Congratulations to David Virelles

We’re thrilled to share that David Virelles’ Nuna has been included on the New York Times list of Best Jazz Releases of 2022. Giovanni Russonello says of David, “David Virelles pays attention to detail at every level… And on “Nuna,” ‌his first solo-piano record, he spreads that across all 88 keys.”

It’s high praise indeed for a recording we were excited to release and even more excited to see receive the praise it so richly deserves.

Stop animation by Teresa Irene Barrera and Alec Dempster. Wood block print / cover art by @alecdempsterart

Tyshawn Sorey on the Cover of This Month’s Wire

Tyshawn Sorey Cover Story by Stewart Smith

So much amazing music has come from camp Sorey over the years. This year has been no exception with the self-released recording of standards “Mesmerism” by his trio. Next month sees the 3CD release “The Off-Off Broadway Guide to Synergism” from the trio plus special guest Greg Osby.

The two week New York City premier of Monochromatic Light: Afterlife at the Park Avenue Armory just concluded. Prior to Monochromatic, premiers with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Seattle Symphony, commissions and performances by Roomful of Teeth, The Crossing, Sandbox Percussion, Alarm Will Sound, Yarn/Wire, violinist Johnny Gandelsman and an Artist Etoile at this past year’s Lucerne Festival where his work “For Grachan Moncur III” with the JACK Quartet debuted, have made this one of Tyshawn’s busiest periods. On top of all that, he was appointed Presidential Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Pennsylvania last year.

Upcoming are performances of his works “Be Holding,” a large-scale operatic work with Opera Philadelphia, where he is Composer in Residence; his composition “After Oh, Freedom” for Davone Tines, brass, and percussion; “Perle Noir: Meditations for Josephine” at Dutch National Opera; the U.S. premiere of “Adagio (for Wadada Leo Smith)” with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra; premiere at the Aix-en-Provence Festival; and appearances at the Donaueschingen Contemporary Music Festival, and Darmstädter Ferienkurse, the festival for experimental musical practices. All of this would be enough to make anyone stop and catch their breath. But, what’s made us smile…. A cover story by Stewart Smith in the world’s best music magazine, The Wire.

The piece features great photos, some of the most detailed and thorough writing on Tyshawn yet and covers the range of his output like only The Wire can. It’s on stands now so go check it out and while you’re out there pre-order a copy of “The Off-Off Broadway Guide to Synergism.” 3CDs of standards by Miles Davis, Andrew Hill, Ornette Coleman, Billy Strayhorn and many others performed by Tyshawn along with Aaron Diehl, Russell Hall and special guest Greg Osby.

Steve Lehman & Sélébéyone Self-Titled Debut on Vinyl

Due to overwhelming demand and the response to Sélébéyone’s sophomore release Xaybu: The Unseen, we have started a BandCamp campaign to print the group’s 2016 debut, Sèlébéyone, on vinyl. BandCamp campaigns run for 30 days. By the end of 30 days we need to be 100% pledged in order for the vinyl to print so, please if you’d like to hear Sèlébéyone on vinyl pledge today. We’ve got till October 27th to meet our goal. We’re about half-way there so please pledge today.

Featuring HPrizm (English vocals,) Gaston Bandimic (Wolof vocals,) Steve Lehman (alto saxophone & sequencing,) Maciek Lasserre (soprano saxophone & sequencing,) Carlos Homs (keyboards & piano,) Drew Gress (acoustic bass) and Damion Reid (drums), Sélébéyone was described as “legitimately new” and a “revelation” by Pitchfork. The group’s eponymous 2016 debut was universally hailed as a game-changing synthesis of underground hip-hop, modern jazz and live electronic music.

Sélébéyone stands apart from almost every other jazz/hip-hop collaboration that preceded it: this is not an album where live musicians imitate repetitive samples in 4/4 time. Instead, the musical elements shifting rhythms, electro-acoustic harmonies, and contemporary sound design are wholly integrated with the lyrical content. Add to that the unique juxtaposition of English and Wolof that permeates the record, and one gets the sense of the development of a whole new musical universe.

In Wolof, the word “Sélébéyone” refers to an intersection; a liminal terrain where two fixed entities meet and transform themselves into something heretofore unknown. As Steve explains: “Hip-hop is like every other musical genre. There are fierce individualists, people that are more marketplace oriented, and every shade in between. I’ve always gravitated towards artists like Company Flow, MF Doom, Pharoahe Monch, Freestyle Fellowship, and Antipop, artists who are really trying to innovate on every level. This record is very much trying to follow that mold. I think regardless of musical milieu jazz, classical, rap the way we work with rhythm, harmony, timbre, and compositional form, is as elaborate and personal as anything I’ve done.”

