Sunday, May 28, 2017

1 Sem 2017 - Part Seven

Vince Mendoza & WDR Big Band Cologne

By Peter Bacon
We know the WDR is a fine band, so exemplary ensemble playing with striking soloists is to be expected. But the compositional and arranging skill that the Connecticut-born Vince Mendoza - former Metropole Orchestra MD, arranger to everyone from Joe Zawinul to Joni Mitchell and resultant multi-Grammy winner - brings to the party lifts the band up further into the sumptuous fertile high grounds of jazz orchestra land.
Homecoming is the right title, for it was with the Cologne band that Mendoza added further big band wallop to the already punchy Zawinul material for the album Brown Street, and he has done various other projects with them as guest arranger. It's a very happy reunion.
Here the tunes are all Mendoza's own, and they have all those characteristic Mendoza elements: cinematic breadth, emotional tug, funkiness, classical structure, romance, wit, Latin tang.
The opener, Keep It Up, is a happy coalescence of soul-funk for the rhythm boys John Goldsby on fat bass guitar, Hans Dekker on drums and Marcio Doctor as guest percussionist, with expert big band writing over it and searing solos from guitarist Paul Shigihara and tenor saxophonist Paul Heller.
Little Voice does something that is special to Mendoza - the ability to construct a thoroughly satisfying piece of music without any clear, strong melody, reliant on gossamer light suggestions of a tune while strong on atmosphere and harmonic richness. There is one falling chord change which never fails to bring a catch in the chest, it’s so exquisitely sad.
Choros #3 has the Latin groove allied to soaring orchestral parts blossoming around Andy Hunter's trombone solo, with a fugue-like finale The title tune has all the loping, cruising, travelling 6/8 rhythm of a hope-filled homeward journey - the cover gives an establishing shot and it's easy to add the rest of the movie in one's mind's eye.
Also worth noting throughout the album is the marvellous pliancy of the band’s dynamic range and control of push and pull, which is built into Mendoza’s expert arrangements but is given full effect by the virtuosity of the band.
Recorded live over two nights in 2014, other standout soloists are Karolina Strassmayer on alto saxophone, John Marshall on trumpet and Frank Chastenier on piano, but for me it’s the whole that is greater than the sum of its parts with the WDR, especially when playing Vince Mendoza’s exquisite music.

Ken Schaphorst Big Band
How To Say Goodbye

By Filipe Freitas
Ken Schaphorst, a composer, trumpeter, and educator with more than a decade of experience leading big bands, counts on a great lineup of musicians and friends, including a few former students from the New England Conservatory in Boston. Schaphorst’s modern big bands are typically packed with trendy and inventive jazz instrumentalists, and for this new album, entitled How To Say Goodbye, he maintains this feature. Donny McCaslin, Ralph Alessi, Chris Cheek, Uri Caine, Jay Anderson, and Matt Wilson are incredible performers that need none introduction.
Shifty and animated, the title track immediately lets us know about Schaphorst’s art of orchestration. The tune was written for the trumpeter John Carlson, who evinces an absolute confidence and takes the lead through thoughtful moves.
“Blues for Herb”, dedicated to trumpeter Herb Pomeroy, borrows the fundamental elements of Duke Ellington, adds a touch of Mingus, and jolts with the striking, articulated verbalization of McCaslin on tenor. The engaging saxophonist shines once more in the first part of “Mbira”, an African celebration of exultant rhythms and joyful disposition. The guitarist Brad Shepik assumes a similar role in the second part of the tune, injecting scented folkish sounds and showing how comfortable he moves within the fusion genre.
While the city of Boston is recalled in “Green City”, a tune that evolves harmoniously with a 3/4 time signature, the music of Astor Piazzola was a strong inspiration for “Amnesia”, which is dedicated to Schaphorst’s late grandmother. The former features Chris Cheek on tenor sax, and the latter is dominated by the alto of Michael Thomas.
“Take Back the Country” is another tribute to one of the bandleader’s mentors, the celebrated trombonist Bob Brookmeyer. His influences are blended with Gerry Mulligan’s way, and this combination is fueled by penetrating improvisations of Luis Bonilla on trombone and Brian Landrus on baritone sax.
Schaphorst also takes the opportunity to display his skills on trumpet in “Global Sweet”, a somewhat spiritual chant enveloped in glamour.
The album couldn’t have had a better ending with “Descent”, an impulsively groovy (impeccable foundation by Jay Anderson and Matt Wilson) and vividly swinging piece that shakes us with its emotional robustness. The tune features the irresistible pianist Uri Caine, who becomes lyrical whenever accompanying and effusive when improvising, and also Ralph Alessi, whose melodic movements and rhythmic contortions are both impressive and opportune.
Schaphorst’s genius compositions come from the heart and the thankfulness toward the talents who have been sharing music with him is translated into honest tributes and magical reciprocation. Unabated, How To Say Goodbye was beautifully conceived, standing as one of the big band favorite albums of 2016.
Ken Schaphorst: composer, trumpet, Fender Rhodes;/ Donny McCaslin and Chris Cheek: tenor sax;/ Michael Thomas and Jeremy Udden: alto sax;/ Michael Landrus: baritone sax, bass clarinet;/ Ralph Alessi, John Carlson, Dave Ballou, and Tony Kadleck: trumpet;/ Luis Bonilla, Curtis Hasselbring, Jason Jackson:/ trombone; Jennifer Wharton:/ bass trombone;/ Brad Shepik: guitar;/ Uri Caine: piano;/ Jerry Leake: percussion;/ Jay Anderson: bass;/ Matt Wilson: drums.

