After a few weeks of new releases that traveled the fringes of the jazz genre, this week is typified by albums that set up base closer to the center of the music. Most recommendations show musicians hanging their hat on the melodies. Even those recordings that stray further Out show a melodic sensibility that can be appreciated by straight-ahead fans. Let’s begin…
Ryan Keberle and Catharsis, Into the Zone: Typically, the music of trombonist Keberle has a large presence and an easy-going nature. It’s a nice mix to have, and allows a song to go Big without ever having to resort to getting in the listener’s face to garner a reaction. It’s also a scenario that is a perfect fit to add a vocalist, as Keberle does for his newest. The voice of Camila Meza snaps right into place, as does the addition of tenor saxophonist Scott Robinson (joining previous collaborators, trumpeter Mike Rodiguez, drummer Eric Doob and bassist Jorge Roeder). Modern tunes that run off plenty of nice solos, provide plenty of room for development, and never lose sight of the essential need for a well-crafted melody. Pick of the Week.
Mario Castro Quintet/Strings, Estrella de Mar: Absolutely gorgeous jazz with strings session from tenor saxophonist Castro. He leads a core quintet of trumpeter Josh Shpak, bassist Tamir Shmerling, drummer Jonathan Pinson and pianist KyuMin Shim along with a string quartet (and a variety of guests), and despite the crowded dance floor, the music has a light, airy presence despite its often big sound. Of great importance, the string quartet parts are woven seamlessly into the fabric of the whole, and not treated like some sort of compositional plug-in that gets added when needed for effect. Notable guests are David Sanchez and Dave Liebman. Just a beautiful effort. One of the better with-strings albums I’ve heard in 2014. Highly Recommended.
Kent Carter, Gianni Lenoici, Bill Elgart, Plaything: Strong release from the trio of bassist Carter, pianist Lenoci and drummer Elgart, all three long-time veterans of the avant-garde/improv scenes. There’s a real sense of professionalism about this set of energetic tunes, as if the trio were revealing the mysterious purpose to all the chaos and suddenness and unpredictability to their music. It’s a big reason why it’s very easy to connect with this very challenging music… an ability to sense the heart of a song in the midst of it all. A very enjoyable album and Recommended.
Ananda Gari, T-Duality: Compelling quartet session from drummer Gari, who finds a way to create a fluidity out of misshapen, warped sounds. None of this music is pretty, but some of it is simply beautiful. That quartet, by the way, is a very strong line-up: Tim Berne on alto sax, Rez Abbasi on guitar and Michael Formanek on double bass. I’m sort of addicted to opening track “Trucks.”
Scott Healy, Live at Kilbourn Hall: Terrific large ensemble work led by composer and pianist Healy. A mix of originals and covers (“Anthropology,” “Solitude,” “In Your Own Sweet Way”), with the transitions between the two groups sounding fluid and cohesive. Some nice soloing by members of the Eastman Chamber Jazz Orchestra, but it’s the best moments are those of group interplay when the energy of a song seems close to ripping its form apart just to have it all coalesce back into its original shape. I recall Hudson’s 2012 release, Hudson City Suite, being an enjoyable listen, too, and worth revisiting.
Michael Lake & Gerry Pagano, Roads Less Traveled: Seriously tuneful duo release from alto trombonist Lake and bass trombonist Pagano. And while the best part are the waves of warm harmonies throughout, it’s the rhythmic component that susses out some serious fun on a cover of Mingus’s “The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines.” And then there’s the little bits of percussion added to a theatric rendition of “Amazing Grace” and rendition of a Tangerine Dream tune that has the infectious ambiance of, well, a Tangerine Dream tune. Plenty of other covers of a more traditional bent, like “Yardbird Suite,” “A Night in Tunisia,” and “Moment’s Notice.” This was a very fun listen.
Sophisticated Lady Jazz Quartet, Sophisticated Lady: Nice debut from a young quartet that clearly burns for a traditional jazz sounds, and covers of songs like “Strange Fruit,” “I’m Sentimental,” and a couple by Ellington speak to passion, both in song selection in the way the quartet chooses to express it. What kicks the session up a notch is that when they throw in an original constructed more like something of the present day, it doesn’t sound that far removed from the traditional material as to shatter the album’s cohesion. The way a song like “Ropes of Sand” fits neatly into the stream of songs is the best proof of this. The quartet is trumpeter JJ Kirkpatrick, pianist Misha Bigos, bassist Gary Wicks, and drummer Andrew Boyle. A good one for old-school fans who like a little bit of a modern flair from time to time.
Jean Marie Ecay, Gemini Mode: Nice straight-ahead guitar trio session from guitarist Ecay, bassist Michel Charbonnel and drummer Andre Charlier. Most tracks swing and bop, but there are a couple tracks that take a modern spin with a song. For instance, the moody “Zazpiak Bat” develops a melody long past recognition, and lets the excitement of the journey trump the comfort of structure and form. Good stuff.
Malte Durrschnabel, Strayhorn: Pleasant performance of Bill Strayhorn compositions by the quartet of drummer Silvio Morger, bassist Henning Gailing, pianist Rainer Bohm, and Durrschnabel on alto sax and clarinet. The quartet plays it straight, choosing to honor the composer’s music with an imitation-as-flattery rather than vastly re-working the material into something completely different. Plenty of swing on this lively album.
Gustavo Casenave & Nick Danielson, Edge Tango al Borde: Likable mix of jazz and tango from the duo of pianist Casenave and violinist Danielson. Music that is plenty lively, yet maintains an elegance even at those times it’s most active.