Saturday, October 14, 2017

For Your Grammy Consideration: Wadada Leo Smith, Ed Palermo Big Band, & other Cuneiform artists..

For Your Consideration for the 2018 Grammy Awards: Cuneiform Records Artists/Releases/Tunes/Art
Cuneiform Records
on Behalf of the Artists


presents Music & Album Art & Videos
for Grammy Academy Voters
to Consider
When Selecting their Nominations
for the 2018 Grammy Awards
America's National Parks

Listen on:
Soundcloud / Bandcamp / Youtube

For Your Consideration:

- Album of the Year -
Wadada Leo Smith
America's National Parks
Listen to the Full album

- Best Jazz Instrumental Album-
Wadada Leo Smith
America's National Parks
Listen to the Full album

- Best Improvised Jazz Solo -
"New Orleans: The National Culture Park USA 1718"
Listen to "New Orleans..."

- Best Instrumental Jazz Composition -
"Yellowstone: The First National Park and the Spirit of America – The Mountains, Super-Volcano Caldera and Its Ecosystem 1872"
Listen to "Yellowstone..."

"A trumpeter and composer of penetrating insight."
- The New York Times
With America’s National Parks, visionary composer and Wadada Leo Smith offers his latest epic collection, a suite inspired by the scenic splendor, historic legacy, and political controversies of the country’s public landscapes. Writing for his Golden Quintet, Smith crafts six extended works that explore, confront and question the preserved natural resources that are considered the most hallowed ground in the U.S. – and some that should be.

America's National Parks :
Oct.14, 2016 on Cuneiform
Album Awards 2017/2016:
* 2017 Jazz Album of the Year -DownBeat Critics Poll
* Best Jazz Album of 2016 -The Quietus
* #1 on Dusted's Best of 2016
* #1 Jazz CD by The Wire
* #2 on NPR Jazz Critics' Poll
* #6 on Slates' Best Jazz Albums of 2016

*The New York Time's Best Albums of 2016

"Wadada Leo Smith: National Treasure"
- DownBeat Magazine cover feature Nov.2016

"Smith is a true master, and America's National Parks is one of his most visionary works"
-The Quietus

"Smith uses his magisterial instrumental voice, his inspirational leadership and his command of classical, jazz and blues forms to remind us of what has gone down and what's still happening."
- DownBeat Magazine

Wadada Leo Smith - Awards
DownBeat Int'l Critics’ Poll:
2017 Musician of the Year
2017 Trumpeter of the Year
2017 Album of the Year-America's National Parks
Jazz Journalist Association:
2017 Jazz Artist of the Year
Jazz Times Critics Poll
2016 Artists of the Year
2016 Composer of the Year
The Great Un-American Songbook:
Vol. I & II

Listen on:
Soundcloud / Bandcamp / Youtube

For Your Consideration:

- Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album -
The Ed Palermo Big Band
The Great Un-American Songbook:
Vol. I & II

Listen to the Full album
- Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Capella" -
"Diamond Dust"
Listen to "Diamond Dust" here

- Best Arrangement, Instruments & Voice" -
"Beggar's Farm"
Listen to "Beggar's Farm" here

““Arranging is the fun part for me,” [says Palermo] …’ Hearing an arrangement played is the cherry on top, but the process of writing, when the ideas are flowing, that’s the main meal. ...if a day goes by without arranging, I miss it.””
- "Overdue Ovation: Ed Palermo - The Gil Evans of prog-rock",
by Mac Randall, Jazz Times, June 2017

"[Palermo's] skills as an arranger impressed the late Gil Evans, and he’s earned the respect of contemporary heavyweights such as bassist/composer Christian McBride. “I know at least 30 musicians who think he’s one of the greatest musicians and arrangers in the world,” McBride says."
-"Funny as He Goes: Bandleader Ed Palermo laces his seriously good music with wit and irreverence”,
by Michael Roberts, Jazziz, May 2017
The Ed Palermo Big Band's double-disc release, The Great Un-American Songbook Volumes 1 & 2, is a big band jazz love letter to the rockers who ruled the AM and FM airwaves in the 1960s via successive waves of the British Invasion. Led by New Jersey saxophonist, composer and arranger Ed Palermo, the 18-piece EPBB lovingly reinvents songs, leaving them readily recognizable and utterly transformed. The stellar cast of players, many of whom have been in the band for more than a decade, bring expert musicianship and emotional intensity to Palermo’s music. Released Feb.24, 2017

“…this ace bandleader-arranger is dead serious about his song-renovations, striving for exceptional music...premium jazz. Palermo bloody well nails it. ...
Palermo’s modern alchemists spin everything they touch into gold…4 stars
- DownBeat

"Palermo… crafts swinging large ensemble jazz interpretations of both well known and obscure tracks…which breathe new life into these older songs. …The results are phenomenal.
…there is undeniable depth as well as requisite wit... These are not throwaway arrangements, and there is plenty of musical virtuosity. … Palermo…proves jazz is alive and well, and can sound funny and serious at the same time.”
-Audiophile Audition

“…it’s a thrilling rollercoaster ride through the last 50-odd years of prominent musical Brits filtered through a decidedly modern big band lens. …
It’s a brilliant bit of musical reimagining that has long been the hallmark of progressive jazz figures (John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things,” anyone?) and proves well-suited to Palermo’s strengths as an arranger. ...
There are countless moments of intricately virtuosic instrumental interplay…always in service of the arrangement...
The Great Un-American Songbook: Volumes I & II is a wickedly enjoyable listen from top to bottom. Rating: 8/10

"Anyone should be entertained by...the powerhouse energy of the 18-piece EPBB. [Rating: Music 4.5/5 Sonics 4/5]“
- The Absolute Sound

Released on Cuneiform May 26, 2017
Listen on:
Soundcloud / Bandcamp / Youtube

For Your Consideration:

- Best Recording Package -
The Great Harry Hillman

Hand-assembled origami recording package.
Released on Cuneiform May 26, 2017.


