Journey to a New World (Fresh Sound New Talent:2017)
Jonathan’s sophomore release, Journey to a New World (Fresh Sound Records/2017), has been called “inventive” and “assertive” by JazzWise, (U.K.) and has been said to feature “astonishing maturity” (Jazz Magazine, France), “a deft compositional approach and some first-rate musicianship” (All About Jazz, U.S.). 4 of the Saraga-penned original compositions featured on the album received a 4 semi-finalist nominations and 1 finalist/Honorable nominations in the 2016 and 2017 International Songwriting Competitions respectively, the latter award being received by only 1% of the original 16,000+ entries from 140 countries. The album also features a track that received the 2016 Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award presented by the ASCAP Foundation. Journey to a New World has been featured on Kansas Public Radio’s Top 10 Jazz CD list 2 weeks in a row, alongside albums by Esperanza Spalding, Dr. Lonnie Smith, and Christian McBride. In addition to peaking at 65/200 in Jazz Week, the release earned three 4-star reviews in JazzWise (2) and All About Jazz (1), and has been featured in an interview by jazz author, Ruth Fischer. 'Jazz Journal' (UK) calls it "intriguing", and that it "comes out of the speakers with a rare confidence and finish, but without the smuggery and sheen that a lot of contemporary jazz has in place of real content." Jerry Gordon of Evidence Records calls it "brilliant", and Grammy-nominated saxophonist and composer Miguel Zenon, hails it to be "impressive", "very focused(,) and well conceived."
Journey to a New World
label: Fresh Sound/New Talent
Recorded at Peter Karl Studios (NYC) on November 25th, 2015
Released at Dazzle (CO) on October 29th, 2017
Mastered by Dave Darlington
Produced by Jonathan Saraga & Jordi Pujol
All artwork by Jonathan Saraga
Jonathan Saraga - trumpet/compositions/arrangements
Remy Le Boeuf - alto
Aki Ishiguro - guitar
Chris Pattishall - piano/rhodes
Rick Rosato - bass
Kenneth Salters - drums
1. Uprising (Jonathan Saraga) - 9:28
Winner: 2016 ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award
2. The Great Journey (Jonathan Saraga) - 10:52
Honorable Mention/Finalist: 2017 International Songwriting Competition
3. Firm Roots (Cedar Walton) - 8:56
4. Sabbath Prayer (Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick) - 9:53
5. The Guardians (Jonathan Saraga) - 8:49
6. Lullaby (Jonathan Saraga) - 7:16
7. The Fool on the Hill (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 9:17
8. New World (Jonathan Saraga) - 9:29
"Saraga is obviously very aware of the direction of jazz in his hometown of New York..."
"His band is excellent..."
-Tony Hall, Jazzwise (UK)
"Imaginative trumpet and sax interplay and the clarity of the instruments is truly exceptional."
"The complexity is readily apparent yet Saraga has an ear for melody, never losing himself within the arrangement."
"There are no weak links in this band..."
"Journey To A New World is a wonderful album of modern jazz with confident musicianship, imaginative arrangements and outstanding melodies."
"...confident musicianship, imaginative arrangements and outstanding melodies."
-Jon Neudorf, Sea of Tranquility
"The music pulls from its astonishing maturity and its capacity to suggest an singular experience but open and appropriate enough for the listener."
"His tone is rich unencumbered with effects, his phrasing sings naturally and never losing focus or direction."
-Vincent Cotro, Jazz Magazine (France)
"familiar but also fresh; grounded but also hopeful."
"The horn work is brilliant and technically spot-on, and presented with an ease and warmth that makes the songs accessible."
"The ensemble produces an inspiring sound that blends seamlessly with Jonathan’s lead."
-Debbie Burke, Jazz Author
"A profound, beautifully-crafted album..."
"A glorious album..."
"A measure of the indelibility of the imprint on the songwriter and trumpeter, Mr. Saraga that he has succeeded in shaping superb music both for himself as well as for the rest of his sextet."
-Raul Da Gama, Jazz da Gama
"Saraga's precise and passionate technique, combined with thoughtful, well-constructed compositions (and a couple nicely-arranged cover tunes) make for a stimulating listen that rewards on a number of levels."
"Embodying a deft compositional approach and some first-rate musicianship, Saraga's Journey is just that: an opportunity to discover and explore some exciting musical territory, with a skilled and adventurous leader as a guide."
-Troy Dostert, All About Jazz
“A very focused and well conceived album by Jonathan and his crew. His compositions display great personality and poise, with everyone in the band finding ways to channel the current sounds of modern jazz, using their various influences as a platform to delve into their own musical personalities. An impressive recording which I’m sure you will all enjoy."
"Saraga is a trumpeter with a singular vision that is motherloaded by a creative force but isn't a slave to it. Top shelf sitting down jazz, this smart set shows that goods things are going to come easily from his horn of plenty. A solid outing that needs your attention."
