Bassist Gregg August is a dynamic and vastly underrated arranger and composer. On One Peace he enhances a hard bop template with complex chord structures, layering of inimitable horn arrangements and echoes from other musical genres.

On Nastissimo for example, trumpeter John Bailey, altoist Myron Walden and tenor man Stacy Dillard play almost mournfully over the quicksilver vamp by August, pianist Luis Perdomo and drummer EJ Strickland. “One for Louis” showcases Bailey, who plays throughout with a strong, even tone, whether whispering or soaring. Perdomo's electric piano and Walden's alto work beautifully on the Latin-styled Modal Tune, while In Dedication is a gorgeous ballad that melds hard bop and big band sensibilities. The sleek Crescent Mood has a Caravan type of feel, driven by Yosvany Terry's wonderful tenor, and Mike Lowenstern's stellar bass clarinet work on the Middle Eastern-flavored Cascading gives the song a mysterious dimension.

Another thing that makes August's composing so intriguing is that one never knows how a tune will go. The dazzling “Sixth Finger” opens with a private-eye theme and then a swirling horn crescendo transforms the tune into a burner, with Yosvany Terry's Cain-raising tenor leading the charge.

August's tunes leave ample room for singular expression and his band mates take full advantage of their moments on center stage. One Peace is not an album of mere by-the-numbers mimicry and the challenges issued by his composing bring out the best in every player on this excellent work.

- Terrell Kent Holmes, All About Jazz


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One of the year's best albums
-JAZZWISE

Conservatory-trained August, whose career has embraced a mix of jazz, Latin and classical, came up with one of 2005’s most impressive debut albums, “Late August”. The follow-up is possibly even better and features the basic six-piece he’s been gigging with, playing ten very varied, challenging, sometimes Latin-tinged and occasionally Ornette Coleman-inspired arrangements, full of harmonic twists and turns, often veering off in unexpectedly different directions. His scoring gives the impression of a much larger front-line. Bailey is a striking section player and soloist, sometimes sounding a little like Ralph Alessi. Walden continues to stake his claim to being the most striking alto/soprano voice on the New York scene, playing with a passion only matched by Kenny Garrett. Yosvany Terry plays tenor instead of his more customary alto on five tracks, while the remainder feature yet another exciting, hard-edged newcomer in the Coltrane tradition named Stacy Dillard, who’s featured strongly in two of the CD highspots, the sombrely dynamic but boppish-lined ballad “In Dedication” (after a heart-breaking, low-register solo by Myron) and the tempo-varying “Change of Course”. The rhythm section plays an important role in August’s arrangements, with the brilliant Perdomo in more straightahead mode than usual, doubling on Rhodes, while EJ, who seems instinctively to know what every soloist is going to say, constantly keeps the cauldron boiling underneath.

It’s astonishing – and unjust – that so few people seem to know about August’s existence. He is an outstanding all-round musician, whose compositions and arrangements are certainly some of the most original around at the moment. One of the year’s very best albums.

- Tony Hall, Jazzwise


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This is a winner
-JAZZTIMES

Gregg August's sophomore release grabs you by the collar, gets directly in your face and growls, Listen. Loaded with streetwise postbop tunes, the disc rides in on the leader's low, suspenseful bass riffs and a rock-solid band with as much forward momentum-and as many quick turns- as a roller coaster. There are plenty of persuasive solos, too, with John Bailey's gritty trumpet, Myron Walden's odd sax angles and E.J. Strickland's drum bashing sitting particularly well opposate Gregg's chewy, elastic sound. This is a winner.

- Forrest Dylan Bryant, JazzTimes March 2008


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A belated top pick for 2007
-JAZZ REVIEW

This sextet cuts through the muck and generally gets to the point with a sense of urgency. With bassist Gregg August’s second outing as a leader, matters get out of the gate amid sizzling and snazzy little big band type horns arrangements. Conservatory trained to include stints with Latin-jazz legends, saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera and percussionist Ray Barretto, the leader of this date transforms his varied experience into a distinct stylization here.

