“One of the brightest talents in Jazz today.” – Geoffrey Himes, Washington Post
T.K. Blue has assembled some the brightest stars in Jazz (Stefon Harris, Randy Brecker, Eric Reed, Lonnie Plaxico, Joanne Brackeen, Jeff “Tain” Watts) to create a scintillating display of musicianship on his second album for Arkadia Records, “T.K. Blue: Eyes of the Elders”. Taking inspiration from the spirit of those who preceded him, the album covers the spectrum of Jazz, using the kalimba and marimba to recall it’s African roots, traveling up the Nile, over to Brazil, beginning with a nod to Charlie Parker, and ending with an intense, soul-stirring version of John Coltrane’s, Wise One.
“Eyes of The Elders by saxophonist T.K. Blue is an accessible and charming album made all the more inviting by Blue’s instrumental prowess. His saxophone talks in warm tones that speak of an intense love of the art of improvisation, not forcing listeners to pay attention but rather beckoning them with subtle tenderness.” – Steve Graybow, Billboard
T.K. Blue: Eyes of the Elders gathers an all-star ensemble (that spans 3 Jazz generations) under Blue’s leadership to create a fascinating tribute to music’s ‘Elders’ who helped create the shape and scope of Jazz today. Though the album is undoubtedly Jazz music, T.K. Blue travels around the globe and through the ancestral music of generations past to create a thoughtful and inventive album that fuses the ancient with his contemporary vision, culminating in a modern World Jazz album that reflects his diverse musical and cultural heritage.
“4.5 STARS… an alto saxophonist of sweeping power and authority…on this disc he takes a bushel of great jazz standards…and mixes them with a large vat of his own compositions to be played by nothing less than a dream band. Get this: drummer Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts, pianists Joanne Brackeen and Eric Reed, bassist Lonnie Plaxico, vibraphonist Stefon Harris and trumpet player Randy Brecker play… When this disc is good, it’s close to spectacular… joyful neo-African rhythyms and brilliant playing… When it’s not great…it’s still marvelously listenable”. – Jeff Simon, Buffalo, NY Calendar
|1. Wee||Denzel Best||4:59|
|2. Village Council Interlude 1||Talib Kibwe||0:42|
|3. Dance of the Nile||Talib Kibwe||5:42|
|4. Frozen Mist||Talib Kibwe||5:14|
|5. Eyes of the Elders||Talib Kibwe||5:49|
|6. Village Council Interlude 2||Talib Kibwe||0:55|
|7. Harold’s Theme||Talib Kibwe||5:09|
|8. Nostalgia in Times Square||Charles Mingus||6:08|
|9. Village Council Interlude 3||Talib Kibwe||0:29|
|10. Matriarch||Talib Kibwe||7:47|
|11. Rites of Passage||Talib Kibwe||3:58|
|12. South Side Samba||Benny Carter||7:15|
|13. Wise One||John Coltrane||12:05|
T.K. Blue: saxophones, flutes, and kalimba
Eric Reed: Piano
James Weidman: Piano
Joanne Brackeen: Piano
Lonnie Plaxico: Bass
Jeff “Tain” Watts: Drums
Stefon Harris: Marimba, xylophone
Randy Brecker: Trumpet, flugelhorn
Steve Kroon: Percussion
Produced by: Bob Karcy
Total Time: About 66 minutes
What the Critics Say:
“4.5 stars… Eyes of the Elders is saxophonist and flutist T.K. Blue’s second release as a leader on the Arkadia Jazz label and it is a must-have for anyone who ventures into the art of jazz in any guise, whether as artist, collector, composer, or historian.. the creative elements, circumstances, and events that shaped the concept for Eyes of the Elders are carefully arranged, composed, and masterfully played… T.K.’s saxophone playing is brilliant on the title track…”Rites of Passage” features an excellent duet by Stefon Harris and T.K. Blue on marimba and kalimba… Blue’s excellent flute playing is realized on “Matriarch”… a really beautiful song. When listened to in the context of the artist’s emotional, spiritual, and musical maturation, Eyes of the Elders should continue to captivate the audiences that were affected by Another Blue as well as garner new fans throughout the global jazz community.” – Paula Edelstein, All Music Guide
“Having been influenced – both personally and historically – by jazz’s elders, saxophonist T.K. Blue shows a good deal of sagacity himself in bringing fresh perspectives to music steeped in tradition. With a remarkable ensemble of sidemen, he embarks on a musical journey that not only cuts across time but cultures too… There is a depth of feeling here that runs through it all that is uniquely T.K. Blue’s.” – Steve Jones, USA Today
“A famous mentor leaves his mark on Eyes of the Elders, the third album from saxist/flutist T. K. Blue. Blue is best known as a mainstay in Randy Weston’s bands of the last decade. Weston, of course, helped jazz rediscover its African roots. Blue follows Weston’s example by borrowing African tonalities for some of his own compositions, and by applying African and Afro-Caribbean rhythms to jazz standards (such as “Wee” on this disc). And by spotlighting vibist Stefon Harris on nearly half the album — most often on marimba, a cousin of the African balofon — Kibwe has crafted a pseudo-African milieu for the album as well. (This comes to the fore on the album’s three short interludes, each titled “Village Council,” and especially on “Rites of Passage”, a dervish duet for Harris, on marimba, and Blue on kalimba, or thumb piano.) On both sax and flute, Blue evokes an equally penetrating tone that shapes his approach to improvisation. He rarely allows a passage to get so involved that it obscures his full, ripe sound. With an excellent supporting cast — including trumpeter Randy Brecker, drummer Jeff Watts, and pianists Joanne Brackeen and Eric Reed – he has produced a dynamic tribute to his musical and spiritual antecedents.” – Neil Tesser, Jazziz Magazine