Mike Jones Trio

By Dan Bilawski
The musical legacy of The Roaring Twenties is alive and kicking. For his second date on the Capri imprint, pianist Mike Jones decided to pull together a collection of Jazz Age nuggets and drop into the studio for a nonchalant session with bassist Katie Thiroux and drummer Matt Witek—a blue-chip rhythm duo whose musical stock has steadily been on the rise in the past few years. Jones had never recorded with the pair before, there were no rehearsals, and everything, save for one number, was said and done in one take. You'd just never know that from listening. This trio gels in all the right ways as it swings its way through a winning program of classics.
While every track on Roaring is tied together through time and age, there's more variation here than you might expect. Quite often it simply comes through the way the tempo and swing feel are chosen and calibrated. On one track these three might be working a cool and hip angle ("Yes Sir, That's My Baby"), on another they might be speeding down the thoroughfare ("I Can't Believe You're In Love With Me"), and on a third they may slowly glide along ("Am I Blue"). All three of those examples swing, but they do so in very different ways. Add to that some other numbers in completely different realms—a reflective solo piano saloon song ("What'll I Do"), a peppy take on the Latin sound from another time ("I'll See You In Cuba")—and you have more than enough variety to satisfy the ears.
Jones is a pianist with many gifts, both technical and interpretive in nature, but he never takes to preening through his piano work. He simply enjoys sitting behind the instrument and giving a song a spin. He can prance, pounce, and deliver a blinding flurry across the keys as well as anyone, but he's not using artifice as a sales tool. He's playing music, and he's just as likely to charm with a small gesture as he is to impress with a grand artistic stroke. Thiroux and Witek, likewise, are all about the sound and the songs. They stand tall and speak for a form of the music that's sorely missed in today's too clever by half jazz atmosphere. While Roaring doesn't represent anything strikingly new or different, it's certainly noteworthy. It perfectly zones in on the spirit of jazz, serving all the while as a strong tribute to a much-loved period.
Track Listing: 
Yes Sir, That's My Baby; If I Had You; I'll See You In Cuba; Home; Mean To Me; I Found A New Baby; Me And My Shadow; What'll I Do; I Can't Believe You're In Love With Me; Am I Blue.
Mike Jones: piano; Katie Thiroux: bass; Matt Witek: drums.

Banda Mantiqueira
Com Alma

By Carlos Calado
Manter uma orquestra ativa durante 25 anos já é por si só uma proeza, mas os músicos da Banda Mantiqueira e seus fãs têm mais a comemorar com o lançamento deste álbum. Basta ouvir algumas faixas para comprovar que a aventura iniciada por essa big band paulistana, em 1991, resultou em uma linguagem instrumental brasileira que não se fecha às enriquecedoras influências de outras tradições musicais.
“Nos últimos anos, conseguimos aprimorar uma concepção musical mais aberta, que promove um encontro da música popular brasileira com o jazz e a música clássica”, resume o clarinetista e saxofonista Nailor “Proveta” Azevedo, referindo-se ao período que sucedeu o lançamento de “Terra Amantiquira” (2005), o álbum anterior da orquestra.
Para quem sentiu falta de um novo disco da Banda Mantiqueira, na última década, o fundador e líder explica que vários de seus integrantes, assim como ele, têm dedicado mais tempo ao ensino musical, buscando transmitir a linguagem da banda às novas gerações. Paralelamente, a banda participou de projetos com talentosas intérpretes da canção brasileira, como Mônica Salmaso, Rosa Passos, Fabiana Cozza e Anaí Rosa.
“Passamos esses dez anos sem gravar outro disco, mas, por outro lado, a gente cresceu muito musicalmente. Tocar e conviver com outros músicos ajuda a amadurecer. Os projetos com essas cantoras, assim como nossas atividades pedagógicas, trouxeram mais experiência para os músicos da banda”, avalia Proveta.
“Com Alma” representa o fim de um ciclo musical na trajetória da Banda Mantiqueira. Por isso, segundo seu líder, a necessidade de revisitar no repertório do novo álbum um pouco dessa história. Criada no início dos anos 1990, em um apartamento do bairro paulistano de Bela Vista, onde Proveta morava com o trompetista Walmir Gil e os saxofonistas Cacá Malaquias e Ubaldo Versolato, a Banda Mantiqueira veio coroar as experiências desses músicos em formações anteriores, como a Banda Savana, a Banda Aquarius e a Sambop Brass.
Duas composições incluídas no álbum nasceram durante a fase inicial da banda. O frevo “Forrólins”, de Cacá Malaquias, é uma homenagem ao veterano saxofonista norte-americano Sonny Rollins. O arranjo de Proveta combina o contagiante ritmo do Nordeste brasileiro com fraseado e improvisos típicos do jazz. Também composto por Malaquias, o lírico “Chorinho pra Calazans”é dedicado ao artista plástico pernambucano J. Calazans. Se você sentir algo de impressionista no arranjo de Proveta, saiba que não é mera coincidência.
“Stanats”, composição que o pernambucano Moacir Santos (1926-2006) dedicou ao saxofonista norte-americanoStan Getz (1927-1991), foi arranjada por Proveta, em 1994, como uma homenagem ao nosso genial compositor e maestro que muitos brasileiros só descobriram neste século. “Foi incrível ter tocado esse arranjo para o Moacir, o homem que levou o ritmo afro-brasileiro para o jazz clássico, com o requinte da música clássica europeia”, comenta Proveta.
Padrinho da Banda Mantiqueira, o grande músico e compositor João Bosco também é homenageado com seu samba “De Frente Pro Crime”, em arranjo inédito de Proveta. Ao violão, em participação muito especial, surge o cariocaRomero Lubambo, com o qual a banda já planejava fazer algo há tempos. Lubambo também é o solista na gravação de “Desafinado” (obra-prima de Tom Jobim e Newton Mendonça), em belíssimo e inédito arranjo de Edson José Alves, que ressalta a sofisticação harmônica da bossa nova e as influências da música clássica que Jobim assimilou em sua obra.
“Con Alma” – a composição de Dizzy Gillespie (1917-1993), mestre do trompete e do jazz moderno, que inspirou o título deste álbum – ganhou cores de bossa nova e samba-canção, no arranjo de Edson José Alves. Além de contar com o violão de Lubambo, essa gravação destaca outro convidado muito especial: o trompetista norte-americanoWynton Marsalis.
O líder da Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra também participa da gravação de “Segura Ele”, clássico choro de Pixinguinha (1897-1973). “Quando convidei o Marsalis, disse a ele que essa música lembra um ragtime do Scott Joplin”, conta Proveta, que escreveu a primeira versão desse arranjo para a orquestra paulista Jazz Sinfônica, ainda na década passada.
“Sentimos a necessidade de revisitar a história da banda, para lembrar de encontros musicais que fizeram a diferença em nossas vidas”, comenta Proveta, sintetizando muito bem o conceito deste álbum, que tem tudo para repercutir tanto em nosso pais, como no exterior. Vivendo hoje uma fase de grande produção e primor artístico, a música instrumental brasileira reflete na original experiência dessa big band um exemplo a ser seguido pelas novas gerações.
Como outros admiradores da Banda Mantiqueira, cuja trajetória tive o prazer de acompanhar desde o início, posso declarar que escutá-la durante estes 25 anos também foi sempre algo muito especial.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