August shines as a formidable arranger, composer and technician throughout this vibrant endeavor, marked with a forward-moving, no looking back impetus. His booming bass lines steer the ship through variable currents and flows, often accelerated by the hornists’ punchy phrasings to complement an abundance of interconnecting subtleties.

On the comp titled “Nastissimo,” the band whirls through circular unison patterns, where August’s fluid bass lines pronounce a rite of passage for a feisty Latin-jazz romp. But he tempers the tide during the melodically engaging “One for Louis,” accelerated by trumpeter John Bailey’s soaring solo. Nonetheless, the sextet mixes it up rather heartily via high-flying bop choruses that are occasionally offset with a few tender moments. In sum, August and his band dish out a combination of fire, grace and passion on this gem of a date that is one of those records you can’t wait to tell your friends about. (A belated top pick for 2007).

- Glenn Astarita, Jazz Review


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One Peace is beautifully played
wisely composed and arranged,
and comes warmly recommended

-ALL ABOUT JAZZ

This is the second release by classical conservatory-trained New York-based bassist and composer Gregg August, an Assistant Bass Principal of the Brooklyn Philharmonic and a frequent collaborator with experimental composers collective Bang on a Can. One Peace is a more straight-ahead jazz showcase than August's Latin-flavored debut, Late August (Iacuessa Records, 2005). This time August worked closely with the experienced members of his sextet over the last year in a way that solidifies the interplay and trust between them all.

This approach indeed succeeds, since August's compositions are based on intricate nuances and sharp precision with swift punctuations and multi-layered dynamics. The sextet demonstrates how this working process has nurtured August's ten original compositions. Everyone contributes to the sextet's newfound ease of the playing. Saxophonist Myron Walden and trumpeter John Bailey, who played on Late August, are joined by tenor saxophonists Stacy Dillard and Yosvany Terry, as well as two members of Ravi Coltrane's band—pianist Luis Perdomo and drummer E. J. Strickland.

Bailey really shines here, with beautiful articulation and a solo that keeps gaining power on the sentimental “One for Louis.” August demonstrates his assured playing with his well-built solo on “Modal Tune.” The sharp rhythmic changes of “Sixth Finger”—and August and Strickland's tough and tight rhythmic flow, which enables the brass and reeds player to flourish—is close to some of Charles Mingus' arrangements for his bands.

Change of Course” best showcases August's new approach. Based on a simple tone row, with no repetition or specific chord changes, it allows each soloist to alter the theme in any tempo he wishes. Walden, August, Perdomo and Bailey use this freedom in a masterful way, but still suggest a coherent meaning to this composition. The closing “Cascading,” featuring Walden's soulful and gentle soprano solo, nods to the Latin side of August, as he still active on the New York Latin scene.

One Peace is beautifully played, wisely composed and arranged, and comes warmly recommended.

- Eyal Hareuveni, All About Jazz


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When last heard from, Gregg August's debut, Late August (Iacuessa, 2005), left listeners with a smile for the bassist/composer's bipolar emphasis on Latin and hard bop interests.

One Peace indicates a new direction for August. While Late August took advantage of a number of high profile guest musicians including saxophonist Frank Wess and percussionists Ray Barretto and Wilson “Chembo” Corniel, One Peace presents August's working group, featuring only two holdovers—trumpeter John Bailey and altoist Myron Walden. For this occasion, two tenor sax men—Stacy Dillard and Yosvany Terry—are added on selected tracks, with Ravi Coltrane's pianist and drummer Luis Perdomo and E.J.Strickland rounding out the core group. Bass clarinetist Mike Lowenstern is added for “Cascading.”

August's Latin side is gone entirely. The album consists of ten original compositions that provide a lot of solo time for the horns. Most impressive is Bailey's trumpet work, which seems to adapt well to both ballads and boppers. His melody and solo on “One for Louis” could have been lifted off on any number of albums during Blue Note's “golden age.” Walden picks up the soprano sax for the warm and soulful “Cascading.” August, as might be expected, gets in a fair number of bass solos, and his interaction with Strickland give a rousing pulse to these tunes.

- Michael P. Gladstone, All About Jazz


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It always seems more real and fitting when a musician records his working band, and that is exactly what bassist-composer Greg August has done here.

