Some outstanding albums dropped this week, hopefully signaling the end to the recent dry spell in the jazz new releases section. Lots of personality offered up by this week’s recommendations, each in their own way and each making it easy to connect with. Let’s begin…
Tineke Postma & Greg Osby, Sonic Halo: Seriously engaging set featuring the soprano saxophones of Greg Osby and Tineke Postma. Even when their lines clash and collide, there is an intriguing cohesion to their effort so as to make it seem like it’s mere shadow-play. Add to this great collaboration the crack line-up of pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist Linda Oh and drummer Dan Weiss, and now we’re talking all kinds of riveting lines of communication going on. I try to keep these album synopses short and to the point; this album is challenging me not to spend the next 500 words raving about it. Pick of the Week.
Malte Schiller Octet, All the Way: Multi-reedist, composer, and arranger Schiller keeps putting out strange & beautiful music. The pieces often echo a traditional form of jazz, but then get warped and misshapen in ways that leave them sounding new and quite different. This recording has him forming an octet consisting of four cellos, guitar, drums, bass and his own sax and bass clarinet. Thick harmonies, so damn pretty, blanket jazz passages that take strange curves and angles but maintain an appealing fluidity. There are songs here that are jaw-dropping beautiful (ie, “I’ll Stay and Watch). Highly Recommended.
Sylvain Rifflet & Jon Irabagon: The saxophone duo of Rifflet and Irabagon offer up an absolutely brilliant re-imagining of the music of eccentric composer, musician, poet Moondog. Embracing the spirit of unbounded inventiveness and unclassifiable expressionism, the duo present a series of pieces that are very much Something Different, but are so personable and genuine, that they are so damn easy to connect with. A remarkable album. Joining the duo are Joce Mienniel (on flute and synth), Eve Risser on piano (sometimes a prepared one), Philippe Gordiani on electric guitar, and Benjamin Flament on drums and percussion. Recommended.
Gideon van Gelder, Lighthouse: A nice personality to the sophomore release from pianist van Gelder. Two feet in modern territory, it’s the quirky grooves of a Neil Cowley Trio release and the rampant melodicism of a Michael Wollny recording. Joining van Gelder are drummer Jamire Williams, vocalist Becca Stevens, the sax and bass clarinet of Lucas Pino, and bassist Rick Rosata. Each song has a distinct presence, and the album’s extroverted nature makes it easy to connect with. Lucas Pino on a bass clarinet doesn’t receive nearly the recognition it should… he can incite both moodiness and warmth, often simultaneously. Just an easy-to-like recording.
Pericopes, Frames: Sublime duo set from saxophonist Emiliano Vernizzi and pianist Alessandro Sgobbio. Recorded from a live 2013 performance in Gualtieri, Italy. Some gorgeous moments on this recording, which is meant to be played when a quiet room cries out for music that enhances the ambient serenity, not shatter it. That said, this isn’t sleepy music, and both artists get plenty active on their respective instruments. For another view of Sbobbio in a more traditional modern piano trio format, check out his 2013 release Alessandro Sgobbio, Frédéric Chapperon & Xuan Lindenmeyer, Charm, a past Jazz Pick that I still am happy to recommend.
Vertigo Trombone Quartet, Developing Good Habits: Engrossing session from the trombone quartet of Andreas Taschopp, Bernhard Bamert, Jan Schreiner, and Nils Wogram. Plenty of harmonic warmth all throughout this enjoyable set, though the raw melodic power on “Klagelied” and the cadence play of “Unknowing Professor” are ample evidence that the quartet can provide plenty of nuance within the folds.
Helge Lien Trio, Badgers and Other Beings: Pleasant modern piano trio session from bassist Frode Berg, drummer Per Oddvar Johansen and pianist Lien. Quiet, early morning music that is like to prod a person to wakefulness rather than lull them back to sleep. The tunes that get a decent chatter going still retain their inside voice, while those that adopt more of a tranquil presence spark with life at just the right times. A track like “Folkmost,” however, might be the strongest track, and it situates itself somewhere between an old-school NYC Keith Jarrett and a new-school Icelandic Sunna Gunnlaugs. Bass arco on “The New Black” is pretty damn effective is building a moody presence.
Gabacho Maroconnection, Bissara An octet that brings together Jazz, Moroccan and African musics. Music just bursting with life. Effusive vocals match up with dynamic rhythms and all kinds of playfulness with melody and harmony. Instruments like N’goni and Guembri are right at home alongside sax and keyboards. If I’d had more time to spend with this album before filing deadline, I’d probably be raving more strongly about this recording, but even after just a couple passes, I can tell this is going to become part of my normal listening rotation. Part of this band is comprised of the Gabacho Connection, whose self-titled 2011 release flew under the radar.
Albin Bruns Nah Quartett, Wegmarken: Strangely likable session from Albin Bruns, who infuses heavy Swiss folk music into a jazz context, leading out with a Swiss diatonic folk accordion. Add to this soprano sax, tuba, violin and drums, and the music has an appealing charm with the traditional tunes, but then breaks into a contemplative harmonic interludes that are all kinds of different from the chipper folk music they left behind. I’m not crazy about this album, but it has some things going on that make well worth recommending. Those shifts in tone and cadence are a nice sonic experience.
Erik Vermeulen Trio, Asterisk: Easily the most appealing aspect of this piano trio recording is the way in which it goes from very free pieces to very introspective ones. The nice thing about the free pieces are that they move energetically, but stay within a tight area, which makes the collisions of notes more emphatic and the silences between the notes more resonant. The introspective pieces, on the other hand, make greater use of silence, but get more oomph out of the notes sparingly dispersed. Joining pianist Vermeulen is drummer Marek Patrman and bassist Manolo Cabras.
Benjamin Herman, Trouble: Cool, blue tunes from saxophonist Herman, who has a talent at distilling 1960s West Coast Cool, 1970s psych-jazz, and Jazz of Today into an intoxicating and smooth pour. His newest leans heavily on the old-school cool with a set of love songs that smolder just right. Joining Herman’s alto are his regular trio of bassist Ernst Glerum, drummer Joost Patocka, and newcomer Daniel von Piekartz with both vocals and piano.
Jungman Carlo, Jungman Carlo: Interesting debut from the Swedish quartet, who switch between free improvisation and Nordic Jazz serenity from track to track. Sort of an album with two faces, each serving a complementary role by enhancing the characteristics of their counterpart. Some looping and effects adds a little extra nuance, but nothing really over the top as far as that goes. Sax, bass, guitar, and drums. Kind of an absorbing album, in its way.
Offshore, Rootville: Nice modern session. A quintet of sax/clarinet, vibes, piano, bass and drums. When vibes get to the front of mix, the album resonates more strongly, especially those rare times they slow things down. Most tracks mid-tempo with vague melodies and all kinds of development and soloing. Nothing here that really blew me away, but there were plenty of moments that had their appeal.
Aimua Eghobamien, London Live: Live performance from vocalist Eghobamien. Some hits, some misses, but the music has a heart-on-its-sleeve quality that reminds me of the late great Terry Callier. This, plus the use of marimba and a string quartet earns it a mention in today’s column.