1 Sem 2017 - Part Six

Michele Di Toro Trio

By Adrian Pallant
Di Toro’s companions on a recording mainly of originals are Milan-based double bassist Yuri Goloubev and Gallarate-born drummer Marco Zanoli. Together they magically forge delicate chamber jazz, comparable to the gracefulness and exactitude of Italian classical baroque, with Mediterranean finesse and attention to detail reminiscent of the music of Paolo Paliaga (Alboran Trio) and, at times, Stefano Bollani.
Clarity, balance and crisp technical execution are immediately discernible as the album proceeds – but, importantly, there is also the lifeblood of emotional sensitivity which undoubtedly flows through the veins of this music. Lutetia launches the ten-track sequence, characterised by a wistful, seemingly-perpetual (Escher-like) cycle of shifting minor keys which introduces Yuri Goloubev’s unmistakable, deftly cantabile bass soloing; the quickening tempo spotlights both Di Toro’s bright, Jarrett-inspired pianistic style and Marco Zanoli’s incisive, percussive brilliance. There’s a quirky charm to waltzing Ninna Nanna, with its bass harmonics, reverse-processed cymbal scrapes and an amiable development of melody (even a hint of Svensson’s e.s.t.); and the spirited bossa nova of Yuri Goloubev’s Daunted Danceprompts Di Toro and Zanoli to wallow in its unalloyed positivity.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Di Toro’s Corale declares Bachian characteristics as deep, resounding arco bass instils reverence before its exquisitely tempered animation is introduced, including the most sumptuous of melodic extemporisations from the bassist. Marco Zanoli’s Distances sustains the baroque feel (almost referencing Anna Magdalena’s Clavierbüchlein of 1725) in a gently lucid minuet which showcases the precision of each of the players; and Remembering Chopin‘s romantic mood, announced by the pianist’s deeply-felt lyricism, widens into irresistible vivacity. The reticent demeanour of Goloubev’s Joni… suits the trio well as Di Toro eloquently and chromatically paints impressive, broad canvasses of rich colour (Zanoli contributing shimmering shafts of light), whilst pressing miniature Change of Scene(ry) is punctuated with alluringly free explorations.
Very much the essence of 20th Century British classical composition, William Walton relocated in mid-life to the Italian isle of Ischia, so the arrangement of Touch Her Soft Lips and Part (from Walton’s Henry V suite) has a geographical connection here. Its aching beauty clearly finds a resonance with jazz musicians – Pete Erskine just one its interpreters (Time Being, ECM) – and this trio magically stamps it authority on it with measured, bejewelled delicacy (Sir William and Lady Susanna would, I’m sure, vehemently approve of this (to date) most perfectly realised of reinterpretations). Brief Chorale VIII – Ascension closes the album, Goloubev’s bowed variation of the earlier Corale echoing his orchestral past and confirming this trio’s unquestionably informed correlation of jazz and classical worlds.
Play is available from Abeat Records and online retailers. Discover its crystalline beauty.
Personnel: Michele Di Toro piano; Yuri Goloubev double bass; Marco Zanoli drums

Tõnu Naissoo Trio
Live At Osaka City Museum Of Fine Arts

Personnel :
Tõnu Naissoo: piano; Taavo Remmel: bass; Ahto Abner: drums

Track list :
CD 1:
Disc.1-01. Isn't it Romantic; Disc.1-02. Angel; Disc.1-03. My Favorite Things
Disc.1-04. I'll Close My Eyes; Disc.1-05. Pensativa; Disc.1-06. Maria
Disc.2-01. All I Want
CD 2:
Disc.2-02. What a Difference a Day Made; Disc.2-03. Love Theme from Sunflower
Disc.2-04. I Say a Little Prayer; Disc.2-05. Dirhami; Disc.2-06. My Back Pages
Disc.2-07. Moon and Sand; Disc.2-08. Don't Say Goodbye

Michele Polga
Little Magic

By Luigi Sforza 
In quest'ultima fatica discografica Michele Polga insieme alle sue pronunciate qualità di tenor sassofonista conferma ampiamente il suo appassionato orientamento estetico -già dichiarato nei precedenti lavori a suo nome. Dotato di notevole tecnica strumentale, di senso instancabile per la melodia e di un'ampia capacità di sintetizzare in forma organica e unica un ampio patrimonio storico legato al suono del suo strumento -che va da Joe Henderson a John Coltrane passando per Wayne Shorter-Little Magic rappresenta non un punto d'arrivo ma una tappa importante della sua carriera da leader e compositore.
Tornato ad incidere per la Caligola Records, il musicista vicentino senza distanziarsi molto dalla sua visione mainstream del jazz -un concentrato originale di stili moderni che si rifà alla musica dei tre maestri afroamericani già menzionati sopra -si arricchisce di un ulteriore grado timbrico ed espressivo, il piano elettrico Rhodes, che conferisce al sound effetti cangianti e quadri espressivi che oscillano continuamente alternando momenti onirici ad altri più muscolari.
Le tracce racchiudono impronte di elementi provenienti dalla storia del jazz: "Too Young for Chocolate" è un attraente brano dai connotati soul jazz, mentre "Lost Gift" possiede il dono della maestosità coltraniana, declinato in un supremo e imponente suono sassofonistico che a quello del maestro nero americano si ispira. "Gi" approfondisce i rapporti tra il modo "lineare" di intendere il 4/4 e la possibilità di creare asimmetricità ritmica come capita di ascoltare in certa musica newyorkese contemporanea (Greg Osby e Steve Coleman, solo per citare due nomi). Spicca per intensità "Little Magic": qui più che altrove si realizza pienamente e in forma riuscita il connubio, l'incontro tra l'acustico e l'elettrico (pianoforte e rhodes), tra il sassofono e gli strumenti a tastiera. In "Day Light" tale dialettica viene approfondita e argomentata dall'intero quartetto in forma interattiva, al punto che in certi momenti tutti gli strumenti si pongono sullo stesso grado espressivo annullando temporaneamente il concetto stesso di solismo accompagnato e facendo altresì intravedere una possibile nuova e interessante visione estetica da percorrere. Allo stesso modo, la presenza del woodwinds in "Lost Gift (reprise)" apre un ulteriore grado di fuga verso altre vie stilistiche.
Il progetto si regge armonicamente su un perfetto equilibrio tra i musicisti: solida e fluente, ma anche sostanziosa e pungente, è la sezione ritmica composta da Stefano Senni al contrabbasso e dal bravo Walter Paoli alla batteria; efficace, brillante e puntuale insieme -al contempo deciso e marcato -è il tratto pianistico che contraddistingue lo stile di Paolo Birro.
Con assoluta convinzione ed evidente padronanza tecnica Michele Polga declina un intero ed ampio frasario modernista, dando forma ad un'opera in cui si concentrano mirabilmente esempi di esperienze musicali ben realizzate e in grado di rendere "Little Magic" un disco di buona levatura. Con questo lavoro il musicista veneto si ritaglia uno spazio importante nel panorama jazzistico italiano.
Track Listing: 
Too Young for Chocolate; Way of Escape ; Day Light; Blue Grassa; Gì; Little Magic; Against; Dark Green; Lost Gift; Lost Gift (reprise).
Michele Polga: sassofono (tenore), programmazione; Paolo Birro: pianoforte, Fender Rhodes; Stefano Senni: contrabbasso; Walter Paoli: batteria; Giulio Polga: woodwind.