- Best Music Video -
The Great Harry Hillman
"How To Dice an Onion"
360° Music Video for "How to Dice an Onion" from Tilt
"“How To Dice an Onion” is a zany wedge of experimental rock er, jazz…eh, it almost defies categorization. Pulsing like a strobe light, it’s carefree but carefree with a collective mindset and a melodic pattern you can hang your hat on. It’s even dance worthy, something you can’t often say about such way out music with a heavy improv bent.
The music video..puts those qualities of the song into vivid, visual display: the band members merrily strutting about as they perform amidst dancing mimes and people in dogs costumes, a trapeze artist overhead and folks frolicking in soap bubbles. It’s all goofy fun, like the song itself.
If you don’t see everything in the video I just described, just take your mouse and drag it across the video screen. Yes, it’s a 360º video! A panoramic scene that has no top, bottom, left or right. You can spend hours watching..and see something new with each viewing. Pretty nifty, huh? The gumption of the Great Harry Hillman knows no bounds."
- Something Else! 360* Video Premiere
"Swiss post-jazz ready for discovery.
This...forward-veering jazz group inexplicably borrowed its name from American Olympian Harry Hillman, who won three gold medals in the 1904 Summer Olympics. ...If you think a foursome who gets its name from an obscure athlete might be a bit different, you’d be correct.
...“How to Dice an Onion”...squeezes experimental rock and jazz together with a touch of Danny Elfman meets Sonic Youth. This is jaunty music which showcases the band’s collective approach and the group’s ability to tinker with expectations and harmonic advancement. “How to Dice an Onion” is nearly dance-ready..."
- Audiophile Audition

"All non- conventional, immediately accessible and, most importantly, fun to listen to. ...The Great Harry Hillman masterfully blends atmospherics with improvisation and Tilt should bring the group some well-deserved recognition in the U.S."
- All About Jazz

São Paulo Underground
Cantos Invisíveis

Listen on:
Soundcloud / Bandcamp / Youtube

For Your Consideration:

- Best Latin Rock, Urban, or Alternative Album -
São Paulo Underground
Cantos Invisíveis
Listen to the Full album

"All the sounds melt and morph as if they were fever-dream memories of a tropical street party."
- DownBeat
Consisting of Marfa, TX resident Rob Mazurek, Guilherme Granado and Mauricio Takara of São Paulo, Brazil, and the Swiss-born Thomas Rohrer, São Paulo Underground is a multi-national, multi-ethnic, multi-everything band whose music blends elements from cutting-edge and traditional Brazilian music with avant jazz and much more. Cantos Invisíveis, their 5th album, features a glorious program of music evoking lost haunts, enduring love, and the sheer delirious joy of making music together. Released on Cuneiform Oct. 14, 2016.

NPR BEST MUSIC OF 2016: Alt.Latino Picks The Best Latin Music of 2016
Hear the Songs:
São Paulo Underground 'Of Golden Summer' from Cantos Invisiveis
"Musicians in every style of the genre we call Latin alternative music are subtly - or not so subtly -challenging expectations and redefining musical rules."

"São Paulo Underground's work...draws from multiple traditions, each of them already porous and absorbent, and combines ideas from each into something utterly new, while keeping it welcoming to almost any curious listener."
- The Wire
"Mixing the opaque with the diffused and blurring the lines between electric and acoustic, Rob Mazurek’s wide ambition continues to race toward the outer limits of what is possible in music."
- Something Else
Putting Off Death

Listen on:
Soundcloud / Bandcamp / Youtube

For Your Consideration:

- Best Alternative Music Album -
Putting Off Death
Listen to the Full album

"Cheer-Accident are the quintessential Chicago post-rock band that, sadly, you may have never heard of. Too bad. They've been exploring head-scratching, creatively fucked-up time signatures and sideways guitar shenanigans...leaving a pronounced influence on the Windy City's art-rock scene. Their playful musical approach is a ripe aesthetic of absurdist humor."
- Pitchfork
"Putting Off Death… bristles with a dynamic mix of jump-cut, quirky rhythms, densely-wrought instrumental orchestration and complex arrangements coupled with uplifting melodies, lyrical and reflective songs whose subject matter ponders questions both ineffable and, as the album title implies, the inevitable."
- Prog Magazine UK
Against all the odds and in the face of an unstable music industry, Chicago avant-rock pioneers CHEER-ACCIDENT have survived over multiple decades to release their 18th album, Putting Off Death. Their new set of songs is as unpredictable, exploratory and viscerally compelling as anything they’ve ever released. The music is action packed and filled to the brim with living, breathing humanity. The band’s continuing hunger bleeds through in the music’s immediacy. As Jones says, "There's still something to prove."
Released on Cuneiform May 12, 2017

