Pianist Ramona Borthwick is nothing if not generous—offering up over seventy minutes of quality music on this, her second recording as leader. That the music is constantly arresting is testament to the quality of the arrangements and, in equal measure, to the virtuosity displayed by her quintet.
In effect, the quintet becomes at times a sextet as Borthwick employs her voice like an additional wind instrument to wonderful effect, adding rich harmonic and melodic tones to the music. Blending her voice with the guitar lines of Noel Borthwick or the trumpet/flugelhorn of Ingrid Jensen, she creates quite beautiful harmonies.
ONE OF US | Ramona Borthwick, Leitmotif 2010 By RAUL d’GAMA ROSE, Editor, AAJ | January 17, 2010
The wonderful music of One of Us dwells on the interconnection of all things. Pianist Ramona Borthwick and her quartet make this happen on two important levels. First, they play from the same script as if they had studied the pages and came to make each their own in a very special and individual way. Second, there is a seamless connection between each of the songs and the quartet’s leader; Borthwick brings her considerable talent in weaving everything together with a secret gossamer thread. Both of these attributes speak volumes about the sensitivity with which each of the musicians handles the considerably—sometimes dense—material.
Ramona Borthwick proves that there is some depth among younger composers. Her bright work is agape at the immensity of all things. It appears that she looks at the world with childlike wonder, but is also privy to the true and deep nature of what she sees. This is reflected in the fluidity and the exquisite allure that is woven through each melody. Borthwick also leads and inspires colorful and artful harmonic invention throughout. She has a willing ally in trumpeter/flugelhornist Ingrid Jensen, whose memorable work here is absolutely magnificent; she plays each note as if it were her last. The result is solos like the music of dew on leaves—pristine, and each ringing with priceless wonderment.
Am excited to announce the release of my new CD ‘One Of Us’. The music on this project is reflective of personal experiences, and is dedicated to our wonderful planet Earth, who in all her graciousness has been sustaining us forever. The CD comprises ten original compositions that were recorded last summer with some amazing players – Ingrid Jensen (tpt), Noel Borthwick (gtr), Johannes Weidenmueller (b) & Adam Cruz (dr). Most of the tunes were written specifically for this project over a period of a few months, some of them especially with the musicians in mind. Some info on the musicians: Ingrid Jensen, a multifaceted player and one of the leading voices on the trumpet, brings her trademark fire, energy and lyricism to this project. Noel Borthwick, gifted guitarist, Cakewalk CTO and producer of this project, lent his distinctive sound to the music, and was the hardest to book for this recording 🙂 Johannes Weidenmuller, a highly sought after bass player on the New York scene, was an integral member of the Kenny Werner trio for many years and also worked with John Abercrombie, Joe Lovano, John Scofield and innumerable others. Drummer Adam Cruz a regular with Danilo Perez, has played with David Sanchez, Tom Harrell, Chris Potter, Paquito D’Rivera, and recorded with Chick Corea (Origin).
Some enjoyable (and informative) reading on the trials and joys of producing a CD at Noel Borthwick’s blog. These production notes on the creative/production timeline of the CD ‘One Of Us’, were written by Noel and reference a gamut of topics ranging from the project’s ‘Conception’ to ‘Delivery’. Methinks it feels pretty darn close to a birthing process, labor included 🙂
My upcoming quintet CD has been sent to mastering, whew! (It was recorded last summer in NY). Being witness to another series of mixing sessions was a great learning process for me – not entirely fun I admit – my respect & admiration for all the sound engineers out there has grown infinitely 🙂 Dan and Noel did a great job, and I can’t wait to hear the finished result. Have just started on the artwork for the CD digipak – should be interesting. Will keep you posted on how things are moving.
I’ve had the pleasure to serve as Interim Choir Director at St. Pauls in Newton, MA since fall. If you are looking to attend a Sunday or a special service during the Advent/Christmas season, please drop by. (View schedule and location). Led by the dynamic and oh-so-cool Revd. Gretchen Grimshaw, the music leans toward jazz, mixed in with some gospel and traditional choral styles. And although we don’t have a large choir, (it’s affectionately known as the little Big choir), they’re tremedously capable, having withstood some mean choral arrangements of mine in the past. I will be at this church until the Martin Luther King weekend, which falls on Jan 18th.
P.S. the choir welcomes new voices!
I’d mostly seen this ancient pipe being used by people in Indian villages, but it appears that it is a trend gaining popularity among college students in urban areas today. Hookahs are widely being offered in cafes and restaurants in Indian cities, with the tobacco offered in an assortment of flavors. Students come in groups and sit for hours peacefully gurgling communal pipes in casual surroundings. Here’s a hookah menu hanging at a popular ‘dhaba’ restaurant on the outskirts of Bombay. (This place also served served ’emu tikka’ btw).