Bergalli & Navarro
Tráfico Porteño

Track listing:
1-What's New; 2-Lullaby; 3-Tráfico porteño; 4-Will Be Together Again
5-Waltz for Debbie; 6-Hi Fly; 7-First; 8-Up Jumped Spring; 9-Day Dream
10-Speak Low
Gustavo Bergalli-trumpet; Jorge Navarro-piano; Arturo Puertas-contrabass
Fernando Martínez-drums

Daniele di Bonaventura & Giovanni Ceccarelli
are Calmo

By EvArt

Daniele di Bonaventura and Giovanni Ceccarelli meet on stage for the first time. Together they conceived this original, brand new duo project. Both Daniele and Giovanni had their frst approach to music on the piano. As a matter of fact, di Bonaventura and Ceccarelli share even more affnities: they are both prolifc composers, and are very fond of playing in small musical units, thus allowing musicians to express themselves by wisely using nuances, space and silence. The Bandoneón and the Piano weave a dialogue which enhances the two instruments’ rich expressive palettes: chant, percussion, counterpoint, choral textures, and pure sound. As a result, they blend together and they juxtapose by interacting in delicate balance between written parts and improvisation. Daniele and Giovanni propose themselves in concert with a répertoire of original compositions and arrangements. The duo has already performed for classical music festivals and concert seasons, such as the “Chamber Music Festival” in Chieti, and the “Jeunesses Musicales” in Fabrian and Fermo, Italy. Their frst recording project together is due to be released in June 2015. 
It consists of a CD/DVD package which will be published by brand new Italian label EvArt.
Daniele di Bonaventura, bandonenon
Giovanni Ceccarelli, piano

Saturday, April 29, 2017

1 Sem 2017 - Part Five

Jakob Bro

By Matt R. Lohr
Guitarist-composer Jakob Bro’s 2015 ECM release, Gefion, was one of the year’s most effective sonic explorations. While not as commanding as that recording in its mood-altering impact, Bro’s ECM follow-up, Streams, nevertheless finds him continuing to expand the textural possibilities of his instrument, with empathetic collaboration from drummer Joey Baron and Gefion bassist Thomas Morgan.
Bro’s compositions are panoramic, with tones at once sedate and ever shifting. His skillful echo and reverb weave a thrumming surface, upon which the musicians evince a delicate chemistry. Sometimes the sound will push into tense, eruptive territory, as on “Full Moon Europa,” which evolves from Morgan and Bro’s single-note unison pluckings to blistering guitar exhortations goaded by Baron’s all-over-the-kit assaults. But the prevailing air is becalmed, tinged with glimmers of melancholy. On “Shell Pink,” Bro and Morgan drift with bewitching gentility along Baron’s easygoing brushwork, while “Heroines” finds the guitarist evoking medieval balladry over Baron’s understated drum rolls and Morgan’s precisely placed descending runs.
The trio communicates at a high level throughout the recording, Morgan and Baron giving themselves fully to Bro’s musical conception. On “PM Dream,” the sole composition attributed to all three musicians (and dedicated to the late drummer Paul Motian), Bro spends the song’s first half in support, creating a roiling drone over which Baron’s clattery interpolations mingle with Morgan’s sliding notes. The collaboration takes on a starker color on the album-closing “Sisimiut.” With Baron at his busiest and most aggressive, Bro whines out of the mix with keening harmonica-like sounds, over Morgan’s scratchy arco undercurrent. And then it all fades away into hazy sighings, almost like shifting fog-bound shapes. The sound of Streams is not always one of sharp edges and crystal clarity, but the emotional landscapes it guides you through are honest and deeply felt.

David Friesen Circle 3 Trio
Triple Exposure

By David Whiteis

Expect no pyrotechnics. Bassist David Friesen, pianist Greg Goebel and drummer Charlie Doggett convey intense feeling through subtlety and craft, their finely honed chops on display to enhance the artistic excellence that permeates this set.
Friesen’s bass serves as the primary rhythm instrument on most of these outings, establishing contexts that range from straight-ahead swing through modified funk to Spanish-tinged, off-center lopes. His solos—sure-fingered, exploratory, firmly directional—elaborate on both the rhythmic and melodic ideas at hand, many of which he himself plays a dominant role in establishing. Both Goebel (the actual lead voice throughout) and Doggett add texture and dimension, sometimes complementing Friesen, sometimes challenging him to switch direction and respond to their proddings. Even a ballad like “Soft as Silk,” so gently caressed that it barely seems to have a rhythm at all in the conventional sense, reveals itself a chiaroscuro of pulses and aural shadings, its somber minor-key theme rescued from bathos by the firmness of Goebel’s touch and the dexterity with which both Friesen and Doggett interweave with his gently ascending chords and single-note interludes.
“Bright Light Sky,” though, is more representative. Friesen sets both the tempo and the mood—dancing around, below and above the tune’s meter without ever seeming to fall directly into it—as Goebel ignites soft-edged sparks and Doggett slides effortlessly into the groove Friesen has established with his quick-fingered fretwork. “Let It Be Known” reflects the Zen-like ambiguity of its title, sounding like both a proclamation and a meditation, as it seems more manifested than forced into being.