Using the Duke Ellington model of writing compositions to suit individual band members, August successfully highlights their talents as well as his own compositional skills. The opener does just that with alto saxophonist Myron Walden claiming Hand to Mouth. Although trumpeter John Bailey is so prominent, August must have had him in mind as well.

In Dedication is my favorite. It has a classic feel with fine unison work and great tenor effort by Stacy Dillard.

- Dick Bogle, The Skanner


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Chosen as one of 2007's
top ten releases

-ALL ABOUT JAZZ

- Paul Blair, New York's Hot House Magazine


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PRAISE FOR: LATE AUGUST


My little reviewing world has recently seen quite a number of debut CDs from bassists-cats who are seasoned sidemen and now are trying their hands at the bandleader role. Except they are not just assembling a band and laying down the bassline, they are composing, arranging and, in many cases, producing the recording, in addition to tackling the bass player gig, but what is really impressive is the high quality of these first efforts. Late August from Gregg August is a shining example of this.

This album has nine August originals, six of which are arranged for three horns (trumpet, alto and tenor saxes). The tunes are latin, swing, or a little of both, and are highly arranged, with tight ensemble playing, and are very enjoyable to listen to.

August's composing chops are rivaled by his arranging chops-his three-horn writing is great. The very first track, an Afro-Cuban 6/8 cooker called Sweet Maladie, sounds like a little big band, but it's just three horns, rhythm section and extra percussion. Three-horn writing is tricky, but August clearly has it mastered. Listen, too, to Melody in Black and Grey, another latin-flavored number with a cool melody delivered via a horn and bass soli, an excellent composition and arrangement-and, oh yeah, August plays some pretty killer bass, too.

Beautiful contrast to these hot numbers can be found in the ballad Treatments in Darkness and the solo bass offering Eulogy. Treatments features Myron Walden's alto sax artistry, which is terrific throughout the album, but particularly sweet here, conjuring Johnny Hodges at times. The tune itself has shades of Mingus' Goodbye Porkpie Hat, and the band creates a loose, floaty, and at times soaring feel behind WaldenÕs beautiful sax solo-a gorgeous track.

The musically and emotionally weighty Eulogy features August playing solo bowed bass. More in the classical music style, it is beautiful writing and playing, full of double stops, chords, and the pathos one might expect from a tune named Eulogy.

The recording wraps up with a good, clean swinger-for the most part (the latin influence is never far away from August)-titled Work in Progress. A happy tune guaranteed to put a smile on your face, check out August's nice walking bass sound, solid feel, and his soulful solo. Early spring or the dead of winter - any time is a good time to check out Late August.

- Chris Kosky, Bass World


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I know next to nothing about bassist/composer Gregg August, "and that's...OK," so I have no preconceived notions about his music. After several listens, I still don't know what stylistic "bag" to put him in and that's even better (even if it makes my job tougher). There are Afro-Cuban and Spanish influences, but more in the melodies than rhythms (which swing like crazy, btw), though "Melody in Black and Grey" utilizes a deceptively simple, stripped-down Cuban-style drive. There are undertones of Charles Mingus (circa late 1950s), but more compositionally (well-thought, pensive, forlorn tunes rich with a very human "cry") and the way the soloists seem to "push" themselves, though August sounds nothing like Chas on bass. There's some "out" wailing and thorny, cathartic dissonances, yet it's not "avant-garde" or free jazz.

There're some snazzy arrangements a la Gil Evans and Frank Zappa with lots of shifting meters and swift tempo changes that sound beautifully uncontrived. The closest comparison this writer can make: Late August recalls the thoroughly integrated eclecticism of the fine Massachusetts inside-out, mini-big band Either/Orchestra. (What, you've never heard them and their interpretations of tunes by King Crimson and Julius Hemphill?!?)

"Work In Progress" references the more adventurous aspects of the 50s West Coast Cool sound (i.e., Jimmy Giuffre, Chico Hamilton, Shorty Rogers), yet without one iota of "retro" baggage. The sound August achieves out of a tentet (give or take a fellow) is alluringly full but makes a nice (as in "judicious") use of space (what you don't play is as important as what you do play). This set is SO listenable on the surface one might not notice all the warm, witty, personable, sharp creativity present throughout. Maybe I got to this one too late to put in my Top 10 for 2005 list, but if I were permitted a Top 12 list, August's maiden voyage (as a leader) would be mos def present & accounted-for. Watch for this guy.

