Guillermo Klein

New Jazz This Week: Rafael Karlen, Guillermo Klein, Andy Emler and More

Dave Sumner

By Dave Sumner

on 10.08.14 in News

Aside from a nifty landslide of solid modern piano trio albums, this was one of those weeks where there’s going to be something for everyone, with one recommendation for each of the numerous jazz sub-genres out there. Several new names to my own list of artists to keep an eye on as well as new releases from artists who are well ingrained on my lists and my memory. Let’s begin…

Rafael Karlen, The Sweetness of Things Half Remembered: Absolutely gorgeous chamber jazz recording, featuring saxophonist Rafael Karlen and pianist Steve Newcomb, along with a string quartet. It’s music that’s constantly in motion, always active, yet has a deceptively languorous disposition. A lot of this has to do with the thick harmonies from the string quartet, but they zip along at times, too. Mostly, though, it’s in the way the songs modulate their speed, with bursts of acceleration then soon after slowly taking the foot off the gas pedal. Talkative and elegant, both. Fans of Benjamin Koppel’s Adventures of a Polar Expedition should just hit the download button and don’t look back. An absolutely enthralling release. Pick of the Week.

Guillermo Klein, Live at the Village Vanguard: With the talent pool as deep as it is in modern jazz, it’s almost inconceivable to list the top three of anything. That said, I’d argue that Guillermo Klein is one of the top three pianists on the scene. His mix of modern jazz and Argentinean music is as intelligent as it is tuneful and accessible. On his newest, it’s a collection of live performances from the ensemble’s stay at the Village Vanguard. Featuring the vocals of Argentinean folk legend Liliana Herrero, it’s an emotive set, full of raw emotion and resonant artistry. The ensemble performs a mix of Klein originals and Argentinean songs, with one blending seamlessly into the other. That ensemble, by the way, a strong cast of Aaron Goldberg on Fender Rhodes, Richard Nant on trumpet, Matias Mendez on bass, Sergio Verdinelli on drums, and Bill McHenry sits in for a guest spot on saxophone. Highly Recommended.

Omelette, On This Day: Absorbing modern jazz release from the quartet of trombonist Jordan Murray, guitarist Stephen Magnusson, bassist Mark Shepard and drummer Ronny Ferella. Seeds of compositions allow for some nifty improvisations to bloom, unfolding slowly with an appealing cool ease. Introspective is the watchword of this recording, though moments of effusiveness burst out at times, like on the back of a staggered tempo on “Temporal Slave.” Recommended.

Andy Emler MegaOctet, Presences d’Espirits: Yet another strong recording from composer & pianist Emler, who has put out one excellent album after the next these last handful of years, both with his MegaOctet and in a trio with bassist Claude Tchamitchian and drummer Eric Echampard (also members of the Octet). On his newest, he is joined by special guest Elise Caron and the Archimusic ensemble, who come strong and heavy with the wind instruments. Emler’s large ensemble work is always intelligent, finding the soft spot between traditional approaches and unconventional expressions. It’s why his music often sounds familiar and entirely new. If this album floats your boat, I highly encourage you to begin scooping up his other recordings.

Cloudmakers Trio, Abstract Forces: Sophomore release from the vibes trio, following on the success of their live debut a couple years back. The title, actually, sums up their sound pretty accurately… the sense of song is a pretty fuzzy concept on most album tracks, and their shape is typically forged from the fires of their motion. The up-tempo tunes are where all the fireworks are found, but when the trio settles into an easy drift, as they do on “Early Hours,” they invite a haunting ambiance that reveals an intriguing aspect to their dynamic. It’s Jim Hart on vibes (and some effects), Michael Janisch on double bass and Dave Smith on drums.

Radius, Just Outside the Door: Excellent session from the Radius trio of bassist Tine Asmundsen, drummer Stale Liavik Solberg, Vidar Johansen on woodwinds and guest musician, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm. Plenty of wild improvisations, but the way the quartet tethers themselves to melodic fragments results in an abiding coherency, no matter how provocative the trio becomes. One of those rare albums that swims in the avant-garde but makes it relatively easy for fans of the straight-ahead to connect with it. But make no mistake, this is not everyday music.

Giancarlo Tossani Synapser, Newswok: An intriguing release from pianist Tossani. It gives the sense of being fully improvised, but the precision of the changes and the emergent patterns suggest something mapped out previously. Angular melodies with sudden starts and stops, this is where post-bop and avant-garde create a genre DMZ. Joining Tossani are trumpeter Ralph Alessi, multi-reedist Achille Succi, bassist Tito Mangialajo Rantzer and drummer/percusionist Cristiano Calcagnile. A superb recording. Challenging, sure, but it doesn’t come on strong when it engages the ear.