Ryan Cohan
One Sky

By Scott Yanow
Ryan Cohan is a talented pianist and arranger/composer whose music stretches the modern mainstream of jazz. While one can hear the influence of Herbie Hancock and, to a lesser extent, Chick Corea, Cohan mostly displays his own personality in his playing and especially in his writing. For this sextet date (the two percussionists are only on two pieces while James Cammack and Larry Cohen split the bass chair), Cohan's writing frequently makes the group sound larger than a three-horn ensemble. The versatility of Bob Sheppard and Geof Bradfield, who between them play seven instruments, is a major asset. Cohan contributes four modern pieces (all of which clock in between seven and eight minutes), takes "Lush Life" as a piano solo, and displays some of his most colorful writing on the last five selections, which together form "One Sky: Tone Poems for Humanity." Excellent music, well worth several listens.

Glenn Zaleski

By Dan Bilawsky 
Ever overcook a dish? The end result is usually dry and wilted. How about undercooking? Has one of your meals ever succumbed to that fate? If it has, you've probably been disappointed by the raw and shapeless dish sitting before you. In composition, as in cooking, you need to find the perfect temperature that sits between those extremes. Go too far in either direction and the magic is ruined. Pianist Glenn Zaleski gets that. "Overwriting can stifle improvisation, but underwriting can result in monotony and chaos," he notes in his liner essay for this project. Knowing how far to go and when to stop is the challenge, and it's one that Zaleski lives up to again and again on Fellowship.
Those who were enamored with Zaleski's classics-heavy My Ideal (Sunnyside Records, 2015) will likely be won over by the charms of this one. With the same trio and a different focus, it makes for the perfect companion piece. This program leans toward originals, giving Zaleski, bassist Dezron Douglas, and drummer Craig Weinrib a chance to play with the pianist's recipes. That trio strikes a fine balance between instinctive movement and proper discourse throughout. The music manages to be held in place by intellectual girding, but it's constantly transformed and redirected through responsive maneuvering. Trite as it may be to hail yet another piano trio for its strengths in the open-eared interplay department, the compliment fits here. You can't argue with finely and constantly calibrated music.
The album takes off with "Table Talk," a propulsive vehicle enlivened by Zaleski's slaloming runs and powered by the Douglas-Weinrib engine. Then a change of mood comes quickly with "Westinghouse," a prismatic waltz dedicated to Billy Strayhorn. From there it's off to Duke Pearson's "Is That So," a debonair swinger that's self-assured in its delivery; "Fellowship," a work founded on and furthered by ruminative notions; "Out Front," a firm-footed, fifty-one second Douglas solo that serves as the introduction to the flowing "Homestead"; and "Lifetime," a vibrant, angular blues that proves to be one of the album highlights.
Those seven tracks give a strong enough and clear enough picture of what this trio is all about, but they don't tell the whole story. Zaleski and company save some of the most memorable music for last. In the penultimate position rests the second of two non-originals on the playlist—John Coltrane's "Central Park West." It's a song that's putty in this trio's collective hands, as one beautiful shape or phrase after another emerges in the telling of the tale. Then Fellowship reaches the finish line with "P.S.," a composition inspired by the work of vibraphonist-composer Peter Schlamb. It's an engrossing number that's at once elegant and loose in design, reverberating instantly on a deep emotional level. Some of Weinrib's most individualistic soloing on the record comes to the fore on this wonderfully fitful finale.
Glenn Zaleski has quickly become one of the most important pianists of his generation and it's easy to see why. He's a studied musician who's not bound by the rules, a believer in exactness who's willing to overturn order, and a precision architect who understands that musical designs are malleable. Following him on sideman dates for the last few years has been a pleasure; hearing him lead his own sessions is an even greater one. These ears look forward to following Zaleski wherever he may roam.
Track Listing:
Table Talk; Westinghouse; Is That So; Fellowship; Out Front; Homestead; Lifetime; Central Park West; P.S.
Glenn Zaleski: piano; Dezron Douglas: bass; Craig Weinrib: drums.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

1 Sem 2017 - Part Four

Alessandro Galati Trio
On A Sunny Day

By Neri Pollastri 
Dopo il riuscito Seals, il secondo disco del trio di Alessandro Galati conferma la crescita di una formazione la cui intesa continua a maturare grazie al maggior rodaggio e alle tournée fatte nel frattempo.
Il lavoro include, con una sola eccezione, tutte composizioni del pianista fiorentino, dall'andamento prevalentemente narrativo ma con atmosfere anche assai diverse tra loro. L'incipit e la title track, per esempio, sono brani caratteristici del suo stile, con personalissimi arpeggi alla tastiera, ma vedono anche la forte presenza del contrabbasso di Gabriele Evangelista -sempre più autorevole interprete dello strumento -che accanto ai soli rimane spesso in prima fila sulla scena insieme al piano, e con il sensibile lavoro di Stefano Tamborrino ai piatti. "In Beijing" è invece sviluppato su un tema orientale, ispirato proprio dal tour cinese dello scorso anno, e ha momenti di paritetica distillazione dei suoni; "Crazy Winter" è più swingante, ma alterna lirismo e astrattezza, mentre "Hungaria," dal forte andamento ritmico con un bell'intervento di Tamborrino alle percussioni, e "Insensatez," di Antonio Carlos Jobim, richiamano certe cose dei trii di Melhdau, senza alcuna agiografia.
Ma i momenti forse più alti del lavoro sono due brani narrativamente struggenti: "L'incontro," titolo che indica assai bene il contenuto melodico espresso dal pianoforte, a momenti quasi romantico, punteggiato da opportuni interventi "devianti" di contrabbasso e batteria; e "MMMM," il cui titolo cela la dedica a uno sfortunato collega, aperto da Evangelista e poi condotto in libertà, con nostalgica drammaticità, da Galati.
Un disco che mette in luce una formazione fortemente paritetica, classico quanto a temi ma anche giustamente attraversato da un libero dialogare dei suoni, così da essere al tempo stesso godibile, coinvolgente e sempre aperto. Va detto infine che, proprio come Seals lo scorso anno, anche On a Sunny Day ha vinto la classifica del miglior disco internazionale dell'anno della rivista giapponese Jazz Critique, come "Best Instrumental Album."
Track Listing:
Balloons; Insensatez; In Beijing; Crazy Winter in Town; L'incontro; On a Sunny Day; Drop Down Tango Shore; Hungaria; MMMM; Smell of the Air; Yellow Brain.
Alessandro Galati: pianoforte; Gabriele Evangelista: contrabbasso; Stefano Tamborrino: batteria.

