OK, this is an actual slow release week. But the stuff that’s here is real good! There’s just less of it. Let’s start with:
VA, Just Tell Me You Want Me - Tribute to Fleetwood Mac from a host of current indie bands and some artists from an earlier generation. Annie Zaleski says:
Music’s cyclical nature means that every few years, another classic artist becomes influential to a new generation of bands; the current seminal act du jour is Fleetwood Mac. What’s great about Just Tell Me That You Want Me is that it’s willing to explore beyond the obvious hits. Even artists who are Fleetwood Mac’s contemporaries have insightful takes on the band’s music. That newer and older artists alike can find unique angles to approach Fleetwood Mac’s music is indicative of the band’s enduring legacy and a testament to its songwriting genius.
Dead Can Dance, Anastasis â€“ First new album from beloved mystical goth-folk duo in sixteen years. They haven’t really lost a step: they still feel like totemic music, like something old and tribal-seeming you found in the woods at night. Their voices are still transporting and gorgeous, and they still blend musics from different cultures with seamless ease. If you’ve ever loved a Dead Can Dance album, you will be happy today.
Nude Beach, II â€“ Tough, no-nonsense power-pop from NYC band. Brings to mind pub-rock faves like early Nick Lowe, some of the FM-rock hooks of Tom Petty. David Greenwald writes:
Singer/guitarist Chuck Betz, a tough guy with a soft spot for true love, does his idols proud, and the album rises above its crate-digging thanks to songwriting as lean and propulsive as an Olympic sprinter. Drummer Ryan Naideau tops any of the guitar heroics: His cymbals crash across the mix on “Cathedral Echoes” like summer lightning, and he may have grown an extra arm for the breakneck “Radio.” After storming out the gate, the album shows its range with a handful of acoustic-driven mid-album mid-tempo efforts, but it’s their race to the finish that thrills.
Scott Kelly, The Forgiven Ghost in Me â€“ Grim, muted acoustic dispatches from the Neurosis frontman. Jon Wiederhorn writes:
Given that Neurosis frontman Scott Kelly recently released the covers album Songs of Townes Van Zandt and has issued two other sparse, introspective and largely acoustic solo records since 2001, it’s not surprising that his latest project, Scott Kelly and the Road Home, is a dark, personal vision of hard living, lost love and the vague hope for redemption inspired by Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and latter-day Leonard Cohen. What is surprising is how effectively Kelly attains maximal impact with minimal design. The songs on The Forgiven Ghost in Me are almost completely devoid of percussion. They’re repetitive, but they don’t drag, and the playing is simple and unpretentious, welcoming the listener into a world both chilling and filled with wonder.
Peter Gabriel’s catalogue â€“ In advance of the upcoming deluxe reissue of So, we got Peter Gabriel’s excellent catalogue today.
Can, Anthology- Two-disc survey.
2 Chainz, Based On A T.R.U. Story â€“ Atlanta rapper of the moment drops his long-awaited marquee Def Jam project. Expect a lot of dumb puns and the best production a Def Jam priority budget can buy.
Matthew Dear, Earthforms â€“ New single from Matthew Dear’s excellent, upcoming, still-not-out-somehow August record Beams.
Moon Pool and Dead Band, Human Fly â€“ Desiccated lo-fi disco bump and wiggly sine-wave synths. Dance music for microbes.
The Babies, Moonlight Mile â€“ This is a song called “Moonlight Mile” that is somehow not the “Moonlight Mile” everyone knows. It is, however, a great lo-fi rock ramble with some of the same dimly lit mystery.
DAVE SUMNER’S JAZZ PICKS
Huge drop this week. I found myself compelled to utilize words like ‘mesmerizing’ and ‘intoxicating’ and ‘hypnotic.’ This week’s Jazz Picks dominated by the younger generation of jazz musicians, though their sound is as disparate as it comes. A mention of a few label drops at the bottom of the column, with Pi Recordings the most notable of them. A few albums among this group will have a case for inclusion on some year-end Best of 2012 lists. Let’s begin…
Jasmine Lovell-Smith’s Towering Poppies, Fortune Songs: Debut album from soprano saxophonist Lovell-Smith, and I’m not sure she could’ve made a more impressive introduction. A quintet rounded out with trumpet, piano, drums, and bass. Tantalizing melodies, a deft use of dramatic tension, and tunes that nicely straddle the divide between new- and old-school jazz. I’m thrilled with this album, and happy to make it my Pick of the Week.
