Sunday, April 20, 2014

1 Sem 2014 - Part Nine

John Taylor
In Two Minds




By Brian Morton
John Taylor and his two minds. A cryptic title for the new work of the English piano player, which was released a little more than one year after his previous recording for CAM JAZZ, “Giulia’s Thursdays”. This is a concise album, for piano only (or at least so one might assume), in which Taylor bares himself, revealing two sides of his personality: his innermost, quiet and introspective side as opposed to his more lively, vivid, and cheerful side. Are these his “two minds”? A quite regular alternation of pieces in opposite moods seems to confirm this assumption. The enigmatic words with which Taylor comments on his album lead to the same conclusion. But, certainly, that’s not all. It’s not by chance either that Taylor talks about being “in two minds whether to make this recording a solo or a duet project”. Or that he uses the words “balance”, “timing”, and “to play (at the same time)”. The weird, innovative idea in “In Two Minds” is the use of two pianos to make the two tracks interlock, overlap, and match perfectly. Thus, one can delight in guessing and discovering where this comes true, starting with the long “Ambleside Suite”, nineteen minutes of outstanding music that captivate listeners right from the beginning. A piece that prepares them to travel through the other six pieces on the album, minor, though not less shiny, gems. All of these compositions bear Taylor’s signature, except for “Phrase The Second” by his friend Kenny Wheeler and a tribute to Duke Ellington, “Reflections In D”, that virtually closes the album.
Having listened to the entire recording, the matter is still pending: apart from the two pianos, it will be up to each listener to lose himself among John Taylor’s notes, in order to work out the two souls in the record, what they tell, where they come from and where they lead to. Past and present. Tradition and innovation. Country calm and industrial frenzy. Travelling and home-coming. To each his own “two minds”, to be explored, grasped and metabolised.
Recorded in Ludwigsburg at Bauer Studios - Recording engineer Johannes Wohlleben.


Vijay Iver
Mutations



By John Kelman
There are times when it's possible to chart an artist's success through his association with record labels. Vijay Iyer—who, over the past 20 years, has built a reputation for genre-defying, forward-reaching music—spent the early part of his career on independent US labels including the highly regarded Pi Recordings, Savoy Jazz and Sunnyside Records. But it was with his move to Germany's ACT Music label and a series of trio and solo recordings, including the Grammy-nominated Historicity (2009), that the pianist began to garner even more attention. Still, as good as his four ACT recordings were, looking at the label's overall purview it's no surprise to find him relocating elsewhere in the same city of Munich, to the more highly esteemed ECM Records. Simply put, Mutations is a recording that Iyer could never have released on ACT, and it's that very freedom to explore less-traveled terrain—and the opportunity to work with an active producer in Manfred Eicher and his acute attention to sonic translucence—that makes this, hopefully, the beginning of a long and creatively fecund relationship.
On the strength of Mutations, it's clear that Iyer's relationship with Eicher is already bearing significant fruit. Focusing more on composition—though improvisation is by no means far away—at Mutation's core is the ten-part, 45-minute title suite, a dark, otherworldly piece of music for piano, string quartet and electronics. The suite is bookended by three pieces for solo piano and, in some cases, electronics: the crepuscular opener, "Spellbound and Sacrosanct, Cowrie Shells and the Shimmering Sea"—first heard on the pianist's 1995 Asian Improv Records debut, Memorophilia—is revamped from its original trio format into a solo vehicle, intrinsically providing Iyer more room for self-expression, especially when it comes to time; "Vuln, Pt 2" follows and, with the introduction of electronics that provide shimmering color and a subtle pulse, acts as a perfect segue into the Mutations suite; the closing "When We're Gone," with Iyer's sparely delivered abstrusities and subtle, panning electronic chimes, is the perfect coda to an hour-long journey through terrain defined by melodic cells or kernels and the manner in which subtle shifts—sometimes planned, other times a function of in-the-moment decision making when it comes to how and when to incorporate them—cause the very mutations that give the suite its title.
"Mutation I: Air" begins with a single bowed note, gradually joined by the rest of the string quartet to gradually build to a brighter, minimalist-oriented piece of counterpoint, a soaring violin line eventually emerging over the propulsive underpinning only to become subsumed as yet another kernel to be morphed, gradually, into something else, in this case a combination of long-bowed notes that drag the tempo down towards its conclusion. "Mutation II: Rise," is aptly titled; after a brief intro of delicately percussive electronics, the strings enter, beginning in a low register and gradually ascending until various members of the string quartet begin to inject oblique lines atop the persistent soaring of their partners. Iyer makes his first appearance in the suite on the equally well-titled "Mutation III: Canon," a contrapuntal miniature where thematic constructs and repeated phrases move in and out of the mix—one moment dominating, the next, supporting.
The ambitious nature of Iyer's work on Mutations may seem new, based on his extant discography; the truth, however, is something else. The MacArthur Foundation Fellowship recipient—often referred to as "the genius grant," and for good reason—has worked with classical instrumentation throughout his career—not just writing for them, but studying violin for 15 years and playing in string quartets and orchestras. It's a history that gives Iyer the deeper understanding which makes him particularly qualified to engage in these activities, even though he's been unable to record any of this work until now. The Mutations suite was, in fact, written in 2005, but has changed considerably over time, as Iyer explains, "by working with the same notated elements but pushing the real time element more and more."
"Mutation VII: Kernel" is, perhaps the best example of how Iyer combines compositionally defined constructs with the more unfettered possibilities of improvisation. Described, by Iyer, as "a kind of sculpted, open improvisation," the members of the string quartet are free to take compositional kernels and interpret them in ways that make each performance not just a new experience but, for the pianist/composer, "something new that I didn't even foresee."
Mutations is a landmark recording from an artist who, while already possessing an admirable discography, has clearly been limited to more decidedly jazz-oriented concerns. Representing a significant musical shift, if Mutations is but the first sign of the greater freedom ECM plans to afford Iyer, the only vaticinator of what's to follow will surely be its complete and utter unpredictability.
Track Listing:
Spellbound and Sacrosanct, Cowrie Shells and the Shimmering Sea; Mutation I: Air; Mutation II: Rise; Mutation III: Canon; Mutation IV: Chain; Mutation V: Automata; Mutation VI: Waves; Mutation VII: Kernel; Mutation VIII: Clade; Mutation IX: Descent; Mutation X: Time; When We're Gone.
Personnel:
Vijay Iyer: piano, electronics (2-13); Miranda Cuckson: violin (2-12); Michi Wiancko: violin (2-12); Kyle Armbrust: viola (2-12); Kivie Cahn-Lipman: violoncello (2-12).


