Maybe as a response to the colder weather and days that see darkness descend much earlier, this week’s new release bin is dominated by music of a calmer demeanor and more likely to instill serenity rather than swing. Well, except for a couple of them, which embody a 4th of July fireworks show at its peak. With that in mind, let’s begin…
Eple Trio, Universal Cycle: A gorgeous new album from the trio of pianist Andreas Ulvo, bassist Sigurd Hole and drummer Jonas Sjovaag. A prime example of how the best expressions of the Nordic Jazz style can craft dreamy soundscapes of beauty and still be active and engaging. The newest features guest spots by guitarist Evar Grydeland and trumpeter Mathias Eick. Eick’s contribution, in particular, sees him in top form, and the extra bit of texture his trumpet provides, interspersed between the piano trio tracks, is a welcome diversion. Pick of the Week.
Luca Ciarla Quartet, Violinair: Very cool set from violinist Luca Ciarla, who mixes it up with covers and originals… and sometimes as a medley. Ciarla transitions from his own “Roulotte” right into “Caravan.” He works similar territory with the music of Monk, with “Epistrophy” being a stand-out album track. Strong Italian jazz influence on the recording, which adds even more nuance to an album that has a clear and unconventional vision. Joining Ciarla are bassist Nicola di Camillo, drummer/percussionist Francesco Savoretti and past Jazz Pick Vince Abbracciante, who double on accordion and piano. Highly Recommended.
Throttle Elevator Music, Area J: Absolutely thrilling sophomore release from the jazz-rock outfit, who bring a garage band attitude to some very tuneful songs. Comprised of Wide Hive label artists (the Wide Hive Players) and featuring saxophonist Kamasi Washington, who just burns on this recording without sacrificing a bit of lyricism. Trumpeter Erik Jekabson guests on a few tracks, too. For jazz fans who like their music to spit fire and rock fans who like a sax that knows how to break down walls. Recommended.
Lars Danielsson, Liberetto II: A strong follow-up to a strong album. Bassist & cellist Danielsson attains the right synthesis of modern jazz, folk and chamber and creates, on his new album, that same alluring charm as the last. Joined again by drummer Magnus Ostrom, pianist Tigran, guitarist John Parricelli, they pick up where Liberetto left off. A few guests on this recording, the most notable being trumpeter Mathias Eick who brings a strong but serene voice to the session… much like Arve Henriksen did for the last. A rare track like “Swedish Song” kicks up some flames, but for the most part, it’s bouncy, infectious rhythms, layering of melodic fragments, and drifting peaceful ambiance.
Miguel Zenon, Identities Are Changeable: I’m torn on this one. Saxophonist Zenon is an amazing talent, and any time I see his name pop up in the upcoming releases list, I get excited. He just puts out one excellent album after the other. On his newest, his explores what it means to be Puerto Rican in NYC in the 21st century. He does this by interspersing interviews throughout the pieces. It’s something of a jarring effect, especially considering how amazing the music is when the interview material isn’t interrupting it. At its core, it’s a quartet of Zenon, pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Hans Glawischnig, and drummer Henry Cole. But Zenon layers on the guests for an wonderfully rich, big sound. Saxophonists Will Vinson, John Ellis, Chris Cheek, Michael Thomas and Samir Zarif, trombonists Ryan Keberle, Alan Ferber and Tim Albright, trumpeters Michael Rodriguez, Mat Jodrell, Alex Norris, and Jonathan Powell all have a voice in the ensemble effort, with some wonderful solos and group play. It’s a great project. I’d love to see this as a documentary, where the interviews and some b-roll and historical context would be augmented by the music. But for this project as an album, man, if the interviews had been left out, I’m not sure this isn’t album of the year. “Second Generation Lullaby” is one of most glorious songs I’ve heard in 2014.
James Weidman, October Feeling: Really nice solo piano set from Weidman, who mixes things up with tunes from the GAS, a few from jazz giants and some of his own originals. He gets an intimate, warm sound from his instrument, which is why the songs reveal a depth and substance even when he’s playing it straight and casual. For this session, Weidman set out to use a Fazioli rather than a typical Steinway piano. The Fazioli is made from the same wood as the Stradivarius, and notes tend to sustain a bit longer. Between that and his smart play, it’s why this album resonates as strongly as it does.
Outhead, Send This Sound to the King: Oddly compelling blend of influences from the quartet of alto/tenor saxophonist Alex Weiss, baritone saxophonist Charlie Gurke, double-bassist Rob Woodcock and drummer Dillon Westbrook. There’s an appealing looseness to the music that rocks as much as it grooves or swings. It’s free jazz with a plan, improvised music walking down a path with well-defined trail markers. I would imagine that fans of Get the Blessing would find plenty to like here. I would also imagine that this would be a nice choice for indie rock fans looking for a safe place to dip their toes into modern jazz.
Fabio Sartori, Marco Calonna, Cristiano Calcagnile, (In)obediens: Intriguing trio session from Colonna on clarinet & bass clarinet, Sartori on piano and Calcagnile on drums & percussion. Free-wheeling and hyperactive, the trio flings itself forward with, seemingly, no plan, but then the enter these contemplative interludes, as if dreaming of a pretty melody, and the direction becomes more clear. Pretty cool.
