A respectable amount of new releases this week in the Jazz department, with an impressive number of today’s recommendations representing debuts — yet another sign that jazz continues to thrive. Also, more than a few trio outfits releasing notable albums this week… most of those are piano trios, but a couple that comprise unusual combinations for that format.
Oran Etkin, Gathering Light: An album with odd turns and sharp angles, but with a predilection for expressing itself with song-like lyricism. So even when the tempos shift gears, and the melodies dart between them, Etkin is singing out on reeds with the light and simple grace of singer-songwriter. An outstanding cast joins Etkin, with bassist Ben Allison, guitarist Lionel Loueke, trombonist Curtis Fowlkes and drummer Nasheet Waits, all musicians who deserve recognition as being in the top class of their respective instruments. Part of the intrigue of this album is hearing how the artists, each armed with their own established sound, come together and get it all to mesh. Pick of the Week.
Claudio Filippini, Breathing In Unison: Easy-to-like set from Filippini, who runs with a standard jazz piano trio format for this session. Joined by drummer Olavi Louhivuori and bassist Palle Danielsson, a couple tracks hit on standards and pop songs like “As Time Goes By,” but more of the album focuses on Filippini’s increasingly-personal voice on his instrument. A track like “Poses” simmers with a quiet melodicism atop a patiently-surging rhythm, and the sleepwalker, with its wavering sheets of harmonics over a haunting bass arco and rhythmic flurries. Released on CamJazz, which has really become a home for Filippini, where he’s really been able to flourish. Highly Recommended.
Phronesis, Life to Everything: Recorded live over three shows at the 2013 London Jazz Festival, the trio of bassist Jasper Høiby, pianist Ivo Neame and drummer Anton Eger display all the infectious hooks and eclectic rhythms offered up on previous recordings, like 2012′s excellent Walking Dark. The live medium does nothing to dampen their music’s compelling nature, nor is it any less evocative than the studio efforts. Highly energetic music that slides gracefully into contemplative melodic interludes, before snapping back out of it and dashing off again. Recommended.
David Hazeltine, For All We Know: Another great release from the Smoke Sessions, this one featuring pianist Hazeltine in a quartet with saxophonist Seamus Blake, bassist David Williams and drummer Joe Farnsworth. Some covers, some originals and plenty of swing. Hazeltine is a reliable source for quality jazz, with his Mutual Admiration Society collaborations with vibraphonist Joe Locke the next place to stop if you enjoy this recording.
Abdullah Ibrahim, Mukashi: The new album by jazz giant Ibrahim is an understated affair, with the solo piano pieces only a murmur, sometimes quite evocative, sometimes just sedate. Those times when reeds and cello enter the picture, the album springs to life, and while still it’s quite peaceful, that little bit of added texture lets the compositions breathe and produce some serious vibrancy. Cleave Guyton returns on those reeds for Ibrahim, and based on the seamlessness of their conversational tone, it’s a collaboration I would’ve liked to hear even more of on this recording.
Das Bummeldaun-Syndrom, Blow Bum Bum: A tuba-trumpet-drums trio with a big sound and a strangely lyrical touch. This is music of motion; tempos are king here, and the trio knows how to dig into a groove and run with it. But the way trumpet dances spryly atop the rhythms provides a melodic element that is more than a little catchy. Something different.
Michael Wollny, Weltentraum: Mesmerizing new release by pianist Wollny, who’s establishing himself as one of the better modern jazz pianists. A musician who shows a talent for adapting all kinds of music for the modern piano trio format, Wollny runs through tunes from a varied list of composers, including the court music of Marchaut, the romantic era classical music of Alban Berg, the modern indie-rock of the Flaming Lips, oddities like a track from the David Lynch movie Eraserhead and the Charlie Kaufman tune “Little People,” and a nifty cover of pop star Pink’s song “God is a DJ” with guest vocalist Theo Bleckmann joining in. But whether performing covers or the handful of Wollny originals, the pianist delivers them with an idiosyncratic style that could best be described as “sonic immersion” It’s like he’s establishing his own personal introspective state on this listener. Rounding out his trio is bassist Tim Lefebvre and drummer Eric Schaefer.
Laura Winkler & Wabi Sabi Orchestra, Paper Clips: Unusual but compelling release from vocalist Winkler, backed by the Wabi Sabi Orchestra on a project that derives its inspiration from the works of novelist Haruki Murakami. The large ensemble sound goes more for haunting tones than bombast, incisive articulation over fat harmonies. Winkler’s delivery verges on operatic at times, Bjork-ian at others. It’s the kind of music that can take a bit to acclimate to, but once that connection is made, it’s not likely to fade.