Incidentally, one of my upcoming performances (20th November) will be at a restaurant in Pune called the Shisha Jazz Cafe, ‘shisha’ being a common term for the hookah in the Middle East. For reservations call 20-65200390.
With NARESH FERNANDES, Timeout Mumbai Magazine, January 2007
It’s been 15 years since Jazzmates. What’s changed for you since? Much – it’s been a great journey and continues to be. I think the two most significant changes in my life have been geographical moves across the globe, and the inevitable – getting older! I think the latter has a lot to do with changing your perspective on life and the intensity of commitment to things important in your self-development as an artist.
Around the time of the release of ‘Sound Matters‘ in India (1991), we had the opportunity to move to Ottawa, Canada. It came at a time when we were trying to play jazz in an otherwise bleak environment, and although the move was a job related one for Noel, we both felt it was necessary for our own growth as musicians to place ourselves in a more creative environment.
By MAURIZIO SPENNATO | altriSuoni.org |December 2006 (Thanks to Stephan Cocron for translating the article from the original Italian into English)
A New Leaf is the very diverse and interesting debut CD from pianist and composer Ramona Borthwick. Indian by origin and English by adoption, Borthwick avoids every temptation of dominating or abusing her position with respect to her valid collaborators , and instead gives each of her fellow musicians the space they need to fully express themselves creatively, resulting in a resounding success.
In this project Ramona takes on many different styles of music, from ballads, like the track A New Leaf, to the passages of Home, which starts with a strong rhythmic component and then moves to flamboyant, almost tribal repetitive vocals, and then flows to unexpected resolutions and modern, original phrases that seem to want to repeat over and over again; in short, the song spans the entire cycle of the evolution of human musical expression, ranging from the early rudimentary beginnings to the construction of more contemporary avant-garde and innovative styles.
But there is no lack of other musical styles on this CD, which features some latin jazz tracks as well as influences from other parts of the world. These influences can be heard coming from the likes of Argentinean bassist Fernando Huergo, the strong and evocative presence of American trumpetist Phil Grenadier, as well as constant support of Israeli drummer Ziv Ravitz and finally the result of Borthwick’s passionate search for additional vocals leading to singer, bassist, and composer, Esperanza Spalding.
All of the tracks were composed by Ramona, with the exception of Two’s Complement, which was co-written by trusted collaborator Noel Borthwick, and Dark Secrets of Three Blind Mice, which was written entirely by Noel. Apart from being the guitarist of the group, Noel supervised all of the technical aspects of the CD; his regular gig is “software engineer” in the music industry, developing digital audio for recording engineers from around the world.
All the work is then pervaded by a subtle poetic vein (inspiration), which becomes palpable in the printed lyrics that complete the music and in which the individual tracks are commented on by Ramona and accompanied by delicate verses of poetry.
The result, then, is music, and poetry, but much more than that: even the graphical aspects of the CD were designed by Ramona, because as a complete artist, it is clear that all of visual, graphical, and Web, etc, arts, are all interconnected. All you need to do is take a glance at her website and you will see right away that she is a truly accomplished, “all encompassing” artist…
——————————————————— (Original article as published in the Italian magazine AltriSuoni)
Molto vario ed interessante questo A New Leaf, il primo CD inciso da leader dalla pianista e compositrice, indiana di origine ed inglese di adozione, Ramona Borthwick che, evitando ogni tentazione di protagonismo e di prevaricazione nei riguardi dei suoi validi collaboratori e lasciando a ciascuno tutto lo spazio necessario per esprimersi compiutamente, ha conseguito un risultato brillante.
In questo lavoro Ramona si è confrontata con diversi stili, dalle ballads, come nel brano A New Leaf, ai passaggi di Home, caratterizzati inizialmente da una forte componente ritmica e da vocalizzi ostentatamente ripetitivi, quasi tribali, e successivamente da risoluzioni inaspettate e fraseggi melodici moderni ed originali, che sembrano voler ripercorrere così, in breve, tutto il percorso evolutivo dell’espressione musicale del genere umano, dalle rudimentali espressioni delle origini ai costrutti più avanguardistici e spregiudicati dei giorni nostri.
Non mancano infatti spunti modali, brani in puro stile latin-jazz ed altre influenze musicali di varie parti del mondo, dovute anche all’incontro con il bassista argentino Fernando Huergo, alla presenza forte e significativa del trombettista statunitense Phil Grenadier, al sostegno costante del batterista di origine israeliana Ziv Ravitz e una sensibile ricerca in campo vocale della stessa Borthwick assistita dalla vocalist, ma anche bassista e compositrice, Esperanza Spalding.
