Lemel Music Productions is pleased to announce the release of "Bliss," Noah Baerman's fifth album under his own name. A protégé of Kenny Barron, Noah first made a significant mark in the jazz world through his instructional books, including Jazz Keyboard Harmony, the Big Book of Jazz Piano Improvisation and the widely-used three-volume Complete Jazz Keyboard Method. In 2003 he gained wider recognition with his album "Patch Kit," featuring Ron Carter and Ben Riley. The album raised funds and awareness for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue condition with which Noah was born. An appearance on Marian McPartland's "Piano Jazz" followed, as did more recordings, including "Soul Force" with a large supporting cast including Steve Wilson, Robin Eubanks, Jimmy Greene, Wayne Escoffery and Warren Smith. That album continued his propensity for "message music," this time focusing on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and celebrating his life and message. Along the way Noah has received kudos for his composition, winning First Prize for jazz in the Billboard and Unisong song contests, as well as five ASCAPlus Awards. Most recently, he was awarded a 2008-2009 New Works grant from Chamber Music America/Doris Duke Foundation. "Bliss," meanwhile, was conceived with the simple goal of documenting the synergy of his Trio. Henry Lugo joined the group on bass in 2002 and Vinnie Sperrazza has held down the drum chair since early 2004. "These guys have breathed new life into my music," says Noah. "It is no exaggeration to say that, given my physical difficulties, Henry and Vinnie are largely responsible for inspiring me to keep playing." The Trio's interpretations of standards and modern jazz songs comprise a large part of their sound, but this program is devoted entirely to Noah's original material. "I can't speak highly enough of how these guys interpret my music. They bring such musicianship and creativity to the table that each time we play one of my tunes, something new and exciting happens, and always in a way that enhances the composition." Most of the material on "Bliss" consists of music Noah composed years ago and has adapted for the Trio. "Tastes Like Chedda" is a buoyant tune that Noah says "was composed in one fifteen-minute spurt in 1995 while waiting for a bus." The title track, "Bliss," is a free-time meditation on a theme Noah used for the processional at his wedding in 1998. "Patch Kit," originally the title track from Noah's best-known album, is re-examined here in a more expansive and raucous manner than on the original. The centerpiece of the album, meanwhile, is the four-part "Artists Collective Suite." Noah composed the suite in 1994 as a reflection upon his experiences as a teenager at the Hartford, CT community arts organization founded by jazz legend Jackie McLean and his wife Dollie. Spurred by Mr. McLean's passing in 2006, Noah unearthed the suite as a tribute, and the mixture of bebop, modern jazz, African and gospel music has turned out to resonate deeply with his audiences. Another remembrance comes in the form of "Now!" One of the album's two newer compositions, this mournful, blues-drenched tune pays tribute to Max Roach, who passed away three days before the recording session. "It may seem odd to present a slow song as a tribute to one of the greatest drummers in history," says Noah, "but it was equally important for me to represent the vigor and immediacy of his civil rights work." The other new song, "Second Sunrise," is a tribute of a different sort. "In this tune," Noah explains, "I tried to represent the change that I have seen in our oldest daughter, who we adopted as a teenager four years ago. The notion of overcoming adversity is something my music has addressed a lot, but never has it been more profound for me than in watching young people fight to transcend their struggles." The piece repeatedly changes mood, tempo and energy level to soulfully illustrate the spirit of transformation and resilience. Baerman himself has shown his fair share of resilience and transformation, musically and otherwise. "Bliss" stands as an exciting new chapter in his development and in the evolution of his trio.
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