Saxophonist Wayne Escoffery to Release New Album “Like Minds” on April 14th, 2023 | WATCH NEW VIDEO!

Saxophonist/Composer Wayne Escoffery Celebrates the Chemistry Shared by His Closest Musical Collaborators on Like Minds

Due Out April 14, 2023, on Smoke Sessions Records, the Album Features Gregory Porter, Tom Harrell and Mike Moreno Joining Escoffery’s Quartet with David Kikoski, Ugonna Okegwo and Mark Whitfield, Jr.

It’s often said that great minds think alike, but great bands achieve something even more alchemical. On Like Minds, his second release with Smoke Sessions Records, saxophonist/composer Wayne Escoffery celebrates the finely tuned instincts he shares with some of his most longstanding musical partners. Due out April 14, 2023, Like Minds features pianist and keyboardist David Kikoski and bassist Ugonna Okegwo, his quartet-mates since 2016 and collaborators for much longer.

Drummer Mark Whitfield, Jr., ably steps into the monumental shoes left by the late, legendary drummer Ralph Peterson, Jr., who passed away in March 2021 after a long and valiant battle with cancer. “The addition of Mark Whitfield, Jr. on drums is a real passing of the torch,” Escoffery says. “Mark is Ralph’s prize pupil. Ralph always said that Mark could play everything that he could and then play it backwards. He embodies the spirit of Ralph while adding a variety of influences creating an approach that is unique and individualistic.”

These four musicians may approach music with a similar mindset, but all arrived from very different places. Escoffery grew up in London, England, moving often throughout his adolescence before settling in Connecticut, where he studied with the legendary saxophonist Jackie McLean. He teaches there now at Yale University, where his mother worked in an administrative position, as well as at NJPAC in New Jersey. A Grammy Award and DownBeat Critics’ Poll winner, he is one of the musical directors of The Mingus Big Band and has performed with a who’s who of jazz including Herbie Hancock, Tom Harrell, Ron Carter, Ben Riley, Al Foster, Monty Alexander, Eddie Henderson, Wallace Roney, and others”

On Like Minds, the quartet is joined by three very special guests who all share their own unique histories with Escoffery: trumpeter Tom Harrell, in whose band Escoffery and Okegwo played together for more than a decade; guitarist Mike Moreno, who the saxophonist met on the Boston scene while he was a student at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at New England Conservatory; and Gregory Porter, who Escoffery met when the now-revered vocalist was honing his skills at St. Nick’s Pub in Harlem.

That’s particularly true of the title track, which charges out of the gate with an ebullient, singable melody spotlighting the guitar-sax frontline with Moreno (who features on four tracks on the album) and driven by an intricate, propulsive rhythm. “I like having a floating melody on top with a lot of contrapuntal action happening underneath,” Escoffery says. “That comes out of Ugonna’s bass voice and Dave’s strong left hand. Mark is a very agile player who has a great way of playing in between phrases, so I knew that he would add those elements to the piece. I hoped that the bass figures that I added would instigate Mark to do what he does best – which he absolutely did.

Whitfield then lays down an infectious hip-hop groove for Escoffery’s funky arrangement of the Charles Mingus classic “Nostalgia in Times Square,” featuring Kikoski’s Rhodes sparring with Harrell’s dodge-and-weave trumpet solo. An iconic piece in the jazz canon, it’s especially familiar to Escoffery and Kikoski, who have played it countless times together over the course of the saxophonist’s 23-year tenure in the Mingus Big Band. Its inclusion here is a buoyant reinvention as well as a tribute to the 2022 Mingus centennial and the loss in that year of both Sue Mingus, the bass legend’s widow, and his longtime arranger Sy Johnson.

“Sincerely Yours” is “a contrafact of a contrafact,” according to Escoffery. It’s the saxophonist’s new melodic twist on Freddie Hubbard’s “Dear John,” itself penned over the changes of John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.” It’s followed by “My Truth,” a profound statement of purpose featuring Porter’s resonant baritone and eloquent solos by both the leader and Harrell. The lyrics describe, “how I navigate the world, and America in particular, as a man of color,” Escoffery says. “Beyond that, it outlines the dualities we all face in our existence: love, pain, murder, justice, sacrifice, obsession, et cetera.”

Porter returns for the reggae classic “By the Rivers of Babylon,” which Escoffery, whose family heritage is Jamaican, considers the Rastafari equivalent of African American spirituals like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” using Biblical imagery to protest the oppression of enslaved peoples. He has long wanted to find the right vehicle to reunite with Porter for years, since they’d met shortly after the singer’s arrival in New York, when both frequented St. Nick’s Pub. “I’ve always wanted to make a strong musical statement with Gregory,” he says. “It was important for me to have the power of his voice singing those lyrics.”

The quartet pays tribute to its late drummer with Peterson’s gorgeous “Song of Serenity,” which the composer originally recorded with his Fo’tet on its 1995 album The Reclamation Project. It’s a mainstay of the quartet’s book and was originally planned for inclusion on Escoffery’s Smoke Sessions debut, The Humble Warrior, which turned out to be Peterson’s final recording with the group. Album closer “Shuffle” isn’t exactly a shuffle, but that’s the off-hand term that Escoffery used to describe to Peterson the groove he was looking for when he introduced the tune; Whitfield places his own stamp on Peterson’s dynamic response.