The recording wraps up with a good, clean swinger-for the most part (the latin influence is never far away from August)-titled Work in Progress. A happy tune guaranteed to put a smile on your face, check out August's nice walking bass sound, solid feel, and his soulful solo. Early spring or the dead of winter - any time is a good time to check out Late August.

- Mark Keresman, JazzReview.com


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Groups of various size participate in the August project ranging from a solo bass performance by the leader up to an octet selection. The music from the larger sextet/septet/octet groups takes on big band characteristics promoted by the tight ensemble work and strong soloing from numerous in the cast. There is a sense of 1950's nostalgia in the music, but the arranged and improvised execution remains fresh in today's terms. The opening piece with an octet featuring Ray Barretto on congas, and a solid front line in trumpeter John Bailey and saxophonists Myron Walden and Donny McCaslin swings to a Latin Jazz beat but springs off into a post-Bop repertoire of mixed genres. August and several others are given solo opportunities here and elsewhere. It is all tied together by the skillfully designed compositions of August, who wrote the nine pieces on the disc.

Swing and the Blues combine on several cuts that breathe openly when the soloists spring forth. August favors a changing tempo pattern within his tunes, which use recurring theme statements by the ensemble to bridge the various solo segments by the ensemble to bridge the various solo segments. The two reeds plus brass alliance found on six of the songs produces a warm sound; the musicians glide smoothly through highs and lows in dynamics, tension and pace. August is front and center on two pieces, one of which pairs him in a short encounter with conga player Corniel and the other where he goes it alone.

His arco solo on the mournful "Eulogy" is particularly compelling. Added rhythmic impetus from guitaris Hart lets " Deceptions" fly high while Wess lights it up on tenor.August pays tribute on this recording to an endearing era of Jazz, but he dresses it in modern-day wear. Numerous stars shine on this delightful session but none more brightly than the composing/arranging skills of August.

The recording wraps up with a good, clean swinger-for the most part (the latin influence is never far away from August)-titled Work in Progress. A happy tune guaranteed to put a smile on your face, check out August's nice walking bass sound, solid feel, and his soulful solo. Early spring or the dead of winter - any time is a good time to check out Late August.

- Frank Rubolino, Cadence Magazine


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Gregg August, a conservatory-trained double bassist and composer, did his real-life graduate studies jamming with Latin-jazz masters Ray Vega, Ray Barretto and Paquito D'Rivera.

Here he steps forward with his own ensemble, showcasing nine original compositions crackling with kinetic energy, bright harmonies, crisp melodies and subtly shifting meters.

August's works run emotional extremes, from celebratory to somber. On the sunny side, "Sweet Maladie" is Afro-Cuban joy unbounded. With August's bass booming and horns rocking, Israeli-born pianist Alon Yavnai breaks into a surprising, surreally smooth passage over simmering percussion. Barretto, in a sparkling guest appearance, cooks on congas.

On the dark side, a melancholy, eloquent composition called "Eulogy," August bows a moving a cappella solo that would fit perfectly on the soundtrack for Ingmar Bergman's angst-ridden "Cries and Whispers."

August and his sidekicks, including trumpeter John Bailey and saxophonists Donny McCaslin and Myron Walden, rejoice on "M's Blues" and "Melody in Black and Gray." "Treatments in Darkness," a reflective tone poem, slows the adrenaline. Most often, however, the pulse rate soars, as in the exciting duet between August and conga player Wilson "Chembo" Corniel. The heat also rises when guests tenor saxophonist Frank Wess and guitarist John Hart play nothing but the truth on "Deceptions."

If this sure-footed debut is a sign of things to come, August may march toward becoming a man for all seasons.

