We are pleased to announce the release of our Sunnyside debut, Nameless Neighbors.

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In these days of cookie-cutter pianists, Nick Sanders is a true original.  He is a world-class pianist – an intriguing and idiosyncratic composer who already has a real voice – Fred Hersch

Nick Sanders Debuts on Sunnyside Records with Trio CD

Nameless Neighbors (June 4) Produced by Fred Hersch

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Music impacts life.  Life impacts music.  For jazz pianist Nick Sanders, his life experiences and his musical influences have converged in a perfect storm, creating a truly fresh musical voice – wholly original yet clearly shaped by the masters he has studied and embraced.  His unique sound is profound, soulful and rich, resonating with the moody isolation that characterizes so much of modern life, yet also with our deep yearning for human connection – sentiments clearly expressed on his debut recording for Sunnyside Records,Nameless Neighbors (June 4, 2013), produced by Fred Hersch.

Shares Fred: I had the pleasure of teaching Nick for three years at the New England Conservatory as one of his private studio instructors.  I always enjoyed his musical curiosity, his innate musicality and his energy.  But it was when I heard him play with this trio, I fully realized what a unique pianist and composer he is – it really knocked me out.  The band breathes as one, the compositions are quirky and distinctive – just like Nick – and they have recorded a very impressive debut CD.  It was a total pleasure to be part of this project and I project great things from Nick going forward.  This is a formidable first step in what I think will be a great career.

Sanders is the product of a musically and culturally rich childhood. His Cuban mother, drummer father and New Orleans upbringing insured an eclectic ear and musical sensibility. Sanders began playing music before the age of four and was a quick study on the drums, able to almost instantly learn the second-line beat.  He tackled the piano in second grade and began to show remarkable promise as a classical performer, winning numerous regional and national competitions.

It was a chance meeting with pianist Danilo Perez who was performing at the New Orleans jazz institution Snug Harbor that would change his trajectory.  Sanders had been studying classical piano at the famed New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and asked Perez’s opinion on when and if he should change to the school’s celebrated jazz program.  Perez’s answer was, “Now! Do it!” The next semester, Sanders was in the jazz program.  The following year his trio was voted Best Ensemble, and Sanders himself won Best Soloist at the North Texas State Jazz Festival. In 2005 he appeared at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and began performing regularly at local jazz clubs.

That same year would be an unusually poignant one for young Sanders. He experienced personal tragedy as he witnessed the devastation of Hurricane Katrina firsthand and the unrelated passing of his mother soon after. Though thoroughly shaken, his dedication, hard work and incredible talent earned Sanders a full scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music. While at NEC, Nick won, for three consecutive years, the Eubie Blake International Piano Award for performance excellence of traditional American music. In 2012 he finished his Master of Music degree there after studying with the college’s exceptional staff including Danilo Perez – in a weird twist of fate as Perez was his original inspiration to study jazz – Jason Moran, John McNeil, Ran Blake, Cecil McBee and his now mentor, Fred Hersch.

Shortly after graduation, Sanders began work on his debut recordingNameless Neighbors with the help of Hersch, who produced the album and suggested Sunnyside check out the New Orleans artist.Sanders enlisted his trio – bassist Henry Fraser and drummer Connor Baker whom he met at the Conservatory – to interpret a collection of ten original compositions and three offbeat covers.

Sanders shares the story of the trio:  I met Henry when he was just a freshman at New England Conservatory. We became great friends and started playing together often.  I soon realized there was something special about his playing, because he took risks harmonically but could somehow keep everything grounded. He’s extremely inventive with the way he interacts musically which gives me a lot of inspiration and pushes me to play more creatively. After playing with a few drummers, I found Connor who perfectly complemented what I was going for in the new music I’d been writing. He’s a great listener, is sensitive and doesn’t overplay! What makes this trio so special is that we are all such good friends. We know each other so well personally and musically and we play together so often that the performances have become virtually intuitive.

Nameless Neighborsbegins with “Chamberlain, Maine,” a cerebral yet spirited piece that seems to change moods with ease and is highlighted by drummer Baker’s remarkably intuitive sense of rhythmic interplay. “Sandman” is a free elegiac meditation while “New Town” provides bombast and vigor along with subtle trio play. “Row 18, Seat C” is a dancing tune with stylistic shades of early Keith Jarrett. “Hymn” is a good example of the group’s measured bearing while “Dome Zone” is a look at Sanders’amazing solo language. The playful “Flip” features a superb solo from bassist Fraser and some interesting rhythmic trickery. Herbie Nichol’s “’Orse at Safari” is a compelling example of plying the master composer’s eccentric vocabulary into a modern setting. The title track “Nameless Neighbors” begins as quietly secretive before it reveals its hidden knottiness, exploding in a charismatic foray. The trio’s spirited take on Thelonious Monk’s “Manganese” shows their ease with Monk’s unique compositional style. “Simple” slows the pace with an introspective bass feature leading to a beautiful heartfelt melody that calls Erik Satie to mind. Beginning softly with Gershwinesque motifs, “Motor World” quickens into an aggressive and expressive showcase of the band’s dynamic range.  The recording closes with a solo rendition of the Ink Spot’s classic “I Don’t Want To Set the World on Fire,” a refined bookend to a well balanced and nuanced debut.

Nameless Neighbors is the compelling introduction to a resonant and powerful new voice in the jazz world.  Once heard, Nick Sanders’ sound will speak for itself…both for his musical artistry and its deep and almost mournful reflection on life and the modern human experience.