“…Cheer Accident’s latest feels like the album Robert Wyatt would have made if he’d...chosen instead to embrace the teen idolhood that could have greeted him post- his hit with “I’m a Believer.”
A lot less strange than either Ruth or Richard, then, and a long way up from rock bottom, Cheer Accident have concocted what could easily rank among America’s best albums of the year-so-far. Indeed, Putting Off Death opens with a haunting triptych of opening numbers that lean towards so many different poles that their sheer coherence is an art form in itself, all the more so since they never lose sight of their essential melodics.”
- Goldmine
"Stumbling upon Cheer- Accident’s unique amalgam of prog and pop is like blundering blindfolded into one of Daniel Silver’s alien sculpture parks and finding yourself sniffing blooms in a fantastical flower garden…
There’s the initial tentative touching upon of relics…(echoes of The Beatles, Magma, News From Babel and Talk Talk reassembled into perversely fresh forms)….More than three decades on from their formation...Cheer-Accident continue to exhibit an unbridled enthusiasm for technicality in (e)motion, matched only by their propensity for invention. Without any doubt, Putting Off Death will be one of 2017’s very best. 5/5 stars."
- Record Collector
“With Putting Off Death, ...veteran art-rock oddballs Cheer-Accident continue to confound”
- Chicago Reader
Edit Peptide

Listen on:
Soundcloud / Bandcamp / Youtube

For Your Consideration:

- Best Alternative Music Album -
Edit Peptide
Listen to the Full album

"Yes boy and girls, at long last we have a band that is determined to keep the name “Cardiacs” alive and kicking. ...this is complex, tight, and completely off the wall.
Don’t try to work out what time signature a certain piece of a song may be in, or what chord structure they are using, and instead just relish the total insanity and musical chaos of what is going on. They use a (fairly) straightforward musical line-up, just use the instruments in somewhat unusual manners. ...Yes, they all sing.
I love this album, it’s just plain awesome... the songs...manage to be melodic as well as, well, weird. Zappa would love these guys...worth discovering."
- Amplified
Fifteen years in the making, Minnesota eclectic prog / avant-pop / art-math quintet Bubblemath's sophmore sequence, Edit Peptide, provides a worthwhile wait with it's lively textures, wacky and virtuosic musicianship, hypnotically robust vocals and charmingly astute attitude. Blending in-your-face intricacy with eccentric experimentation, dense and poppy harmonies, symphonic vibrancy and tongue-in-cheek foundation, Bubblemath make serious and seriously quirky music that doesn't take itself too seriously and allows the fun to shine through. Released on Cuneiform May 26, 2017

"All manner of minds have been exercised trying to visualize where prog would have gone had exhaustion, punk rock, and a desperate need to escape the genre not conspired to rip its heart out, somewhere around 1975.
Not until the emergence of Bubblemath, however, did any suggestions really seem to fit. …
Bubblemath...hit the nail on the head, and they continue to do so today, with an album that could never have been released at the time, but if you follow an imaginary lineage from then-till-now, Edit Peptide is exactly where we should be today."

"More remarkable than this attention to detail and meticulous sense of imagination is Bubblemath’s reluctance to sound like anyone else in the pantheon of prog. …the remarkable originality at work in this music ultimately prevails. …
What we have, then, is that rarest of musical artifacts, a sophomore release that lives up to its predecessor and may very well supplant it as an enticing and memorable statement."
- PopMatters

"…Edit Peptide is an exhilarating white knuckle ride... At times jaw-dropping, the technique is used to service the music and the pop elements are frequently on hand, despite the skewed nature of the compositions. …
Edit Peptide is a quite magnificent’s a wonder to behold!"
- The Progressive Aspect
Dedicated to cutting-edge, avant-garde music of the highest caliber from around the world, the adventurous and long-standing (founded 1984) Cuneiform Records record label has one of the most impressive catalogues of creative music in the world. Our roster of artists includes established icons as well as fast-rising stars artists, and features some of the world's best and most innovative composers, arrangers, improvisors, and players. Our music spans a wide range of genres, including jazz, rock, electronic and much more, especially music that defies defies, transforms and transcends traditional genres.

For more information about Cuneiform records or Cuneiform artists, email Joyce at our Promotions and Publicity Department:

Please visit for more information about Cuneiform Records, the talented artists that it represents, and the countless adventurous music recordings that we've released over three decades.
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Copyright © 2017 CUNEIFORM RECORDS, All rights reserved.

Cuneiform Records is based in Washington DC (DMV / downtown Silver Spring, MD)

Our mailing address is:
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Silver Spring, MD 20907-8427
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Friday, October 13, 2017

Cuneiform's October 2017 Releases





Dear Friends in Music,

Since last month's horde of hurricanes - Harvey, Irma, Maria - our eyes have been on the skies. The heavens hold an array of wonders, and this week, 2017's Harvest Moon dominates the night skies. Arriving today, October 5th, on the heels of September’s Autumnal equinox, this enormous, orange-hued full moon occupies the celestial firmament's center stage for several consecutive nights. Each evening, moonrise will come earlier than normal, illuminating the darkness; for centuries, the Harvest Moon’s amber glow enabled farmers to harvest crops long into the night. Nature and mankind once worked in concert.
It’s fitting that this same week, Cuneiform Records unveils its Fall Harvest, Part I: the October crop of its Fall 2017 releases. On Friday October 6, we release a cornucopia of new albums by The Ed Palermo Big Band, Raoul Björkenheim / Ecstasy, and Schnellertollermeier - three bands with previous releases on Cuneiform. Each of these new discs pushes boundaries and defies pigeonholing in a single genre, as each combines elements or techniques from different genres - jazz, rock and more - in radically different ways. Let's introduce them:

