Cava Menzies | Nick Phillips

Ballads reign on Moment To Moment, the extraordinarily self-possessed new album by pianist Cava Menzies and trumpeter Nick Phillips. But this recording is much more than just a “ballads album.”


Many artists have produced albums filled with love songs and torch tunes at slow tempos; they’re designed to pull at the heartstrings, or turn up the nostalgia, or to highlight the introspective phrasemaking that ballads allow. But very few succeed at also doing what this album accomplishes. It creates a cocoon of space around the listener. It lowers the blood pressure; it slows the heartbeat; it seems to slow time itself. (If it weren’t so supremely musical, you might consider marketing it as a medical device.) On Moment To Moment, Menzies and Phillips locate their music very much in the present – in that space, Menzies explains, “where you have a moment to breathe.” And they transport their listeners to a place where each of those moments really counts.


“We’ve done all sorts of material in our gigs together,” Menzies points out, “but the ballads really brought out something special in our playing – a gentleness. At a house concert we did about a year before the recording, we played a duo version of ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is,’ and at the end we were both weeping. It was so powerful emotionally; we feed off each other’s energy when we play, and we wanted to just go deeper and deeper.”


In repertoire drawn primarily from the jazz catalog as well as the Great American Songbook, Menzies and Phillips – joined by the tastefully simpatico rhythm team of bassist Jeff Chambers and drummer Jaz Sawyer – go far beneath the surface of the melody lines and chord changes. Their improvisations have a quiet wakefulness, a deceptive simplicity that reveals a carefully constructed, unassuming majesty. Together, they follow the advice of Miles Davis in not only knowing what to play but also, more important, what to leave out. And their instrumental lines dovetail with an ease that would normally bespeak years of collaboration.


Which makes it all the more surprising that Menzies and Phillips first met in July, 2012; their partnership is still in its infancy, and this album represents their recording debut as a collaborative duo.


“I had this regular restaurant gig,” Menzies recalls, “and our vocalist couldn’t make it one night. The bassist recommended Nick, and we just had this magical musical chemistry. The more gigs we did together, the more we realized that we had so much in common.” Adds Phillips: “In that first meeting, it was surprising to me how instantly compatible Cava and I were musically. The subtle nuances, the phrasing, the way we both leave space in our playing to let the music breathe – it was all there.”


Equally shocking, to Menzies, was the revelation that Phillips had essentially stopped playing the trumpet in the years leading up to their introduction. “I’ve been a performing musician on the side throughout much of my career, but I really had to put that on the back burner for a while, given the demands of my day job,” Phillips explains. Menzies remembers thinking that Phillips must be a busy working musician, given what she was hearing on stage. “So I was shocked when we chatted after the gig and he told me that he had put the trumpet aside. I started urging him to play more – to use this incredible gift he has, this incredible sound. It’s been beautiful to watch it develop.”


Neither Menzies nor Phillips makes a living through performance, but they each make a living in music. As a longtime staff producer and Vice President at Concord Music Group, Phillips has worked on hundreds of albums – by noted artists ranging from Karrin Allyson to Poncho Sanchez to Gary Burton – and overseen the label’s acclaimed jazz reissue program, where his personal involvement has elevated collections of work by such giants as Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, and Thelonious Monk.


Menzies teaches music to kids in grades 6 through 12 at the Oakland (CA) School for the Arts, where she chairs the vocal department and conducts the school choirs; what's more, she can lean on a rich family history. Her grandmother danced at the legendary Cotton Club in New York (the home of Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway); her mother is a classically trained flutist; and Menzies’ father, trumpeter Eddie Henderson, was a founding member of the legendary Herbie Hancock Sextet in the late 1960s, and has recorded nearly two dozen albums under his own name.


For both artists, their “day jobs” strongly inform their music. "I think this project benefited from my experience as a record producer. That requires not only making the right choices to ensure the highest sound quality, but also knowing how to create a relaxed, comfortable recording environment for musicians, to allow the music to flow effortlessly," Phillips says. "I had the rare experience of working with some of the greatest living jazz artists on their recording projects, and also spending countless hours listening and digging deeply into recordings by some of the most important artists in the history of the music. It’s all made for a lifetime's worth of profound musical lessons that are deep in my DNA." His work at Concord left little time to pursue performance engagements. “But when I played that first gig with Cava, I knew right there and then that I had to make my trumpet playing a bigger priority.”


