TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF By JENETTE BARNES The Standard Times, August 10, 2006
Whaling City Sound artist Ramona Borthwick says that what she loves about jazz is the improvisation. Rooted in traditional jazz, Ramona Borthwick’s sound reflects her
international life: She was born in India, and lived in Ottawa, Canada, before moving to Boston seven years ago. The jazz pianist will perform this evening as part of AHA! Night, a monthly arts and culture night in downtown New Bedford.
Her latest album, “A New Leaf,” released in May on Whaling City Sound, spans 10 years of composition and performance. One track, “Ottawa Thaw,” expresses her longing for spring after long Canadian winters; “Home” is a reminder of India, but makes a statement about feeling at home in other places, too, Ms. Borthwick said. “That’s what home really means,” she said, “is to make yourself at home where you are, (so) you are no longer pining. It’s just freeing. It’s kind of like comfort food.” Continue reading →
Jazz pianist Ramona Borthwick, a native of India who has lived in Canada for a long time, makes her recording debut as a leader with A New Leaf, a quintet date which focuses on her formidable skills as a composer and arranger. Accompanied by guitarist Noel Borthwick, bassist Fernando Huergo, trumpeter Phil Grenadier, and drummer Ziv Ravitz,
Borthwick effortlessly blends influences from the music of many lands throughout the sessions.
The lush opener is the easygoing, Latin-flavored ballad “A New Leaf,” featuring a fragile solo by Grenadier that is reminiscent of Tom Harrell, along with Borthwick’s lyrical piano. Noel Borthwick contributed the brisk but eerie “Dark Secrets of Three Blind Mice,” in which the guitarist and trumpeter exchange licks over the pulsating rhythm section to build the tension until it releases into a more conventional post-bop setting. Vocalist Esperanza Spalding (with the pianist singing the rhythm underneath her lead) is added for the infectious, multicultural “Garbarero,” which blends elements of Argentinean and Indian rhythm in a powerful post-bop setting, as well as the lively samba “Lotus Lake.”
Ramona Borthwick has made a major statement with this superb initial release.
By MARSHALL ZUCKER, Jazz Improv Magazine, 2006 Summer Issue, Volume 6, #4
Although there are numerous influences on Ramona Borthwick’s music, the way she uses the many influences makes her music so much her own. The quintet (with an additional vocalist on two tracks) works as a unit throughout. We can only hear Ravitz featured on the final track and bassist Huergo only a bit more. All compositions were written by Borthwick, although track 3’s co-composer was Noel Borthwick and track 6 was Borthwick’s own composition.
The CD’s opener, its title track, takes us into a musical journey of such extreme depth, a feeling of such deep serenity and yearning, as well as great hope and subdued optimism that I would have been hoping to follow a similar journey as we travel throughout the CD. Trumpeter Grenadier’s beautiful sound is maintained throughout the solo. Borthwick seems to have listened to Bill Evans, but expresses herself very originally. The ten tracks that follow all go off in different directions. “Garbarero” begins with a wordless vocal. It is influenced by an Indian folk style, and is in 6/8. The other vocalist sings another line while the first still sings. Bassist Huergo is the element that keeps everything going. Once the solos begin- first trumpet, then guitar – there are alternating sections of straight-ahead swing and 6/8 time. There is a nice vocal/trumpet climax at the end. “Two’s Complement” also features changing rhythmic and harmonic directions. “Home” is the most extended of the pieces. The piano introduction demonstrates the Evan’s influence. Continue reading →
There are quite a few musicians hailing from India who have made a remarkable career in the US jazz scene during the last years. The most renowned among them are pianist Vijay Iyer, sax player Rudresh Mahanthappa and drummer Sunny Jain. A recent addition to this list is pianist Ramona Borthwick, who already makes her presence perceptible with her recording debut “A New Leaf”, just like the new leaf that “unfurls like a phrase on a staff” in her poem on the CD sleeve.
Ramona was born in Bombay, where she studied classical piano, discovered jazz while in her teens and settled in Boston after some years of residence in Canada. Compared to the three artists mentioned above she is more inclined to mainstream and less allusive to her birthplace’s tradition. The album is throughout dominated by lyricism and Borthwick’s sentimental yet controlled playing. When she backs the piano with her vocals, she tends to enrich the music with latin feeling. This becomes more profound on the two tracks featuring Esperanza Spalding’s impressive scat vocals. Borthwick’s quintet also features her husband Noel Borthwick on guitar and the outstanding Phil Grenadier (Larry Grenadier, the bassist in Brad Mehldau Trio is his brother) on trumpet, mainly known by his superb work on Bruno Raberg’s recent albums.