- OWEN MCNALLY, Hartford Courant


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There have been some really impressive debut albums this year and here's another that I've been playing for pleasure repeatedly. August is an outstanding and immensely versatile bassist, whose background has embraced a mix of jazz, Latin and classical. After achieving his Masters at Juilliard, August worked in Barcelona, Paris and then Havana, where the music turned his head around. Back in the States, he joined Ray Barreto's New World Spirit and later Ray Vega's group. The music here crosses many boundaries, but most of it is a mixture of swing, which then melts seamlessly into exciting authentic Latin sections. The cleverly voiced arrangements for the three-horn front line create the impression of a little big band. The compositions themselves are extremely varied and include a simply gorgeous ten-minute ballad called "Treatments in Darkness", in which Myron Walden shows off his sensitive side, an animated bass and congas conversation ("Las Dos Cotos") and a solo electric bass track ("Eulogy") played arco, where his classical skills are heard to telling - and moving - effect.

Walden is excellent in section as well as solo work, while McCaslin, definitely one of the New York scene's most underrated players, solos heatedly in that special low-key style of his, while Bailey, a former classmate of August's, impresses with some restrained melodic solo statements that at times recall Freddie Hubbard. Pianist Yavnal, from Israel, is a very sympathetic accompanist and is remarkably fluent in the Afro-Cuban sections, where the congas and McPhearson generate so much excitement. There's also one track by a quartet with Wess (another of August's employers) and guitarist Hart. But the star is Gregg August. A remarkable musician and a composer/ arranger whose album deserves maximum exposure.

- Tony Hall, Jazzwise


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More and more we seem to be witnessing a cross-pollination of musicians trained in one form of music, but ultimately actively engaged in another. Bassist Gregg August majored in classical performance when he attended the Eastman School of Music, but he also studied jazz forms with Bill Dobbins-another artist whose career has coexisted in both worlds-and composition/arranging with Rayburn Wright. While he spent the early part of his career dichotomously working the New York jazz scene and taking the bass chair in La Orquesta Ciutat de Barcelona in Spain, he quickly realized his more compelling calling.

His strong attraction to Afro-Cuban music led to high-profile gigs with Ray Vega, Ray Barretto, and Paquito D'Riviera, and so it's no surprise that his debut recording, Late August, is filled with fiery Latin rhythms. But you are the sum of your experiences, and August also brings to the table a rich sense of orchestration, giving the sextet that dominates much of the disc a vivid sound that often feels bigger than it is. And, like the music of other contemporary artists including Luis Perdomo and Edward Simon, the Latin elements are tightly fused with unassailable swing, shifting meters, and imaginative harmonic invention-a complex blend handled in de rigueur fashion by his well-known compatriots, including saxophonists Donny McCaslin and Myron Walden and trumpeter John Bailey.

The program of August originals kicks off with "Sweet Maladie," where the leader quickly establishes a preference for a bright sound and detailed arrangements that change tempo on a dime, yet flow effortlessly. The core of "Sweet Maladie" is an altered Afro-Cuban blues, with Israeli-born pianist Alon Yavnai demonstrating a firm grasp of displaced rhythm, while McCaslin's unhurried sense of development creates a kind of understated simmer.

August's open harmonies and gentle punctuations give the theme of "Four Two K" an attractive foundation that further expands into the middle section, where Walden and Bailey solo confidently over deceptive changes that challenge them to find connecting melodic threads. The columbine blue "Treatments in Darkness" has a Gil Evans-like ambience, the horns winding in and out of unison to broader harmonies, while drummer Eric McPhearson plays a more textural role featuring dramatic mallets and understated brushwork.

Late August may primarily focus on August the composer/arranger, but he's not a slouch as a performer. "Los Dos Cotos," a duet with Wilson "Chembo" Corniel on congas, may be but a brief interlude, but August's elliptical style and ability to suggest changes with a rare sleight of hand reveal plenty. The solo "Eulogy" provides the most direct link to August's classical background, with a rich arco tone that makes even the most dissonant harmonies of the piece appealing.

Artists traditionally associated with Latin music are increasingly broadening their horizons these days, embracing the tradition but assimilating it into a greater cosmopolitanism. Late August may lean heavily towards the Afro-Cuban tradition, but it does so in a way that expands the music beyond its confined borders, making for an impressive and auspicious debut.

