Le Coq Records Kicks Off its
Second Star-studded Year with an
Amazing Ensemble of Virtuoso Musicians on
Le Coq Records Presents
The Jazz All Stars Vol. 2
The Follow-up to the Imprint’s
Inaugural Release Features a Roster of
Revered Modern Jazz Musicians Including
John Patitucci, Bill Cunliffe, Chris Potter,
Vinnie Colaiuta, Alex Acuña, John Beasley,
Jon Cowherd, Andy James, Marvin “Smitty” Smith,
Bob Sheppard, Marcus Gilmore, Russell Malone,
Terell Stafford and Others
Few jazz labels are able to launch with as impressive a roster already in place as Le Coq Records did when it released The Jazz All Stars Vol. 1 last January. A year later the imprint has more than lived up to the audaciously high bar set by that inaugural release, having built a stunning catalogue of releases by such greats as bassist John Patitucci, pianist Bill Cunliffe, saxophonist Rick Margitza, and vocalists Andy James and Tommy Ward.
To kick off what promises to be an equally remarkable year two, the label will release a second volume of its trademark “honest jazz” featuring its ever-growing family of brilliant musicians. Le Coq Records presents The Jazz All Stars Vol. 2, due out January 21, 2022, showcases not only the virtuoso musicianship of many of contemporary jazz’s most in-demand players, but this time out shines a brighter spotlight on the compositional gifts of Le Coq contributors like Cunliffe and keyboardist/arranger John Beasley, alongside aptly-chosen standards and jazz classics.
“The Jazz All Stars Vol. 2 shows a little of everything Le Coq is about, from its compositional temperament to the high sonic quality,” says label founder Piero Pata. “, “There’s quite a mix of sounds and styles, and I feel that the album really shows off the talents of our wonderful artists. John Patitucci holds everything together magnificently so that Andy James’ gorgeous vocals and the dazzling solos of Chris Potter, Rick Margitza and Terell Stafford – just to name a few – can shine.”
Much of the roster on the new release has returned from Volume 1, including Cunliffe and Beasley; bassists Patitucci and Chris Colangelo; drummers Vinnie Colaiuta and Marvin “Smitty” Smith; percussionist Alex Acuña; trumpeter Terell Stafford; saxophonist Margitza; guitarist Jake Langley and vocalist James, among others.
Volume 2 bolsters the line-up with such heavy hitters as saxophonists Chris Potter and Bob Sheppard; bassist Ben Williams; drummers Marcus Gilmore and Terreon Gully; trombonist Michael Dease; keyboardist Jon Cowherd; guitarists Russell Malone and Paul Jackson Jr.; and trumpeter Rashawn Ross.
This staggering stable of in-demand artists harkens back to the music’s golden age, a time when (jazz) giants walked the earth and crossed paths in myriad combinations under the auspices of their shared labels. Pata conceived of that model when he dreamed of gathering the greatest modern musicians to record for Le Coq.
“We wanted to get back to the old adage of having a pool of artists that could achieve anything the label required for its next goal,” Pata explains. “There are obviously many wonderful players we at Le Coq would love to record with. That will come, I hope!”
Like its predecessor, The Jazz All Stars Vol. 2 features the label’s unique take on some classic favorites, both arranged by the Grammy-winning Bill Cunliffe and featuring the entrancing vocals of Andy James. The Jerome Kern/Otto Harbach standard “Yesterdays” is given a bold treatment perfect for James’ unsentimental nostalgia, highlighted by an eloquent Chris Potter solo. Horace Silver’s “Doodlin’” is propelled by the robust swing of bassist Chris Colangelo and drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith, wonderfully matched by James’ sassy playfulness.
In addition to his striking arrangements, Cunliffe contributed most of the original compositions for the album and has been a key contributor to Le Coq since its early days. “Bill Cunliffe has been the backbone of the label’s writing talent since its inception,” Pata says. “He has been essential to the label’s vision of ‘honest jazz.’ His value has been enormous, especially on the big arrangements. He is wonderful at this style of writing. Maybe he has a foot in the past – but with a modern twist.”
Marcus Gilmore’s rollicking drums kick off the album on Cunliffe’s original piece “Whatever You Say,” soon joined by the sparring of Chris Potter’s tenor and Terell Stafford’s on trumpet. The composer’s arrangement summons the vigor and brio of a big band from the ensemble, setting the stage for the dancing agility of Cunliffe’s piano solo. Margitza’s breathy tenor conjures the mysterious atmosphere of “Witches,” a mood picked up and carried forward by Colangelo’s probing bassline. Cunliffe comps delightfully for Margitza’s sinuous solo.
The pianist makes direct reference to the pre-pandemic era on his wistful “The Before Times,” with its aching melody expressed beautifully by Terell Stafford. Grammy winner John Beasley contributes the funky, sauntering “Beasley’s Blues,” featuring incisive solos by guitarists Russell Malone and Paul Jackson Jr., a blistering turn by Dave Matthews Band trumpeter Rashawn Ross, and a bass solo by Ben Williams that digs deep.
Jake Langley’s shimmering guitar, Alex Acuña’s multi-hued percussion and Vinnie Colaiuta’s rock solid drumming lay the foundation for “Balinda,” with Margitza weaving the mesmerizing melody before spinning inventive variations in his solo. Patitucci and Marcus Gilmore take Cunliffe’s “Around the Corner” for a laid-back but robust stroll, with interlaced horn lines over top. The album closes with the lovely, swaying “Danse,” evoking lyrical solos from Colangelo, Cunliffe and Langley.
With a core of amazing talent now joined by a host of incredible new voices, Le Coq Records presents The Jazz All Stars Vol. 2 offers a vibrant calling card for a label quickly taking its place at the vanguard of modern jazz. Best of all, there’s plenty more to come in 2022.