Rantala/ Danielsson/ Erskine
How Long Is Now ?

By LondonJazz
The jazz piano trio holds a special place in most people’s affections. Finnish pianist Iiro Rantala, Swedish bassist Lars Danielsson and American drummer Peter Erskine have recorded an album of 13 short tracks whose linking factor is a relaxed, upbeat mood - warmth, if you will. The emphasis is on simple melody, particularly noticeable on the title track, and if that sounds like the sort of thing that could send serious jazz fans tut-tutting from the room, well, hold on just a minute: there is something fresh and uplifting about this music. It isn’t about minimalism, it’s about optimism. (If you prefer your Nordic minimalism without optimism, there’s always Tord Gustavson - whom I very much admire and enjoy, by the way). The point is, this lot are way past needing to show off their chops – although these are clearly in evidence on such demanding tunes as Assisi Consequently How Long Is Now? is the sort of album that even non-jazz fans should enjoy.
Erskine, who can kick ass with the best of them, is on musically light duties, often involving the delicate use of shakers or tambourines. Danielsson shines on the double bass, highlights including the eastern-sounding intro to his own composition Taksim By Night (Taksim is in Istanbul), and his solo on the beautiful Trust, where a subtle reverb effect adds just enough mystery.
On Jimi Hendrix’s ballad Little Wing, Rantala slowly builds on the drama of the melody, punctuating it with an ascending scale. Erskine’s Each Breath is the sort of tune Abdullah Ibrahim might write - light, melodic, uncluttered, driven by an insistent tom-tom rhythm, and garnished with another great solo from Danielsson.
Although Rantala has written most of the tunes, J.S. Bach has kindly contributed the Kyrie from his Mass in B Minor - a glance back to one of Rantala’s formative influences: the boys’ choir he sang with at the age of seven. And it sounds gorgeous, reminding us that the classics are there to be plundered by the jazz piano trio, as David Rees-Williams has proved.
After two tunes inspired by the Finn's two sons Bruno and Topi - the latter demonstrating what a muscular, rhythmic pianist Iiro Rantala is - things are wrapped up with Danielsson’s sweet, introspective Choral.
A lovely album. Play it in the morning and set yourself up for the day.

Ethan Iverson
The Purity Of The Turf

By Michael J. West/ JazzTimes
When pianist Ethan Iverson plays “Song for My Father” on his trio album The Purity of the Turf, it seems light-years removed from his best-known music (the Bad Plus, bands led by Billy Hart and Albert “Tootie” Heath). He plays the standard, well, like a standard, working the pocket for all it’s worth and piling up melodies within Horace Silver’s harmonic signature.
Until he doesn’t. Two thirds of the way through, Iverson rebounds from a conventional turnaround into a clanging, repeated chord that defies the song’s harmony, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Nasheet Waits’ support and any semblance of melody. The device only lasts about 10 seconds, but the effect is permanent. And the fun of listening to The Purity of the Turf is in the anticipation of Iverson throwing such wrenches into the works.
It happens to an unaccompanied (and mostly bridgeless) “Darn That Dream” at the close of the first chorus. Iverson introduces a dissonant, shape-shifting left-hand line that his right soldiers on against as though battling an unforeseen saboteur. On Count Basie’s blues “Sent for You Yesterday,” just when it seems he won’t subvert it, Iverson fills a whole chorus with a five-note vamp, then continues it into the next chorus at a slowing pace that strains so hard against Waits that it seems at first to distort the drum line. (It doesn’t.) On “Confirmation,” the mutations come every few bars.
His bandmates’ originals—Waits’ already-dense “Kush,” Carter’s “Einbahnstrasse” and lovely “Little Waltz”—do get rather straightforward readings (perhaps an indication of Iverson’s respect for their work). So do the pianists’ two originals, “Graduation Day” and the title track, though these are such simple tunes that their structures are nearly irrelevant to begin with. The album’s repertoire of standards and how he reorients them toward his own twisty concept comprise its considerable pleasure.

Eliane Elias
Dance Of Time

By Thom Jurek
Way back in 1991, Brazilian-born pianist Eliane Elias opened Illusions, her debut solo album, with a tune called "Choro." It offered a swinging distillation of the musical form that has been at the heart of her life-long study of samba. Since then, she's revisited her musical heritage over and over again, wedding modern jazz to post-1960 Brazilian jazz and MPB. In the process, she's developed an instantly identifiable sound as a pianist. Dance of Time follows 2015's fine Made in Brasil, a set that relied most heavily on bossa nova. Teaming again with collaborative producers Steve Rodby and husband Marc Johnson, Elias is accompanied by a stellar rhythm section: bassist Marcelo Mariano, guitarist Marcus Teixeira, drummer Edu Ribeiro, and percussionists Marivaldo dos Santos and Gustavo di Dalva on most of this set. Recorded in Brazil and New York, the date also includes a wonderful guest list that includes Take 6's Mark Kibble, Randy Brecker, Mike Manieri, Joao Bosco -- who adds his voice and guitar to a lovely reading of his own "Coisa Feita" -- and Toquinho.
The program contains readings of killer sambas such as "O Pato," Joao Donato's eternal "Sambou Sambou," the wonderful "Samba de Orly" (co-composed by Toquinho, who also sings on it, Vinicius De Moraes and Chico Buarque), and Ary Barroso's "Na Batacuda da Vida." Each of these numbers remains faithful to the originals, but Elias' arrangements, pianism, and breezy, syncopated vocals graft them so thoroughly onto swinging, straight-ahead, modern post-bop, it's difficult to accept they weren't always in the jazz fakebook. But she goes further. She injects Harry Warren's slippery pop blues "You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me," with a slow choro backbeat. She also transforms Kurt Weill's and Ogden Nash's sultry "Speak Low" into simmering, polished modern jazz with a fantastic multi-tracked backing vocal by Kibble and great soloing from Brecker. The best tunes here, however, are her own. "By Hand ("Em Maos") offers another backing vocal from Kibble, as Elias stitches samba onto bossa in a lithe, sensual groove. "An Up Dawn" is a vehicle for her intricate, syncopated chord voicings on her instrument's middle and lower registers, which create an interlocking dance of samba, tango, and bluesy ragtime. "Not to Cry (Pra Nao Chorar)" is a co-write with Toquinho -- who lends his guitar and weathered yet effective vocal in a duet. He began the tune in 1978 as a vehicle (for Elias) with the working title "Eliane." He completed it for this album with participation from the tune's muse. Their singing voices are an elegant yet earthy study in contrasts, while his lilting guitar chords pace her keyboard embellishments. Its tenderness sends the set off with a sweet whisper. Dance of Time is inspired, deftly musical, and truly accessible to a wide range of listeners from jazz to pop to Brazilian music. It's virtually flawless.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Tommy LiPuma 1936 - 2017

