The Willie August Project | Surrender to the Wind

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Jazz: Modern Creative Jazz Jazz: Progressive Jazz Moods: Featuring Guitar
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Surrender to the Wind

by The Willie August Project

Modern jazz marked by inventive rhythmic interplay and a natural, melodic flow. It is music of considerable depth that nonetheless appeals to a wide range of audiences.
Genre: Jazz: Modern Creative Jazz
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  Song Share Time Download
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1. Surrender to the Wind (Song for T. M.)
6:27 $0.99
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2. Andean Fire Circle
8:07 $0.99
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3. Ramsey Hill
2:07 $0.99
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4. Aspirations in Cobblestone
6:06 $0.99
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5. Lost and Found (Loon Call)
11:47 $0.99
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6. Chilly and the Mustangs
6:11 $0.99
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7. Suite for a Dancer, Movt. 6: Moonlight and Windows
8:29 $0.99
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8. Learning to Un-Belong
7:25 $0.99
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9. Taunting the Duck Squat Impostor
9:32 $0.99
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10. Nothing Matters but the Joy
10:00 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
The Willie August Project was founded in the late 1990s by guitarist-composer Ben Siems and percussionist Jeremy Hauer. Siems had recently returned to Minnesota after attending Brown University and spending several years on the Atlantic Coast as a solo blues/folk musician. Though fresh out of Music Tech College in Minneapolis, Hauer already had nearly five years of jazz gigging under his belt.

Drawing inspiration from the postbop jazz of the 1960s and from the airy, meditative jazz associated with Germany's ECM record label, Siems and Hauer have created a distinctive modern jazz sound that revolves around their naturally melodic musical instincts and remarkable sensitivity to each other's playing. Upright bassist Scot Hornick rounds out the trio's sound beautifully, laying down powerful grooves and subtly punctuating the quietly compelling spaces created by the two principals.

With four Minnesota Music Awards nominations and a host of other local honors to their credit, The Willie August Project has steadily gained recognition as one of the premier groups in Minnesota's topnotch jazz scene. Their latest CD, SURRENDER TO THE WIND, released in early 2004, is now launching them onto a much broader stage. After spending over three month's in Minnesota's Jazz Top Fifty, the disc has been picked up by jazz radio stations from California to New York to Denmark. The group is now receiving invitations to perform throughout the U. S. and Canada, and beyond.

The unique sound of The Willie August Project was perhaps best summed up by jazz critic Larry Nai, writing for CADENCE magazine (an international review journal of jazz and blues): "The Willie August Project, so named for leader Ben Siems' grandfather, plays durable music that expertly straddles the line between easy groove and challenging absorption. ... 'Aspirations in Cobblestone' and the excerpt from 'Suite for a Dancer,' for instance, have an earthy feel that quiets the mind, and resonates both physically and mentally. Siems himself is a fountain of muted melody, with a masterful grasp of the guitaristic art of the octave. ... An off-the-beaten path release that makes one want to hear more." (CADENCE, vol. 30, no. 4, April, 2004).

All compositions by Ben Siems. Copyright 2003 Thunder Cliff Music, ASCAP.
Text copyright 2004 The Willie August Project

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Reviews


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Winthrop Bedford, JAZZ IMPROV magazine

The Willie August Project's music comes from a deep and well thought out place.
JAZZ IMPROV Magazine
P.O. Box 26770, Elkins Park, PA 19027
USA Phone: 215-887-8808 / Fax: 215-887-8803 / website: www.jazzjmprov.com.

Guitarist Ben Siems crafted the liner notes for his debut album with The Willie August Project. It makes sense. Who better to write about one's music and how it developed than the leader and composer himself. He cites how his first jazz composition elicited a bemused response from the accomplished jazz musician who played it. After committing to develop a deeper understanding of music, Siems realized that his compositions fell somehow outside the realm of straight ahead sounds but not as he said "jarring enough" to be considered experimental.

The first track, "Surrender To The Wind," opens with bass and drums providing a latin, samba-like rhythmic underpinning -- a kind of two beat groove. The motivic elements of the tune are quite accessible. While the 24 measure form is itself not unusual, there are some unexpected phrase extensions and changes in direction. The piece moves quickly into a straight ahead swing groove. Pianist Laura Caviani solos lyrically, demonstrating a mature understanding of the mainstream vocabulary. Siems solos confidently on guitar, with a sound that draws on the influence of Pat Metheny.