Ms. Borthwick is the treasure of the week under the Clef Notes signature. Borthwick’s energy behind the strokes of the keys and arrangements expose an unadulterated jazz talent with a road still yet traveled.
“Home” hits the spin cycle I feel, a sensational comfort as a foundation musically is expressed with this piece. The ivory precision allows that blanket of excellence to hover over the listener. Nice touch! With straight ahead jazz the focus on Lifelines is that of the appeal of one’s life in limbo. However the instrumental performance defines the exact term with numerous sounds through a diverse arrangement. The work is exceptional. Catch the sounds of Spalding on Lotus Lake a fine experiment…
“A New Leaf” has fallen into lap of jazz – let it relax and nurture its existence upon yours…
By GEORGE CARROLL, The Musicians’ Ombudsman, E-Jazz News, June 08, 2006
The power of piano dynamics….This is what you are left with when you taste the style & pianistic jazz talent(s) of one Ramona Borthwick. This, plus her striking persona, (she’s beautiful!) will keep you magnetized to her artistry.
Ramona approaches jazz as a communicator of this her idiom, and she brings wit, intellect and joy to her listening
audiences. We are soothed by her superb keyboard craft, as well as her lovely melodic & harmonic improvisational bent.
Press Release, Whaling City Sound/Mixed Media Promo, May 2006
Sometimes jazz can be so virtuosic that it becomes relentless unforgiving, and tiring. That’s why a more delicate touch, a woman’s touch, can remind you how beautiful the idiom can be as well. Ramona Borthwick’s debut as bandleader, A New Leaf, is just that kind of reminder.
Throughout these eleven compositions, all of which were either written or co-written by Borthwick, the filigreed beauty of Ramona’s jazz piano and lilting voice stands out. Despite shifting styles and a diversity of color, Borthwick’s choices and techniques exhibit the immense tastefulness and gorgeous restraint of a veteran bandleader. Which is why Borthwick’s debut, genuine and self-assured, is one of the jazz community’s most intriguing and exciting bows in recent memory.
Her bio begins this way: Born in Bombay, a bustling port city on the west coast of India, Borthwick was introduced to music early in life by her father, also a professional musician and composer. She began piano lessons at six, and pursued studies in classical music, earning performance degrees through the Trinity College and Royals Schools of Music in London. In her 20s she discovered jazz piano and vocal stylings. Excited and inspired by the concept of improvisation, she began to explore jazz improvisational and accompaniment skills. ‘Sound Matters’ (1991), her first recording released in India and was hailed by critics as the first indigenous recording of mainstream contemporary jazz in India.
Since then, Borthwick, now a Boston resident, has seen her artistry mature and grow in dimension and sophistication. Her piano flows in dazzling flourishes of cliché-free styles, especially on tunes like the progressive “Gabarero” and the dynamic burner “Dark Secrets of Three Blind Mice,” a composition written with her husband Noel Borthwick. Her band on the album — bassist Fernando Huergo, drummer, Ziv Ravitz, trumpeter Phil Grenadier, and guitarist Noel Borthwick—share that same tactile sensibility. They can swing when Ramona takes them there, ease up with sexy romance, or find darker places to dwell as on the variegated “Lifelines.”
In fact, Borthwick has rendered A New Leaf as a multi-faceted, many-tentacled set, an exhilarating, pastel-hued effort that finds the artist dipping into a variety of idioms in search of interesting tone, mood, and feeling, and coming up with a stunning array of fantastic results. Borthwick’s Whaling City Sound debut serves as an early high water mark in the pianist’s career, one rich in melody, impressive in terms of talent, and expressive in a way similar to great poetry or richly rendered art, all led by the strong personal touch of the exquisitely capable Borthwick.
For Immediate Release
Contact: Ginny Shea, Mixed Media
By BUD KOPPMAN at AllAboutJazz.com, March 10, 2006
Ramona Borthwick has produced in A New Leaf a marvelous album that is at turns melodious, swinging, deeply emotional and cool. Like Min Rager’s Bright Road, it is brimming with energy and good vibes, and the compositions are first rate.
The choice of the title tune is always instructive, and the opening “A New Leaf“, exposes Borthwick’s many influences. Starting with a simple, Americana-ish figure, it swerves into a bit of what could be Chopin, only to shift immediately into a subtle Latin beat intro that leads to Phil Grenadier’s first notes. The tune never stays put as Borthwick skillfully blends many styles with her piano work, including Southeast Asian and Brazilian influences.