Tommy LiPuma, a record label executive and producer who made recordings with George Benson, Diana Krall, Paul McCartney, Natalie Cole, Dr. John, David Sanborn, Barbra Streisand, Queen Latifah, Leon Russell, Al Jarreau and Miles Davis, died Monday evening in New York City after a brief, undisclosed illness. His death was announced by Regina Joskow, a former colleague, family friend and jazz publicist.
Over the course of his career, LiPuma brought his artists — and labels — notable commercial success outside the realm pop albums. The recordings which he produced sold more than 75 million copies in total, including 35 titles that went gold or platinum. They include Natalie Cole's 1991 album "Unforgettable ... With Love" (which went seven times platinum); George Benson's "Breezin'" from 1976, which became a No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 Chart; and a string of hits with singer Diana Krall across 11 titles and over 15 million albums sold. Along the way, LiPuma also won five Grammy Awards and earned 33 Grammy nominations.
Born July 5, 1936, LiPuma grew up in Cleveland, and played saxophone as a student. His rise in the record business was the result of a very old-school progression through the music industry. As jazz bassist and composer (and Jazz Night in America host) Christian McBride noted at an 80th-birthday celebration concert held last year in LiPuma's honor, he went from "cutting hair to cutting hit records."
After working as a barber, LiPuma began packing vinyl records at a warehouse. Soon, he was offered a job in Los Angeles as a radio promoter for Liberty Records before taking a job in publishing. He then began to work as a producer on early recordings by performers including The O'Jays and Randy Newman.
He was the first staff producer at A&M records, and in the '60s co-founded the musically eclectic Blue Thumb Records with future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame co-founder Bob Krasnow. He went on to hold executive positions at many of the top American labels that produced jazz, smooth jazz and music aimed at older audiences; they included Warner Bros., Elektra, GRP/Impulse and Verve.
In 2011, he produced Paul McCartney's Concord album Kisses On The Bottom, which won a Grammy for Best Pop Standard Album (Vocal) along with projects with Leon Russell and the trumpeter Dominick Farinacci. His last production was a forthcoming album from Krall entitled Turn Up The Quiet, which is scheduled for release in May.
LiPuma is survived by his wife, Gill, daughters Jen Monti and Danielle Wiener, and four granchildren: Matty, Julia, Chloe and Ava.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Dave Valentin 1952 - 2017

By Sam Roberts
Dave Valentin, a Grammy Award-winning Latin jazz flutist who recorded dozens of albums and performed on six continents, died on Wednesday in the Bronx. He was 64.
The cause was complications of a stroke and Parkinson’s disease, said his manager, Richie Bonilla.
Born in the Bronx to parents who came from Puerto Rico, Mr. Valentin was playing conga and timbales professionally by the time he was 10. As a teenager, he became attracted to a girl who played the flute and, to better court her, switched instruments and taught himself to play. He went on to become one of the pre-eminent flutists in Latin jazz.
He won a Grammy for best Latin jazz album in 2003 for “The Gathering,” by the Caribbean Jazz Project, an album that also featured the vibraphonist Dave Samuels.
Jon Pareles of The New York Times wrote in a 1984 review that Mr. Valentin “plays with a sultry tone and dizzyingly agile technique, and his solos dart in and around his quintet’s Latin and funk rhythms.”
The percussionist and bandleader Bobby Sanabria said in an interview that Mr. Valentin was “a true son of the South Bronx wherever he went,” and that he “represented excellence as a musician through the flute in the world of jazz.”
David Joseph Valentin was born in the South Bronx on April 29, 1952, to parents who came to New York from a fishing village near Mayagüez, P.R. His mother was the former Sylvia Ramirez. His father, Jorge, a steward in the merchant marine, brought home bongos and congas from Brazil, which Dave began practicing on when he was 5. He took piano lessons when he was 9 and was playing percussion for $10 a gig when he was 10.
“At that time I was like a novelty playing with men,” he said in an interview with the Hamilton College Jazz Archive in 2000. “I was a little kid on timbales.”
His junior high school had a school band and a jazz band, an orchestra, a chorus and seven music teachers, one of whom, Stuart Soffer, recommended him to the High School of Music and Art (now the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan).
After graduating, he studied under the acclaimed jazz flutist Hubert Laws, who became his mentor. He also studied at Bronx Community College before becoming a music teacher.
“I taught seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade music for three years in the South Bronx,” Mr. Valentin told The Times in 2014. “I had a jazz band and taught them how to play, so when they graduated they were ready.”
His first album as a leader, “Legends,” was released in 1979 on the GRP label, with which he had a long and fruitful relationship as both a leader and a sideman.
In addition to releasing numerous albums under his own name, he recorded with the singers Patti Austin, Chris Connor and Nnenna Freelon, the guitarist Lee Ritenour, the pianist McCoy Tyner’s Afro-Cuban All-Stars and many others. He also toured with the percussionist Tito Puente and was music director of his Golden Latin Jazz All-Stars.
After suffering a stroke in 2012, he convalesced in a rented bungalow in the Harding Park section of the Bronx, surviving without savings or health insurance and dependent largely on donations, many of them handled by the Jazz Foundation of America. He eventually moved to a nursing home.
He is survived by a brother, George.
Mr. Valentin delighted in recounting how he became a flutist.
“I started out as a percussionist in school. But I wanted to meet this girl, Irene, who was a flutist,” he recalled in 2011. “She showed me a scale, and I played it immediately. Do-re-me-fa-so-la-ti-do. Without knowing nothing! So, I borrowed a flute, bought a Herbie Mann record and learned ‘Comin’ Home Baby.’
“Three weeks later, I went to her and played it,” he continued. “I knew I had her! She said, ‘I’ve been taking lessons for three years and you come in here in three weeks and play like that? Don’t ever talk to me again!’
“I lost the girl, but kept the flute.”