The prodigiously talented and prolific American big band jazz arranger/ composer/ saxophonist/ bandleader Ed Palermo is on a roll, and it’s rockin’. Less than 7 1/2 months after The Ed Palermo Big Band released The Great Un-American Songbook: Vols. 1 and 2, a double-disc set of Palermo’s big band jazz arrangements of ‘60s and ‘70s Brit-pop tunes, he’s back with a new album on a different subject. The new release - The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren - features Palermo’s arrangements of songs by two pop/rock super-heroes from his rock-fueled youth: Todd Rundgren and Frank Zappa. In Palermo’s universe, jazz, rock and pop are all welcome as equally Popular Music inside his Big Band party tent. Via packed shows with his well-honed 18-piece band at NY’s The Iridium and Falcon, and a string of consecutive albums on Cuneiform awarded DownBeat’s coveted 4-stars, The Ed Palermo Big Band is popularizing big band jazz as the smart choice for popular entertainment. His contributions as a jazz arranger and big band leader are not merely great fun, but also deserve serious recognition.

If you’re enthralled by cutting-edge guitar whether jazz or rock, and if your jaw ever dropped while watching a Hendrix video, then Finnish-American guitarist Raoul Björkenheim should be center place on your radar. Bjorkenheim is not only a phenomenal guitarist; he’s also a visionary composer, improvisor and bandleader. His Helsinki-based quartet, Ecstasy, picks up where his Krakatau group (ECM) left off and reflects his intervening years with Scorch Trio and Blixt. Ecstasy’s first two instrumental jazz releases, both on Cuneiform, seamlessly entwined influences from jazz, rock and world music (Asian, Middle Eastern, African, Latin & more) and were both nominated for an Emma, the Finnish equivalent of a GrammyDoors of Perception, Raoul Bjorkenheim/Ecstasy’s new Cuneiform release, reveals this brilliant group at its hottest, with superb playing and inspired improvisation that draws on a universe of musical influences.

Cuneiform’s third October 2017 release is by Schnellertollermeier, a young Swiss trio whose band name fuses their surnames into a single organic entity. Their music is likewise an organic melding of myriad influences into a single and singular genre-transcendent sonic force, a radically captivating sound that's found welcoming audiences at both jazz and rock festivals as well as critical acclaim. The Wall Street Journal's Jim Fusilli named X, the trio's 3rd album and first Cuneiform release, one of 2015's 12 best releases of 2015. In Rights, Schnellertollermeier's new album on Cuneiform, their music melds elements from a world of sound - rock, electronica, minimalism, noise, jazz and more - into an album of brutal power and immense sonic and emotional depth. Defying outmoded musical genres, Rights could best be described as a manifesto for a new, 21st Century species of rock, forged by musicians who honed their skills in cutting-edge jazz.

We invite you to explore and enjoy our rather splendid harvest of big band jazz, new jazz/improvisation, and cutting-edge rock and beyond. This trio of releases should please a wide range of discerning musical tastes - may you discover a favorite soundtrack for this year's Harvest Moon!

But wait, there's more music to come - but it won't arrive until Thanksgiving, long after the Harvest Moon. In late November 2017, Cuneiform will release Part II of our Fall 2017 Harvest: the Art Zoyd box set, called 44 1/2: Live and Unreleased Works. A colossal collection of 12 CDs, 2 DVDs, 2 booklets and posters, this extensive box set - a first for both Cuneiform and for Art Zoyd - is still in manufacturing. Having seen the factory’s gorgeous sample this week, I can assure you that it’s well worth the wait!

Best regards
Director of Publicity & Promotion, Cuneiform Records



Raoul Björkenheim / eCsTaSy
Doors of Perception
Genre: Jazz / Improv
Release Date: 10/6/2017
"Ecstasy Dance"
stream: @SoundCloud / @Bandcamp / @YouTube

[more info below]
The Ed Palermo Big Band
The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren
Genre: Jazz / Big Band
Release Date: 10/6/2017
"Flamingo (Todd Rundgren)"
stream: @SoundCloud / @Bandcamp / @YouTube

[more info below]
Genre: Rock / Experimental-Avant-Psych-Minimal Rock / Jazz / Post-Jazz
Release Date: 10/6/2017
"Rights [Part 1]"
stream: @SoundCloud / @Bandcamp / @YouTube

[more info below]

Nordic jazz explorers Raoul Björkenheim and eCsTaSy
open the Doors to New Sonic Vistas with
Doors of Perception,
kaleidoscopically inventive & perceptive improvisation
that reveals the quartet at its hottest,
unleashing “what Ecstasy sounds like”

Raoul Björkenheim / eCsTaSy
Doors of Perception

STREAM/SHARE: "Ecstasy Dance"
@SoundCloud / @Bandcamp / @YouTube

Cat. #: Rune 443, Format: CD / Digital Download
Genre: Jazz / Improv
Release Date: October 6, 2017


In the mansion that is guitarist Raoul Björkenheim’s music there are many rooms, and the Finnish-American guitar explorer opens up a particularly vivid and volatile new portal with Doors of Perception, his third Cuneiform release with his quartet eCsTaSy. Slated for release on October 6, 2017, the album captures an extraordinary working ensemble stretching into transfixing new spaces, settings defined as much by texture, vibe and sinuous melodic lines as by rhythmic and harmonic structures.

