Latest News

New Liberty Ellman Recording “Last Desert” Out March 27th

March 27th, guitarist Liberty Ellman’s sextet returns with Last Desert, the  follow up to his critically-acclaimed 2015 release Radiate, which the Wall Street Journal described as “bristling with energy and innovation” and Downbeat praised as “unique, indelible and fully human.” Named #1 Rising Star Guitarist in the 2016 Downbeat Critics Poll, Ellman is perhaps best known as a trusted associate of jazz legend Henry Threadgill, with whom he has played for almost 20 years, including on the Pulitzer Prize-winning release In for a Penny, In for a Pound. His unorthodox playing style is also key to collaborations with the likes of Myra Melford, Joe Lovano, and JD Allen. Pianist and MacArthur Fellow Vijay Iyer calls him “my favorite living guitarist.” 

Ellman’s new work is inspired by a foot race that takes place in Antarctica, the final leg in a series of ultramarathons called Four Deserts that take place in some of the harshest environments on earth. Last Desert celebrates the juxtaposition of the austere beauty of the landscape with the grueling nature of the event, and the clarity of focus that the competition requires. His compositions employ a complex melodic weave, but are always lyrical and percolate with groove. Ellman is rejoined by all the musicians from Radiate: Steve Lehman on alto sax, Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, Jose Davila on tuba, Stephan Crump on bass and Damion Reid on drums. Together, they conjure Ellman’s panoramic musical vista to brilliant effect.

Hello 2020

Welcome to 2020. The new year is starting off with lots of momentum. We’re working on new releases and are excited to get them out.

Our first releases of 2020 is the Liberty Ellman sextet’s Last Desert. The recording will be out in March. The lineup from Radiate, Liberty – guitar, Stephan Crump – bass, Damion Reid – drums, Steve Lehman – alto saxophone, Jonathan Finlayson – trumpet and José Davila – tuba, trombone, all return for this latest installment.

Following that, Dan Weiss’s Starebaby will be returning with their new album Natural Selection in May 2020. Starebaby has been performing the music live and will be bring it to Big Ears in Knoxville in March. They will be there alongside Steve Coleman and Five Elements, featuring Jonathan Finlayson – trumpet, Kokayi – lyricist, Anthony Tidd – electric bass and Sean Rickman – drums. If you’ve never been to Big Ears you owe it to yourself to go. There’s nothing else like it.

A closing note on 2019, we are very excited that once again we had a very positive showing in this year’s NPR Jazz Critics Poll. Three of our releases earned spots in the top 10.

Art Ensemble of Chicago – We Are On The Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration, Steve Lehman Trio & Craig Taborn – The People I Love and Anna Webber – Clockwise.

Additionally, 3 other Pi releases were in the top 50:
Tyshawn Sorey & Marilyn Crispell – The Adornment of Time
Matt Mitchell – Phalanx Ambassadors
Miles Okazaki – The Sky Below

Thank you for helping us to have a great 2019 and we look forward to what 2020 has in store.

Black Friday Sale

Happy start of the holiday season. Running now through Monday, December 2nd we are having a Black Friday sale. All items in the Pi store will be 20% off. This includes CDs, vinyl, tee shirts and scores. If you prefer digital purchases you can visit our BandCamp page.

Please use the code PiBlackFridaySale at checkout to receive your 20% discount.

Have a great Thanksgiving all.

Miles Okazaki’s “The Sky Below” Out now

The Sky Below is guitarist Miles Okazaki‘s fifth album of original compositions, and his second album for Pi Recordings. It is a sequel to Trickster, which was described by the New York Times as “tenacious futurism,” by The Wall Street Journal as “a true concept album,” and by Pitchfork as “obviously complex, the work of virtuosi. But the resulting beauty is easy to appreciate.” In the liner notes for The Sky Below Okazaki writes,“If Trickster was the introduction to the characters, the songs on this album are their children, bearing their features but finding their own way.”