“Like Sonny Rollins, T.K. Blue is an American saxophonist with West Indian parents, and like Rollins, Blue has allowed his island heritage to flavor his post-bop jazz albums. On Blue’s latest release, Eyes of the Elders, the alto saxophonist makes that influence explicit with a lively calypso arrangement of Denzel Best’s “Wee,” the opening track. But even on the more straightforward jazz cuts that follow, a Caribbean spirit can be detected in the choice of instruments (marimba, flute, congas), in the lilting dance rhythms and in the joyful shouts of Blue’s themes and solos. Blue has impressed critics and fellow musicians with his previous solo albums and his work with Abdullah Ibrahim and Randy Weston. On Eyes of the Elders, he goes after the broader jazz fan base with high-profile collaborators (Randy Brecker, Stefon Harris, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Lonnie Plaxico and Joanne Brackeen) and ear-grabbing tunes. It really works, because the all-star band grabs hold of the striking melodies and contagious rhythms (by Blue and by such “Elders” as Charles Mingus, John Coltrane and Benny Carter) and transforms them into a vigorous, improvised give-and-take.” – Geoffrey Himes, The Washington Post
“…he’s emerging faster than a rocket tripping to the Milky Way… (T.K. Blue’s) recent performance with his ensemble was so rich and smooth one would have thought the audience was given free Haagen Dazs. He was hitting his notes cleaner than a gymnast nailing a dismount…On John Coltrane’s tune “Wise One”… Kibwe ran the scale of his solo riffs with the finesse and speed of a cheetah in hot pursuit. He’s one of the few saxophonists who can reshape a Coltrane tune with his own unforgettable stamp…The entire album is prescribed with rich harmonies and innovative improvisations” – Ron Scott, New York Amsterdam News
“…a stirring soloist who can suggest a sulfuric fury while coursing through the changes. His quartet is pointed, swinging, and blues driven” – Gary Giddins, The Village Voice
About T.K. Blue:
Of West Indian parentage, T.K. Blue began his life in music from his Lakeview, Long Island, hometown by playing trumpet from ages 8 to 10, and then switching to drums for a year. After a hiatus, at the age of 17 he dedicated himself to music by learning flute. While attending New York University between 1971 and 1975 with a double major in Music and Psychology, Blue threw himself headlong into music, concentrating on the saxophone. He took lessons (as part of the Jazzmobile program) with Jimmy Heath, Frank Foster and Ernie Wilkins, as well as from tenor legend Billy Mitchell. During these undergraduate years, T.K. lived in the East Village, partaking the full range of the scene, from lessons with elders to deep involvement in the avant-garde. In 1979 Blue received his Masters in Music Education from Columbia University.
After performing and traveling extensively with Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand) from 1977 to 1980, T.K. moved to Paris in December, 1981, remaining until 1989. In 1986 he recorded Egyptian Oasis, his first record as a leader, and that sparked a number of State Department tours to some 20 countries in Africa.
Back in the U.S. since 1990, T.K. has worked constantly, in a wide range of styles and situations, and recorded his second CD “Introducing Talib Kibwe”, released on Evidence in 1996. Augmenting his long-term relationships as Musical Director with Randy Weston and the Spirit of Life Orchestra, recent affiliations include: Odadaa, a group led by a renowned drummer from Ghana, Yacub Addy; percussionist Norman Hedman’s pan-African band Tropique; tap dancer Joseph’s Tap and Rap, to jazz tunes by Charlie Parker and John Coltrane; and emerging singer Jeffrey Smith. His recent long-term signing to Arkadia Jazz and the release of his first CD with Arkadia (“Another Blue”) heralds! the start of a new turning point in T.K.’s blossoming career.
T.K. Blue recorded a second highly acclaimed album on Arkadia Records entitled “T.K. Blue: Eyes of the Elders” featuring Stefon Harris-vibraphone, Randy Brecker-trumpet, Jeff “Tain” Watts-drums, Eric Reed-piano, Joanne Brackeen-piano, Steve Kroon-percussion, Lonnie Plaxico-bass and James Weidman-piano.
In 2004 T.K. Blue had the extreme pleasure and privilege of joining The Jazz Expressions, which was the backup band for NEA JAZZ MASTER and vocal legend Little Jimmy Scott. Blue worked with Jimmy for close to 10 years until his passing. They made several tours and recordings. T.K. Blue is the arranger, conductor, and featured soloist for three significant projects concerning Dr. Randy Weston and his African Rhythms Orchestra.