Featuring the innovative drummer Markku Ounaskari, Björkenheim’s longtime partner in sonic exploration, the young and dauntingly prolific saxophonist Pauli Lyytinen and bassist Jori Huhtala, eCsTaSy continues to expand its sonic palette. Over the course of six years the musicians have forged a riveting communion. Capaciously inventive, rigorously gutsy and unapologetically Nordic, the music flows from the mystic Finnish landscape and the hothouse Helsinki music scene that gave birth to the band.

“The band has really developed during the last few years, getting to a point that I had hoped we would reach,” Björkenheim says. “We went into the studio with some sketches, but most of the music was created spontaneously, and you get a sense of this ongoing conversation. We couldn’t have done this five years ago. We didn’t have this kind of trust yet.”

One sure sign of the quartet’s deep connection is the way they distill ideas. Sequenced as a stream of consciousness train of impressions, Doors of Perception features 10 tracks that all clock in under five minutes. Rather than exploring extended forms or expansive soundscapes, the music is instead marked by pithy statements and compressed drama. Which isn’t to say Doors of Perception lacks grandeur. The album opens with “Ides of March,” an ominous, portentously churning piece that breaks like a thunderstorm, only to clear with a thumping bass passage and a thick, ringing guitar chord. “Buzz,” the album’s briefest piece, is a jittery journey that seems to pass through a multitude of stations, driven by Ounaskari’s spidery cymbal work.

Maybe the group was heading to the beach, as the wary but persistently spacious “Surf Bird,” follows, featuring Lyytinen’s lilting East-meets-West wood flute. The album’s longest track, “Elemental” is also the most pleasingly consonant, a snaky sojourn that keys on Lyytinen’s keening soprano sax and Björkenheim’s meaty strumming. With its blustery bass sax and soaring guitar line, “Talkin’ to Me?” is appropriately pugnacious, while the title track proceeds like an invitation to an enigmatic subterranean realm. The album closes with “Ecstasy Dance,” a righteous blast of joy that whirls off to the horizon, suggesting yet another door well worth entering.

While Björkenheim is no stranger to long musical structures, he was after a different kind of narrative arc on Doors of Perception. Much like each piece is a finely calibrated aural micro-cosmos, the album proceeds from track to track with its own internal logic. “In a way it is countercultural,” Björkenheim says. “It’s an invitation to enter a world that might be disorienting. I don’t hear a walking bass, is this jazz? It might be a little bit of a challenge, but it’s also an invitation.”

With Doors of Perception, Björkenheim and eCsTaSy avoid predictable and boring routines to offer the listeners something all too rare in most jazz these days.  The Doors of Perception invites listeners to join eCsTaSy’s musical trip, a journey filled with excitement and joyous revelations that spark emotions and expand all ears.

Doors of Perception is the third release by Raoul Björkenheim’s Ecstasy, all of which were released by Cuneiform. The first album, the self-titled eCsTaSy, came out in 2014.  eCsTaSy’s second album, Out of the Blue, was released in 2015. Both previous eCsTaSy albums were nominated for the Emma Prize for Best Jazz Recording in Finland, which is the Finnish version of the Grammy.

As those who’ve seen him in his many ensembles can testify, guitarist Björkenheim is an astounding live performer, and his band  eCsTaSy is positively electrifying live. Active on the international jazz festival circuit, Ecstasy recently played at Jazzahead in Bremen in April 2017. In support of the release of Doors of Perception, Ecstasy will perform several concerts in Finland in 2017.  Björkenheim plans to tour Ecstasy internationally in 2018, as well as to do several festival performances.

If you'd like to share music from this release, please feel free to use the following track:
"Ecstasy Dance" stream: @SoundCloud / @Bandcamp / @YouTube



The Ed Palermo Big Band brings together two fave 1960s American Pop/Rock Superheroes for
The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren,
a Dizzying and Ingenious Reinvention of Music
by Frank Zappa and Todd Rundgren

The Ed Palermo Big Band
The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren

STREAM/SHARE: "Flamingo (Todd Rundgren)"
@SoundCloud / @Bandcamp / @YouTube

Cat. #: Rune 440, Format: CD / Digital Download
Genre: Jazz / Big Band
Release Date: October 6, 2017

Ed Palermo may have gained an international following with his ingenious orchestral arrangements of Frank Zappa tunes, but he’s hardly a one-trick pony. Earlier in the year, the saxophonist released an uproarious double album The Great Un-American Songbook Volumes 1 & 2, a project celebrating an expansive roster of songs by successive waves of British invaders, from the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Jeff Beck to King Crimson, Traffic, and Jethro Tull.

With his new big band project, slated for release on Cuneiform Records on October 6, 2017, Palermo is back on his home turf, but the landscape feels strange and uncanny. He’s reclaiming the Zappa songbook, filtering Frank through the emotionally charged lens of the polymathic musical wizard Todd Rundgren in a wild and wooly transmogrification, The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren. Working with the same stellar cast of players, Palermo somehow captures the essence of these iconoclastic masters, making Zappa Zappier and Todd more Rundgrenian.