-Chris Spector, Midwest Record
If you count dreams as a more intense and real projection of the imagination, I think we can all agree that the imagination brings us to some of the most incredible places; places we couldn’t and couldn’t possibly explore otherwise. I often see myself as a character in my own imaginative world; like as if I was the hero character in a movie or videogame. I think I like adventure tales because I see myself in that hero character, I see myself as a hero of my own story. Stories of honor, valor, courage, determination, and sacrifice are the kinds that inspire me, whether based on truth or not, and music that either complements or evokes these types of scenarios and characters touches me probably more than anything. In a way, the original compositions on Journey to a New World are all coming from this sort of realm.
It is also worth noting a few specific influences which have had significant effects on me and how I hear music. The debut album of the saxophonist on this album, Remy Le Boeuf (and his brother pascal), House Without a Door, was and still is a life changing album for me. I highly recommend listening to that album. I am sure you will hear where I get some of my ideas and you won’t be surprised that I invited him to play on this album. Video games and movies about bravery and heroism are of huge influence to my writing style, and the stories that take place within those games touch me on a level that might seem humorous to some. The music would not mean much without the story behind it. A book that I had finished not to long before coming up with the album idea is called Living Words, by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. This has become one of my favorite books, and the messages and teachings within it have had profound effect on me. Interestingly, many of the themes of my compositions are discussed by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in various texts.
The title “Uprising” came mainly from the repetitive, cyclical and recurring 13-note ostinato bass figure that happens throughout the piece. (This theme and the melodic overlay on top of it is heavily influenced by “Code Word” from the Le Boeuf Brothers album House Without a Door). This figure, echoed in three instruments, and then later by two more instruments (as a sort of inverted retrograde) evokes, the idea of an unrelenting force being sustained in numbers. The idea of people standing together to face adversity is a theme not uncommon to human history, and historically our world is largely built on the occurrence and outcomes of these types of events. Additionally, an uprising is not limited to this type of external physical effort, it can be symbolic of work to be done within oneself, and perhaps it is in this meaning that the composition exists. In Erwin Raphael McManus’ book, Uprising, A Revolution of the Soul, he states, “Go first where there is the greatest captivity and instigate an uprising-a revolution of the soul.”
In Roy Posner’s book, A New Way of Living he states that “A normal ongoing experience of the mind is to know a tiny part of the inbound, and be ignorant of the rest. However, we can overcome it by engaging the in the great journey from ignorance to integral knowledge.“ Most stories of valor take place in quest form, and the “Great Journey” is no different. Even when being experienced from within as Posner suggests, an outcome and how to get there is really unknown, but the will to be victorious is always there. The music is very much an embodiment of how a journey into an unknown land might be outlined in a more fantastical context: the intro and outro suggest preparation and arrival respectively, there are resting points, and periods were tension and drama build within the story line, sometimes in extreme fashion. Like with all the pieces that involve characters, there are no specific faces to attach to them, it’s up to the listener. I have sometimes pretended that my band members are the ones being depicted!
“The Guardians” evict the idea of superhuman protectors; entities whose sole purpose is to help preserve something important. It could be one person’s life, it could be the universe, it could be an aspect of existence. In Hinduism, there are 12 Adityas, or Sun Gods, who act as protectors of all beings. It is also said that they govern the admittance of transcendental light into the “lower” hemispheres of our reality from the “heavens.” For me the Guardians are symbols of forces that watch over all that is good in this world and help it to maintain it. They are envisioned in my mind as God-like beings, angels perhaps, powerful beyond measure. “They were the guardians and increasers of the truth in man, and by the truth, led him to felicity and immortality.” – Sri Aurobindo
In “Lullaby” there is a release from the dramatic plots and environments. It is a common belief that every warrior needs to be rocked; meaning that the hardened nature of a soldier or hero whom finds him/herself in battle constantly, eventually needs loving affection in their lives, or they will become a cold-shelled shadow of their former self; which can happen. To put it in a more relatable way, a person who goes the distance and pushes themselves toward a goal, will face pain and probably death in some way, even if it within the mind. A soldier cannot go on forever in a battle, he must have not only rest, but restoration. He must be brought back to the place of peace and surrender by being gently rocked.
“A new light breaks upon the earth. A New World Has Been Born. It is not the old that is being transformed, it is quite a new world that has really been concretely born” says the Mother, in Living Words. The ideas of evolution and transformation have much importance in our world, but the concept of a complete replacement of a form with another is not one we are used to, let alone readily able to accept. To emerge into an entirely new way of life, and for the holds and crutches of old patterns to break away, revealing an awareness or consciousness that has never been experienced is an extremely powerful gamut to enter into. When I think of a “New World”, I think of one that is unlike the one before it in profound ways. As I write this I am 1700 miles from home pursuing a Doctorate degree. It is something I never thought I’d do. It is also my first time really living on my own away from home. Astrologically I am in my Saturn returns, one of the most if not the most intense spiritual transformation a human goes through in their life time.