Crazy amount of quality new jazz releases this week. So bad I had to shuffle a handful off to next week’s column, just because I didn’t have time to get to all of them. Some powerful new music, many which bring jazz and chamber music together with great success. Also, a week where past Jazz Picks return with follow-up releases that build on the strengths of their predecessors while expressing new aspects and facets. Now, let’s begin…
Rebecca Trescher Fluxtet, Nucleus: Outstanding modern jazz set from clarinetist Trescher, whose 2012 release Sud was pretty amazing in its own right. A chamber jazz sound is full of introspective qualities, but the music is so damn expressive that it seeks out engagement wherever it can find it… even when it’s floating in serenity. Trescher switches fluidly between clarinet and bass clarinet, highly lyrical on both, just a question of whether its darker or lighter tones of moonlight to fill out the song. It’s a quartet this time around, with alto sax, guitar, bass, and the drums of Tilman Herpichbohm, a past Jazz Pick both for an album under his own name and via the Jazz Thing project. Pick of the Week.
Kekko Fornarelli, Outrush: Sophomore release by pianist Fornarelli, whose 2011 debut Room of Mirrors was one of the year’s best. Very much a part of the New Piano Trio lineage mapped out by the Esborn Svensson Trio, Fornarelli’s trio draws out thick evocative melodies and wraps them in subtle drama and insistent rhythms. And where on his debut, the rhythms coalesced around the melodies, on his newest, Fornarelli slips the script and has the melodies riding the waves of the rhythms, trading in some of the debut’s dreaminess for a bit of an extra kick of propulsion. It’s an interesting adjustment and it works to great effect. Highly Recommended.
Stanton Moore, Conversations: A founding member of Garage A Trois and Galactic, and a musician whose genre passport has stamps all over it by now, it’s a nice surprise to see New Orleans drummer Moore offer up a straight-ahead jazz recording. A trio set with pianist David Torkanowsky and bassist James Singleton, the music crackles with life and the melodies are catchy as hell. Just plain enjoyable from start to finish. Recommended.
Riverside, Riverside: The quartet of trumpeter Dave Douglas, saxophonist Chet Doxas, electric bassist Steve Swallow, and drummer Jim Doxas embrace the songbook and spirit of jazz legend Jimmy Giuffre, presenting a set of covers and originals that focus expression through the lens of Giuffre’s personal approach to the fusion of folk and jazz, and the curious sonic motion created in the vortex of improvisation and small-group improvisation. And while the album is heavy on originals, the quartet nicely captures that loose down-home charm of Giuffre’s trio work… music that didn’t need to sacrifice warmth to create music that was a little bit different than the other album standing nearby. Recommended.
North, Slow Down (This Isn’t the Mainland): Likable piano trio recording from pianist Romain Collin, bassist Shawn Conley, and drummer Abe Lagrimas, Jr. Some tracks keep an amicable chatter, letting melodies right along the bumpy surface of rhythms. Other tracks slow things down, attain an ambient soulfulness that holds plenty of allure. It’s these latter tracks when this album really shines. A couple moments of bass arco highlight those tracks, further driving home the point that this trio is most successful when finessing the gas pedal.
David White Jazz Orchestra, The Chase: It isn’t until the latter half of the second track that this album comes together, and from there, it just keeps getting better. White’s big band carries the weight of a big sound with aplomb as it develops a shifting motion that is more than just about speed. Even during the uppest of the up-tempo pieces, White’s ensemble is able to vacillate its speed in a way to give the music, at times, a casual grace that really pulls the ear in. Good stuff. Last track is entitled “Blues for Sally Draper” which I mention just for the sake of mentioning it.
Adam Unsworth, Balance: Nifty large ensemble session utilizing orchestration. Adam Unsorth on French horn, John Vanore on trumpet, Bob Mallach on tenor sax, Bill Mays on piano, Mike Richmond on bass, and Danny Gottlieb on drums, and then a variety of strings, wind instruments, and percussion. Music that lets the sound get big without letting it boil over, staying light on its feet, and thus retaining a nice fluidity. This leads to a nicely rounded sound, and some delightful music. Soloists tend to stay within sight of the strings, which also adds to the music’s cohesion. Good stuff.
Oscar Penas, Music of Departures and Returns: Lovely Latin jazz session from guitarist Penas, who delivers a series of flowing melodies atop a pleasant murmur of percussion. Violinist Sara Caswell balance nicely with the electric sound of Penas’ and Moto Fukushima’s guitar and bass, respectively. Even when Penas turns up the heat on guitar on “Etude No.1,” the song never gets too heavy. Various guests sit in, with the most benefits provided by additional percussion to help round out drummer Richie Barshay’s contribution, but Paquito D’Rivera on clarinet and Gil Goldstein on accordion are sure nice, too.
Estafest, Eno Supo: Gorgeous and haunting session from Estafest, a Dutch quartet consisting of piano, guitar, tenor/soprano sax, and cello. Peaceful music that is quite moving. Jazz with some chamber and folk added in just the right amounts. The quartet members layer and weave their music in a way to give it a fullness that might indicate a sound from a larger ensemble. Even the moments of dissonance have a certain ambiance that isn’t abrasive and allows for moments of sheer beauty to spring forth. Just a gorgeous album. Find of the Week.