Gwilym Simcock & Yuri Goloubev
Duo Art: Reverie at Schloss Elmau


Gwilym Simcock and Yuri Goloubev: Reverie At Schloss Elmau

By John Fordham
Gwilym Simcock felt released from the unbending rigours of a classical-piano schooling by the discovery of jazz in his teens, but he has never abandoned its inspirations – and in this duo with the remarkable Russian double-bass virtuoso Yuri Goloubev, he has a partner who shares his love of 19th-century Romanticism, and with whom he shares perfect pitch, flawless execution and an improviser's imagination.
Recorded at Act Records' favourite Alpine location, Duo Art shimmers and dances with European art-music references, which surface in the elegant themes (Goloubev's nods to Schumann and Brahms are particularly unambiguous), the liquid movement of Simcock's improv phrasing, and Goloubev's astonishingly light-touch lyricism and cello-like purity.
The Russian's fast pizzicato improvisation on his own trancelike Lost Romance is breathtaking. Simcock's Shades of Pleasure opens at a playful skip but shifts mood between reflectiveness and sprinting intensity, the fast-moving Antics finds both players revelling in the driving momentum while never missing a step, and the lively Flow draws the bassist into a floating high-register tone so pristine as to be almost eerie. The prevailing lyrical elegance doesn't hamper the improv attack of either participant, though the set might be a little over-pristine and melodically orthodox for hardcore jazzers.
Track Listing: 
Pastoral; Lost Romance; Shades Of Pleasure; Antics; A Joy Forever; Non-Schumann Lied; Flow; Vain Song; Reverie.
Personnel: 
Gwilym Simcock: piano; Yuri Goloubev: bass.


Jeff Ballard Trio
Time's Tales




By Ian Patterson
For several decades Jeff Ballard has been the first call drummer for a host of contemporary jazz's biggest names, notably pianist Brad Mehldau, with whom Ballard has played since 2005. Of late, however, Ballard has gone it alone. The 2013 debut shows of his quartet Fairgrounds, featuring electronics musician/bassist Reid Anderson, pianist Tigran Hamasyan and guitarist Lionel Loueke suggested Ballard's desire for greater compositional freedom and experimentation. The Jeff Ballard Trio's debut recording, on the other hand, is a fairly uncomplicated affair on the surface, with Loueke and saxophonist Miguel Zenon
bringing their prodigious wares to the table on a highly melodic selection of tunes that draws from various traditions.
Right from the off, on Loueke's dancing "Virgin Forest" Ballard's lively polyrhythms on kit and African percussion drive the trio. Loueke and Zenon glide between singing unison lines and riff-based accompaniment for each other's fizzing solos. Ballard duly steps up with a cracking solo over sparse accompaniment, sealing the tune with celebratory panache. Ballard's own composition, the dancing "Beat Street" is essentially a feature for the drummer, whose shuffling rhythms underpin some lively blowing from Zenon, and, in a quieter segment, a breezy melodic improvisation from Loueke. By contrast, George/Ira Gershwin's "The Man I Love" sees Ballard on brushes as Zenon and Loueke caress the melody with an improvisational subtlety that matches the trio's tender approach.
The Weather Report-influenced miniature "Free 1" segues into the heady "Hangin' Tree" by Queens of the Stone Age. Zenon's keening alto, Ballard's thumping back beat and Loueke's metal-ish guitar riffs create a potent brew that stylistically stands alone. On both this provocative rocker and the achingly beautiful ballad interpretation of Bela Bartok's "Dal (A Rhythm Song)" Ballard's trio shares something of the intensity and lyricism of saxophonist Yuri Honing's Wired Paradise. Zenon's delightful arrangement of singer Silvio Rodriguez' "El Reparador de Suenos" swings with Afro-Cuban grace, inspiring wonderful individual solos and collective groove.
The music covers surprisingly wide terrain; Loueke's elegant "Mivakpola"—with Ballard on hand drums—celebrates the beauty of a simple melody whereas the trio-penned "Western Wren (A Bird Call)," owes as much to the unified motifs and helter skelter call and response of bebop as it does to the birdsong that inspired it. The other collectively written number, "Free 3," stems from a moody, slightly abstract space somewhere in the vicinity of trumpeter Miles Davis' 1970s orbit, gathering momentum and intensity along the way.
Ballard's trio draws liberally from influences across time and geographical space. The exotic, beguilingly fused sounds, however, are much more than the sum of the trio's diverse backgrounds, which inevitably impart African, South and North American colors to the mix. Beyond the more obvious folkloric roots, the trio exudes an openness that embraces the simple and the experimental alike, the lyrical and the abrasive. This persuasive debut joyously disregards any distinctions between the timeless and the contemporary—the three musicians understand that the two are inextricably linked, and herein lies the simple formula for the magic of Time's Tales.
Track Listing: 
Virgin Forest; Western Wren (A Bird Call); Beat Street; The Man I Love; Free 1; Hangin’ Tree; Dal (A Rhythm Song); El Reparador de Suenos; Mivakpola; Free 3.
Personnel: 
Jeff Ballard: drums and percussion; Lionel Loueke: guitar and voice; Miguel Zenon: alto saxophone.


Tigran
Shadow Theater




By John Fordham
Tigran Hamasyan can count Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Brad Mehldau as fans. But even if the 26-year-old Armenian pianist and singer/songwriter stuns piano stars, Hamasyan walks a wider landscape, which is how he has moved so fast from the comparatively private and personal revelations of 2011's A Fable to this broad and vocal-oriented tapestry of Armenian folk songs modernised by the jazz, pop and electric music sensibilities of the leader and a fine band including the bell-toned singer Areni Agbabian and guitarist Charles Altura. Its inspirations in traditional songs encountered in childhood link it with Avishai Cohen's music, but Hamasyan is mercurial and impatient, and these graceful themes change course constantly: from soft confidences to pounding choral sounds on Erishta, through the squelchy synth bass and jazz sax invading the folk melody of Drip; the contemporary percussion effects and ghostly vocals of The Year Is Gone; or the fast jazz piano lines and agile vocal variations from Agbabian on Pt 2 Alternative Universe. Hamasyan's jazz sensibility and broad knowledge give him so many options that the music has a constantly capricious variety, even if the jazz soloing stays on a tight leash.