Francesco Diodati, Need Something Strong: Nice quartet date, led by guitarist Diodati. Guitar, sax/clarinet, drums, and bass. Two feet in modern jazz territory. Jazz that’s not afraid to rock out, though it’s really the softer tunes where this quartet shines. Songs like “Smile” and “Loop Bed” are intoxicating in their own right, but as interludes between the heavier tunes, their effect on the album is made more startling. Find of the Week.
Sunny Kim, Painter’s Eye: Mesmerizing jazz vocals album, featuring Kim’s unusual delivery. A sense that she’d rather give an impression of her subject matter through her intonation rather than via the words themselves, the music is equal parts embraceable and haunting. Leading a strong sextet that includes Chris Speed on sax and Ben Monder on guitar, this is an album that will likely appeal to a diverse cross-section of listeners. Something different, while also undeniably approachable. Highly Recommended.
Jamie Oehlers Quartet, Smoke and Mirrors: Aptly named album for this quartet, who seem to enjoy keeping the listener guessing. Tunes that strike out in one direction rarely maintain it. Sudden changes in tempo, progressions heavy on the angularity, and thematic shifts in emotion from song to song, yet it all kind of works in the end. Likely to be one of those albums that gains appreciation over the course of repeat listening.
Natalie Cressman & Secret Garden, Unfolding: Debut album from the young trombonist and vocalist, who also takes the helm as arranger. Mostly originals, but throws in a nifty cover of “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” and gives “Honeysuckle Rose” a playful groove. Really strong play from all members of the sextet, and just a beautifully put together album. Lots of slow builds of tension to moments of proud soaring. Should appeal even to jazz fans who shy from vocals recordings. Recommended.
Irene Scardia, Risveglia: Peaceful piano album, trio format with soprano sax and bass. Piano is definitely the spotlight instrument, with sax and bass adding support. Bass is more often bowed than not, which adds a delicious tension to songs, and the sax parts are flighty and light, and bring a sublime beauty to the album. Very nice recording.
E.Normus Trio, Love and Barbiturates: For those who prefer post-rock outfits that stray into jazz territory, this one is for you. A trio of clarinet, drums, and an N/S Stick (a stringed instrument that doubles as guitar and bass). Lots of primal screaming and throaty missives, with a pleasant undercurrent of drums and percussion. Some cool music here that sometimes rocks, sometimes floats on a sea of tranquility.
Tyler Vander Maas Sax Quartet, TVSQ: As far as sax quartets go, this one creates an astoundingly textured palette. Way more attention to the harmonic elements than the interplay of honks and skronks. Some very pretty moments, and some thrilling ones, too, like the transition between herky-jerky march and soft cooing on “Syeeda’s Song Flute,” and the switch from low moan to bright trills and cries on “After the Trane.” Young group out of Lansing, Michigan, and a promising start to their careers.
Borna Sercar’s Jazziana Croatica, Nehaj: Nice modern jazz recording that merges Croatian music into the fold. Sax, piano, and vibes all have some strong moments in the spotlight. Most tracks have a pleasant tempo that allows for kicking back and relaxing while also keeping the foot tapping. One of those surprise albums that could’ve easily drifted by unseen, but I’ll take care of that by giving it a mention here.
Masahiko Osaka, Assemblage: Solid straight-ahead jazz recording from drummer Osaka. Quintet date that includes sax, piano, bass, and multi-reedist that doubles up on bass clarinet. Plenty of swing and fire, and a couple nice ballads thrown in for good measure. Classic sound done right.
