Rob Mazurek

New Jazz This Week: Rob Mazurek, Erik Hove, Jochen Rueckert and More

Dave Sumner

By Dave Sumner

on 10.15.14 in News

Some absolutely stunning albums released this week, ranging from a tidal wave of intensity to an experiment in the power of nuance. These tend to fall on the experimental side of things. On the other hand, there’s also several solid straight-ahead recommendations that will make the old-school fans quite happy, too, so nobody is getting left out in the cold this week. Let’s begin…

Rob Mazurek & Black Cube SP, Return the Tides: Ascension Suite and Holy Ghost: Stunning new release from Rob Mazurek, who creates a torrential downpour of jazz-rock fusion that’s heavy on the spirituality and generous with the grooves. Building on his Sao Paulo Underground’s ingenious update of jazz-tropicalia fusion, he brings a bigger sound, dense, relentless and yet still strangely catchy. Joining the SPU trio is Thomas Rohrer on soprano sax, rabeca and electronics, Rogerio Martins on percussion and Rodrigo Brandao adding some voice at times. Plenty of distortion to go with soulful grooves, a tidal wave of intensity to partner up with soaring melodic phrases. A tuneful onslaught that rivals the 2014 offerings of Fire! Orchestra and Angles 9, and which burns with a heart-on-the-sleeve emotional honesty that transcends the music’s boundless creativity. Pick of the Week.

Erik Hove Chamber Ensemble, Saturated Colour: Absolutely thrilling chamber jazz session. The tension formed between free kinetic energy and compositional structure holds for the entirety of this absorbing album. It’s as if Hove herded a band of cats, corralled them in an orchestra pit, handed them each an instrument and instructed to burn their night crazies by playing out his compositions. Melodies are dispensed in surges and harmonies are just a tool to accentuate the strength of the tempos. Hove leads an octet of strings, wind instruments and a drum & bass duo. So familiar names to this column participating on the album are Anna Webber, Evan Tighe and Josh Zubot. What an exciting album this is. Just as likely to appeal to fans of Henry Threadgill as it is fans of the Peggy Lee Group or Mark Feldman. Highly Recommended.

Jochen Rueckert, We Make the Rules: There is a melodic sensibility to this album that is positively magnetic. Tenor saxophonist Mark Turner and guitarist Lage Lund weave those melodies together, seamlessly and with a compelling linearity, and yet their motion gives the impression of unending cycles, curvatures that zero in on the contrails of their previous notes without ever retracing their steps. Bassist Rueckert and drummer Matt Penman not only dance within this tight funnel of motion but also skip along the surface of its exterior, and it’s why this quartet is able to sound locked in step while at the same time sound untethered and free. The thing of it is, it’s not just about the construction… these melodies are both pretty and unconventionally delivered, as if Rueckert took a straight-forward melody, cut it into pieces and then reassembled the sections in a different order. Just outstanding. Highly Recommended.

The Splendor, Forest: Lots of vibrant colors and tones from the Swedish quartet of multi-reedist Lisen Rylander Love, pianist Fabian Kallerdahl, drummer Lars Kallfelt and bassist Josef Kallerdahl. Many tracks give variations of the Swedish style of jazz that infuses more heat and liveliness into a typically calmer Nordic Jazz sound, whereas others see them wandering off into improvisations that have an ethereal, almost outer space type of ambiance. Some terrifically engrossing passages on the quartet’s third release. Recommended.

Sketches, Volume Two: The second go-around for trumpeter Matt Holman, saxophonist Jeremy Udden, pianist Jarrett Cherner, bassist Martin Nevin and drummer Ziv Ravitz. The concept for the sophomore release is the same as the first: music fragments and incomplete compositions of one quintet member are adopted by another, developed into a full thought, then spun back into the group dynamic for a final shaping of the song. Volume Two works far better than the initial foray. Compositions come off with a clearer definition and the musicians gel around soloists with a greater confidence and to greater effect. There’s also more differentiation between tracks, with streaks of the blues and rock and folk offering clearer voices within the post-bop context. The time invested by this group working the Sketches concept on the road and the studio paid off some serious dividends on Volume Two. Good stuff.

The Cellar & Point, Ambit: A contemporary act that incorporates a variety of genres and influences, offering up something that sounds vaguely familiar in a number of ways, with each facet tied to a strong melody. Ambient in nature even when turning up the volume, this is music that has a Frisellian spookiness, a Peter Broderick serenity, and a Lounge Lizards cool. Consisting of strings, vibes, a couple types of guitars and drums & bass, this is the kind of instrumental music that fits easily into the background of life or up front, taking up your entire world. This has been a part of my regular rotation for months and shows no sign of tiring. Random observation that might be relevant to no one: this is a great album for long drives through a pastoral countryside.

