Like last week, the new batch of jazz releases weighs heavier on quality over quantity. Not a lot to pick through, but what’s there is some very nifty music. Most notably, fans of Latin Jazz will have the most to celebrate, especially in the wide variation in how that style of music is expressed, illustrating that particular sub-genre’s depth and modes of articulation. Let’s begin.
Brigaden, Om Alberto Och Nagra Andra Gubbar: Strong melodies and a big sound typify this excellent folk-jazz recording. Tenor and baritone saxophonists belt out melodies with plenty of muscle, yet express them with a languor that lets the beauty linger. Classical guitar brings a nice rustic sound to the mix, and it’s matched well with Hammond organ’s airy presence. Piano, bass, drums and trumpet round out the ensemble. Music with a vibrancy and electricity that’s very easy to connect with. Pick of the Week.
L’orphicube, Perception Instantanee: Saxophonist Album Darche composes with a personal geometry. The shapes his music takes on have a familiar form, yet communicates in an alien tongue. His newest project is no different. A modern jazz recording that digs deep into the soil of folk music past, Darche’s ensemble offers up a series of melodies remindful of something familiar, something heard before, but the memories are perpetually elusive. Along with his alto sax, the ensemble consists of violin, accordion, piano, bass, drums, tenor saxophones and clarinet. One of the reedmen is Sylvain Rifflet, which is always a bonus on a recording. Highly Recommended.
Jared Gold, JG3+3: Seriously enjoyable session from the organist. Utilizing a double sax line-up (of Patrick Cornelius and Jason Marshall on alto and baritone) and trumpeter Tatum Greenblatt, Gold nicely balances the organ-guitar-drums trio’s foggy atmosphere with some decisively pointed statements of melody from the wind instruments. Those strong melodies lead to some nifty exploration of their various facets, rounding each tune out nicely. A few Gold originals and some covers of Ray Bryant and Wayne Shorter, and a cover of James Taylor’s “Shower the People,” which works remarkably better than one would expect. Straight-ahead jazz with a strong voice and presence. Recommended.
Matt Slocum, Black Elk’s Dream: Modern recording with an old soul peacefulness. Even the upbeat tracks have a languorous presence, emitting a heat that is more likely to comfort than burn. A solid outfit led by drummer Slocum, consisting of pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Massimo Biolcati, and saxophonists Dayna Stephens and Walter Smith III taking turns on tenor. Includes a pretty rendition of Pat Metheny’s “Is This America?”
Pigfoot, 21st Century Acid Trad: Boisterous live performance from the Pigfoot quartet, who draw inspiration from New Orleans traditional jazz. Performing the waltzes and rags and blues from musicians like Sidney Bechet, Fats Waller and Spencer Williams, the quartet of trumpeter Chris Batchelor, pianist Liam Noble, drummer Paul Clarvis, and tubist Oren Marshall present a boisterous take on the music of the past, and give it the intimate warmth of the present. Good stuff.
Herbert Kramis’ Guadalcacin, Novemberwind: Interesting release from this septet, a mix of chamber jazz, folk, and avant-garde. Sax, trombone, strings, accordion, piano, bass and drums. Whimsical music performed with serious intent. The bursts of dissonance aren’t overly done, and they lay nice groundwork when the ensemble sets to work on beautiful melodic territory.
Rusconi, History Sugar Dream: This modern piano trio displayed plenty of willingness on previous release Revolution to leave Jazz territory behind and not look back. A mix of jazz, pop and rock, they fit the model of the New Piano Trio with their avid use of electronics and effects, but their full embrace of rock and pop characteristics separates them from the elder statesmen of the modern jazz piano trio, like the Esbjorn Svensson Trio. Rusconi’s newest builds on where Revolution left off, with plenty of dramatic builds of intensity that suddenly break into beautiful melodic glides… all the while sounding less and less like they should be filed under the Jazz category. Ultimately, compelling music transcends small matters like genre classification, and Rusconi’s newest is plenty compelling.
Donauwellenreiter, Messei: Fascinating mix of influences, of jazz, folk, tango and chamber, all channeled with a catchy pop music sensibility. At its heart, it’s a trio of violin/vocals, piano/keys, and accordion, a combination that worked to nicely serve up some intense serenity on their previous album Annäherung. Now, with the addition of guest musicians on drums, percussion, and horns, the expressions are fuller and the sound more expansive. A little something different, here.
Mano Quarteto, Numero 1: Likable quartet date from the Lisbon-based quartet. Featuring guitarist Andre Santos, this modern jazz recording simmers with a brooding intensity, even as its melodies reveal a sunny disposition. Spanish guitar sets a nice tone for piano, bass and drums to build up from, which typically manifests as a slow but dramatic rise. Extremely personable music.
Elias Stemeseder, Devin Gray, Anna Webber, Jagged Spheres: Curious avant-garde session from the trio of pianist Elias Stemeseder, drummer Devin Gray (who adds a melodica to the affair) and Anna Webber, who doubles up on tenor sax and flute. The trio gets its free jazz credo out there right away, starting out with a big wave of activity, which really sets things up nicely when they unroll the details and nuance later on. Webber’s flute darting gracefully above a piano poking its head out from behind the twittering swarm of drums is the kind of tempo-play and melodic distortion that shade the bright colors of this music with some fascinating variation. Webber put out one of 2013′s best with Percussive Mechanics. Gray’s 2012 release Dirigo Rataplan deserves some praise here, too. Stemeseder is associated with several past Jazz Picks, including the aforementioned Webber recording, as well as music by Philipp Harnisch, Jim Black and Dan Peter Sundland.
Carolina Calvache, Sotareno: Pianist Calvache’s relocation from Columbia to New York City (via UNT) is evident in this solid modern jazz recording, which is influenced by her roots but expressed quite vividly through a modern NYC straight-ahead post-bop sound. Joining Calvache on this session are drummer Antonio Sanchez, saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, bassist Hans Glawischnig, trumpeter Michael Rodriguez (all four past Jazz Picks) and drummer Ludwig Alfonso. Songs with strong openings clearly defined, then off into solos that are given plenty room to wander and see what happens next. There’s nothing earth-shattering here, but it’s one of those albums that finds a winning formula just by being exceptionally enjoyable.
Oliver Strauch’s Trio Duende, Espana: A beautiful piano trio recording by Strauch’s trio, which hits upon an array of European musics. While there’s is a pervasive Spanish music influence throughout, tracks like “Habanera” illustrate the trio’s willingness to utilize other modes of expression. Melodic development is where to find the album’s personality and its best moments, as the trio ventures far and wide, but always leaves a trail of breadcrumbs to trace back to the opening statement.
Bossa Zuzu, Under Leaves Under Sky: An endearing set of tunes awash in the music of Brazil. It’s music that stays light on its feet and offers up melodies made of pure sunlight and rhythms rich and animated — just plain fun.
Matias Carbajal, Mirando Al Cielo: A Latin Jazz session with a serious warmth and melodies that behave as firm handshakes. The vibes-piano combo really adds something special to the recording. I didn’t get to spend much time with this album before the filing deadline, but liked it enough to get in a quick mention of this album for this week’s column.