Bruno Tommaso, Le Oche di Lorenz: Delightful large ensemble session from composer/arranger Tommaso, whose octet is comprised half by clarinets. It provides the album with some seriously rich harmonies, which Tommaso balances with melodies of an unusual contour and sharp precision. The vocalist is just another instrument for this session, and the way she weaves her voice through the fabric of the ensemble is pretty nifty. Some moments on this recording, like “Le oche giulive” that are just gorgeous.
Tyshawn Sorey, Alloy: A stunning album from drummer Sorey, on an album where transformations within songs rival the fascination with any one particular moment. A piano trio recording that illustrates just how many different facets one might reflect through that particular mode of expression. A Bill Evans-inspired passage might lead into a swell of avant-garde intensity, and classical forays could become a post-bop surge. Sorey doesn’t restrict himself to any one particular genre, and this album proves how taking a holistic approach to creative development can lead to some very compelling results. Sorey is joined by bassist Christopher Tordini and pianist Cory Smythe.
Aki Takase & Alexander von Schlippenbach, So Long, Eric: Very cool large ensemble tribute to the music of Eric Dolphy. Recorded live just this year in Berlin, the group brings out both the calamitous motion and the bluesy warmth of Dolphy’s Inside/Out sound. Strong cast, featuring pianist Takase, pianist Schlippenbach, the great Karl Berger on vibes, Axel Dorner on trumpet, Nils Wogram (who had a pretty strong 2014, btw) on trombone, bassists Wilbert de Joode and Antonio Borghini, drummer Han Bennink and Heinrich Kobberling, and Rudi Mahall, Tobias Delius and Henrik Walsdorff on bass clarinet, tenor and alto saxophones respectively. One of the better Intakt Records releases this year.
Dayna Stephens, Peace: Solid recording from saxophonist Stephens, who forms the session around favorite ballads. The source of those ballads is nicely spread out in terms of influence, as songs from Horace Silver to Jobim to Ennio Morricone are scooped up in the process. A track like “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” illustrates Stephens’ talent for taking the commonplace and making it special and new again. He’s joined by a strong cast of pianist Brad Mehldau, guitarist Julian Lage, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Eric Harland.
Jeff Coffin & the Mu’Tet, Side Up: Likable release from saxophonist Coffin, who offers up a mixed bag of influences on this recording without disdaining a sense of cohesion. All of it comes off sounding in the realm of modern jazz, it’s just where they go from there that provides the differentiation. There’s a bit of funk, a bit of post-bop, a bit of New Orleans trad, a bit of Indo-jazz, and so it goes. Tracks like “Mogodor” and “Yukemi” are a great example of how Coffin shifts between sounds and makes those transitions as enjoyable as the songs themselves. He’s got a huge bill of guests on this recording, offering support from reeds and percussion, brass and strings, but at its core, it’s a quintet of Coffin, drummer Roy Wooten, bassist Felix Pastorius, trumpeter Bill Fanning and Chris Walters on pretty much anything with keys on it. Good stuff.
Hans Olding & Jaska Lukkarinen, Far From Rio: Nice modern set from the quartet of guitarist Olding, drummer Lukkarinen, tenor saxophonist Karl-Martin Almqvist and bassist Mattias Welin. Strong melodic approach, with some nice initial statements, but the winning moments are found in the development of those melodies. One of those albums where a lot of things done well amount to something far better.
Çağıl Kaya, Bir parça ay biraz kuş: Absorbing set from vocalist Çağıl Kaya who gets a straight-ahead thing going in a Turkish music framework. Joining her are saxophonists Tamer Temel & Serhan Erkol, pianist Kürşad Deniz, bassist Kağan Yıldız, and drummer Cem Aksel. The track “Istanbul” gets wild and free, and makes for a powerful statement. Worth checking out some of saxophonist Temel’s work, too. He has a 2013 release that was pretty good, if I recall correctly. Anyways, something a little different.
Alex Pangman, New: Charming new album from vocalist Pangman. Joined by New Orleans’ Cotton Mouth Kings, they go on a nice run of hot jazz tunes that’s plenty upbeat and chipper. Music that embodies all the good cheer of a warm smile well meant. If this floats your boat, then check out Pangman’s 2013 release, Have a Little Fun, too.
Free Tenors, Fellowship: Enjoyable session from a quintet of three saxes, bass and drums. Plenty of warm harmonies and thick melodies. Highlight of the album is an aces rendition of McCoy Tyner’s “Passion Dance.”
Jerry Leonide, The Key: Debut album from pianist Leonide, who brings together the Mauritian music of his homeland with the contemporary jazz of his new Parisian digs. At times, rhythmic personality and friendly melodies come together for some strong moments. At other times, it becomes a pleasant contemporary jazz album. Nothing wrong with that, and lots here to like. Joining Leonide are bassist Gino Chantoiseau, drummer/percussionist Johnny Joseph, soprano saxophonist Vincent Le Quang and Sylvain Gontard on flugelhorn.