A week defined far more by the music’s beauty than its aggressiveness. Plenty of diverse, textured, big sounds this week… all sounding unconventional, yet strangely accessible. We do have one recommendation this week for the free jazz and avant-garde fans, and it is seriously fun. Also, several duet recordings this week, too. And with that, let’s begin…
Copenhagen Art Ensemble, Reutersward: Outstanding release by the Copenhagen Art Ensemble, celebrating the art and writing of Carl Fredrik Reutersward, and capturing both his intelligence and whimsy. The orchestral jazz piece is all about the inventive and unconventional expressionism, yet still manages to make it an easy, enjoyable listen. Led by the vocals of Qarin Wikstrom, and featuring a very strong cast of pianist Jacob Anderskov, trumpeter Thomaz Dabrowski, trombonist Ture Larsen, bassist Nils Bo Davidsen, saxophonist Lars Greve, and drummer Bjorn Heeboll… almost of whom have received mention in this column previously. Pick of the Week.
Emilio Solla y la Inestable de Brooklyn, Second Half: An expansive sound from pianist Solla, who brings together Argentinean music, jazz, tango, and chamber music on his newest. Tunes have an undeniable warmth to go along with its free-flowing motion. Joining Solla is a ridiculously strong cast of saxophonists John Ellis and Tim Armacost, trombonist Ryan Keberle, bassist Jorge Roder, drummer Eric Doob, violinist Meg Okura, trumpeter Alex Norris, and Victor Prieto and JP Jofre on accordion and bandoneon. One of those albums that keeps offering more and more to the point where the accumulation of sound is as thrilling as each particular moment in song. Highly Recommended.
Tumi Mogorosi, Project ELO: Modern spiritual jazz recording from drummer Mogorosi. Adding operatic voices to this powerful septet session not only harkens back to some of Donald Byrd old projects with voices and choir. Some great solos on this recording, though it may be the way that the fiery edge of sax harmonizes with low drone of the voices that really brings out what’s best of this recording. Some moments here that are absolutely stunning in their power and beauty. A Jazzman Records release recorded in the present day. Recommended.
Massimo Garritano & Alberto la Neve, Doppio Sogno: Lovely duet from the acoustic guitar of Garritano and la Neve on soprano sax. The music has a very calming influence, even when they get the pulse rate up. In fact, it’s when they raise their voices that the conversation gets particularly interesting. Whereas the slower pieces have them speaking more or less in unison, when the discussion gets more heated, the way in which their respective lines of conversation intertwine in an ever expanding dialog is both thrilling and beautiful. A little bit of electronics thrown in here and there, but nothing that should turn away any listeners who prefer not to do without the effects.
Mark Solborg, Song: A duet performance by guitarist Solborg and tenor saxophonist Anders Banke, taken from an intimate performance at last year’s Danish Vinterjazz Festival. Some originals, but also some standards like “Misterioso,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” as well as less referenced tunes like John Tchicai’s “A Chaos With Some Kind of Order.” A peaceful session from two artists who tend to mix their serenity with heavy doses of dissonance. Easy to like.
Jonathan Crayford, Dark Light: Evocative trio session from pianist Crayford, bassist Ben Street and drummer Dan Weiss. The up-tempo tracks have a nice talkative quality, but it’s when the trio sets to brooding that the emotional tone of this album has its greatest impact. The serenity of an ECM Records piano trio release mixed with the liveliness of a strong cup of coffee.
Pierrick Pedron, Kubic’s Cure: So, apparently the natural follow-up to an album of Thelonious Monk tunes is the songbook of pop group The Cure. The trio of alto saxophonist Pedron, bassist Thomas Bramerie, and drummer Franck Agulhon actually have a pretty good go of it and fit Robert Smith’s music into a modern jazz framework. For the most part, they hit upon the melody hard, but don’t stand in place holding it uselessly… there’s some nice development, which is where the pop music gets left behind and the jazz improvisation begins. Released on ACT Music, which seems to encourage this type of album. Some of them work pretty well, while others fall flat. This one falls squarely in the former category.
NYConnection, Urban Griot: Evocative lyricism on this modern set from the quartet of saxophonist Jussi Kannaste, pianist Roy Assaf, bassist Antti Lotjonen, and drummer Jaska Lukkarinen. A few tracks swing like old times, but others apply a painter’s impressionism to create beautiful sonic washes of color and tone. This album has really grown on me.