Sélébéyone on Vinyl

David Virelles’ Nuna – David’s First Solo Piano Recording

David Virelles Nuna Cover Art
Artwork by Alec Dempster

David Virelles’s first solo piano recording, Nuna, is available now on both, CD from our store, and download via BandCamp.

Nuna is a book of compositions for solo piano by Cuban-American pianist and composer David Virelles. A 2021 recipient of the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, Virelles has worked with musicians as distinct as Henry Threadgill, Andrew Cyrille, Ravi Coltrane, Mark Turner, Chris Potter, Tomasz Stanko, Steve Coleman, Wadada Leo Smith, Paul Motian, Bill Frisell, Tom Harrell and Milford Graves. His release Continuum (Pi 2012) was named the best jazz release of that year by The New York Times. After three esteemed releases on the ECM label, Virelles returned to Pi with Igbo Alakorin: The Singers Grove (2017), which was voted top Latin Jazz album in that year’s NPR Jazz Critics Poll. 

Virelles describes Nuna as “a metaphor for the piano as an ancient instrument.” While the sonorities of the Steinway Model D concert grand piano are often on full display in his playing, he pays equal emphasis to tempering the instrument’s natural resonance, connecting it more to the sound of folkloric instruments such as thumb pianos, harps and drums. He achieves this purely through touch and pedaling, without any other mechanical manipulation or “prepping.” Indeed, the entire album is a demonstration of Virelles’s masterful control of shading, dynamics and timbre.

It’s unmistakably the work of a singular probing intellect. As with each of Virelles’s projects, Nuna bridges the folkloric with the contemporary, while shrouded in an aura of mystery.

Miles Okazaki’s “Thisness”

Our first release of 2022 has arrived, Miles Okazaki’s Thisness. The third studio recording of Miles’ quartet, featuring Matt Mitchell on piano and keyboards, Anthony Tidd on electric bass and Sean Rickman on drums, is comprised of a four piece suite, whose title originated with a Sun Ra recording.

Thisness captures the next chapter in the evolution of the Trickster sound. For Thisness, rather than a fixed book of compositions, the music is comprised of various themes that the group weaves in and out of, connected by hubs that Okazaki describes as “traffic circles, or bus stations.” Through hidden musical cues, the leader signals when the music is approaching the transition point and which path to take to exit. As Okazaki described it: “I had detailed blueprints, but at some point, surrendered to the dream logic of the collective. The intention was to make something like an exquisite corpse, the collective improvisations developed by the Surrealists. For this album my job as composer was to bring in some ideas, set them in motion and then listen, trying to recognize the value of serendipitous events at transitional points in the music and lead the band down whatever path may be opening.” The wonder lies in the journey, with beautiful new vistas opening with each turn in the road. 

Cover Art by Linda Okazaki

Thank you for a Memorable 20th Year, Here’s to 2022

2021 has seen a return to normal of sorts for Pi Recordings. It was also our 20th anniversary, and while the events that we had in the works to celebrate never came to fruition because of the pandemic, the occasion was still an opportunity for us to reflect on our two-decade long journey. Started by Seth Rosner with no grand plan other than to release two volumes of music by Henry Threadgill, we have somehow become one of the more highly-regarded record labels in-and-around jazz despite never releasing more than six albums in any year. For us, it’s all about finding original, uncompromising music full of risk-taking and rigorous thinking and execution. We have also always taken inspiration from our North Star Muhal Richard Abrams and his words at the inaugural meeting of the AACM: “First of all, number one, there’s original music, only.” But really what the label represents is a distillation of our ever-evolving taste in music, which has helped keep the catalogue from getting stagnant. In a sense, the label is one very long journey that we have had the privilege to take with all of you.

We wish everyone health and safety in these difficult and turbulent times and look forward to the day that we can all come together once again in the presence of live music.

Forward motion.

Seth and Yulun
Pi Recordings

Pi Recordings Remix Series

Jlin Remix - Steve Lehman's "Cognition"
Jlin the Innovator Remix: Steve Lehman’s “Cognition”
Georgia Anne Muldrow Remix - Henry Threadgill's "Clear and Distinct"
Georgia Anne Muldrow Remix: Henry Threadgill’s “Clear and Distinct”

It’s 2021 and it’s our 20th anniversary. We’ve spent a lot of time this year thinking about the past two decades, our catalog, the artists we’ve worked with and how the music has evolved. Lots of thoughts about our future, what we want to do and what we hope to see happen.