“Trickster, a four-piece band led by guitarist Miles Okazaki, is best understood in both cerebral and visceral terms. On the one hand, it’s a delivery system for some proudly intricate and idiosyncratic compositions, the byproduct of a deeply rigorous mind. On the other hand, it’s a go-for-broke quartet, capable of shifting the ground underfoot without ever losing its balance.” – Nate Chinen, “Take Five” (WBGO)

“the music is strongly related to what came before, because Okazaki is actually telling a story. (…) very beautiful, intricate music.” – Stereogum

Upcoming Tour Dates

  • 11/03/19 Miles Okazaki – WORK (Solo Monk) in Berlin at Berlin Jazz Fest
  • 11/04/19 Miles Okazaki – WORK (Solo Monk) in Vienna at Porgy and Bess
  • 11/05/19 Miles Okazaki – WORK (Solo Monk) in Ljubjana at Klub CD
  • 11/06/19 Miles Okazaki – WORK (Solo Monk) in Ghent, Belgium at Hendelsbeurs
  • 11/08/19 Miles Okazaki – WORK (Solo Monk) in Sarajevo at Jazz Fest Sarajevo
  • 11/10/19 Miles Okazaki – WORK (Solo Monk) in Strasbourg at Jazz D’Or
  • 11/12/19 Miles Okazaki – WORK (Solo Monk) in Rekjavik at TBA
  • 11/13/19 Miles Okazaki – WORK (Solo Monk) in Olso at Victoria Teater
  • 11/14/19 Miles Okazaki – WORK (Solo Monk) in Cologne at Stadtgarten
  • 11/15/19 Miles Okazaki – WORK (Solo Monk) in Amsterdam at Bimhuis
  • 11/23/19 TRICKSTER – THE SKY BELOW Album Release Show in Brooklyn, NY at The Owl

Celebrating the Life of Kadri Gopalnath

We are writing somberly to inform everyone of the passing of Kadri Gopalnoth at Age 69 (December 11, 1949—October 11, 2019). Born into a musical family, Gopalnath initially followed his father’s footsteps and played the nadhaswaram, an Indian instrument similar to the clarinet. He also studied vocal music for five years in Mangalore. “(Gopalnath’s) soft, legato, flurries meshed perfectly in an unusual grouping of violin, Jew’s harp and mridangam drum”. The Illustrated Weekly Of India took a similar view, claiming “(Gopalnath’s) music would make a stone melt”. Gopalnath’s first major break came when he was invited to compose and perform on the soundtrack of a highly successful film, Duet. In 1994, Gopalnath became the first South Indian classical musician to perform in the BBC Promenade concert. We met Kadri during the recording of Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Kinsmen and were blown away by his musicality and his kindness. He is survived by his wife and two sons, whom we send our best wishes to during their bereavement.

Anna Webber’s “Clockwise” Out Now

Pi Recordings First Release of 2019

Anna Webber’s debut as a leader on Pi Recordings, and her first with her new septet, Clockwise, is out now. Avant Music News calls is “A brilliant effort and an early candidate for album of the year.” and Brad Cohan of Jazz Times says “An exceptional, ever-adventurous outing from an artist whose stylistic shifting knows no bounds.” Listen for yourself. Featuring Jeremy Viner, Matt Mitchell, Jacob Garchik, Christopher Hoffman, Chris Tordini and Ches Smith, Anna pays homage to some of her favorite 20th Century composers as seen through the lens of their works for percussion. Anna researched and analyzed compositions by Iannis XenakisMorton FeldmanEdgard VaréseKarlheinz StockhausenMilton Babbitt, and John Cage, isolating particular moments that could be extracted and developed into new works. The result, “… being drawn from the creative milieu of New York’s music scene, where boundaries among styles rapidly are breaking down, might just offer a blueprint for a subsequent generation to build bridges spanning these musical worlds.”  Downbeat, Alex Rodriguez.

Upcoming Live Shows

Pi artists are on the road in March and April. Miles Okazaki quartet will be out on a US tour. Fleshing out the music from his 2017 release Trickster, Miles will be stretching the music and maybe giving a sneak peak to some of the quartet’s new pieces. Dan Weiss will be overseas with Starebaby in March and April. The band has been rehearsing new music so get out to see them if they are coming to your town.

New Jonathan Finlayson Release, Upcoming Performances and David Virelles

“An album featuring a powerful new sextet, in which well-placed, almost pugilistic movements carry a Zen-like purpose. Half of the credit for that goes to Mr. Finlayson’s entangled, houndstooth compositions. The rest goes to his band, a top-flight crew of 30- and 40-something improvisers.” – Giovanni Russonello, The New York Times

“The coiled intricacies in the composition are true to form, as is the intrepid assurance of the improvising, across the board.” – Nate Chinen, WBGO

“If you dig sterling modern jazz, Jonathan Finlayson is a name to memorize. At the age of 36, the Californian trumpet ace is flying way above the standards… On the newest 3 Times Round he is joined in the frontline by two vibrant saxophonists – altoist Steve Lehman and tenorist Brian Settles – whose fieriness and passion help taking Finlayson’s compositions to a level that many experienced musicians would aspire to reach…. This is a must-have album from a rising trumpet star and smart composer whose innovative jazz perspective has absolutely everything one might ask for. One of the year’s very best.” – Filipe Freitas, JazzTrail