"Andean Fire Circle" is the second track and contrasts significantly to the first track. Siems’ sound is entirely different -- an acoustic guitar sound. Siems' beautifully delicate expression of this colorful melody is supported by syncopated bass lines. Jeremy Hauer sensitively complements the others with counter rhythms using cymbals and bongos. I felt nothing if not relaxed and pensive listening to this cut.

"Aspirations In Cobblestone" features Siems playing another quite accessible melody over a 3/4 jazz waltz rhythm. Siems solos confidently, tastefully making use of space. His work is clearly about making music as opposed to succumbing to a preoccupation with technique -- the latter being the case with all too many musicians impressed with pyrotechnics.

Siems is to be admired for recognizing that his music is his own -- a function of his own unique perspective and understanding of the world around him. Siems' comfort with his own identity as well as a definition of the meaning behind the obscure name of the group emerges in the liner notes. Siems says: "Like my grandfather, Willie August Siems, who never seemed to grasp social conventions, we'll [the musical team of Ben Siems and Jeremy Hauer] keep trying to find our own way. We'll learn to un-belong."

On "Lost and Found (Loon Call)," Siems employs some effects on guitar at the beginning that create the mysterious impression of undefined bird calls. Siems expresses the melody over a subtle straight eighth note rhythmic foundation. I had the alternating sensation, throughout this piece that I was hearing and feeling music that alluded, at once, to jazz, new age, fusion, and folk elements. I'm pointing this out as a point of interest and consideration -- as opposed to being critical of the result.

It is quite apparent that Siems is a practiced instrumentalist. His sensitivity as an improviser is quite evident in the music. When he points out that "Jazz like life, is not about reaching a destination" and he discusses his ongoing journey, it is clear that his music comes from a deep and well thought out place. Siems offers a depth and diversity of music here. Considering his exploration and understanding of his place in the universe, and how it informs his music, I recommend sharing the path with him for a moment, and listening to The Willie August Project.

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION Reviewed in Jazz Improv ® Magazine, V4N4
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Larry Nai, CADENCE magazine, vol. 30, no. 4, April, 2004


Light, but firm, swing characterizes parts of SURRENDER TO THE WIND, while other parts have a textured approach that connotes New Age music. Fear not the bland, however, because The Willie August Project, so named for leader Ben Siems' grandfather, plays durable music that expertly straddles the line between easy groove, and challenging absorption.



Occasionally reminiscent of Gary Burton's DUSTER and LOFTY FAKE ANAGRAM-era groups in their synthesis of jazz with folk and rock sounds, SURRENDER TO THE WIND is pleasurable to listen to; it easily seems half its generous length. Laura Caviani fits into the trio's quietly compelling spaces beautifully on her two (opening and closing) tracks, the former of which is the disc's first out-and-out swinger. The Ornette-ish "Taunting the Duck Squat Impostor," with its tricky melody and extended soloing, also shows off this group's power to hit the boards, but what impresses most here are the quieter, more spare tracks. "Aspirations in Cobblestone" and the excerpt from "Suite for a Dancer," for instance, have an earthy feel that quiets the mind, and resonates both physically and mentally.



Siems himself is a fountain of muted melody, with a masterful grasp of the guitaristic art of the octave. Although he plays electric throughout, his sonic approach gives even his highest, brightest notes the warmth of a candle flame. Jeremy Hauer is a sympathetic percussionist, laying back much of the time, and going for texture and color over forward propulsion, while the respective bassists fill the trio's mid-range with the necessary essentials. An off-the-beaten-path release that makes one want to hear more. --Larry Nai
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Mike Raymond, Jazz Director, WTIP-FM, Northern Minnesota

A very impressive CD. Absolutely topnotch.
Surrender to the Wind is a very impressive CD. Siems' guitar work is sterling. Absolutely topnotch.
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Leigh Kamman, Minnesota Public Radio

A very fine collection
A very fine collection. On SURRENDER TO THE WIND, the Willie August Project takes us to far off places. The compositions of Ben Siems reverberate with the beauty of nature.
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Linda Yohn, Music Director, WEMU-FM, Michigan

The Willie August Project is a beauty
The Willie August Project is a beauty. SURRENDER TO THE WIND is good, creative, refreshing music.
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