One idea we keep coming back to is the incredible amount of fluidity and cross fertilization that we now see between so many different musical communities. There are more and more unexpected collaborations and blurring of stylistic boundaries. And the results have been refreshing and full of enormous promise. Making a concerted effort to foster new connections and new partnerships feels right to us, and that means actively reaching outside of our normal musical circle of family and friends.  

Lots of conversations with the artists on our roster have taken place. But the idea of remixing the catalog and finding ways to reimagine the last twenty years with fresh eyes, quickly gained a lot of traction. So, we decided to seek out fresh and uncompromising voices, just outside of our regular orbit, who share a kind of Pi Recordings “ethos” for individualism and experimentation. Jlin and Georgia Anne Muldrow were the first two artists we sought to collaborate with. It should go without saying that our respect and admiration for their work runs deep.

We ended up sharing the Pi catalog with both Jlin and Georgia Anne and they both immediately found artists whose work resonated with their own and who they wanted to remix. Jlin focused on Steve Lehman’s “Cognition,” from his 2016 Selebeyone recording. The pairing of Lehman’s propulsive rhythms and Jlin’s one-of-a-kind approach to beat science was a natural. Steve’s writing often bears witness to a certain electronic sheen, and those evocations are more than fully realized through Jlin’s ears — one of electronic music’s current innovators.

For her part, Georgia Anne is no stranger to Henry Threadgill’s music; going so far as to dedicate a song to him on one of her earliest recordings (“Thread’s First Stitches”). Her father (noted jazz guitarist, Ronald Muldrow) was a friend of Henry’s in Chicago. As Georgia put it “please understand, Mr. Threadgill’s music was my first and only goal from the moment we started the remix conversation.” Goal realized. And the crossroads connecting the unclassifiable Muldrow and the ever iconoclastic Threadgill on Georgia Anne’s reimagining of “Clear and Distinct” is something we are very proud to be a part of.

Our sincere thanks go out to Jlin and Georgia Anne. Their enthusiasm and complete embrace of this project has been inspiring and joyful to witness. These two remixes are the first in a series of remixes we will drop this year, all conceived and executed by women of color. We look forward to future collaborations with Moor Mother, Val Inc. and others.

New Releases, Upcoming Releases and 2021

With so much going on in the world we haven’t posted an update on a few months so here we are.

Since our last check in much had happened. Jen Shyu released Zero Grasses: Ritual for the Losses and Anna Webber released Idiom. Both recordings have been met with high praise. The Wall Street Journal chronicled the development of Zero Grasses and BandCamp described the music on Idiom as, “… brilliantly harnessed the inventive sounds of free improvisation in works that are driving, dynamically scaled, and bursting with contrasts in volume, texture, and density.”

2021 still holds plenty of music. New releases by Matt Mitchell & Kate Gentile’s Snark Horse, Steve Coleman & Five Elements and Henry Threadgill Zooid, plus some other surprises. Below is a sneak preview from disc 2 “Fraughtleau” of the Snark Horse 6 CD box set. Check out trapezoid | matching tickles. The box set is available now through BandCamp and will ship out in late July.

Hafez Modirzadeh’s Facets

Friday March 5th Pi’s 2021 release schedule kicks off with the release of Hafez Modirzadeh’s Facets. A recording of duets between Hafez and three unique pianists, Kris Davis, Craig Taborn and Tyshawn Sorey.

Facets was three years in the making beginning with a two night performance at the Jazz Gallery in Manhattan and featuring four sets of music with a different pianist each set. Expanding on the concepts and ideas Hafez put into motion with the retuned piano featured on Post-Chromodal Out, Modirzadeh has distilled the approach to a single re-tuning for Facets. Modirzadeh himself utilizes alternate fingerings and embouchure adjustments on his instrument to achieve intervals between major and minor, and the pieces sway with an elasticity reminiscent of Persian poetic meter. With eight keys re-tuned and the remainder left in equal temperament, the music explores the coexistence of familiar with unfamiliar, and in the process, discovers new logic and mysterious beauty within.

This third chapter in Pi’s documentation of Hafez’s work is the first release of our 20th anniversary year and a fitting start.