1 Sem 2014 - Part Eight

Stefan Aeby Trio
Utopia




By Anthony Shaw
Despite its ambitious, other-worldly title, this album by the young Swiss piano trio is a very grounded product, highlighting the compositional skills of its leader Stefan Aeby. On this his second album with the trio, Aeby continues his relaxed, sometimes lugubrious style of tune, making for a selection of tracks that meander along well trodden routes but also can bring the listener up short.
"Bruine," the sixth track, epitomises this with a languorous fade out that tempts the listener repeatedly to check that the disc is still playing, before merging directly into the combatively assertive "Riot" where Aeby takes on his rhythm section's grinding riff and gradually worms it into submission. The source of the convoluted percussive resistance appears to be the trio's former drummer Julius Sartorius, now replaced by fellow countryman Michi Stulz.
This is a very engaging disc, from the heady opening "Vevey" through some minimalist, delicately treated sounds to the final gentle chords. Aeby's partnership with bassist André Pousaz continues where it left off on the previous album in 2010 Are you..? His steady phrasing brings the album to its mellow conclusion, with Aeby's melodic but cheeky, light runs never stretching the envelope more than it can bear.
Track Listing: 
Vevey; September; Utopia; Es schneit doch hüt; Mingma; Bruine; Riot; Mindarai.
Personnel: 
Stefan Aeby: piano; André Pousaz: bass; Julian Sartorius: drums.


Mark Murphy
Memories Of You: Remembering Joe Williams




By Joel Roberts
It only takes a few moments for Mark Murphy to remind listeners why he's been one of the top vocalists in jazz for a generation. His new CD is Memories of You, a set of songs associated with the late, great Joe Williams.
It's not so much Murphy's voice, which is fine, if a little thin, as it is those intangibles that separate a singer from the pack: timing, delivery, confidence, and that unique ability to make everything swing. Over the years, Murphy has honed those skills to the point where he can swing almost effortlessly, conveying more with a whisper than most singers can with a shout. Just check, for example, his hushed approach to Ellington's "Just Squeeze Me" here. Less, with Murphy at the mic, is definitely more.
Murphy's particular brand of beatnik bebop has little in common with Williams' deep Basie blues, and he's wise to shake up his interpretations of Williams' best-known tunes, like "In the Evenin'," which he takes at a slower than slow pace, and "Everyday (I Have the Blues)," which he gives a full-on funk treatment. With backing by an exceptionally sympathetic quartet (Norman Simmons on piano, Paul Bollenbeck on guitar, Grady Tate on drums and Darryl Hall on bass), Murphy delivers a master class in jazz singing and one of the best albums of his career.
Track Listing:
1. The Comeback (Chatman) - 5:21 2. In the Evenin' (Carr/Raye) - 6:38 3. Everyday (Chatman) - 5:02 4. Memories of You (Blake/Razaf) - 5:59 5. Just Squeeze Me (Ellington/Gaines) - 4:29 6. If I Were a Bell (Loesser) - 3:06 7. Close Enough to Love (Mandel/Williams) - 4:34 8. Love You Madly (Ellington) - 3:23 9. I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good) (Ellington/Webster) - 5:20 10. Sposin' (Denniker/Razaf) - 3:05 11. A Man Ain't Supposed to Cry (Gimbel/Reid) - 6:25
Personnel:
Bill Easley - Soprano and Tenor Sax; Mark Murphy - Vocals; Norman Simmons - Piano; Grady Tate - Drums; Paul Bollenback - Guitar; Darryl Hall - Bass.


Chip Stephens Trio
Relevancy




By Carlo Wolff 
Chip Stephens is an impeccable technician, a clever, even daring composer, and a restless explorer of melody. Adept at swing and complexity, he unfurls piano lines with a restless authority that marries brawn to delicacy in this collection of originals and transmogrified standards.
Bracketed by a brisk, darting take on Carla Bley's angular "Syndrome" and a breakneck rendition of Bill Evans' "34 Skidoo," Stephens' second Capri CD never flags. It traverses the blues ("Somewhere Before the End"), swing (Sammy Cahn's "Be My Love," done proud and strutting), and the introspective and modernistic ("A Day in May," perhaps the most autobiographical tune, starts as a ballad, then devolves into something more narrative and architectonic).
Far less known than he should be, Stephens is a rippling player equally at home in Bley's "Syndrome" as in Rodgers and Hart's pensive "This Funny World." He's strong in both hands, giving his forays an equity of unusual mass and power. Sparked by the tasty drums of Joel Spencer (check out how he channels Philly Joe Jones on "Be My Love," also a showcase for Dennis Carroll's pointillist bass), "Relevancy" is a kind of comeback.
Stephens' third CD—the first, Bootcamp, was released on the Cleveland label Azica in 1994—is a lamentation-celebration for his father, who died in 2012, as well as a tribute to his own resiliency. In 2008, Stephens and his two sons were in a car accident so bad it was not known whether Stephens would be able to talk or walk again, let alone resume playing piano.
Stephens has indeed returned to playing piano, in spades. "C Hip's Blues," a sassy, heavily chorded affair, swings like a lost Bobby Timmons cut, and "This Funny World"—patient, rubato-steeped, darkling—addresses his reinvigoration with appropriate gravity. The one complaint is that the order of tunes on the jacket doesn't reflect the recording's sequence: "C Hip's Blues" precedes "A Day in May," not the other way around. But that's a design-layout issue.
As a sideman, Stephens is dramatic without ever being a showboat. As leader of this trio, he's authoritative and original, even in his interpretations. What the listener is likely to take away from this excellent CD is an impression of power and clarity, attributes that always make for memorable jazz. Good to have Stephens back on the set.
Track Listing: 
Syndrome; Like Someone in Love; Somewhere Before the End; This Funny World; C Hip’s Blues; A Day in May; Be My Love; 34 Skidoo
Personnel:
Chip Stephens, piano; Dennis Carroll, bass; Joel Spencer, drums.


Basquiat Strings
With Seb Rochford



By Joby Waldman 
Ben Davis’ stated aim is to make 'alternative string music that people want to listen to'. His group, Basquiat Strings, started life as a standard string quartet (two violins, a viola and a cello). Only later did cellist Davis decide to add double bass 'to strengthen the rhythmic accompaniment', and listening to the raucous, propulsive motion driving many of these compositions it’s understandable why he went a step further and asked drummer Seb Rochford to join the band for the group’s debut recording.
As a regular guest in Rochford’s Polar Bear it would be easy to assume, when listening to tracks like ''Forceful Beast'', that some of Seb’s rhythmic invention has rubbed off on Davis. But I suspect it’s more the case that the two musicians share some of the same sources of inspiration. There are strains of Mingus here, as well as perhaps a smattering of Shostakovich, and fans of Julius Hemphill’s brilliant early 70’s bass-less records such as Dogon A.D. and The Hard Blues may also recognise hints of the inspired, under-rated cellist Abdul Wadud.
Alongside the jazz and the classical influences, there are also folk elements including Macedonian tapan rhythms and Hungarian processional marches. Three standards receive the Davis treatment, which are sufficiently distinctive that the term reassessment is perhaps more apt than arrangement. Wayne Shorter’s ''Infant Eyes'' becomes a chilling meditation on the uncertainty of childhood and Ornette Coleman’s ''Lonely Woman'' depicts a degree of desolation perhaps only an all-string ensemble can achieve.
The rest of the album is comprised of finely-honed originals giving the impression this document has been a long time in the making. ''How Do Birds Hear Music'' is a joyful workout with passages of tight unison alongside sections of spirited improvisation, ending with a fantastically resonant dirge where the drums drop out entirely.
Basquiat Strings is not a pure jazz album but it does present a cohesive vision. And a very listenable one at that.