Peter Brendler, Outside the Line: Nice modern set from bassist Brendler, who brings a strong quartet to the table with drummer Vinnie Sperrazza, trumpeter Peter Evans, and saxophonist Rich Perry. A post-bop album that allows its seams to become frayed and its joints loosened, creating shifts in sound to something freer and untamed… makes for some nice marks of contrast without having to strain album cohesion. Also, a supremely enjoyable rendition of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side.” Always nice to see Peter Evans sitting in on an album… one of those names that pretty much guarantees that a recording is going to sound at least a little bit different than others situated in similar territory.
Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble, Intergalactic Beings: An avant-garde recording that reminds us that daring music never sounds boring, and wild creativity is going to sound unformed and shapeless… that is its achilles heel and also its strength. The next chapter in Mitchell’s adaption of the novels Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis, Mitchell swings even further out to the fringes, and the results are supremely thrilling… both in the way sounds careen about freely and untamed and those glorious moments when everything coalesces on the turn of a dime. Mitchell’s dectet brings together a strong cast from the Chicago scene, including past Jazz Picks names like saxophonist David Boykin, cellist Tomeka Reid, guitarist Jeff Parker, and bassist Joshua Abrams (among others). Recorded live at Chicago’s MCA.
Robin Bennich, Music That Evolved: Fascinating set from pianist/composer Bennich, whose mix of jazz, pop, electronica, and the passing of time led up to this curious recording. With guest musicians like Gilad Hekselman, Adam Rogers, and Ben Monder, Bennich creates an ambient soundscape populated with an array of striking textures, and each expression delivered with a pop music warmth easy to embrace.
Moskus, Mestertyven: Sophomore release from the Scandinavian trio, whose debut Salmesykell was my eMusic Find of the Week back when it was released in 2012. Already an inventive sort, the trio continues that trajectory, upping the ante on their odd concoction of Nordic jazz, folk, avant-garde and gospel hymns. And much like their debut, this album’s charm is revealed the more time spent with it, just as it becomes increasingly engrossing.
Armen Donelian, Sayat Nova: Songs of my Ancestors: Double disc set from the veteran pianist and composer, providing a wide view of his jazz, classical, and Middle East music expressions, both in a solo and trio context. The solo pieces have a stately elegance that balances nicely with the intimate warmth of the trio set. This is the kind of album one could just immerse themselves, connecting with moments simply sublime and others just plain friendly.
Tore Johansen, The Set: An album that conjures images of the late-night jazz club, a cool jazz sound that provides some liveliness and some heat, but does nothing to create an obstacle to the crowd settling in, kicking back, and just drifting off to the sounds from the stage. A quintet set led by trumpter Johansen, and featuing the tenor sax of Tore Brunborg.
Irina Bjorklund, La Vie est une Fete: Enchanting new release from vocalist Bjorklund, whose got the French chanteuse thing down pat. And while her vocal delivery goes a long way to making this album a winner, it’s the contributions of her band that really separate this album from the pack. Quavering guitar notes, harmonic waves from accordion, chipper drumwork, some well-placed moments with wind instruments… contributions from session musicians essential to separating this album from the glut of jazz vocal albums.
Felipe Salles, Ugandan Suite: Using the East African nation as the source of inspiration, saxophonist Salles brings together the native music forms and jazz for a seriously vibrant recording. Joining him are fellow saxophonist Dave Liebman, percussionist Rogerio Boccato, pianist Nando Michelin, bassist Keala Kaumeheiwa, drummer Bertam Lehmann, and multi-instrumentalist Damascus Kafumbe. There’s a certain dance-like joyfulness to this recording, even when Salle’s builds some melodic tension and lights a fire under the rhythm section. Quite beautiful at times.
Erik Halvorsen Trio, Undergrunnane: Lively modern piano trio set influenced as much by the NYC jazz sound as Halvorsen’s Nordic roots. Some flirtations with the avant-garde aside, this is hard-nosed piano trio work.. a little edgy, room for melodies to breathe and develop, and rhythmic constructs that don’t get boxed into a corner.
Francesco Ponticelli, Ellipses: Eclectic jazz-electro-acoustic recording from bassist Ponticelli, who seamlessly blends rustic folk and electronic effects into this jazz session. Featuring a strong cast that includes guitarist Francesco Diodati and saxophonist Dan Kinzelman, this is music that drifts like somethign from a 1970s fusion-era recording, but pops with a space-y electricity more reminiscent of Gianluca Petrella’s Cosmic Band… an ensemble that Ponticelli was a member of. Definitely something different here.
Topology and Trichotomy, Healthy: A collaboration between the chamber music outfit Topology and the progressive jazz trio Trichotomy. The quintet Topology’s mix of saxophones, piano, and strings merges with Trichotomy’s piano trio format with a seamless artistry. The former provides the latter with a euphoria and grace, and the latter provides the former with some edge and explosiveness. Comparable to other recent jazz releases that go heavy to chamber music but with a pop music sensibility… albums from artists like The Ocular Concern, Matt Ulery’s Loom, and Andy Clausen’s Wishbone Suite. This album was released, briefly, a couple years ago, but was pulled soon after. This appears to be its official (re)launch. Just plain intoxicating.