He sees the Zappa and Rundgren as embodying a ying and yang approach to life that played an essential role in helping him navigate the minefields of teenage angst in the 1960s. “For most of my high school days my favorite musicians were Zappa and Todd Rundgren,” Palermo says. “Rundgren had his songs about self-pity, which were exactly what I needed back then. I’d go out with a girl and whatever party I brought her to she’d go and hang out with another dude. Todd understood. At the same time, Zappa had these snarky songs like ‘Broken Hearts are for Assholes.’ It was tough love. You gotta broken heart? Deal with it. Todd Rundgren’s music was there to give you a hug. I wanted to contrast the hard-bitten Zappa followed by a bleeding heart Rundgren ballad.”

Though the title suggests a forced merger, The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren doesn’t mashup the oeuvres of the two masters. Rather, the album mostly alternates between the composers, creating a deliciously dizzying whipsaw as the two diametrical stances sometimes blur or even switch. Zappa’s soaring fanfare “Peaches En Regalia” is more inspirational than smarmy, with a particularly eloquent alto sax solo by Cliff Lyons, while a brisk and forthright version of Rundgren’s “Influenza” showcases the muscular lyricism of violinist Katie Jacoby, one of the orchestra’s essential voices.

Palermo reaches deep into the Rundgren songbook for “Kiddie Boy,” a stinging blues from 1969’s Nazz Nazz, the seminal second release by his underappreciated band Nazz (an album which originally bore the Zappaesque title Fungo Bat). Drawing directly from the maestro’s original horn arrangement, Palermo displays some impressive guitar work on a vehicle for Bruce McDaniel’s blue-eye vocals. Napoleon Murphy Brock delivers a poker-faced rendition of Zappa’s surreal “Montana,” the tune that turned a generation on to the lucrative potential of floss farming, and McDaniel and Brock join forces on Rundgren’s deliriously silly “Emperor of the Highway,” an homage to Gilbert and Sullivan.

The contrasting sensibilities of the Zundgrens comes into sharp focus in the center of the album. While Palermo has recorded Zappa’s “Echidna’s Arf (Of You)” this time he replaces the horns with McDaniel’s intricately layered vocals via the miracle of multi-tracking. From Zappa’s playfully odd metered work out the big band saunters into Rundgren’s greatest ballad “Hello It's Me,” an arrangement for McDaniel’s most impassioned crooning based on the original version from 1968 album Nazz (not the hit from his solo Something/Anything? album).

Tenor saxophonist Bill Straub swaggers through Rundgren’s “Wailing Wall,” which is sandwiched between two slices of Zappa at his snarky best, “Big Swifty Coda” and “Florentine Pogen,” another superb feature for Brock. Palermo spotlights a dark and wondrous Zappa obscurity with “Janet's Big Dance Number,” a brief piece recovered from 200 Motels featuring Ben Kono’s noir tenor solo. From that unified hedgehogian arrangement Palermo unleashes the multifarious fox on Rundgren’s “Broke Down and Busted,” a portmanteau arrangement that touches on Rundgren’s “Boat on the Charles,” the Ramsey Lewis hit “The ‘In’ Crowd,” Zappa’s “Brown Shoes Don’t Make It,” and even traces of Steely Dan’s “Pretzel Logic.” It’s a tour de force that feels like stream of consciousness journey, though the id truly emerged on the closing hidden track. In what has become a Palermo tradition, he includes yet another version of an enduring lament about the difficulties of relationships, arranged this time in Nazzian style by McDaniel.

The seamless ease with which Palermo and his crack crew navigate between the Zappa and Rundgren shouldn’t come as a surprise. Over the years Zappa’s music has proven supremely pliable in Palermo’s capable hands, as evidenced further by a recent concert at Iridium that paired his songs with standards indelibly linked to Ol’ Blue Eyes (is there an album The Adventures of Zinatra in the future?). Everything he brings into the big band is a labor of love.

“Todd Rundgren holds a very special place in my heart,” Palermo says. “I realized I was in love with my girlfriend (now wife) listening to his album Something/Anything? It was about 2 years ago doing our regular hit at The Falcon that I decided to have Zodd Zundgren night. A lot of people who like the music of Zappa also like Rundgren and Steely Dan, but there are enough Steely Dan cover bands out there.”

Born in Ocean City, New Jersey on June 14, 1954, Palermo grew up in the cultural orbit of Philadelphia, which was about an hour drive away. He started playing clarinet in elementary school, and soon turned to the alto saxophone. He also took up the guitar, and credits his teenage obsession with Zappa to opening his ears to post-bop harmonies and improvisation.

Palermo caught the jazz bug while attending DePaul University, and took to the alto sax with renewed diligence inspired by Phil Woods, Cannonball Adderley, and Edgar Winter (the subject of an upcoming EPBB project). Before he graduated he was leading his own band and making a good living as a studio player recording commercial jingles. But like so many jazz musicians he answered New York’s siren call, moving to Manhattan in 1977. After a year of playing jam sessions and scuffling Palermo landed a coveted gig with Tito Puente, a four-year stint that immersed him in Afro-Cuban music.

An encounter with trumpeter Woody Shaw’s septet at the Village Vanguard in the late 1970s stoked his interest in writing and arranging for larger ensembles, and by the end of the decade he had launched a nine-piece rehearsal band with five horns. Between Don Sebesky’s well-regarded book The Contemporary Arranger and advice from Dave Lalama and Tim Ouimette, “I got a lot of my questions answered and I’ll love them forever,” Palermo says. “Then the real education was trial and error. I lived in a little apartment with no TV or furniture. All I had was a card table, and once a week I’d rehearse my nonet, then listen to the cassette of the rehearsal and make all the changes.”