Danilo Pérez
Panama 500




By Victor L. Schermer 
Danilo Perez is one of our finest contemporary jazz pianists and educators. Most recently, he has recorded and toured extensively with the ground-breaking Wayne Shorter Quartet. Residing in the Boston area, Perez maintains close ties with his native Panama and has initiated jazz education and festival programs there. In this album, devoted to his cultural origins, he becomes the creator of a multi-dimensional musical suite in celebration of the 500th anniversary of Spanish explorer Balboa crossing the Isthmus of Panama.
Perez combines Panamanian, European, Latin-Hispanic, and Native Central American styles into a beautifully coherent musical feast, using two iconic jazz trios, strings, percussion, and native instruments, chants, and narratives to convey images and stories of Panamanian mythology, folklore, and personal memory. The result is musical magic and wonder, evocative of inner and outer worlds. In this respect, it becomes part of the repertoire of impressionist tone poems, such as Debussy's La Mer, or, closer to home, Villa Lobos' Bachianas Brasileiras. While the album has fifteen tracks, each consisting of its own musical development, it emerges as a unified composition that is best heard in its entirety.
Three of the tracks will illustrate how Perez weaves together several ensembles and diverse musical influences. (A detailed description of all tracks, with comments by Perez, is available at Mack Avenue Records: http://www.mackavenue.com/artists/detail/danilo_perez/)
"Rediscovery of the South Sea" is a prelude that takes the listener to the place of Balboa's first encounters. A laconic mixture of sounds is followed by a dance-like sequence with rhythm supplied by plucked strings, sticks, claves, and hand drums evocative of warm forests and beaches. Roman Diaz enters briefly as a storyteller. The first trio, consisting of Perez, bassist Ben Street, and drummer Adam Cruz frames the music. "Rediscovery" is suggestive of sequential images like Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, in this case a walk on an island paradise. Violins reinforce the imagery with colorful and impressionistic suggestibility, with Perez playing reflective chord clusters. The violins return with a rumba-like dance sequence aided by percussion, and Diaz recapitulates his narrative.
"Panama 500" is sustained by the continous rhythm of La Denesa, a traditional Panamanian folkloric dance. The second trio of John Pattitucci, Brian Blade and Perez forms the rhythm section. The atmosphere is made festive by violins and sensuous rhythmic pulses. Here, Perez's piano is vaguely reminiscent of Erik Satie's Gymnopedies with their limbic lightness. Throughout the album, Perez negotiates seamlessly and imaginatively between European classical and varied Latin American influences.
"Reflections On The South Sea" (i.e., the Pacific Ocean that faces south of Panama as the Isthmus twists between two continents) opens reflectively with an elegant contrapuntal exchange between the piano and cello. The rhythm develops a tango-like tension and accentuation, as if influenced by Astor Piazzola. Throughout the album, there are allusions to Brazilian, Argentinian, and other South American and Carribean musical idioms. Perez establishes a fascinating triangle between trio jazz, European classical variations, and a mix of Latin-Hispanic influences. All the while, native Panamanian and deep historical African gestures hold the music in a secure place, like the stilts on an elevated beach house. When you go to this place of Perez' invention, you'll want to stay.
Track Listing:
Rediscovery of the South Sea; Panama 500; Reflections on the South Sea; Abita Yale (America); Gratitude; The Canal Suite: Land of Hope; The Canal Suite: Premonition in Rhythm; The Canal Suite: Melting Pot (Chocolate); The Expedition; Narration to Reflections on the South Sea; Panama Viejo; Celebration of Our Land.
Personnel:
Danilo Pérez: piano, cowbell; John Patitucci: electric bass (2); acoustic bass (3, 4, 9); Brian Blade: drums (2 – 4, 9); Ben Street: bass (1, 5, 8, 11); Adam Cruz: drums (1, 5, 8, 11); Alex Hargreaves: violin (1, 2, 8); Sachi Patitucci: cello (3); Román Díaz: percussion, chant (1); Rogério Boccato: percussion (2, 3, 8); Milagros Blades: ripcador (1, 7); caja, pujador (7); Ricaurte Villareal: caja, güiro (1); José Angel Colman: vocals in guna language (3); Eulogio Olaideginia Benítez: gala bissu; gala ildi (4) (12); José Antonio Hayans: Gammuburwi (12); Marden Paniza: director and coordinator of guna musicians, author of the narration.

Monday, March 03, 2014

1 Sem 2014 - Part Seven

Antonio Faraò American Quartet
Evan  



By Bruce Lindsay
Pianist and composer Antonio Faraò has a wealth of experience in jazz, beginning as a youngster in his native Italy and developing through a career that extends over 30 years. Evan, dedicated to his young son, is Faraò's twelfth album as leader. The seven originals and two covers are credited to Antonio Faraò American Quartet. The band's title reflects the fact that the recording took place in the USA and gives an indication of Faraò's musical compatriots—bassist Ira Coleman, saxophonist Joe Lovano and drummer Jack DeJohnette.
It's Coleman who makes the first emphatic impression, with the tough, rolling, bass riff that underpins "Another Way." Coleman and Dejohnette are a constantly rewarding partnership, their confident rhythms providing an unerringly stylish foundation.
Faraò's contributions are just as stylish as Coleman and Dejohnette's—he seems to relish the freedom afforded by this talented and vastly experienced rhythm pairing. Alongside Coleman and Dejohnette his piano can get a little lost in the mix—although his phrasing and timing make it worth making the effort to listen. As a soloist he's much more up-front, taking control and playing with confidence. Faraò's solo on "Giant Steps" is superb—attacking with a flourish—but his loveliest performance is on "Per Caso." Lovano sits this one out, giving more space to Faraò and Coleman to craft their solos—space they both take full advantage of.
Lovano is probably the best-known of the quartet, but his contributions are less consistent than those of his colleagues. He adds endearingly joyful soprano to "Evan"—matching Judi Silvano's fragile wordless vocal—and similarly engaging tenor to "So Near." However, on the pretty "Roma Nun Fa La Stupida Stasera" and John Coltrane's classic "Giant Steps" he seems uncharacteristically detached. On "Riflessioni" Lovano, Coleman and Silvano seem to meld together into a single, repetitive, sound that forms a disappointing mid-point for the album.
"Tough" finds Lovano back on form—the tenor and piano interplay is terrific. "Two Faces" features another brisk, attacking, solo from Faraò, punchy and assertive bass and drums from Coleman and Dejohnette and Lovano's tight, positive tenor sax. It rounds off Evan on a high, showcasing Faraò's writing talent as well as the American Quartet's command of their instruments. A fitting close for the album.
Track Listing: 
Another Way; Evan; So Near; Per Caso; Riflessioni; Roma Nun Fa La Stupida Stasera; Giant Steps; Tough; Two Faces.
Personnel: 
Antonio Faraò: piano; Joe Lovano: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Ira Coleman: double bass; Jack Dejohnette: drums; Judi Silvano: vocals (2, 5).