For Cava, teaching singers has had a significant impact on her own instrumental work. “I sang a lot when I was younger,” she explains, before choosing to focus on the piano in her mid-20s. “And I think that what I coach in vocalists informs my playing, in terms of letting the emotions out. It’s the lyrical element. The program [at OSA] is famous for producing great musicians, but our signature is the stage presence and emotional quality of these performers. So while I really care about my touch at the piano, I’m also concerned with the energy behind the phrases. It’s about sincerity and authenticity in your delivery: how honest and vulnerable can you get up there?”


Quite a lot, if Moment To Moment is any indication.


“It’s a very, very moody album,” Menzies remarks. “Not in a negative way, but ‘moody’ in that it’s the type of album where you sit and reflect on life. There are moments in which it plays with both dark and light. It’s moody in that way, and it really tries to capture the range of human emotion – the emotion that you feel just moving through life.”

 

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Cava Menzies | Nick Phillips  Moment to Moment

Nick Phillips - trumpet / Cava Menzies - piano / Jeff Chambers - bass / Jaz Sawyer - drums

Produced and Arranged by Nick Phillips and Cava Menzies
Recorded and Mixed by Adam Muñoz at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, CA; July 8-13, 2013
Mastered by Joe Tarantino at Joe Tarantino Mastering, Berkeley, CA

Recorded, mixed, and mastered entirely in native 24-bit/192kHz high-resolution digital


1. The Peacocks (6:46)
(Jimmy Rowles)
Kudu Music Company-ASCAP

2. Mal's Moon (7:01)
(Cava Lee Menzies)
Cava Menzies Publishing-ASCAP

3. For All We Know (7:59)
(Fred Coots-Samuel Lewis)
Sis 'N Bro Music Company/Toy Town Tunes Inc.-ASCAP

4. You (5:52)
(Nick Phillips-Clifford Goldmacher)
Trumpetnick Music/Famous In France Music-BMI

5. You Don't Know What Love Is (8:01)
(Don Raye-Gene DePaul)
Universal Music Corporation-ASCAP

6. Almost Blue (6:48)
(Elvis Costello)
Universal Music Publishing MGB Limited-ASCAP

7. Phantoms (7:22)
(Kenny Barron)
Wazuri Publishing Co.-BMI

8. Speak Low (6:09)
(Kurt Weill-Ogden Nash)
Hampshire House Publishing Corp./Chappell-Co. Inc.-ASCAP

 

(P) & © 2014 Cava Menzies & Nick Phillips, c/o Nick Phillips Music NPM-142101

Nick Phillips - Trumpet

A producer and Vice President of Catalog and Jazz A&R at Concord Music Group, Nick Phillips has worked on hundreds of internationally-distributed releases—from critically acclaimed new recording projects featuring jazz icons Bob Berg, Randy Brecker, Jimmy Bruno, Gary Burton, Joey DeFrancesco, Jon Hendricks, Marian McPartland, Brad Mehldau, Chris Potter, John Patitucci, and Poncho Sanchez, to reissues spotlighting music legends Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, Booker T. & the MGs, Art Blakey, Ray Charles, John Coltrane, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Miles Davis, Eric Dolphy, Bill Evans, Ella Fitzgerald, Vince Guaraldi, Coleman Hawkins, Little Richard, Thelonious Monk, Wes Montgomery, Sonny Rollins, The Staple Singers, Sarah Vaughan, and many others. Several Phillips-produced recording projects have garnered GRAMMY® nominations along the way, including new-millennium releases by acclaimed jazz vocal artists Karrin Allyson and Nnenna Freelon.

