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Ted Piltzecker

“The melodies are superb! The vibes work is exceptional.” JAZZ REVIEW

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Vibraphonist/Composer Ted Piltzecker has eclectic musical interests. He has performed at jazz and percussion festivals, and in concerts throughout the United States and around the globe. (Germany, Austria, England, China, Brazil, Norway, Nepal, India, Australia, Iceland, Turkey, The Netherlands, Argentina, Peru, Sweden, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Finland, and Puerto Rico). His five albums as a leader have been critically acclaimed and influential in both the percussion and jazz worlds.

His debut album, Destinations, climbed to number eight in national jazz airplay, and his second release, Unicycle Man on the Equilibrium label (featuring Bob Mintzer, Harvie S, James Williams, and Dave Meade) remained on the Gavin Jazz Chart for months. The Victory Music Review calls it “a thoughtful recording filled with tasteful flair, the product of confident mature musicians who are committed to the ensemble.” Jazz writer and critic, the late Nat Hentoff praised the album as “a lyrical, thoughtful, relaxing meeting of mutually appreciative improvisers whose time is timeless.”

All About Jazz reports that in his solo vibraphone album, Standing Alone (a collection of standards) “fills the 43-minutes with expressive grace, maintaining interest throughout.” Muse calls it “a simultaneously technically impressive and deeply relaxing listening experience.” His release Steppe Forward has been cited as “an upbeat, joyous and uplifting album, from beginning to end” by All About Jazz, and “a nice voyage into what good jazz is all about in contemporary times” by the Jazz Review. Ted's 2018 release entitled Brindica that is a reflection of his recent four-month venture around the world. It was recorded in New York and in Buenos Aires. “Piltzecker writes and arranges tunes that draw on tango, second-line, Afro-Cuban, South African, and even carnatic influences, always in an organic, fun, and respectful way. The result is a stylistic kaleidoscope of an album that reveals new combinations of rhythm and harmony at every turn and always sparkes with wit and good humor.” CDHotList

Ted has performed with many of the great names in jazz in New York (guitarists Gene Burtoncini and Vic Juris, bassists Rufus Reid and Todd Coolman, drummers Lewis Nash, Dennis Mackrel, and Clarence Penn, pianists Jim McNeeley, John Hicks, and Bill Charlap, and with saxophonists Chris Potter and Javon Jackson), and while directing the jazz program at the Aspen Music Festival (Jimmy Heath, Joe Williams, Clark Terry, Mel Torme, Ernie Watts, Hubert Laws, Slide Hampton, Toshiko Akiyoshi, and many more). He has toured internationally as a member of the famed George Shearing Quintet, and has led many of his own unique ensembles including Pendulum, a duo with Canadian pianist Jim Hodgkinson. Ted’s diverse musical interests have also included tours with the Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble, TV spots with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s John McEuen, appearances at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York with organist Dorothy Papadakos, and chamber music concerts with classical cellists, Yehuda Hanani and Julia Lichten, violinists, Ruben Gonzales and Calvin Wiersma, clarinetists Ayako Oshima and Dick Waller, harpists Nancy Allen and Emily Mitchell, bandoneónist, Hector Del Curto, table player Jagannath Dhaugoda, and gadulka player (Bulgarian violin) Nikolay Kolev.

Ted Piltzecker has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, The Lincoln Center Institute, and the ASCAP Foundation. His works have been aired on National Public Radio’s “Performance Today” and the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s “Arts National” and have been performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra Chamber Ensemble at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. As a guest of the People’s Republic of China, he premiered new works for percussion at the Conservatories in Beijing and Wuhan in the summer of 2013. In the summer of 2014 he premiered two new works, one for wind ensemble and one for jazz band at the Conservatório de Tatuí in Brazil. He is an associate professor of music composition at the Purchase Conservatory of Music, State University of New York and also teaches vibraphone at the Hartt School in Connecticut.