Mike Jones Trio
Plays Well With Others



By Jack Bowers
Pianist Mike Jones not only Plays Well with Others, he plays well—period. Using a sharp, two-fisted style that hearkens back to Dave McKenna, Dick Hyman and even Earl Hines, undergirded by a buoyant melodicism worthy of Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan or his namesake Hank Jones, it's clear there's not much that Jones can't accomplish musically with keyboard in hand. And when the "others" he is playing with are bassist Mike Gurrola and drummer Jeff Hamilton, so much the better.
Gurrola represents a step up from Jones' "regular" bassist, the magician Penn Jillette, with whom "Jonesy" (Jillette's pet name for him) has been sharing the stage for more than a decade as the opening act preceding Penn and Teller's popular Las Vegas comedy / magic show. Jillette "found" Jones playing at a Las Vegas nightspot and let him know he could open for Penn and Teller with one proviso, that the neophyte Jillette would be his bassist. Given that choice, what could Jones do? He and Jillette have been performing together ever since.
Happily (for the listener), Jillette generously stepped aside for this recording date to make room for Gurrola. Add the perceptive and resourceful Hamilton and you have a piano trio that can stand its ground against any other. While Jones sets the tone with his bright and engaging melodic lines and clever ad libs, Gurrola and Hamilton provide the rhythmic muscle and unwavering support that keep the motor humming and the bus moving forward. And even though Jones has technique to burn, he is thoroughly at ease with a ballad, as he shows on "September Song," "I Know Why," "I Thought About You" and "Detour Ahead" (the last sans Gurrola and Hamilton). The session harbors a pair of charming blues ("Box Viewing Blues," "Obscuro Blues"), both written by Jones, to chaperon the tunes already named plus the standards "Besame Mucho," "It's a Wonderful World," "Day by Day," "Deed I Do" and "I'm Old Fashioned," Consuelo Velazquez' "Besame Mucho," Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Corcovado" and Fats Domino's "I'm Walkin.'"
"Magicians' hands aren't quicker than the eye," Penn Jillette writes, "but Jonesey's fingers might be." While quickness is assuredly a virtue, so is the ability to produce beautiful music at any tempo. Jones, Gurrola and Hamilton are aces-high in both areas, traits that help make Plays Well with Others a superlative piano trio recording.
Track Listing: 
Besame Mucho; It’s a Wonderful World; September Song; I Know Why (And So Do You); Box Viewing Blues; Detour Ahead; Day by Day; Corcovado; I’m Walkin’; Deed I Do; I’m Old Fashioned; I Thought About You; Obscuro Blues.
Personnel: 
Mike Jones: piano; Mike Gurrola: bass; Jeff Hamilton: drums.


Neil Cowley Trio
The Face Of Mount Molehill



By Dave Sumner
The danger of composing tunes with catchy hooks and enthusiastic infusions of a string ensemble for a jazz album is that it gets dismissed as gussied up pop music; not jazz, just jazzy. Either unaware or unconcerned with the risk, pianist Neil Cowley presents a series of warm tunes that wear their heart on their sleeve. It's not the first time that unguarded sincerity overcame risk and danger.
Cowley comes from a background more rooted in the rock, soul and funk of the UK scene, and that influence is evident from the first note. Here's an album with stylized grooves, fuzzy harmonies and rich melodies, and which could stunt double as a Badly Drawn Boy soundtrack. And, yet, Cowley finds a way to tether it to jazz. The trio is rounded out with Rex Horan on double bass and Evan Jenkins on drums.
The first track, "Lament," opens with an introspective countryside walk on piano, odd percussion like sounds off in the distant city, and strings like sunlight streaking across the path. It's a tune thick with imagery, and it's a theme that repeats throughout.
The second track, "Rooster Was A Witness," provides an immediate contrast, with anthemic piano riffs and up-tempo rhythms that have at least one foot in rock territory. Strings make an appearance with a swirl and gust of harmony, adding buoyancy to an already lively tune.
This leads into "Fable," which knocks up the pulse count even higher. There's a nice push and pull with the rhythm on this song, and it has the strange result of providing more of a cerebral engagement and much less foot-tapping than would be expected at first blush.
Here's where Cowley brings the sledgehammer down upon the heart-strings. During the next several tracks, he unabashedly sends the string ensemble out to lead the charge, the piano trio following behind, and sometimes by more than a few steps; piano and bass frequently sound distant, an effect that's likely not unintentional. It's also quite powerful. And when he adds the eerie vocal effects of "Mini Ha Ha," the strangeness only serves to enhance the beauty of the song.
On "Slims," Cowley returns with some piano bounce. Jenkins' drumwork provides a sharp edge to the song, while Horan's bass navigates the trail between.
"Distance By Clockwork" is the best candidate for purest distillation of the soul of this album. Cowley has constructed a song within a song. Cyclical piano lines that seem to lead to new solos and new circumferences, perpetually bisected by hopscotch drum rhythms, while bass eddies and curls at the edges. And, of course, sweeping waves of string ensemble, sometimes providing an undercurrent of harmony, sometimes dramatically washing over everything in sight. It's a composition that could have easily failed and been canned as melodramatic were it not for the fact that Cowley pulls it off.
The title track is the only weak link on the album. It repeats some of the motifs of earlier anthem-rock tracks, but with a bit too much exuberance, making it sound like it had been hurriedly assembled.
The album ends with a trio of compositions that come off as an extended goodbye. They are suffused with an undeniable finality, but just as the album had multiple thematic devices, it appears that Cowley wished to send listeners off with an au revoir in each of those sounds. It's not a bad thing or a bad idea, but the album may have been stronger with a more definitive, and prompt, final note.
There are going to be those who aren't thrilled with the direction Cowley has taken with The Face of Mount Molehill, claiming it to be less experimental, less daring. They'd be wrong. When measured in terms of sincerity, honest displays of emotion carry a lot of weight, and that kind of impact shouldn't be dismissed. This is an album that deserves to be respected for what it is and not what others wish it to have been.
Tracks: 
Lament; Rooster Was A Witness; Fable; Meyer; Skies Are Rare; Mini Ha Ha; Slims; Distance By Clockwork; The Face Of Mount Molehill; Hope Machine; La Porte; Sirens Last Look Back.
Personnel: 
Neil Cowley: piano; Rex Horan: double bass; Evan Jenkins: drums.