Much of the music on Like Minds was, naturally, written during the pandemic. Escoffery was fortunate to have a magnanimous fan, the Fulbright scholar and children’s author Michael Sampson, who gave Escoffery the run of his Gulf Coast home during the second wave of lockdown. “Treasure Lane” is named for that Florida address, while Duke Pearson’s classic “Idle Moments” reflects on the suspended sense of time we’ve all experienced over the last few years. It also was part of the setlist for Escoffery’s inaugural livestream concert from the label’s namesake Smoke Jazz Club.

This set of music has been worked out on bandstands across the globe since the world reawakened, but more importantly it reflects the chemistry and empathy shared by gifted musicians who share deep roots and Like Minds.

“Like Minds” was produced by Paul Stache and Damon Smith, and recorded live in New York at Sear Sound’s Studio C on a Sear-Avalon custom console at 96KHz/24bit and mixed to 1/2″ analog tape.
Available in audiophile HD format.

Wayne Escoffery · Like Minds
Smoke Sessions Records · Release Date: April 14, 2023

DL Media

MORE News on T.U.M.S.!

Jazz Vocalist Neika Simone Releases New Single "Back to Love" feat. Saxophonist Marcus Anderson | LI...
Nashville-Based Singer Kyshona to Release New Single "The Echo" on March 1st | New Album "Legacy" Ar...
Gospel Legend Betty Griffin Keller to Release New Single "Come Go With Me" on March 15th, 2024
R&B/Jazz Keyboardist Jeff Logan to Release New Project “Indigo” on April 12th, 2024
R&B Singer Ledisi Releases New Single “Perfect Strangers” feat. Kenny Lattimore | LISTEN!
Saxophonist Charles Lloyd Releases New Single "Booker's Garden" | LISTEN! New Album Drops March 15th...
Gospel Singer Michelle Miller Bell Releases New Album "I Trust In God" | LISTEN!
The Top 100 Contemporary Jazz Songs – #93 | Urban Knights - The Rose
R&B Singer AnDre’ Washington Releases New Single "No Better Than You" | LISTEN!
Pop/R&B/Soul Artist Ketsyha to Release New Single "Soulmates" on March 1st, 2024
R&B Singer Inayah Releases Official Video for Single "For The Streets" | WATCH!
R&B Songstress Sherena Releases New Track "One Less Bell" | LISTEN!
Alto Saxophonist Mike Monford to Release New Project "The Cloth I’m Cut From" on May 17th, 2024
The 6th Annual "Urban One Honors: Best In Black" | Premiering February 25th, 2024 on TV One & CLEO T...
Soul Singer Willie Clayton Releases Rendition of Classic Hit "Let's Stay Together" | WATCH NEW VIDEO...
Jazz Guitarist Tim Bowman Releases New Track "Ocean Breeze" | LISTEN!
Music Group Ghost-Note Releases New Funk Anthem “Where’s Danny?” | LISTEN!
Al Green's Greatest Hits Release Now In Dolby Atmos
Gospel Songstress Lisa Norris-Jackson Releases New Single "God Kept Me" | LISTEN!
Jazz Guitarist Blake Aaron to Release New Album "Love and Rhythm" on April 19th, 2024 | LISTEN!
Violinist Artaska Strings Releases New Album "Dreams" | LISTEN!
Guitarist Joe Taylor Releases New Album "Westside Chill" | LISTEN!
R&B Singer J.Red the Nephew Releases New Single "Should've Been Home" | LISTEN!
Gospel Singer Cory Henry to Release New Project "CHURCH" on February 25th, 2024 | LISTEN to 2 New Si...
Saxophonist Kenny Garrett and Svoy to Release New Album "Who Killed AI?" on April 12th, 2024
R&B/Jazz Guitarist Jimmy B Releases New Track "My Old Street" | LISTEN!
Danish Pianist Rasmus Sørensen Announces Double Album Release: "Balancing Act" & "Traits" on March 1...
Gospel Singer Melvin Crispell, III Releases New Single "He's Never Failed Me Yet" | WATCH NEW VIDEO!
Trumpeter Lin Rountree Releases New Single "One You" feat. Algebra Blessett | LISTEN!
Gospel Artist Calvin Bridges Releases New Single "No Weapon" | WATCH NEW VIDEO!
Sax Legend Sonny Rollins - "Freedom Weaver: The 1959 European Tour Recordings" (4-LP Set) to Arrive ...
James Brown’s Unreleased Single "We Got To Change" (3-Track EP) | Coming February 16th, 2024 | LISTE...
Gospel Singer Shonda English Releases New Single "There Wouldn't Be A Me" | LISTEN!
Christian McBride Releases New Single with Edgar Meyer - “Philly Slop” | LISTEN!
Pianist Robert Prester and Singer Adriana Samargia Releases New Album "Quenara" | WATCH NEW VIDEO!
Saxophonist Melissa Aldana to Release New Project "Echoes Of The Inner Prophet" on April 5th, 2024 |...
R&B Legends Glenn Jones & Eric Nolan Releases New Ballad "I Wanna Be Closer" feat. Saxophonist Tony ...
Soul Singer Alex Harris to Release Debut New Album "Back To Us" on April 12th, 2024 | LISTEN to New ...
The "Bob Marley And The Wailers – One Love: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" is Available NOW | W...
Gospel Singer Me'Kayla Releases New Single "Werking" feat. ChurchPPL | WATCH NEW VIDEO!