Max Johnson, Quartet: Avant-garde album from bassist Johnson, making it his debut as session leader. A strong quartet featuring Mark Whitecage (alto sax, clarinet), Steve Swell (trombone), and Tyshawn Sorey (drums). Plenty of dissonance, spastic rhythms, bending and twisting of notes, and the occasional interludes of lullaby warmth.
Nobuki Takamen, Three Wishes: Straight-forward guitar, bass, drums trio. Guest piano on two tracks, and it brings a favorable element to a song like “Greenwich Village Sometimes.” Plenty of hoppin’ tunes. Nothing groundbreaking, but definitely a nice selection for the jazz guitar fans. Takamen’s cover of “Scarborough Fair” is what initially caught my ear.
Trance Katz, From the Window: Interesting release from soprano saxophonist Hirokadu Ishida. Most of the album takes the form of gently rolling hills of Jazz; soprano sax, accompanied by a little piano or guitar or drums. But then some tracks take on an ambient pop persona that, while not completely jazz, gives just enough of an impression of it as to shift the sound in satisfying directions without sacrificing the sense of album cohesion. Really quite neat.
Pat Martino, Alone Together: Culled from Martino’s personal archives, these duo guitar recordings with Bobby Rose are a stripped down affair. Recorded back in the late 70s, they provide a look at an interesting facet of Martino’s sound. It’s great that Highnote puts something like this out, though it likely only has appeal to hardcore Martino fans.
The Clerks, The Minor Fall EP: Likable quintet date, heavy on the saxophones and a rhythms section bolstered by guitar. Modern jazz compositions that went their way along while providing snappy accompaniment. Best moments fall between the statements of melody.
Marimba Plus, Zebrano: A Moscow-based ensemble led by Lev Slepner that builds everything around the marimba (wood instrument, similar to vibes). Backed by a variety of woodwinds, piano, and rhythm section, it’s an intoxicating mix of jazz and folk music that’s tough not to fall for. Three of their albums dropped this week; I’m highlighting their 2005 release Zebrano, which is most accessible of the group, and also my favorite.
Roni Ben-Hur, Our Thing: Pleasant guitar trio album. Plenty here to like for the jazz guitar enthusiasts, though it’s the rhythm-work of Duduka Da Fonseca that kick this album up a notch. Da Fonseca is having a very strong 2012.
Pi Records had a nice drop this week, bringing a bevy of recent releases to eMusic. The one album that I don’t want to let get by, and which only came out a couple months ago is: Henry Threadgill Zooid, Tomorrow Sunny/The Revelry, Spp: Cofounder of the AACM, and jazz innovator for decades, Threadgill shows no sign of creative stagnancy. Working with his wonderful Zooid ensemble (which includes an array of flutes, percussion, saxes, tuba, cello, trombone, and guitar), Threadgill, yet again, provides us with a head-spinning tempest of sound and rhythm. And it’s his ability to mesh sound exploration with a mesmerizing rhythm that makes these exploratory tunes richly listenable. An album of unconventional, yet unmistakable beauty.
The ESP label, known for their dedication to experimental and free jazz recordings, dropped two albums on eMusic this week that I’m pretty sure have never been here before: Frank Lowe, The Loweski, which is previously unreleased material from a live recording that includes Joseph Jarman and William Parker, and Frank Wright Quartet, Blues For Albert Ayler, which features previously unreleased material from a live performance that includes Rashied Ali, James Blood Ulmer, and Benny Wilson. Both albums present unfettered ferocity and improvisation, the music messy at times in that wonderful way that live performances put their hearts on their sleeve, blemishes and all. Awesome that ESP releases stuff like this.
And, finally, a return to the weekly Really-Shouldn’t-Be-Filed-Under-Jazz selection…
Diamond Terrifier, Kill The Self That Wants To Kill Yourself: Solo project of Sam Hillmer, who incorporates sax and electronics into mystifying sheets of sound. Avant-garde and drone, mostly. If forced to make a comparison, I’d throw out a name like Colin Stetson. Not entirely sure what to make of this after just one listen, but it’s too cool and different not to mention.