Palermo made his recording debut in 1982, an impressive session featuring heavyweights such as David Sanborn, Edgar Winter and Randy Brecker. As a consummate studio cat and sideman, he toured and recorded with an array of stars, including Aretha Franklin, Eddie Palmieri, Celia Cruz, Lena Horne, Tony Bennett, Mel Tormé, Lou Rawls, Melba Moore, The Spinners, and many others. As an arranger, he’s written charts for the Tonight Show Band, Maurice Hines, Eddy Fischer, and Melissa Walker. Employed frequently by bass star Christian McBride for a disparate array of projects, Palermo has written arrangements for a James Brown concert at the Hollywood Bowl, a Frank Sinatra tribute featuring Kurt Elling, Seth McFarland, and John Pizzarelli, and a 20-minute medley of Wayne Shorter tunes for the New Jersey Ballet.

Palermo had been leading his big band for more than a decade before the Zappa concept started coming together. Inspired by electric guitar master Mike Keneally, who performed with Zappa on some of his final concerts before his death in 1993, Palermo decided to arrange a program of 12 Zappa tunes. When the time came to debut the material at one of the band’s regular gigs at the Bitter End in early 1994, a sold-out crowd greeted the band.

He earned international attention with the ensemble’s 1997 debut The Ed Palermo Big Band Plays Frank Zappa on Astor Place Records, which received a highly-prized 4-star review from DownBeat. With Palermo’s brilliant arrangements and soloists such as Bob Mintzer, Chris PotterDave Samuels, Mike Stern, and Mike Keneally, the album made an undisputable case for the Zappa jazz concept. In 2006 he released another collection of Zappa arranged for his jazz big band, called Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance, on Cuneiform, thus beginning an ongoing collaboration with that label. While Palermo has written more than 300 Zappa charts, he’s cast an increasingly wide net for material. Recent releases like 2014’s Oh No! Not Jazz!!, 2016’s One Child Left Behind and 2017’s The Great Un-American Songbook Volumes 1 & 2 - all on Cuneiform and all recipients of DownBeat’s coveted 4-star ratings - featured a bountiful selection of his original compositions and material by composers not named Frank Zappa.

Nothing demonstrates the ensemble’s ongoing vitality better than the stellar cast of players, with longtime collaborators such as violinist Katie Jacoby, baritone saxophonist Barbara Cifelli, drummer Ray Marchica, and keyboardist Ted Kooshian. Many of these top-shelf musicians have been in the band for more than a decade, and they bring wide-ranging experience, expert musicianship and emotional intensity to Palermo’s music.

The band’s following continues to expand with its monthly residency at Iridium and bi-monthly gigs at The Falcon. In addition, performances (some headlining) at jazz festivals across the USA are winning new fans of all ages for the band. Palermo’s profile in the jazz press is also rising fast, with articles and feature stories appearing this past year in such publications as Jazz Times and Jazziz. Regarding recordings, albums by The Ed Palermo Big Band have been critically acclaimed and also embraced by the general public-jazz and rock fans alike. Palermo has already recorded dozens of new tracks for The Great Un-American Songbook Volumes 3 & 4, and is hoping Zodd Zundgren helps introduce Rundgren’s ingenious, heartfelt music to a new generation.

If you'd like to share music from this release, please feel free to use the following track:
"Flamingo (Todd Rundgren)" stream: @SoundCloud / @Bandcamp / @YouTube




November 13 USA The Iridium
1650 Broadway
[The Adventures Of Zodd Zundgren record release party!]
December 16 USA The Iridium
1650 Broadway
[it's an Ed Palermo Christmas!]
December 23 USA The Falcon
1348 Route 9W
Marlboro, NY 12542
[it's an Ed Palermo Christmas!]


A Stunning Album of Immense Depth and Beauty and Unfathomable Power, Swiss Power Trio & Singular Musical Organism
Summon Jazz Magic, Minimalist Focus, and a Progressive Attitude Towards Music’s Universe to Breathe new Life into Rock Forms, Creating a New, 21st Century Species


STREAM/SHARE: "Rights [Part 1]"
@SoundCloud / @Bandcamp / @YouTube

Cat. #: Rune 442, Format: CD / LP / Digital Download
Genre: Rock / Experimental-Avant-Psych-Minimal Rock / Jazz / Post-Jazz
Release Date: October 6, 2017

Clarity. Attitude. Skill. These really aren’t qualities that define our present time. All too often, our ephemeral reality finds itself reflected in a jittery retro-music that sucks its data from the Cloud – that atomised archive accessible to all. Schnellertollermeier’s fourth album, to be released October 2017 by Cuneiform Records, is their reply to all this: Rights, and it offers ample demonstration of their own clarity and ability. Rights comprises four pieces, every one of them inscribed with radicalism. Each is built on just a few ideas and develops out of them until it sounds like a Cubist work of art that seems to gaze out from the most varied of perspectives, but always in the same direction. This is the key to the immense depth and beauty of this album. Apart from the fact that it simply blows you away.