Lorenzo Tucci, Fabrizio Bosso, Drumpet: Thrilling duo collaboration between drummer Tucci and trumpeter Bosso. All kinds of energy present on this recording, and between the improvisations, the effects and covers of tunes like Wayne Shorter’s “JuJu” and Coltrane’s “Africa,” this album is plenty engaging as it is abundantly fun. Good stuff.
Massive Schrage, Vegas Baby: An odd prog-jazz session that switches between sharply-drawn bursts of angular music and contemplative stretches of ambient melodicism. This guitar-piano-drums trio recording can be a bit uneven at times, but their attempt to provide something a little different eclipses that fault.
Chat Noir, Elec3Cities: A piano trio that runs heavier on the ambient electronica than jazz, the music has an oddly intoxicating effect in the way the warped melodicism rises up from the sea of effects. I would imagine that “cinematic” is a word that gets applied to their music quite often. Be that as it may, I found myself returning to this music with no little frequency, as I kept discovering new compelling moments hidden within. Interesting music, and something a little different.
Ayal Tsubery, Decisions: Strong debut from bassist Tsubery, who shows an ability to shape a strong melody, as well as how to use it as the trailhead to go out wandering and see where it takes him. A quartet date (with a few guests sitting in), it’s a modern set of tunes, some Middle East and Mediterranean influences peeking out… all with a lyrical bent. An album that grabbed me with the opening notes, and never really let go.
Pierre de Bethmann, Sisyphe: Pleasant new jazz recording from pianist Bethmann, who goes heavy with the wind instruments on his medium-ensemble project. A mix of jazz and orchestral, the ideas presented are thick with harmonic devices that allow for a steady flow of material for the soloists to bounce ideas off of. Among the twelve ensemble members are tenor saxophonist David El-Malek, the bass clarinet of recent Pick of the Week Thomas Savy, and the flutes of Stephane Guillaume. A thoughtful recording.
Grencso Open Collective, Flat/Sikvidek: Led by saxophonist Stephen Grencso, this long-established ensemble has a strong history of dishing out their particular brand of free jazz, often echoing the sounds of that wonderful interval of jazz development when hard bop was growing freer while also incorporating the influences of what’s commonly referred to now as spiritual jazz. It’s fiery music that doesn’t burn away the soul of the performance. This is a nice look at something from the Hungarian scene.
Shalosh, The Bell Garden: Likable modern piano trio session, with well-crafted melodies stated simply, and a rhythm section that wears their enthusiasm on their sleeves. A cover of Fiona Apple’s “Get Gone” is a nice little surprise on a debut album filled with them.
Yuki Shibata, Come and Go: Enjoyable straight-ahead set from pianist Shibata. And while tenor sax has some very nice moments, its the inclusion of violin for this quintet session that adds some real personality to the affair. A promising debut.
Tommy Smith, Brian Kellock, Whispering of the Stars: Pleasant duo collaboration between saxophonist Smith and pianist Kellock. Reminiscent of the music of Joe Temperley and Dave McKenna, this session features plenty of peaceful music that can fill up the room on a quiet Sunday afternoon. It’s music that floats on the back of silence, undisturbed, and sometimes quite sublime.
Various Artists, The MJQ Celebration: Solid tribute recording to the music of the Modern Jazz Quartet, featuring vibraphonist Jim Hart, pianist Barry Green, bassist Matt Ridley, drummer Steve Brown, and guest saxophonist Dave O’Higgins. Music that swings like the originals, and possessing the same thoughtful, subtle inventiveness, too. Enjoyable from beginning to end.
And while I typically stay away from re-issues and archival material, let’s wrap up with something pretty special…
Various Artists, Creative Music Studios Vol. 1: The Creative Music Foundation, formed by Ornette Coleman, Karl Berger, and Ingrid Sertso in the early 1970s, is a non-profit organization that, generally speaking, seeks to nurture and promote innovative music, both the composers and the performers. Involved in a variety of outreach, one such method was the use of their studios to record the music they were attempting to help along. This new release collects a handful of performances from some serious jazz giants… Ed Blackwell, Karl Berger, David Izenzon, Nana Vasconcelos, Leroy Jenkins, Oliver Lake, Roscoe Mitchell and many many more. Here’s a link to the CMF site to learn more about this album and the music on it. Very highly recommended.