- John Kelman, All About Jazz


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In case you've been wondering what other bassist besides Dave Holland is making adventuresome big band recordings, wonder no more. Bassist Gregg August has just released his first disc as a leader-and what a honey of a big band achievement it is. His nine original tunes, and ensemble playing showcasing eleven musicians of extraordinary skill and ardor, equal the best of Holland's big band efforts. Quite a praise for a young upstart-but wholly deserved.

August has played for years in a number of Latin jazz units, most recently Ray Vega's. And that comfort with boiling Latin orchestration is clear on the boisterious opening tune, "Sweet Maladie," which sounds like a modern version of a "Machito Meets Mingus" jam. Saxophones and trumpet play a neverously edgy riff over some lovely conga playing by Ray Barretto, still crazily talented after all these years, and nimble bass lines by August.

Mingus is clearly a key influence on August's original tunes. I hear strong traces of "The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady" in August's "Treatments in Darkness"; it features a similar wailing blues with an extraordinary richness of texture supplied by crying horns and singing bass declaring a deep dirge. But August is able to mine the Latin vein that Mingus never took to the max, and his compositions are unlike anyone else's, past or present.

Seven of these nine tunes are thickly arranged pieces for the band, all of whose members shine in their solos. But we are also treated to "Eulogy," a bravura tune for solo bass, and a tantalizingly brief snapshot of a duet for bass and congas between August and Wilson "Chembo" Corniel.

August has established himself as a bassist and composer to track seriously. This disc is a rousing surprise and a timely broadening of the field of Latin jazz.

- Norman Weinstein, All About Jazz


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All right........let's have a hearty, sincere round of applause & confidence for the 'new kid on the block' who happens to play what can be verbalized as killer upright bass.

Jazz bassist Gregg August also knows who to hang with as well, assuring a tight, crisp CD project........Having luminaries like the great reedman Frank Wess, & trumpet-teer John Bailey on each their respective axes, qualifies the disc as a no-brainer 'something you must listen to.'

Gregg is a player who seems to have the capability to re-invent a traditional harmonic instrument (bass) into a sensuous melodic 'voice' as he plies his talent with his finely honed articulation.......Certainly his artistic ability as well. Last, may I suggest that his grasp of the jazz idiom is nothing short of new & unusual.

- George W. Carroll/The Musicians' Ombudsman, ejazznews.com


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Gregg August brings a diverse blend of elements to Late August, his debut recording as leader. The bass player finds a groove for Afro-Cuban music and mainstream jazz alike. While six of the nine tracks feature his sextet, he adds percussionists Ray Barretto and Wilson "Chembo" Corniel on the first tune and goes in for a duet with the latter. The disc also features a quartet take with a different lineup and a solo turn. Now that the background check is over, on to the record.

There is plenty of good music on Late August. While all the musicians make individual impressions, Myron Walden and Donny McCaslin add to the dynamic with some prime inflections. The band gets off to a hot start on the Afro-Cuban "Sweet Maladie." While percussion and drums add the underlying layers of head-spinning rhythm, Alon Yavnai brings an interesting conception to his harmonization, and the swaying lines of the horns stir the pot. Another fiery swing comes with "Ma's Blues." August gets the adrenaline flowing, shaping changes on the bass. John Bailey scoots in on high momentum, laying down a wealth of lyrical ideas that Yavnai scoops up and takes into a melodic gallop.

The mood is quieter, but the swing is still in full flow on "Deceptions." The quartet setting is compact for this boppish outing spearheaded by Frank Wess, who balances quick changes with long catapulting notes. But some of the finest moments are defined by John Hart, his guitar loquacious and lush with emotion. At the end of it all, Gregg August stands up as a welcome new voice.

- Jerry D'Souza, All About Jazz


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Those who have their allegiances with the Messengers or 50's Mingus have a friend in bassist Gregg August. His recent release "Late August" is laden with classic post bop mixed with a healthy dose of intricate rhythms.

August displays his artistry in a multitude of settings. Dark and mournful on the arcing solo "Eulogy", he is also percussive and dancing in a lively duet with Corniel on the Congas ("Los Dos Cotos"). Aggressive Latin-tinged bop (with Ray Barretto) is thick and rich. August keeps the mix interesting by varying the size of the band with each song.