Mark Masters Ensemble
Everything You Did: The Music Of Walter Becker & Donald Fagen



By Jack Bowers
Another tribute album from leader / arranger Mark Masters whose splendid ensemble has previously paid homage to trumpeter Clifford Brown, saxophonist Lee Konitz, trombonist Jimmy Knepper and the Gershwin brothers (Porgy & Bess Redefined). This time around it's the music of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, better known by their collective name, Steely Dan. The album, says Masters, is "a quartet recording with an ensemble," and said foursome is comprised of trumpeterTim Hagans, tenor saxophonist Billy Harper, bassist Hamilton Price and drummer Peter Erskine. The ensemble, he writes, "is there to create colors for the soloists to respond to . . .," which it does efficiently on every number.
While opinions may vary about the music of Steely Dan, there's no doubt where Masters stands; he's squarely in their corner, and the arrangements, he notes, are designed to "free [their] music from the earthly confines, in some cases, of harmonic structure and allow the quartet . . . to create the magic that great improvisers birth." In doing so, he makes use of such varied instruments as the vibraphone, French horn, bass clarinet, bassoon, English horn and alto flute to lend the music an ethereal and exotic veneer, adding to the mix the sympathetic voice of Anna Mjoll on "Charlie Freak" and "Black Cow." Harper fashions a consentient solo on "Freak," and bass clarinetist Brian Williams does likewise on "Cow."
Elsewhere, Becker and Fagen's compositions, while arguably less than memorable on their own, serve as reliable points of departure for the ensemble and soloists. Nowhere is this more evident than on the tranquil ballad "Fire in the Hole," whose enticing alto solo by Gary Foster is among the album's highlights. "Fire" is followed by the light-hearted "Kings," on which the quartet takes no prisoners, the relatively well-known "AJA" (from Steely Dan's album of that name) and blues-based shuffle "Chain Lightning," enhanced by Don Shelton's alto sax and earnest solos by Price, trombonist Ryan Dragon, alto Oliver Lake and baritone Gary Smulyan (who offers another strong statement on "Do It Again," which also showcases Gene Cipriano and Sonny Simmons on English horn and bassoonist John Mitchell).
Whatever the theme, Masters and the ensemble always deliver the goods, and the music of Steely Dan has probably never sounded better than it does here.
Track Listing: 
Show Biz Kids; Bodhisattva; Do It Again; Charlie Freak; Black Cow; Josie; Fire in the Hole; Kings; AJA; Chain Lightning.
Personnel: 
Mark Masters: leader, arranger; Louis Fasman: trumpet; Les Lovitt: trumpet; Don Shelton: alto, soprano sax, alto flute; Gary Foster: alto sax (7); Oliver Lake: alto sax (10); John Mitchell: tenor sax, bassoon; Gene Cipriano: tenor sax, English horn; Gary Smulyan: baritone sax; Stephanie O’Keefe: French horn; Sonny Simmons: English horn (3); Les Benedict: trombone; Dave Ryan: trombone; Ryan Dragon: trombone; Dave Woodley: trombone (9); Brian Williams: bass clarinet; Brad Dutz: vibes, percussion. Special guests — Tim Hagans: trumpet; Billy Harper: tenor sax; Hamilton Price: bass; Peter Erskine: drums; Anna Mjoll: voice.


Aaron Parks
Arborescence



By John Kelman
Slowly but surely, over the past several years, ECM Records has forged relationships with some of New York City's most impressive musicians—no mean feat given that, despite the Big Apple no longer being the jazz mecca it once was, it certainly remains a lightning rod for some of the world's most creative musicians, ranging from trumpeter Ralph Alessi and saxophonistsTim Berne and Chris Potter, to pianists David Virelles,Jason Moran and Craig Taborn—all of whom have been represented, either as guests or leaders, on some of the most uncompromising and impressive music to be released in recent times—not just on the heralded German label, but anywhere, period.
Add to that list pianist Aaron Parks—who, like Taborn's superb first recording as a leader for the label (2011's Avenging Angels), makes his own ECM debut by contributing another fine installment to a label that has, across four decades beginning with Chick Corea's Piano Improvisations Vol. 1 (1971) and Keith Jarrett's Facing You (1972), defined the litmus test against which all subsequent solo piano recordings are measured.
Parks is a rarity: a young musician who, at a time when such things are difficult if not impossible, spent his first few professional years mentored by an older musician, in this caseTerence Blanchard. The trumpeter met Parks when the pianist was 15, recruiting him three years later and giving him an opportunity to see how it was done both on the road and in the studio, so that when Parks stepped out on his own with the acclaimed Invisible Cinema (Blue Note, 2008), he was well and truly ready.
In the ensuing years, Parks has become increasingly in demand, including membership with the egalitarian James Farm, the promise of its 2011 eponymous Nonesuch debut confidently delivered with more recent live performances, and with Kurt Rosenwinkel, whose Star of Jupiter (Wommusic, 2012) represented yet another career milestone for the upwardly mobile guitarist.
None of which prepare for Arborescence, a suite of eleven largely spontaneous creations that reflect a great many touchstones while, at the same time, speaking with a voice that has fully matured, now plainly assertive of its own personality. The opening "Asleep in the Forest" and darkly pastoral "Elsewhere" feel somehow a kinship to French composer Erik Satie, were he to have hailed from the forests of the Northwestern United States (where Parks grew up) instead of the southern estuary of the Seine River in Northwestern France. Minimalistic hints imbue the repetitive motif-driven "In Pursuit," where Parks' virtuosity—never an end, just a means—is more dominant, while the skewed and, at times, abstruse lyricism of "Branchings" and "Past Presence" hint at Paul Bley's innovations in the realm of spontaneously composition, despite Parks' independent voice a constant delineator throughout this 50-minute set.
With Parks turning 30 a week prior to Arborescence's October 15 release, the pianist's milestones continue to accelerate. His past work may have been consistently impressive, butArborescence represents the true watershed of Parks' arrival as an artist whose future shines brighter with every passing year.
Track Listing: 
Asleep in the Forest; Toward Awakening; Past Presence; Elsewhere; In Pursuit; Squirrels; Branching; River Ways; A Curious Bloom; Reverie; Homestead.
Personnel: 
Aaron Parks: piano.