“The sound of this ensemble is so full yet never cluttered nor clichéd.  The sextet is emotionally and musically attached to this project all the way through.” – Richard Kamins, Step Tempest

Pi Recordings latest release, Jonathan Finlayson’s third record as a bandleader, 3 Times Around, has been lauded by music critics for its intricate composition and masterful musicianship. Finlayson continues to be celebrated as an integral performer and composer of his day:

“…Finlayson is smart and complex but also lets the players play and generate heat. He’s building a career that speaks well of the music’s potential to be cerebral and strutting at once.” – Will Laymen, Pop Matters

Will also gives special praise to Finlayson’s Pianist, Matt Mitchell saying, “Mitchell is special—and he shows it on his solo here—because he weaves together understanding of perhaps four distinct and critical jazz piano traditions, pulling in impressionistic texture from Bill Evans/Hancock, ravenous but dynamic attack from Cecil Taylor/Don Pullen, the rhythmic rush of Bud Powell, and the comfort with abstract melodic logic of Paul Bley.”

Matt will be heading into the studio in the winter to document a new band for a 2019 release on Pi.

Starting this Sunday, Tyshawn Sorey will be headlining a three night residence at The Kitchen from October 21st  to the 23rd featuring a different grouping each night. Also this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, Steve Coleman & Five Elements will be performing two sets a night at the Jazz Gallery.

Finally, our last release of the year comes out in two weeks. David Virelles’ Igbó Alákọrin (The Singer’s Grove) Vol. I & II is out October 26th.

New David Virelles

Pi Recordings and El Tivoli Music are proud to announce the release of Igbo Alakorin (The Singer’s Grove) Vol. I & II. Out October 26th, this new work finds David Virelles traveling home to Santiago to document his research and upbringing with a thoroughly authentic Cuban album.

“What a marvel! Tradition and avant-garde come together in this offering of the highest order. In my opinion, David Virelles is a young virtuoso immersed in research. He knows our African roots with depth. He is an innovator, a perfectionist, and the most creative and advanced of our jazz pianists.

Thank you, David, for making us happy and proud, and for updating our traditions.

Ashé! Never stop!” – Chucho Valdés

Praise for Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Live at the Village Vanguard Vol. 1 (The Embedded Sets)

Steve Coleman’s Live at the Village Vanguard Vol. 1 (The Embedded Sets), his first live release in 15 years, captures the ensemble’s tight interplay, innovative compositions, and world-class musicality during a week-long residency at the Vanguard in 2017.

“…It was only a matter of time before the arrival of a document like Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 1: The Embedded Sets… Listen for the spark in a tune called “Nfr,” which incorporates an M-Base funk groove and a poppish horn line, with transfixing solos by Coleman, Finlayson, and Okazaki.” – Nate Chinen, WBGO

“Live at the VIllage Vanguard, Vol. 1 represents a paradigm shift as Coleman Focuses on spontaneous composition and free improvisation. Unusual and complex time signatures are still present throughout this two-disc set, though the overall context is shaped in the moment.” Karl Ackermann, All About Jazz

“Artists don’t release Live at the Village Vanguard recordings unless they’ve truly got something to say… Documenting two nights of a weeklong residency in 2017, this phenomenal two-disc release more than lives up to the lofty Vanguard pedigree. It is also one of Coleman’s finest recordings—and perhaps the fullest realization of his work so far with Five Elements, his long- standing quintet with multiple iterations dating back to the mid-1980s.” – Troy Dostert, All About Jazz

“Coleman fans do not need a review; they know to expect an amazing blend of rhythms, spontaneous melodies, intelligent interactions, and one tremendous rhythm section… The music is, at turns, exhilarating, demanding, forceful, hurtling forward on the power of group interactions – whether the band is playing older material or working through brand-new compositions, the spirit of spontaneous improvisation can be felt from note one. “- Richard Kamins, Step Tempest

“The American saxophonist has been refining his sharp-angled music for 30 years, and there is nothing that breaks that mould here. This recording does, however, mark a shift from the dense orchestrations of his recent albums. The calibrated rhythms and unresolved harmonies remain intact, but are now more likely to be created on the fly. At their most intense they border on the ecstatic, making this release his most accessible for a while.” Mike Hobart, Financial Times


Live at the Village Vanguard Vol. 1 (The Embedded Sets)  is available here on CD and for Digital Download.