A strong week of new releases, especially for those musicians who prefer sitting out near the fringes of Jazz. Plenty of stuff for the avant-garde and free jazz fans, but those of you who prefer to hang your hat on a strong, well-crafted melody, there’s a few things in the bag for you, too. Now, let’s begin…
Matthieu Donarier, Albert van Veenendaal, The Visible Ones: This duo collaboration between saxophonist Donarier and pianist van Veenendaal is play on light and darkness. Moments of sublime melodic impressionism share the same stage as bursts of abrasive dissonance… and both are expressed with the lightest touch so as not to disperse the peaceful ambiance. The use of prepared piano by van Veenendaal adds some brilliant textures to both sides of this album, and Donarier’s transitions between his instrument’s upper and lower registers always seem to occur at the most fortunate moments. It’s a rare album that is able to do something different while also possessing an immeasurably embraceable sound. Pick of the Week.
Juliana Cortes, Invento: Captivating mix of Brazilian, jazz, rock and pop musics from vocalist Cortes, who fills out her ensemble with a healthy dose of stringed instruments ranging from cello to oud, while providing some balance on the percussion end, too. Cortes has a straight-forward vocal delivery, which makes the sudden flourishes and expansions of her sound that much more dramatic. Several tracks possess a necessary edge, and they only further accentuate the gorgeously melodic tunes. Just beautiful. Fans of the music of Vinicius Cantuaria should be giving this one a listen. Highly Recommended.
Rich Halley 4, The Wisdom of Rocks: Saxophonist Halley has a talent for bringing together the qualities of a hard edge and smooth tunefulness to his music. One of those guys that can sound like he’s on the verge of breaking into a free-for-all while performing a ballad. Ellery Eskelin would be a fair comparison. In any event, Halley is back with another solid new release… a quartet session that includes trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, bassist Clyde Reed, and drummer Carson Halley. This is a nice one to scoop up. If you want another, I return to his Requiem for a Pit Viper on occasion when the mood suits me. Recommended.
Keir Neuringer, Ceremonies Out Of the Air: Strangely meditative solo saxophone recording, with Neuringer recording it in one session, performed live at a Philly church. At times a pulsing drone, other times the peeping of forest animals from within the darkness, Neuringer attains a calm within the eye of the saxophone’s storm. The easy comparison to make would be Colin Stetson’s New History Warfare series. It would also be a fair comparison to make.
JD Allen, Bloom: Burly new release from tenor saxophonist Allen, who weaves his fluid contributions into a rhythmically dense foundation built by pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Alexander Claffy, and drummer Jonathan Barber. If the latter three are the bull that keeps knocking things over in the china store, Allen’s sax is the voice that keeps smoothing things over with the owner. A few tracks, like “If You Could See Me Now” and “Stardust” bring a lighter touch to the affair, but overall, it’s the inherent contrast between the melodic and rhythmic aspects that provide this recording’s biggest rewards.
Gustav Davidsson, Vintersagor: Peaceful solo piano session from the musician who also doubles up on trombone for groups like Close and Blommor Inomhus. Nothing complicated, just quiet piano musings.
Miho Wada, Mystery Banana: Nifty new release from flutist Wada, whose blend of jazz, pop, and punk is the right mix of catchy and complex. She expands her ensemble on the new one, adding strings and wind instruments, and the added textures serve to bring out the fullness of Wada’s eccentric sound. The addition of violinist Pascal Roggen is an especially nice touch.
Jorge Fernandez Quartet, Fragments of Mexico: Nice straight-ahead session led by drummer Fernandez, who has an appealing habit of letting songs gain a momentum that, tantalizingly, threatens that they come apart at the seams before he brings it all back together again. Fernandez is also a member of FAS Trio, a free jazz saxophone trio with a talent for intriguing rhythmic concoctions.
Matster, Memory Box: Interesting piano trio led by Mats Voshol. The trio switches between piano and Fender Rhodes, electric and acoustic bass, and though the electric pieces sound dramatically different than the acoustic, the back and forth action between the two subsets provides an appealing contrast. That, and the relatively peaceful ambiance delivered by the music makes this something worth checking out.
Tiny Hearts, Alluvium: Storytelling album from the Australian quintet Tiny Hearts, who use well-crafted melodies as the launching pad for roaming far and wide. A preponderance of moody tunes, even when the pulse rate gets raised a notch or two… and it serves the album well.
Tori Freestone Trio, In the Chop House: Tenor saxophonist Freestone has a nice conversational style on this trio recording, articulating melodies with a variety of inflections and emphases that keeps things interesting. Joined by bassist Dave Manington and drummer Tim Giles, it’s a series of post-bop tunes with a lyrical fluency and a little bit of edge to each. Good stuff.
Modern Art Orchestra, Circular: Modern Art Orchestra Plays the Music of Kristof Bacso: The Modern Art Orchestra, of which Bacso has been a member of for quite some time, performs the saxophonists compositions… a mesmerizing blend of jazz, classical, and Hungarian folk. An expansive sound that becomes supremely evocative when it synthesizes itself down to the tiniest expressions, then builds up from there and just takes off soaring. Wonderful performance.
Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra, Live on Planet Earth: Live performance from the 18-piece avant-garde orchestra, whose members range from a wide array of disciplines and bring each to the table. So you’re gonna get some big band jazz, some classical, some indie-rock, and plenty of other influences peeking out from the orchestra’s curious sound. Challenging music, but a fun challenge, where the parade of surprises become as addictive as the music. In addition to their own thing, they’ve collaborated with both Efterklang and The Notwist, if that gives you a sense of their eclecticism.
Meajam, Dans l’Herbe: Enjoyable piano quartet, offering up some strong, uncomplicated melodies with a warm touch. Some of development of those melodies can get a bit too syrupy, but not enough to ruin the album. Likable enough to warrant a mention in this week’s column.