Mozdzer³ Danielsson² Fresco¹
Polska



By ActMusic
"Polska" would not sound the way it does, if it had not been born in a trio with the Swedish bassist Lars Danielsson and the Israeli percussionist and singer Zohar Fresco. Możdżer found these soul mates ten years ago: the two already showed themselves to be a dream team of intuitive ensemble playing on the Danielsson albums "Pasodoble" (as a duo) and "Tarantella". And Danielsson is not only one of the best jazz bassists (and cellists!) in the world, he also has similar compositional preferences to Możdżer, which can be heard here on his tracks "Africa" and the touching "Spirit". As a member of "Bustan Abraham", "Ziryab" and "Noah", Fresco is one of the Israeli pioneers who began in the eighties joining music from the west with music from the east, Arabian with European. Unperceived here, these three have already recorded two albums in Poland that went double platinum (just like the recent "Komeda")!
Now, no matter where you are, with "Polska" you can discover one of the most fascinating and extraordinary trios in the world with Leszek Możdżer as its creative mastermind. One that sweeps you away with the pulsating "KarMa Party" or simply enchants with the balladesque "Norgon", and one that with the aid of the Polish Symphony Orchestra knows how to provide a grand finale, with a version of Jimi Hendrix' "Are You Experienced?".
Personnel:
Leszek Możdżer / piano, celesta, vibraphone, synth
Lars Danielsson / cello, bass
Zohar Fresco / percussion, vocal
Track Listing:
Chai Peimot, She Said She Was A Painter, Weeks/ Shavuot, Yearning For A Nest
Polska, Africa, KarMa Party, Norgon, Gsharim, Spirit, Are you Experienced?
Recording Information:
Produced by Możdżer - Danielsson - Fresco
Recorded at Alvernia Studios, mixed and mastered: Tadeusz Mieczkowski
Additional sound engineering: Piotr Witkowski, Piotr Taraszkiewicz
Technical Supervisors: Roman Oses, Krzysztof Bielewicz . Studio executive: Daria Druzgała
Orchestra recorded at Recordings Studios of Polish Radio – S1
Synth and celesta recorded at Studio 701 Wrocław.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

1 Sem 2014 - Part Six

Ramberto Ciammarughi
New Music For Trio



By  Francesco Peluso Fedeltà del Suono - La Bacchetta Magica
Il pianista di origine umbra Ramberto Ciammarughi offre, in questo primo lavoro a proprio nome per la romana CAM JAZZ, un viaggio compositivo ed espressivo dalle tenui, sfumate ed eleganti coloriture musicali, registrato dal vivo nella sua terra natale nel 2006 presso il “Teatro dei Riuniti” di Umbertide (PG). In compagnia di due icone del jazz internazionale del calibro di Miroslav Vitous al contrabbasso e Gerald Cleaver alla batteria, Ramberto Ciammarughi mostra la propria cifra stilistica in un susseguirsi di performances in trio che alternano momenti di pura estasi riflessiva ad altri d’intensa esuberanza formale. In apertura, subito un sognante omaggio al vasto mondo degli standard con la evergreen “Bye Bye Blackbird” di Ray Henderson e pietra miliare di “Miles”, incalzata dall’irrefrenabile flusso ritmico di “Anabasys” a firma del band leader, in cui il binomio fra il corposo groove del contrabbasso e il dinamico esternarsi del pianoforte la fanno da padrone. Poi, “New Music For Trio” si dipana fra le malinconiche accezioni di “Johannes B” e “Come sempre”, che lasciano il passo alle tensioni ritmico-espressive di “B-Loose” e “In D”, in un imprevedibile e ammiccante saliscendi di atmosfere che, vedi l’intrigante “Impro Trio” di Vitous e la conclusiva “W On W” di Ciammarughi, mettono in gran spolvero il gusto estetico del bravo pianista di Assisi e il perfetto interplay raggiunto con i suoi talentuosi partner. Pertanto, la “nuova musica per trio” di Ramberto Ciammarughi rappresenta una poetica narrazione della sua personalità artistica, che regala circa cinquanta minuti di musica in cui è racchiusa una condivisa visione di jazz e laddove il navigato e granitico incedere del contrabbasso di Miroslav Vitous, il frenetico drummin’ di Gerald Cleaver e il sicuro pianismo di Ramberto Ciammarughi spaziano dalla musica dotta al modern mainstream, senza inciampare mai in alcun passaggio a vuoto o produrre soluzioni melodico-armoniche di maniera.
La ripresa audio di questo lavoro, mixata da Miroslav Vitous presso l’Universal Syncopations Studios di Mondovì, mostra un’ottima riproduzione timbrica e una strabiliante ricostruzione dell’originale spazialità live.

By CamJazz
For the first time on CAM JAZZ, Ramberto Ciammarughi, a pianist from Assisi, makes his debut on the Roman label with his "new music for a trio". A top-class trio, with the well-known Miroslav Vitous on double bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. These two musicians are in perfect harmony with the leader, thanks also to the numerous collaborations during the course of their training.
Ciammarughi wrote almost all of the tracks. He leaves Vitous the honor and task of starting up an excellent “ImproTrio”, which follows an outstanding version of Miles Davis’ “Bye Bye Blackbird” (opening the album), which represent the only exceptions in a musical discourse where the pianist’s style is always easily recognized, rich in touch and in the articulation of the musical architecture. In the overwhelming, intense piece “Anabasys”, we hear Ciammarughi and Vitous out in front, sustaining an obsessive, burning rhythm. The calmness of “
Come Sempre”, some passages of which are almost movie-like, contrasts like chiaroscuro with “B-Loose”, an excellent example, and extremely energetic, of the feeling created by the leader with his valuable travel companions.
This journey confirms Ciammarughi as one of the most polished, original, curious interpreters of his instrument. The musician, who has accustomed us to phases of creativity alternating with moments of silence and thought, is captured here, live, in 2006, recorded during some gigs at the “Teatro dei Riuniti” in Umbertide, not far from his native city of Assisi, and mixed by Miroslav Vitous in Mondovì, at Universal Syncopations Studios.
“New Music for Trio” is a CD to be listened to without a break, like those concerts, in which Ciammarughi asks the audience not to applaud between pieces, so as to keep each listener constantly poised on the edge of emotion.
Recorded live at Teatro dei Riuniti - Umbertide
Live recording engineer Marco Cocchieri