Brian Charette, Good Tipper: Organist Charette has been prolific this last couple years, serving up some solid straight-ahead jazz both as session leader and sideman. His second recording for Posi-Tone has him working two different trios, with guitarist Avi Rothbard and drummer Jordan Young as one pair and guitarist Yotam Silberstein and drummer Mark Ferber the other. The kind of jazz that toes the line between old-school formulas and new-school eccentricities. A cover of Joe Henderson “The Kicker” leans to the former, whereas a cover of “Wichita Lineman” the latter. If the equation of organ+guitar+drums equals download, then you’re not gonna go wrong scooping this one up. Charette is a pretty damn reliable choice across the board.

Gwilym Simcock, Instrumentation: On his newest release, pianist Simcock brings a heavily orchestrated influence to two different pieces, “Move!” and “Simple Tales.” Featuring the City of London Sinfonia, the music’s greatest appeal is the disparity between the lush harmonies from the orchestra and the sharp bite of Simcock’s piano solos interspersed throughout. The second-most appeal is when those two differing elements come together, like on the thrilling “Industrial.” Released on ACT Music, which has an earned for good taste when it comes to these jazz-classical crossovers.

Gavino Murgia Trio, L’ultima Mattanza: Expressive trio session from multi-reedist Murgia, drummer Patrice Heral, and Michel Godard on tuba and electric bass. Plenty quirky, but even when a song strays closer to a post-bop sound, the trio establishes a lyricism that carries things through no matter how they go about expressing themselves. Michel Godard, in particular, has a nifty habit of appearing on recordings that sound quite different but present a deceptively straight-forward presence.

Paul Williamson Quartet, Live: Nice live set from the quartet of trumpeter Paul Williamson, drummer Allan Browne, pianist Marc Hannaford and bassist Sam Pankhurst. They hit upon a variety of standards (“Rhythm A Ning,” “Tune Up,” “Stompin’ at the Savoy” and others), playing it straight for the introductions, then detouring to wherever the improvisations take them.

Gorka Benitez, Gastiez: Solid recording from saxophonist Benitez, who is joined by guitarist Ben Monder and drummer David Xirgu for this session. Strong lyricism marks this recording. Mostly straight-ahead(ish) post-bop, but anything that involves Monder is going to head off in some interesting directions. That happens here, especially on the mesmerizing track “Falsa Calma,” when Benetiz takes a great, haunting turn on flute and “Goazen (Vamos),” which has a folk-rock sound with an NYC flair. Cool album, and if you’re a Monder fan, scoop it up.

Nathalie Loriers, Tineke Postma, Philippe Aerts, Le Peuple des Silencieux: Enjoyable live session from the trio of pianist Loriers, saxophonist Postma and bassist Aerts. Thoughtful music, delivered patiently, but with plenty of life. Some nice interplay, but the star of the show are the solos, each provided with plenty of room to stretch out and each accompanied by trio members skillfully able to see where the path is leading and provide support along the way. It’s about the musicianship on this one, not the compositions. The second solid release in recent months that has Postma’s involvement (see: Sonic Halo with Greg Osby).

Tingvall Trio, Beat: Likable modern piano trio recording from pianist Tingvall, bassist Omar Rodriguez Calvo and drummer Jurgen Spiegel. Scandinavian jazz with a strong pop influence. Melodies have come through strong and are clearly defined, while rhythms know how to carry them from first note to last at any speed. Not a huge range of differentiation between tunes on this recording, but this is the kind of album where a tight cohesiveness provides an accumulation of melodic drama that has its own rewards. All of these tunes have a catchy element to them, so if the modern piano trio thing is something that floats your boat, you can do well for yourself scooping this one up.

Alex Bellegarde Trio, Floating: Nifty piano trio session from bassist Bellegarde, drummer Martin Auguste and pianist Jerome Beaulieu. A series of chipper melodies and nicely shaped melodies from first song to last. Songs have an appealing structure to them, a bit of the traditional on a two-feet-in-modern-territory album.

Thandi Ntuli, The Offering: Enjoyable session from pianist & vocalist Ntuli. A mix of South African and contemporary jazz. Ntuli has a nice voice and delivery, but thankfully, she doesn’t push her piano contributions to the back of the room, because they are some of the more compelling moments. Not a jazz vocals album; an instrumental album that has some vocals. The song “Uz’ubuye” is especially nice.

Traeben, Looking at the Storm: Uneven, but likable new recording from the quartet of guitarist Jens Larsen, saxophonist Soren Ballegaard, bassist Olaf Meijer and drummer Haye Jellema. Up-tempo tunes take on a strong pop music personality, and while the melodies never get too sweet or the rhythms to peppy, it’s nothing near as good as when the quartet slows down and exhales melodies slowly and just drifts along. And though it may seem counterintuitive, these gentler tunes provide a stronger emotional punch than their more aggressive counterparts.