Greg Wall’s Unity Orchestra

Music knows no boundaries, and no musical group can demonstrate that point like Greg Wall’s Unity Orchestra.

The formula was simple: take eight top performers/recording artists from around the world, stick them in a room together for a couple of weeks to explore their traditional songs and styles, and turn them loose to share the results.

The results are astounding-an exhilarating performance of the best sounds from around the world, informed by the experiences and sensibilities of master musicians from Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East. The players each have richly diverse and highly celebrated histories, and the chemistry between them is magical.

Saxophonist Greg Wall has performed and recorded with Hasidic New Wave, Greg Wall’s Later Prophets, The Wall/London Band, Neshama Carlebach, the Hi-Tops, Greg Wall’s Unity Orchestra, and has made many session appearances for record dates and film scores. He was the musical voice of James Earl Jones in the feature film “On the QT” and has been composer in residence for the Carolyn Dorfman Dance company since 1999, resulting in “Meyne Mentchen” (2000-2001), the electronic score, “Echad” (2002) , and the recently premiered “Lovelines” (2003) . His most recent releases include “From The Belly of Abraham” with Hasidic New Wave together with Senegalese master drummers Yakar Rhythms, “Ani Shelach”, with Neshama Carlebach, “Unauthorized’, with Dave’s True Story, KlezmerFest ‘s “Party Music”, Aaron Alexander’s “Blues for Sparky”,and “Midrash Mishmosh”, and the score to “Mayne Mentshen”. His latest recording, “Later Prophets”, was recently released on John Zorn’s Tzaddik label.

Guitarist Ken Wessel has performed at major jazz festivals, concert halls and on radio and television throughout 21 countries. He has toured and recorded as a member of Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time group since 1988. He has also worked with Gloria Lynne, Arthur and Red Prysock, Steve Turré, Pat Metheny, David Leibman, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson and Johnny Hartmann. He performed Skies of America, Ornette Coleman’s seminal work for symphony orchestra and jazz ensemble, with the Philharmonia of London and the New York Philharmonic conducted by Kurt Masur. Wessel, who leads and composes for his own jazz quartet and jazz trio, also is co-leads a trio with jazz tabla master Badal Roy and bassist Stomu Takeishi, an ensemble that combines jazz with North Indian music.

Badal Roy is the foremost exponent of tabla in jazz music. He has played with not only Miles Davis and John McLaughlin, but also artists as diverse as Herbie Mann, Dave Liebman, Don Cherry, Pharaoh Sanders, Dizzy Gillespie, Lonnie Liston Smith, Andreas Vollenweider, and Yoko Ono. He has been an integral part of Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time since 1988 and is presently collaborating with Brazil’s Duofel, an instrumental guitar duo.

Shai Bachar was born in Jerusalem in 1971 and began playing music at the age of five. Growing up in a multi-cultural environment exposed him to a wide variety of influences such as Middle Eastern traditional music, Classical music and Jazz. His rare ability to absorb these influences and mold them into his own unique voice won him world wide recognition and led to collaborations with such notable artists as Sheila Jordan, Bob Moses, Oliver Lake, and Bill Dixon from the USA; Othello Molineaux from Trinidad; Sekouba Bambino and Ibrahim Sumano from Guinea, West Africa.

Drummer Aaron Alexander‘s playing has roots in the Jazz tradition and has grown over the years to include a deep knowledge of Klezmer drumming, as well as other musical traditions. Alexander’s drumming has been recorded on dozens of CDs as a sideman, and as a member of collective groups. Many of his compositions have been recorded on these CDs. Alexander has toured extensively in Europe and North America with a variety of groups including Babkas, Hasidic New Wave, The Klezmatics, Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All-Stars, Tronzo Trio, Myth Science, Freeplay, Jay Clayton/Jim Knapp Collective, and Timebone. Now Alexander has finally released a collection of his original music, with definitive three-horn + rhythm section arrangements.

Hasan Bakr found his first musical expression in the tonal arts of the drum. Later, he expanded this exploration to incorporate voice and the mbira. Bakr has a strong rhythmic approach to sound blending music from all parts of the world to create his uniquely contemporary sound. Hasan is a founding member of the Spirit Ensemble, a group who pioneered the use of the mbira on the East Coast of North America. This association of kindred spirits has become the creative environment for Hasan to mature as a composer. As a result he has produced a number of performance works which range from dance to the media arts. Hasan has performed for Amsterdam Public Television and widely in the U.S. for educational and entertainment institutions. He has published several tapes and a CD.

Alioune Faye, Sabar and Tama drums, comes from a long line of drummers and griots in Senegal. He has performed with Senegal’s premier Sabar ensemble Sing Sing Rhythm, and leads a New york based group called Yakar Rhythms, who collaborated with Hasidic New Wave in last years “From the Belly of Abraham”. Alioune has played with Stevie Wonder, Peter Gabriel, and countless others.

Fima Ephron has played bass with Natalie Merchant, Lost Tribe, Hasidic New Wave, The screaming Headless Torsos , Me’shell NdegeOcello and Alana Davis, among many others. His latest recording as a leader is “Soul Machine”, on John Zorn’s Tzaddik label.

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