Frank Kimbrough, Quartet: Nice straight-ahead date from pianist Kimbrough, who brings together long-time collaborators for a session that emits all kinds feeling. Most originals and a couple standards. The up-tempo pieces often have a relaxed, loose vibe to them, which is all kinds of appealing. But it’s the songs where the quartet expresses themselves with more patience when the album’s evocative qualities really come out. The beautiful “November” gives the impression of being light-at-heart, but reveals a moodiness in glimpses that creates a gripping dichotomy. Solid from beginning to end. That quartet is rounded out by Steve Wilson on alto & soprano saxes, Jay Anderson on double bass, and Lewis Nash on drums.

Tara Davidson, Duets: Saxophonist Davidson generates an intimate warmth on this set of duets. She matches up with the tenor saxophones of Mike Murley and Trevor Hogg, the guitar of David Occhipinti, the cello and bass of Andrew Downing, and the pianos of Laila Biali and David Braid. Each of the match-ups provide their special quality: the elegance of the duet with pianist Braid, the comforting heat of the double saxophones intertwining their motions and strength, but the music resonates most strongly when Davidson joins with the strings of acoustic guitar and cello. Just plain beautiful. This one might’ve slipped under your radar. This synopsis should take care of that.

Anthony Pirog, Palo Colorado Dream: Guitar-driven session from Pirog, who creates a dense fog of distortion, looping, dissonance and effects that intermittently reveal the pretty melody hidden within its midst. Joined by bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Ches Smith, Pirog unleashes his guitar attack with a relentlessness that commands attention. This album isn’t about songs, it’s about impressions, where no still image can be encapsulated of music perpetually in motion. Far more likely to appeal to indie-rock fans than jazz, and the fact that the influences of Bill Frisell’s ethereal expressionism and Marc Ribot’s spasmodic creativity are both evident on this recording back that assertion up.

Nathan Parker Smith, Not Dark Yet: Seriously aggressive large ensemble session led by composer Parker. An album that, eventually, will try to forge a connection, but not before shoving the listener around a bit first. Music that speaks loudly and carries a big stick, too. And while the music’s sheer mass threatens to take it to ground at times, there are moments, like on the track “Solace,” when a melodic passage slips through and provides a welcome bit of weightlessness. Some interesting names in the ensemble, like trumpeter Matt Holman, trombonist JC Sanford, and keyboardist Landon Knoblock, whose CACAW project would be another path to explore if album floats your boat.

Jim Black Trio, Actuality: Nice to hear a laid-back, almost melancholic side to drummer Jim Black’s music. Songs develop with an assured calm, and the emotional punch is earned through patience, not force. A few tracks possess an enchanting free motion, but even these keep within easy reach of the melody. Sort of a New Piano Trio recording, but with more quirks to its personality. Black is joined on this session by bassist Thomas Morgan and pianist Teddy Klausner.

Cory Weeds, As Of Now: Nice straight-ahead bop from tenor saxophonist Weeds, who is joined by the trio of pianist Harold Mabern, bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth. Top-shelf jazz. Even a cover of “Pop Goes the Weasel” sounds fun and exciting and works way better than it probably should. Nothing wrong with the ballads, but it’s when this group hits the gas pedal that the album shows its best.

Owen Howard, Drum Lore Vol.2: More Lore: Lively session from drummer Howard, who takes on the compositions of fellow drummers in addition to some of his originals. Most songs take an approach of thick lines to define the shape of compositions and then nuanced shading to bring out the heart of the tunes. A cover of Paul Motian’s “Mumbo Jumbo” is a prime example of the way in which Howard keeps to a high-energy approach while honoring the languorous characteristic of the original. Most tracks are straight-ahead, but some of the Howard originals like “Haiku” and “Labyrinth” have an appealing meandering motion and a loose form. Aside from being neat tracks on their own merits, they provide some interesting contrast to those tracks that stick to a bop structure. Joining Howard are the saxophones of John O’Gallagher and Adam Kolker, pianist Frank Carlberg and bassist Johannes Weidenmueller.

Florian Pellissier Quintet, Biches Bleus: Very likable straight-ahead session from pianist Pellissier, who keeps the album’s cohesion intact even while switching expressions between a hard bop to a modal piece to a modern gospel-infused piano work. Joining him are saxophonist Christophe Panzani, trumpeter Yoann Loustalot, bassist Yoni Zelnick and drummer David Georgelet.

Airelle Besson & Nelson Veras, Prelude: Charming duet album between trumpeter Besson and the acoustic guitar of Veras. On the folk side of things, but definitely in jazz territory. Most tracks possess a languid seaside ease, but there are plenty moments when the artists kick up some choppy waves to give greater definition to the moments of serenity.

Skywalking, Skywalking: Nifty trio session of improvisation, electronics and oddball instruments. One of those in-the-spirit-of-innovation types of recordings, where it’s not so much an album of songs as a series of conceptual ideas not necessarily meant to be heard, but experienced. Sometimes that stuff comes off as pretentious or unlistenable. Not this one. Wanted to get in a quick mention of it before signing off for the week.