But it is the shifting moods and meters on pieces like "Treatments in Darkness", "Deceptions" (with Wess guesting on tenor) and "Work in Progress" that deserve the cudos. With McClaslin harkening to Booker Ervin, "Darkness" is a major thought-provoking and complex work. "Deceptions" and "Progress" while appearing straight-forward, have enough shifts and turns to keep the listener on the edge. Hopefully this is a portend of things to come.

Lots of interesting ideas and some great lines for upcoming bass players.

- George W. Harris, jazzweekly.com


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CHOSEN AS ONE OF THE TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2005
Bassist Gregg August is one of the most exciting and innovative musicians on the scene today. Having performed with such luminaries as Chico O'Farrill, Paquito D'Rivera and Steve Wilson, August continues to blaze new trails on what seems to be a never ending journey. Late August is a testament to his intriguing compositions and adventurous playing style. Every selection was written by August.

"Sweet Maladie" is an intense number rife with suspense and changes. Heavy on the rhythm with liberal use of the horns, August creates an invigorating tapestry that at times leaves one breathless. Yavnai's pulsating piano adds another dimension along with McCaslin's creative tenor. August is all over his bass, with passion and conviction. A tour de force of power, depth and beauty.

With a tip of the hat to famed Cuban bassist, Cachao, August creates a brief moment of exuberance and grace on "Los Dos Cotos." Subtle percussion adds to the moment, bringing another dimension to the mix.

Yavnai and August work together on "M's Blues" blending various colors and accents with support from the horn section. As the intensity mounts, so does the creativity. Yavnai's spirited piano is back for another round, with August hot on his trail. McCaslin's digs deep with a searing sax that lifts the spirit and soothes the soul.

"Eulogy" showcases another side of this multi-dimensional bassist. August's hauntingly beautiful bowing is a moment to be treasured.

Using complex rhythmic patterns, August creates a seductive, and captivating vehicle on "Melody In Black And Grey." Bailey and McCaslin stretch out with mind numbing solos, sending the melody into orbit. August and Corniel are featured as well, with solid efforts.

"Deceptions" swings like crazy. Hart plays his heart out with some inspiring chops. Wess is always on the mark with his smooth sounding sax. This seasoned veteran has a keen ear for what sounds right and how to integrate it into the blend.

August is at one with his bass, and a first rate composer to boot. There are many high points on Late August that require repeated listening. The band works so well together, bouncing ideas and having fun along the way. Watch out for August's next release. He is a man on a mission.

- Randy McElligott, jazzreview.com


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I have to say that over the last few weeks there have been a plethora of really good new releases that have come in. From the outstandinginterpretations of the familiar to the thought provoking forward thinkers.....it's here.

Tim Coffman, Ezra Weiss, Phil Nimmons "Portrait" release out of Canada with the big band (Not sure how I got this or if any others on the list received it) but I'm sure glad we got it.....The Ben Thomas Group, Hornheads, John La Barbara Big Band, Buddy Charles, Bucky Pizzeralli/Frank Vignola, Gregg August - fantastic writing and arranging - Dan Cray Trio,Jeremy Pelt, Eric Alexander/Vincent Herring, Wynton's release swings it's you know what off - Kenny Barron Trio and others. Rarely in my opinion do we see this volume of great releases in over this short amount of time. Makes me glad to be a programmer.

- JaeSinnett WHRV FM, Norfolk VA


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Groups of various size participate in the August project ranging from a solo bass performance by the leader up to an octet selection. The music from the larger sextet/septet/octet groups takes on big band characteristics promoted by the tight ensemble work and strong soloing from numerous in the cast. There is a sense of 1950's nostalgia in the music, but the arranged and improvised execution remains fresh in today's terms. The opening piece with an octet featuring Ray Barretto on congas, and a solid front line in trumpeter John Bailey and saxophonists Myron Walden and Donny McCaslin swings to a Latin Jazz beat but springs off into a post- Bop repertoire of mixed genres.

