The wait is over. The new jazz recommendations are up. The list is topped by a handful of duo collaborations, two of which are some of the prettiest music I’ve heard all year. There are several oddball recordings amongst the crowd this week, so between that and some decent straight-ahead trio sessions, there should be a nice diverse group of albums to choose from. Let’s begin…
Adam Baldych and Yaron Herman, The New Tradition: Violinist Baldych and pianist Herman are at the forefront of modern jazz on their respective instruments and have contributed some very strong music over the last handful of years (Baldych with the 2011 release Magical Theatre and Herman with 2012′s Alter Ego). Now, both regulars on the ACT Music label, their duo collaboration seems like a natural fit… and it is. It’s not a surprise that their chosen sounds is a potent mix of modern jazz and folk. It’s also not a surprise that it switches between sublime passages and dramatic builds. But that the album’s intoxicating beauty exceeds expectations is a remarkable thing, and that two of the emerging talents on the jazz scene are able to step up to the next plateau only bodes well for the future… both of their particular careers and jazz as a medium of expression. Pick of the Week.
Ernst Glerum & Uri Caine, Sentimental Mood: Lovely duo recording from bassist Glerum and pianist Caine. Nice, simple takes on classic standards. They get the melodies out front, and then add their personal touch. When Glerum starts up with bass arco, it meshes beautifully with Caine’s patient, almost casual approach on piano. This is the second Caine duo collaboration mentioned in the Jazz Picks column in as many weeks (the other with Dave Douglas). Glerum’s name will sound familiar via his work with the Instant Composers Pool and with Han Bennink.
Pandelis Karayorgis Quintet, Afterimage: Recorded live at Constellation (in Chicago), pianist Karayorgis leads a strong quintet from the Chicago scene through a series of tracks that shift between a post-bop and free jazz expressionism, giving the sense that they view those two schools of jazz as merely different seats in the same classroom. Avant-garde ferocity will suddenly reveal a bloom of vintage blues, and the quintet makes sure that each inform the other simultaneously. Songs subscribe wholly to either form or function, using both to their advantage at the turn of a dime. That quintet, by the way, is comprised of some strong names: Dave Rempis on saxophones, Keefe Jackson on sax and bass clarinet, Nate McBride on bass, and Frank Rosaly doing his typical bang-up job on drums.
Piero Bittolo Bon Jump the Shark, Iuvenes Doom Sumus: Strange, yet dynamic session led by saxophonist Piero Bittolo Bon, who leads a sextet that includes an interesting mix of instruments like sousaphone, trombone, 12-string acoustic guitar, vibes, bass and drums. Modern jazz that often veers into rock territory with an avant-garde flair. Quirky doesn’t go nearly far enough to explain this music, nor does whimsical do any justice to the music’s sharp teeth, which it bares from time to time. Similar in sound to Lucien Dubuis’ Spacetet, a top Jazz Pick from not long ago. The upbeat moments are more frequent, but when the ensemble slows things down and lets trombone and vibes get out front, the music is pretty evocative.
Bassist, experimenter, producer, label owner, all-around music guy Bill Laswell has released two digital-only recordings from his residency at The Stone. Both of them duo collaborations, there’s Back In No Time, with drummer Milford Graves and also Akashic Meditation, with trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith… two musicians also known for unconventional styles and unconventional music. Each album is one long uninterrupted track, and provides for some thrilling moments.
Gavin Templeton Trio, Some Spinning, Some at Rest: Solid sax trio session from altoist Templeton. Joined by the bass and drums team of Richard Giddens and Gene Coye, they run through a series of bop tunes that gets Templeton’s lyricism out front, with some nifty contrast from the rhythm section in an accompaniment role… which results in all three getting into the spotlight simultaneously.
Ben Wilcock and the Jelly Rolls, Sneaky Weasel: Refreshingly classic sound from pianist Wilcock, who does a pretty decent job of summoning up that laid-back style of Red Garland’s Prestige albums and their fine mix of sunniness and blues. Wilcock’s trio is rounded out by drummer John Rae and bassist Dan Yeabsley. A few tracks have some studio manipulation to song intros, which is the only real hiccup on this album, though there’s a track that has Wilcock switching over to Rhodes (in what sounds to be a live performance) that really probably should’ve been left off the recording, just because it breaks up the spell cast by the earlier tracks. Criticisms aside, plenty to enjoy on this recording, and while it will definitely appeal to the old-school fans, no reason that it shouldn’t hit on all cylinders to the new-schoolers, too.
JP Smith, Hunters and Togetherers: Pleasant guitar trio recording, possessing a modern style that still echoes music past. Smith’s unpushy style lends well to the laid-back pieces, though that same patient form of expression gives the swinging tunes a nice bit of contrast, as well. The trio is rounded out by bassist Grayson Hackelman and drummer Shawn Myers.
Para, Paraphore: Odd and compelling release by the trio of pianist Ingrid Schmoliner, bassist Thomas Stempkowski, and Elena Margarita Kakaliagou on French horn. Improvised music that doesn’t subscribe to any one genre influence, but simply focuses on the lines of communication, and lets the simplicity or complexity of the conversation fall where it may. File this one under Something Different.
Karen Mantler, Business is Bad: Manter’s quirky songwriting is more Neutral Milk Hotel than it is traditional Jazz, and that it’s being released on ECM Records is equally curious. Songs about modern problems from a day in the life, Mantler threads a needle between the whimsical and respect of the serious topics. She’s joined by Doug Wieselman, who is an apt choice for this project, as his membership in both the Kamikaze Ground Crew and the Lounge Lizards is prime experience for this kind of project. In addition to Mantler’s vocals and piano, and Wieselman’s bass clarinet and guitar contributions, Mantler is joined by bassist Kato Hideki.
Fresh Frozen, Thawing Mammoth: Very cool modern set from the trio of multi-reedist Achille Succi, pianist Christopher Culpo, and tubist Giauco Benedetti. Strangely tuneful music that sounds perpetually to be coming apart at the seams.
Niels Klein, Tubes and Wires: A quartet that uses a variety of keyboards & effects, clarinets, guitars, and drums, they fall into a category of contemporary music that doesn’t really call any one genre home, typically borrowing from jazz, indie-rock, pop, folk, classical, and anything else that seems reasonable at the time, and often through-composing their work based on originally complex plans. And much like others who hit this category (Todd Sickafoose, Ocular Concern, Matt Ulery’s Loom), the music, for all its complexities, is quite tuneful and a fun listen.
Matt James, Opening Lines: Likable straight-ahead release by saxophonist Matt James, who leads a quintet from the Columbus, Ohio scene. Nothing earth-shattering here, just chipper rhythms accompanying well-crafted melodies, which leads to a very nice listen. Joining James are trumpeter Rob Parton, pianist Sean Parsons, drummer Guy Remonko, and Terry Douds and Steven Heffner sharing the load on bass.