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Misha Mengelberg 1935 - 2017

By John Fordham
In his last years the Dutch pianist, composer and improviser Misha Mengelberg, who has died aged 81, would sometimes whistle and sing in conversation with visiting friends when advancing Alzheimer’s disease made words particularly elusive. But conversing this way was perhaps not as big an inconvenience for Mengelberg as it might have been for some, since much of the music he had initiated and participated in for more than 50 years resembled a spontaneous conversation in which narrative was capricious, logic unreliable and diversionary humour frequent.
Mengelberg was one of the most creative jazz pianists to emerge in the first phase of Europe’s breakaway from American jazz styles in the 1960s, good enough to record with the pioneering American reeds player Eric Dolphy in 1964 and to perform at the Newport jazz festival two years later. Mengelberg had been intrigued in his youth by the jazz methods of Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monkand Herbie Nichols, and had transcribed jazz solos while studying the classics. However, he was soon exposing those materials to creative pressures from non-jazz radicals including John Cage and the interdisciplinary experiments being pursued in the US and Europe by futurists, dadaists, and the 1950s Fluxus artists - as well as the Taoism of Lao Tzu.
The description of the movement by Fluxus pioneer George Maciunas as “a fusion of Spike Jones, gags, games, vaudeville, Cage and Duchamp” makes a pretty good description of Mengelberg himself. He would shift unceremoniously between traditional swing and flinty improv or graceful virtuosity and slapstick, inject weird wordless vocal variations into meticulously composed instrumentals, and tease audiences with the expectation of resolutions that never came. He had a reputation for forgetting appointments, sometimes arriving late for gigs, taking to a stage through the wrong door carrying a cup of coffee – and recording musical dialogues with his wife’s parrot, Eeko. Despite appearances, Mengelberg maintained that the bird hated him, since it would regularly mimic his best ideas better than he could play them himself.
He was also a co-founder (with fellow-composers including Louis Andriessen, Peter Schat and Reinbert de Leeuw) of the Amsterdam research and development centre STEIM (Studio for Electro Instrumental Music), a facility that later expanded to include studios, workshops and a concert hall. He was instrumental in the founding of Amsterdam’s celebrated Bimhuis jazz club in 1973 and a dedicated campaigner for the improvement of opportunities and rewards for musicians, helping in the latter role to encourage unprecedented levels of state funding for original jazz and improvisation in his homeland.But if Mengelberg could seem to be a flippant individual who took neither himself nor anyone else seriously, it was a smokescreen that concealed an influential lifetime of work as both an artist and an enabler. He was an initiator of the Instant Composers’ Pool (ICP), a collective comprising many of the Netherlands’ most inventive jazz avant gardists, which evolved a diverting chemistry of Ellingtonian swing, uninhibited free jazz and performance art.
Alongside Mengelberg’s active life as a piano improviser from the 60s to the 2000s, he was also a prolific composer and arranger: of solo piano pieces and ensemble music, a cantata, music dedicated to inspirations as different as Richard Wagner and Bill Evans, and repertory ventures for the ICP Orchestra in the 80s exploring the legacies of Ellington, Monk and Nichols.
He was born Misja Mengelberg to a musical family in Kiev, in what was then the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. His German mother, Rahel (nee Draber) was a harpist and his father, Karel, a film composer and orchestral conductor, while his great-uncle Willem Mengelberg was a celebrated conductor with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam.
In 1938, with Russian suspicion of German citizens growing, the family moved from Kiev to Amsterdam, where Misha learned classical piano but on leaving school began studies for an architectural career, switching in 1958 to music theory and composition at the Royal Conservatory.
But neither temperament, or the spirit of the times, were steering Mengelberg toward a straight-ahead jazz life. In 1964 he had participated in a Flux festival “happening” of Nieuwste Muziek en Anti-muziek (Latest music and non-music), and three years later he was setting up the radical ICP. During this period, he often appeared in entertaining duos with Bennink that mixed original themes, jazz and improv virtuosity and knockabout comedy, and the pair briefly formed a trio with the saxophonist Willem Breuker that exhibited a kind of acrimoniously pungent inventiveness.Mengelberg quickly developed into a jazz pianist capable of accompanying the world’s best, working as a sideman in clubs and studios, recording Last Date with Dolphy in 1964 and forming a quartet featuring the brilliant drummer Han Bennink (an encounter that became a lifetime collaboration) that performed at the 1966 Newport jazz festival.
In the 70s and 80s Mengelberg combined work at STEIM with leadership of a sometimes chaotically improvisational ICP Tentet, which also featured the German saxophone firebrand Peter Brotzmann and the Danish-American altoist John Tchicai. In the 90s, Mengelberg worked with the former Thelonious Monk saxophonist Steve Lacy, and with the saxophonist/composer Anthony Braxton on the latter’s Charlie Parker Project in 1993. He recorded a series of fine solo albums in the 90s (Impromptus, Mix and Solo) in which elegantly simple melodies or Monk-like phrasing often glimmered amid complex contemporary-classical structures and dissonances, and occasionally worked in duos with the freethinking Dutch saxophonist Yuri Honing.
He made a superb postbop recording in 2000, Four in One, in a quartet including Bennink and the American trumpeter Dave Douglas, memorably revisiting Hypochristmutreefuzz, his own inimitable angle on bebop, from the Eric Dolphy Last Date session.
As Alzheimer’s disease took hold of Mengelberg in the 2000s, his public performances became rare, though the old spark could still spring out of the most ostensibly hesitant approaches to the piano. Mengelberg’s final public performance was at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam in June 2014 – the last of three Oyster Sessions, in which the club furnished white wine and one of the old contrarian’s favourite seafood treats while he played and chatted with old and new friends from the ICP.
Mengelberg is survived by Amy, his wife of more than five decades, his daughter, Andrea, and his brother, Kaspar.