Ted is a graduate of the Eastman and Manhattan Schools of Music. He is an active pilot and unicyclist who performs using Musser vibraphones and his signature Mike Balter mallets exclusively. Additional information, including recordings and videos, may be found at TedVibes.com.

My Jazz Story

Ted Piltzecker (from BRINDICA, ZoHo Music, liner notes) A funny thing happened on the way to Ted Piltzecker’s arrival as a jazz trumpeter — he became a vibraphonist. “I was a trumpet major at the Eastman School of Music,” explains the New Jersey native, “but I had a set of vibes in my dorm room and I would practice all the time. I played trumpet in the Jazz Ensemble, then directed by Chuck Mangione. One thing led to another, and I started writing some vibes things for myself with the band.” His transformation to full-time vibes player came after a tour with The George Shearing Quintet. “I used to bring the trumpet with me when I was touring in Shearing’s band,” he recalls, “and I’d practice in the back of the bus with a whisper mute. I was never interested in being a screamer lead trumpet guy, and admired players like Art Farmer and Clark Terry. But at one point I realized that I was done with it. So when I got off one of the Shearing tours, I put the trumpet in the case, closed it, and it was out of the house the next day. I never touched it again. As a born-again vibraphonist, Ted has performed with many of the great names in jazz, including guitarists Gene Bertoncini and Vic Juris, bassists Rufus Reid and Andy Simpkins, drummers Lewis Nash, Dennis Mackrel and Clarence Penn, pianists Jim McNeeley, John Hicks and Bill Charlap, and saxophonists Chris Potter and Javon Jackson. In his previous four albums as a leader, Piltzecker hinted at his broad range of interests, from jazz standards to tangos to African-flavored numbers. On Brindica, his fifth outing overall and debut for ZOHO Music, the vibraphonist/composer/bandleader takes listeners on a worldwide musical journey. The title Brindica reflects cultural influences from Brazil, India, and Africa but there are also stops in Bali, Cuba, Puerto Rico, New Orleans and Harlem. The diverse musical landscapes, people and traditions that Piltzecker encountered in his travels are woven into the tapestry of this very engaging album. Recorded in Argentina with a core group of drummer and co-producer Fernando Martinez, pianist Miguel Marengo, bassist Mauricio Dawid and alto saxophonist Carlos Michelini, Brindica also features guest appearances by trumpeter Jon Faddis, baritone sax player Gary Smulyan, tenor saxophonist Ralph Lalama, trombonist Matt Hall and steel pan/snare drummer John Wooton. Classical clarinetist Ayako Oshima and classical flutist Tara Helen O’Conner appear on two tracks. And from Cuba, Jansel Torres adds an authentic flavor with his bata and conga playing on “Por Supuesto” while djembe drummer Dave Lewitt and percussionist Angel Lau enliven the 6/8 African factor on “From the Center.” Up-and-coming vocalist Taylor Burgess turns in a haunting interpretation of Langston Hughes’ poem “What Happens to a Dream Deferred?” with appropriately noirish backing from Piltzecker and his empathetic crew. “I go to Argentina frequently to play the International Festival of Percussion in Patagonia, and that’s where I met Fernando Martinez.” explains the professor of music composition at the Purchase Conservatory of Music in New York. “We began playing together in clubs like Notorious in Buenos Aires with some great musicians. It felt so comfortable that I decided to stay and record some of my new music.” The resulting album, Brindica, is easily Piltzecker’s most eclectic and personal statement to date. The band comes out of the gate charging on the buoyant, Afro- Cuban flavored opener “Great Idea! Who Pays?” Piltzecker’s vibes blend timbres with Wooton’s steel pan while Michelini blows bold tones over the top on the alto sax. The second-line groover “Uncle Peck” is punctuated by a potent horn section of trumpeter Faddis, bari ace Smulyan, trombonist Hall and tenor saxophonist Lalama. Catch Faddis’ expressive plunger solo and Marengo’s barrelhouse piano playing on this New Orleans flavored number. The Louisiana-born pan player Wooton switches to snare on this infectious tune to cop an authentic N’awlins second-line feel. “My mother was from New