Schnellertollermeier still has its original line-up: Andi Schnellmann (bass), Manuel Troller (guitar) and David Meier (drums). These three musicians attended jazz schools in Switzerland and Scandinavia and have been working together as a band for more than ten years. And although they today live in different towns in Switzerland, their collaboration is even more intense than in their early years. After Holz (2008) and Zorn einen ehmer üttert stem!! (2010) it was above all their third album, X (2015), their first release on Cuneiform, that took the band onto a different level, both in compositional and career terms. Whereas Schnellertollermeier had until then played some 20 concerts per year, today it’s 40. X was named one of the 12 most important records of the year by the Wall Street Journal, and the trio went on tour in the USA, Great Britain, Russia and the rest of Europe.

You could say that Rights is the result of this process of consolidation. Schnellertollermeier has an immense presence – that’s the first thing you notice. Initially, you only hear concise, repetitive patterns, but you can already feel their powerful energy while performing, their will to play out and not to yield to any ceremonial, reductionist modes. The pressure is high, their concentration levels too, and their energy levels aren’t a sudden spasm but a prerequisite. This music is complex, but never so much so that the band couldn’t play it with something in reserve. That keeps their music open and free – for themselves, and also for those who hear it. Schnellertollermeier is never brash. They regulate the intensity of their sound with the highly controlled nuances of a precision engineer handling thumbscrews. They never discharge an impertinent punch – instead it’s outstretched, held out, and offered up.

This new album was made in 2016 during the band’s residency at the cultural centre “Südpol” in Lucerne. Schnellertollermeier composed and rehearsed in the different rooms of the house, and presented their interim results in a series of concerts. They sketched out their material, adapted it, took it apart, and blew it up. This was an intentional dissolution of all boundaries for purposes of concentration. The stress test of playing these pieces live helped to make them better: not because Schnellmann, Troller and Meier paid particular attention to what people said after their performances, but because they themselves noticed on stage where the new tracks felt good and where they didn’t. Thus the four pieces on Rights developed over five months and eight concerts before they were all recorded on the spot. Two or three finished tracks were dropped; what remained was “Rights”, the title piece, “Piccadilly Sources”, “Praise/Eleven” and “Round” – four pieces ranging in length between 6 minutes 58 seconds, and 13 minutes 20 seconds.

If we compare Rights with the earlier albums by Schnellertollermeier, it is immediately apparent how little it sounds like improvised music or “jazz”. In others of their many bands, Schnellmann, Troller and Meier still regularly play that kind of music with abandon. But here, we detect their expertise in jazz and improvisation primarily in how they take a rock riff in “Piccadilly Sources” and twist and turn it around, or how, in “Praise/Eleven”, these three musicians turn high, diaphanous sounds into filigree sculptures like freely hovering mobiles. Then there are times when the band sounds like a classic power-rock trio – but one that’s not merely a platform to showcase three soloists. No, Schnellertollermeier is a morphing organism. There are no solos here, no show-offs, for their sound remains that of a straight-up-and-down band. They move through minimal patterns and ambient zones, they build up into brutal rock and arrive more than once on the dance floor with a kind of nimble, danceable headbanger music.

It is astonishing how natural it all sounds. How little Schnellertollermeier’s music sounds like crossover music or some other mind game. This is not least because the band constructs each of its pieces from the bottom up, using one or two clearly defined motives that remain throughout and leave their mark on the piece. Every note has a function, every element is the prerequisite for the next. These pieces are long, but they aren’t suites. Instead, the band members asked themselves: what form will emerge if we take a single idea, think it through consistently, and play it? The electric sound of the guitar has already been composed “into” these electronic textures right from the start. Brutal backbeats rise up out of the serial structure and are expanded and radicalised by the band. Riffs push the tracks over the edge, but then open up for drones and overtone concerts; then they draw themselves in again and push the piece onto the next level. Whoever thought that rock was as dead as a dinosaur will here experience the birth of a highly alert, viable new species.

This works because Schnellmann, Troller and Meier are not jazz musicians simply kowtowing before rock music and refining it. They belong to a generation that grew up with grunge, hip-hop and electronic club music, and they learnt it all by osmosis. Whoever personally knows these three musicians has probably gotten to know them at someone else’s concert – in the bar during a performance of a singer-songwriter or at an improvisers’ retreat, at a big indie event or at a club night – or at a dance performance where you chat afterwards about the impact of rhythms and repetition. If Schnellertollermeier is able to hold its own at jazz festivals from Willisau to Moers and Cheltenham as well as in rock and metal clubs or at a festival of contemporary music, then it’s because they know what they’re playing. They know it, and they believe in it. You can call this clarity; or you can call it skill. Or attitude.

If you'd like to share music from this release, please feel free to use the following track:
"Rights [Part 1]" stream: @SoundCloud / @Bandcamp / @YouTube




October 6 CH Südpol
Luzern, Switzerland
[record release show!]
October 8 IT Area Sismica
Forli, Italy
October 28 IT Kaltern POP Festival
Kaltern Südtirol, Italy
November 4 CH Point 11
Sion, Switzerland
November 12 UK The London EFG Jazz Festival
Rich Mix - 35-47 Bethnal Green Road
London, E1 6LA, UK
Match & Fuse Present
[with Led Bib and Worldservice Project]
November 23 CH Flatterschafft
Basel, Switzerland
December 1 CH Art & Jazz @ Kulturwerk 118
Sursee, Switzerland
December 2 CH Yarn @ Spinnerei
Bern, Switzerland
December 8 CH Chäsi
Gysenstein, Switzerland
December 9 CH Kaff
Frauenfeld, Switzerland
February 16 CH Cinema Sil Plaz
Ilanz, Switzerland
March 1 CH Le Singe
Biel, Switzerland