August and several others are given solo opportunities here and elsewhere. It is all tied together by the skillfully designed compositions of August, who wrote the nine pieces on the disc. Swing and the Blues combine on several cuts that breathe openly when the soloists spring forth. August favors a changing tempo pattern within his tunes, which use recurring theme statements by the ensemble to bridge the various solo segments by the ensemble to bridge the various solo segments. The two reeds plus brass alliance found on six of the songs produces a warm sound; the musicians glide smoothly through highs and lows in dynamics, tension and pace.

August is front and center on two pieces, one of which pairs him in a short encounter with conga player Corniel and the other where he goes it alone. His arco solo on the mournful "Eulogy" is particularly compelling. Added rhythmic impetus from guitaris Hart lets " Deceptions" fly high while Wess lights it up on tenor.August pays tribute on this recording to an endearing era of Jazz, but he dresses it in modern-day wear. Numerous stars shine on this delightful session but none more brightly than the composing/arranging skills of August.

- Frank Rubolino- Cadence Magazine, September 2005


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For someone to pay good money and spend their night listening to a band led by an acoustic bass player, you have to be a somewhat savvy listener, and more than likely think that music, specifically jazz, matters.

It helped that Gregg August is a Schenectady native, though he has since spent years in Barcelona, Paris, Cuba and New York City. But that's not necessarily enough to have kept a full house listening for two-plus hours Friday night at Schenectady's First Unitarian Society to open the season for "A Place for Jazz."

But what definitely was enough were August's smooth, sometimes complex, compositions executed modestly by his five band members.

Occasionally aggressive and always on the go, August is mostly subtle - he's a bass player after all. You might not always hear him during the song, but you feel him. If the group made weather, he'd be the shade.

From the start, during "Crescent Moon," he played a brainy solo that soon grew emotional, drummer E.J. Strickland alongside him like a pacesetter.

John Bailey followed with an interesting trumpet solo, wooing the rhythm section to fill in his large spaces, almost like a dare.

Once they took the bait after a full chorus, Bailey seemed to chase them back. Sometimes to lead is to follow.

Drummer Strickland was a madman all night, making endless sounds with a wonderfully pitched cymbal that he rode all night with his right hand, his three other limbs raining down on his set of percussion to create constant movement.

August called "In Search of a Title" a ballad, and it started and ended soft and sweet enough. But Myron Walden's alto sax solo created fist-clenching tension, followed by Greg Tardy's solo which established its own edgy discomfort.

Lucky for August no slowdancers stood up when he announced the ballad.

"Nastismo," as in nastier than nasty, was one of the faster, jumpier tunes that got away from the group in a couple of spots, but, all of them skilled at their instruments, consciously reined it in when necessary.

While August as a leader is far from controlling, his sound creates a pervasive presence that the band or listener cannot escape.

The three horns together had the force of a full brass section. But they never punched like a big band or like the horns on his latest CD. Rather they sought to make smooth harmonies and melodies that worked more appropriately in the room.

The music had little in common with August's latest release, "Late August," a collection of largely upbeat Afro-Cuban tunes.

Instead, the night was filled with several methodically layered songs that required chart-readings from the members, and a few medium-speed off-beat jazzy runs that never swung but jerked in fits and starts, like "The Sixth Finger."

A quality night of serious musicians playing high-quality music for listeners up for the challenge.

- DAVE SINGER, Daily Gazette (Schenectady, NY)


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An excellent debut recording by a very versatile musician. Gregg August will be around for a long while...

- Branford Marsalis


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Gregg August is one of the most versatile bassists in the business today, and his creativity and good taste, as well as his command of various musical styles is evident on this valuable collection of nothing but good music.

- Paquito D'Rivera


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Every once in a while, from down a side road you've forgotten to keep an eye on, a musician will breeze in and captivate you with a reshuffling of all jazz elements you love: hard swing, deep groove, intrepid blowing, inspired charts...

Greg August arrives with a knack for blending the above in way that sets him apart from the crowd of young bandleaders doing business in New York at the start of the millennium. The Caribbean informs his sound, as it does the best of the city's modern improvisers. And as he and his Late August squad milk the clave for all it's worth, it becomes clear that a valuable new voice is active among us.

I can't wait for him to get a string of club gigs under his belt- his book is jammed with material that's just waiting to be busted apart on stage.

- Jim Macnie


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