Tutte le composizioni sono di Ramona, con l’eccezione di Two’s Complement, di cui è coautore il fidato Noel Borthwick e Dark Secrets of Three Blind Mice di cui è autore proprio Noel che, oltre ad essere il chitarrista del gruppo, ha curato gli aspetti tecnici del CD, anche grazie all’altra sua professione, quella di ‘software engineer’ che opera proprio nel campo dei software musicali e delle registrazioni digitali per note case di livello mondiale.
Tutto il lavoro è poi pervaso da una sottile vena poetica, che diventa palpabile nel libretto che completa la musica ed in cui, i singoli brani, sono commentati dalla stessa Ramona ed accompagnati da delicati versi di poesia.
Musica, dunque, e poesia, ma non solo: anche gli aspetti grafici del Cd sono stati curati da Ramona stessa; già, perché altra sua attività è proprio quella di occuparsi di arti grafiche, web e quant’altro ad essi connesso. Basta dare un’occhiata al suo sito per avere l’immediata percezione di un’artista ‘a tutto tondo’…
With RICK HOLLAND, JazzRadio247.com, September Issue, 2006
Rick Holland: Thank-you Ramona for taking some time with us and our listeners at JR47. I just wanted to tell you, I’ve been enjoying your new disc, A New Leaf. I think what really captured my attention was the influence of World rhythms that involves your music. Can you share with us how you feel Jazz has cross pollinated into world music? Ramona Borthwick: That is an interesting question, since this is relatively a more common phenomenon the other way around – world music cross pollinating jazz. Jazz itself might be considered world music in a sense, since its origins can be traced to the synthesis of Afro-European influences. Although my early music education was in western classical music, I grew up in India, a country where traditional and folk music is pretty much part of everyday life. With its regional diversity and profusion of religions, there are festivals occurring monthly if not more often, with music being an integral part of celebration and worship. In such an environment it’s hard not to have cultural influences leak into one’s expression of music, and often it is an unconscious process. So although I didn’t actively study or play traditional Indian music, I was exposed to a fair amount of Indian folk and classical music. And then there were Brazilian and other South American influences that came from listening to music from other parts of the globe. Ultimately, I believe that the best music comes from letting yourself play what needs to be played from inside you, without forcing it, or it can end up sounding contrived especially if you add stylistic elements for the sake of exotic value. The beautiful thing about jazz is how the form accommodates other stylistic elements while still retaining its core style. We are seeing more and more international jazz artists from Europe and other continents, combining native influences into their music in an organic manner.
Thought I’d share the poem that’s on the CD sleeve of ‘A New Leaf’, with listeners who have chosen to buy the digital download version. That’s the one drawback of an otherwise great way to acquire music, you miss holding the sheath that wrapped the music itself – the artwork, the pullouts, artist comments and other valuable & sometimes nonsensical trivia that adds that little more to listening pleasure! This poem was written partly as a parallel to the composition ‘Home’ on the album.
the wind cradles me I journey over waters in their cupped palms lands, peoples
cities on glossy postcards transform into zip codes in the cool land of maple and tulip my inner landscape crossed by trails of mango and jasmine
night falls it is the same moon that greets me the one from another land a song plays from seasons before a new leaf unfurls like a phrase on a staff
By RICK HOLLAND, JazzRadio247.com, September Issue, 2006
Ramona Borthwick’s A New Leaf is a new recording which introduces Ramona as a composer, bandleader and fine
pianist. She surrounds herself with some fine musicians including guitarist Noel Borthwick, to bring us a set of new music which pushes the boundaries both harmonically and rhythmically. The result is a fresh and creative disc that is not for the faint of heart.
One of the captivating things about Ramona’s music is she is so influenced by world rhythms, and she is able to incorporate these rhythmic ideas into her landscaped compositions. Her tunes convey contrast, and they seem to have a story-like quality to them. This is jazz music that reflects world ideals and these ideals are translated in a variety of ways to give the listener contrasting viewpoints.
Ramona is joined by Noel Borthwick, a fine guitarist, who is a proclaimed self-taught musician. However, Noel spent a year of private study with acclaimed Indian sarod player Shekhar Borkar. His primary concentration happened in his late teens. He began to develop a strong interest in bebop, modal and mainstream jazz styles, and was inspired by guitarists such as Pat Martino, Joe Pass, Jack Wilkins and the music of John Coltrane. Noel brings a genuine sense of joy to this project, and is a fine compliment to Ramona and her group. Continue reading →
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.