Cava Menzies - Piano

Bay area native Cava Menzies hails from a long line of musical talents; her grandmother, 
a pioneer in the New York Jazz scene as a dancer at the Cotton Club, her father, Eddie 
Henderson, an accomplished jazz trumpeter and early member of the Herbie Hancock 
sextet, and her mother a classically trained flautist. Cava is a classically trained jazz 
pianist who has performed throughout the Bay Area and abroad.
In 2001, Cava received a BA from the Berklee College of Music in Boston where she 
studied jazz piano and music education. In 2008, Cava received her MM from the 
University of Miami where she studied composition and music production and recording. 
Cava is a member of the bossa nova and standards duo CAVALISA which is comprised 
of Cava Menzies (Piano, Vocals) and Lisa Forkish (Lead Vocals).  The music of 
CAVALISA is infused with lilting vocal harmonies, lush chordal textures, lyrical chordal 
textures, lyrical piano melodies, and a rich palette of percussion and drums.  CAVALISA 
draws on the romance and beauty of bossa novice infused jazz and classic standards. 
Their first album, "Vast Is The Sky", was released in January of 2013.
Cava’s musical talents extend from collaborations with various Hip Hop, Soul, Jazz and 
Latin artists to film documentaries. Her portfolio includes work with film company Jog9 
productions, with credits on the award winning film “Soundz of Spirit” soundtrack, and 
music and original film score for Alameda County’s 2006 multi-media campaign. As 
well, Cava's piano and vocal work has been featured on albums for Bay Area artists Zion 
I, Crown City Rockers, and Latin group Quijerema.
Cava has performed with CAVALISA and her own Cava Menzies quintet at Yoshis 
Oakland, Yoshis SF, the 57th St. Gallery, 1400 Fillmore, the Oakland Museum, The Den 
at the Fox, the Cadillac Hotel SF, Piedmont Piano Co., and for both KCSM and KPFA 
radio stations. 
Cava remains a founding faculty member and teacher at the Oakland School for the 
Arts (OSA) where she chairs the Vocal Music Department.  Through her work at OSA, 
Cava has led three concert tours to Italy, Puerto Rico, and New Orleans.  As well, 
Cava's directing and arranging work have been featured at the Inauguration of California 
Governor Jerry Brown, at the Oakland Raiders Games, Warriors games, SF Giants 
games, for Gap Inc., for Clorox Co., and for celebrities Sean Penn and Robert Downey 
Jr.  Most recently, Cava directed the OSA Vocalists in their opening set for President 
Barack Obama's visit to the Fox Theatre Oakland in July, 2012.
Cava continues to play, sing, arrange, produce, and record while she works on her 
upcoming album with jazz trumpeter, Nick Phillips. Stay tuned for album release details 
in January 2014!

Bay area native Cava Menzies hails from a long line of musical talents; her grandmother, a pioneer in the New York Jazz scene as a dancer at the Cotton Club, her father, Eddie Henderson, an accomplished jazz trumpeter and early member of the Herbie Hancock sextet, and her mother a classically trained flautist. Cava is a classically trained jazz pianist who has performed throughout the Bay Area and abroad. In 2001, Cava received a BA from the Berklee College of Music in Boston where she studied jazz piano and music education. In 2008, Cava received her MM from the University of Miami where she studied composition and music production and recording. 

Cava is a member of the bossa nova and standards duo CAVALISA which is comprised of Cava Menzies (Piano, Vocals) and Lisa Forkish (Lead Vocals).  The music of CAVALISA is infused with lilting vocal harmonies, lush chordal textures, lyrical piano melodies, and a rich palette of percussion and drums. Their first album, "Vast Is The Sky", was released in January of 2013.  Cava has performed with CAVALISA and her own Cava Menzies quintet at Yoshis Oakland, Yoshis SF, the 57th St. Gallery, 1400 Fillmore, the Oakland Museum, The Den at the Fox, the Cadillac Hotel SF, Piedmont Piano Co., and for both KCSM and KPFA radio stations. 

Cava remains a founding faculty member and teacher at the Oakland School for the Arts (OSA) where she chairs the Vocal Music Department.  Through her work at OSA, Cava has led three concert tours to Italy, Puerto Rico, and New Orleans.  As well, Cava's directing and arranging work have been featured at the Inauguration of California Governor Jerry Brown and for President Barack Obama's visit to the Fox Theatre Oakland in July, 2012.  Cava continues to play, sing, arrange, and compose while she prepares to release her upcoming album, "Moment to Moment", with jazz trumpeter, Nick Phillips. Stay tuned for album release details in January 2014!