Orleans,” says the vibist-leader. “My father was a northern guy who stole her away from the south and took her to a life in New Jersey. We visited relatives in New Orleans frequently when I was growing up. My Uncle Peck, whose actual name was Preston, would go on for hours telling me, as a young boy, all about Mardi Gras. This song springs from these vivid memories and tries to capture some of the spirit of the place that always lived within my mom.” The Latin flavored “Feliz Paseo,” fueled by a clave groove and Marengo’s hypnotic son montuno piano playing, features strong solo contributions from altoist Michelini. The ensemble switches gears on the title track, a through-composed piece that showcases the precision playing of internationally-renowned clarinetist Oshima and flutist O’Conner, a two time Grammy nominee. Piltzecker blends rhythmic elements of Brazilian and African music here while also introducing Xhosa click singing, popularized in the 1960s by South African singer Miriam Makeba. “I remember listening to her singing ‘Nongqongqo’ with Harry Belafonte on that famous live album (1960’s Returns To Carnegie Hall),” he recalls. “That’s a record I heard as a kid and just never forgot.” The leader also injects some South Indian Carnatic singing (or konokol) near the end of this exotic number. Piltzecker’s breezy “Look At It Like This” was inspired by a trek through the Himalayas. “This is a cheerful melody that reflects those beautiful little pentatonic tunes that my guide Hari would sing as we hiked through stunning mountains in Nepal,” he explains. “This was a year and a half after a terrible earthquake hit the Himalayas and all these places were just leveled, including Hari’s own town about 60 miles to the north. And yet, here he was singing these happy folk songs with a big smile. It reminded me of the value of staying on the positive side. That’s what the song is about and I hope people feel good when they hear it.” Tara returns to play alto flute on the Balinese gamelan-flavored “Ogoh, Ogoh,” a song inspired by a tradition in Bali where every year on the eve of Nyepi (day of silence) huge, menacing demon-like creatures are hoisted on platforms and carried through town in a parade. Then they are burned to insure a tranquil and loving existence for the coming year. “The music shows the peaceful Balinese spirit, goes briefly to a flourish, and then returns to a calm place,” says Ted. On the Latin-flavored 6/8 romp “Por Supuesto,” Piltzecker harkens back to his own roots of playing trumpet in salsa bands around Rochester and Buffalo. “We used to play these dances that went late into the night. I’d look out into the audience and there’d be all three generations of people up and moving,” he says. “This was just about sharing the joy, and It was a wonderful thing to experience. A seed was planted about music and culture that never left me.” Piltzecker recruited vocalist Burgess to interpret the lyrics of Langston Hughes’ “What Happens to a Dream Deferred?” “That iconic poem by Langston Hughes is familiar to many Americans, and should be known by all,” says Piltzecker. “We first played it as an instrumental ballad in South America. Then at a festival I tried an experiment. Before playing the music, I recited the poem line by line as each phrase was translated into Spanish. It was very clear how much more impactful it was for the audience when they knew the text and meaning. It ceased to be an instrumental at that point and became a song. Taylor delivered a very thoughtful performance.” The driving “From The Center” is divided into three segments — a lively cut time section, a growling 5/4 middle section, and a hammering 6/8 section — and draws on tonalities, spirit and an undulating rhythm from Ghana. The album closes with a brief reprise of “Uncle Peck” to give listeners a little lagniappe. There are many facets to my musical background,” says the ever-eclectic Piltzecker. “I still love bop and bluegrass, Indian and Brazilian music, Argentinian tangos, African music and Brahms. All of these influences have entered my thinking and collectively have become a point of view. It’s who I have become. It a great joy to be able to share this music, and I'm grateful to the extraordinary musicians on board.” — Bill Milkowski

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