Matador, Matadorials: A nice confident patience exhibited on the debut recording by the Matador Trio… with Michael Sachs on woodwinds, Jun Young Song on drums and Aaron Darrell on bass. The stop-and-go action mimics the behavior of an avant-garde recording, as do the fluttering melodies in all their seeming randomness. But the spry, patient delivery makes this an easy path to follow, even if the direction isn’t anything straight-ahead. Good stuff, and pretty impressive for a debut recording.
Akira Sakata, Johan Berthling, Paal Nilssen-Love, Arashi: This is the kind of wild and bombastic free jazz that is so over-the-top intense that it is as likely to inspire grins and it is fear. Avant-garde veteran Akira Sakata (Last Exit) teams up with Johan Berthling (Fire! Orchestra and Angles 9) and Paal Nilssen-Love (The Thing) for a crazily enthused set up tunes that sounds like more intensity than a trio of alto sax, drums, and bass should be able to summon up. This is music that, initially, makes the listener sit back in shock, then, as the ear has time to acclimate, slowly get into all the fun that this session has to offer.
Dino Saluzzi Group, El Valle de la Infancia: Bandoneon player Saluzzi is pretty much a mainstay of the ECM Records label, involved in a variety of collaborations that typically range from moderately interesting to seriously captivating… he’s a pretty safe bet for good music. On his newest, he hits pretty close to the captivating side of that scale. Working with his “family band” of Jose Maria Saluzzi on classical and requinto guitars, Felix on tenor sax and clarinet and Matias on bass (plus some extra guitar from Nicolas Brizuela and drums/percussion from Quintano Cinalli), they offer up some serene blends of Argentinean folk music and modern jazz… though far heavier on the former ingredient than the latter. Songs drift with a peaceable demeanor, but before this can ever become tedious, Felix Saluzzi steps up on woodwinds and gives the song some weight or some edge. The way his tenor sax smolders on “Urkupiña, Pt. 1 Salida del Templo” is a great example of how the album shows its got depth beyond its exterior of prettiness.
Marialy Pacheco, Introducing: Enjoyable session from pianist Pacheco. An album of Cuban music, Pacheco adds some real elegance to songs that remain chipper and talkative, making this a recording that would more likely be filed under Modern Jazz than it would Cuban/Latin/World at the music store. It’s more than a bit reminiscent to the approach the excellent Brazilian Trio took their excellent 2012 release Constelação. Pacheco is joined by bassist Juan Camilo Villa and percussionist Miguel Altamar (plus some guests on trumpet and percussion). The more I listen to this recording, the more I wonder if I’m not being sufficiently enthusiastic in this synopsis.
Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio, Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio: Nice straight-ahead session from Aldana, who displays a nice conversational style on tenor sax… there’s nothing predictable about where she heads on a particular tune, but it all makes perfect sense as it unfolds. She joined by bassist Pablo Menares and drummer Francisco Mela. Some traditional jazz, some modern jazz, some with a Latin touch… the kind of album that will appeal to fans of all those styles without turning any of them off. Good stuff.
Matt Pavolka, The Horns Band: Sophomore release from bassist Pavolka. The combo of four wind instruments and drums possesses an appealing fluidity and lightness to the heavy sounds and the driving tempos. Definitely situated in modern territory, but cross-breezes of the blues float through, and suddenly the music of today has a touch of the music of the past. Strong line-up joining Pavolka, with Kirk Knuffke on cornet, Loren Stillman on alto sax, Jacob Garchik on trombone, and Mark Ferber on drums. Knuffke, in particular, is have a prodigious 2014, and it’s tough to go wrong on anything that has his name on it this year.
Matt Lavelle & John Pietaro, Harmolodic Monk: Curious recording from the duo of Lavelle and Pietaro, in which they apply the Harmolodic approach of Ornette Coleman to the music of Thelonious Monk. The experimentalism of the theory leads to some strangely warm and intimate tunes. There’s a casualness to this music that is very appealing, and the enjoyment of it doesn’t hinge at all on any pre-knowledge of either Coleman’s or Monk’s approach to music. Lavelle is on a variety of wind instruments, including alto clarinet, trumpet, cornet, and flugelhorn. Pietaro contributes vibraphone, hand drums, and percussion to the session. That alto clarinet is all kinds of resonant, and I would have loved to have heard more from Pietara on vibes… something inspired about the way they react to the compositions in duet with just a wind instrument.