It must be noted that Grenadier is a player to watch. His playing has a real genuine unpredictability about it, coupled with a trumpet tone that could be a flugelhorn at times.
“Garbarero” introduces some very sensual Brazilian scat from Esperanza Spalding, behind which Borthwick sings, but the tune will not let itself settle into anything that is simply Brazilian. Dark chords enter, and the tune shifts into a subtle groove for more playing from Grenadier who twists and turns over the ever changing rhythm. Noel Borthwick (Ramona’s husband) also makes his first appearance on guitar, with a dark sound and a very fluid attack. Continue reading →
La pianiste Ramona Borthwick replace ses compositions plutôt mainstream dans l’esprit moderne du jazz actuel d’outre-Atlantique. Elle superpose des couches musicales : voix, onomatopées, instruments sur des rythmiques à la fois latines et nord-américaines (« Garbarero », « Lotus Lake »), en y réussissant parfaitement.
Très colorée, avec ses inspirations culturelles indiennes, nord et sud-américaines (surtout des atmosphères brésiliennes), le dynamisme est ici principalement du au jeu vigoureux du très batteur Ziv Ravitz. On note les interventions souvent excellentes du trompettiste au style flottant et fluide Phil Grenadier et du guitariste Noel Borthwick.
By JERRY D’SOUZA, AllAboutJazz.com, February 08, 2006
Ramona Borthwick makes quite an impression with her first international release. She and husband Noel Borthwick were active on the music scene in Mumbai (Bombay) during the ’80s, before they moved to Ottawa and then to Boston. Given her training in Western classical music and the clear empathy she has for Indian classical music, it is not surprising that both are present and entwined with jazz on A New Leaf. Continue reading →
By TRISTAN SMITH, JAZZREVIEW.com, January 23, 2006 Featured Artist: Ramona Borthwick
This debut CD by composer-pianist Ramona Borthwick is her first offering as a leader and, by the sounds of it, certainly won’t be her last. Her sound and the compositions are unique and the playing is flawless.
Borthwick, originally from Bombay, India, and trained in classical music, comes from a family of professional musicians and her father – a professional musician and composer – introduced her to the art form. As she grew up her tastes changed and Borthwick geared herself more towards the jazzier side of music.
Borthwick displays an amazing talent for composition. Each of the tracks on A New Leaf is an original composition. Her wondrous imagination shows through in her settings that she has chosen for each piece. And the music…it’s outstanding. Influences such as ECM jazz, Latin beats and touches of notes from her native India liven up each composition and creates a unique feel for each and every track. The two most impressive tracks on A New Leaf, “Two’s Complement” and “Dark Secrets of Three Blind Mice,” were co-written with Noel Borthwick. Both of these tracks are worth listening to numerous times.
Her quintet, comprised of Boston and New York-based musicians is both creative and energetic, and complement her compositions perfectly. Borthwick’s fellow musicians, each with a lengthy and impressive resume, bring an individual style to the group and bring the music to a level that is rarely shown on a debut release.
By SHUCHITA RAO | India New England | Issue Date: Jan 15, 2006
WATERTOWN, Mass. — Ramona Borthwick is very happy with the way 2005 worked out for her. The Mumbai-born pianist recently released her debut CD in Boston entitled “A New Leaf,” featuring original compositions rooted in the jazz tradition.
Despite the grounding in jazz, the compositions reflect influences that stem from places including India, Latin America and the United States. Borthwick was raised in a rich musical environment playing Western classical music before she developed a taste for jazz. Her father, Enoch Daniels, was born in a musical family and worked for the film industry in Mumbai, as an accordion player, composer and arranger of film music. Continue reading →
Here’s a fantastic recording by pianist/singer Ramona Borthwick. All her own compositions except “Two’s Complement” which was co-written by guitarist Noel Borthwick and Noel’s own “Dark Secrets of Three Blind Mice”.
All the tunes are rich, lush, and highly emotional. The musicians play beautifully together and Ramona has a feel somewhat compared to Herbie Hancock and a little Keith Jarret but her playing is very much her own. Noel’s playing is also extraordinary with a great time feel and a warm engaging sound. The vocal tracks are interesting as Esperanza Spalding (tracks 2 & 9) has a unique attack and her scatting technique is very entertaining. The recording sound itself is excellent. Bravo!