Ralph Alessi & Fred Hersch
Only Many



By George Kanzler at The New York City Jazz Record
Trumpeter Ralph Alessi and pianist Fred Hersch are not strangers, having worked together in Hersch’s quintet. That they are familiar and compatible with each other is evident in the rapport achieved on this duo album, made up largely of originals and improvised collaborations. The 14 tracks here range from pointillist abstractions like “Ride”, a fast, jabbing creation, and “Peering”, a slower, more deliberate meditation, to more lyrical, melodic pieces like the gravely solemn “Campbell” and Paul Motian’s sensuous “Blue Midnight”. Thelonious Monk’s “San Francisco Holiday” is puckishly animated by Harmonmuted trumpet and Hersch referencing Monk pianisms as well as the composer’s fondness for repeating his theme in solos and comping.
Alessi commands an arsenal of trumpet techniques, equally at home playing darting, crisp runs and smeared, smudged notes as long, mellifluous tones and sumptuous lines like those on his own hymnlike “Humdrum” or the ringing, clarion “Hands”. Aside from the seven largely improvised collaborations, the trumpeter provides four compositions. Hersch’s only work is the gleaming “Calder”, a piece with bright, spiraling lines and geometric intersections between the two instruments that recall the namesake’s mobiles. At times, Hersch’s piano is spare, almost skeletal, interacting with Alessi as well as with himself, his two hands utterly distinct. There’s a fountain-like tinkling on the collaboration “Floating Head Syndrome”, Hersch in a high range contrasting with Alessi’s lower, breathy tone. Yet his playing is romantically fullbodied on Alessi’s “1st Dog”, one of the few originals with a catchy tune, reinforced by snappy trumpet phrases.
But the often cerebral and compelling force of this collaboration rests on the interaction and interplay between the two, especially as evinced in the longest track: “Someone Digging in the Ground”, a tour de force of both musical technique and dual invention sustained for over ten glorious minutes.

By CamJazz
The second work by Ralph Alessi on CAM Jazz, after the successful debut of “Cognitive Dissonance”. This time the trumpet player shares the honor of appearing on the cover with Fred Hersch, a pianist of great class, who is in perfect accord with his partner in adventure. “Only Many” is prevalently a CD for four hands, proof of the great complicity created in the studio at the time of the recording.
The brief, intense introduction, “Ride”, seems to be almost a warning to the listener, a call to concentrate on what will happen during the 60 minutes of the album. The velvety “Hands”, composed by Alessi alone, is the prelude to one of the two “cover” pieces on the CD, the wonderful “San Francisco Holiday” by a Thelonious Monk, who can never be mentioned and reinterpreted enough. We have to wait until almost the end of “Only Many” to hear the other virtual guest, Paul Motian, with “Blue Midnight”.
Hypnotic, expanded themes, from Monk to Motian, in which improvisation and interplay reign supreme. Hersch and Alessi pursue each other, chase each other, overlap each other and slowly find increasingly different languages and expressive forms, resulting in an utterly fascinating, magnetic CD. Short, essential themes, almost always lasting between two and four minutes, except for the two interpretations of other composers and the long suite, “Someone Digging in the Ground”, which is the prelude to “Snap”, the grand finale.
A new, interesting development of the artistic dialogue between the pianist and the trumpet player that began a few years ago in Pocket Orchestra by Hersch and destined to further, surprising developments.
Recorded at Dolan Recording Studios/NYU Steinhardt School
Recording engineer Paul Geluso


Kit Downes
Light From Old Stars



By Bruce Lindsay
Given pianist/composer Kit Downes' standing in the UK jazz scene it's rather surprising that Light From Old Stars is only the third album he's released under his own name. It's less surprising when his relative youth—he was still in his mid-20s when he recorded this album—and active membership in bands such as Troyka and Stan Sulzmann's Neon are added to the mix. All this musical activity might seem to leave little time for other considerations, but at least one non-musical interest is key to the development of Light From Old Stars.
As the album's title suggests, the key is Downes' fascination with science generally and astronomy in particular. The cover design, by Lesley Barnes, takes this astronomical inspiration and adds a touch of mysticism. The sleeve notes, by NASA astrobiologist Danielle Scalice, take a more scientific perspective yet still serve to emphasize the mystery of the stars. "Wander And Colossus" reflects this mystery and fascination most clearly, driven by Downes and drummerJames Maddren's rolling, seemingly eternal, rhythm.
Not all of the old stars which inspire Downes are distant entities. He readily acknowledges the influence of pianists Paul Bley and Jan Johansson and both get tunes in their honor—Downes is particularly impressive on the jagged and darting "Bleydays." Downes also admires legendary blues musicians like Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and Skip James—whose impact Downes acknowledged with "Skip James" on his second album, Quiet Tiger (Basho Records, 2011). Their influence is also at the heart of Light From Old Stars, especially on "Outlawed," a loose-limbed tune redolent of laidback country blues which features Calum Gourlay's rootsy bass solo.
Two tunes with ornithological titles inject some engaging eccentricity into the mix. "Owls" findsJames Allsopp's bass clarinet twitting and twooing on the cheerfully upbeat opening and closing passages, while Lucy Railton's scary cello creates a much darker mood in the middle section. "The Mad Wren"—which may or may not refer to this album's drummer—jumps and bounces just like the tiny bird as it switches between moods and tempos.
The old stars of the cosmos and the old stars of the blues may seem to have little in common—but both of them have inspired the creation of a lovely, rewarding, album. Light From Old Stars is Downes' most accessible and imaginative album to date, a worthy addition to an already impressive body of work.
Track Listing: 
Wander And Colossus; Bleydays; Outlawed; What's The Rumpus; Two Ones; Falling Dancing; Owls; The Mad Wren; Jan Johansson.
Personnel: 
Kit Downes: piano, organ (3, 5, 8); James Allsopp: tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet); Lucy Railton: cello; Calum Gourlay: bass; James Maddren: drums.


John Abercrombie Quartet
39 Steps



By John Kelman
John Abercrombie has rarely played with pianists, at least in his own groups and throughout his extensive discography as a leader for ECM Records that began with the immediate classic, 1975'sTimeless. Other than a brief reunion with that record's group for 1984's Night, the veteran guitarist has, in fact, only recorded with one other piano-based group, the quartet responsible for Arcade(1979), Abercrombie Quartet (1980) and M (1981)—all featuring another intrepid improviser, Richie Beirach, and slated for released in 2014 as an Old & New Masters Edition box that will finally see all three in print on CD (two for the first time). Meanwhile, 39 Steps is, then, Abercrombie's first recording as a leader with a pianist since Night, though it's far from a first encounter.
39 Steps may be pianist Marc Copland's long overdue ECM debut—a post-Bill Evans pianist whose attention to touch and space have long made him a worthy candidate for the label's pristine sonic approach—but this group, with the exception of drummer Joey Baron, who replaces original drummer Billy Hart, has been working together, on occasion, since Second Look (Savoy Jazz, 1996), reuniting in 2007 for Another Place (Pirouet, 2008). But if both dates featured Copland as ostensible leader, they were all rather egalitarian when it came to compositional contributions, split fairly evenly between the pianist and Abercrombie.
39 Steps represents a couple of significant differences, beyond Baron's recruitment. First, the lion's share of the compositions belong to Abercrombie, who rightfully assumes leader credit here, with Copland contributing only two of the set's ten pieces, along with one group-credited free improv and an indirect closing nod to tradition with a reading of "Melancholy Baby" that still fits within the quartet's overall sphere of approach; freely interpreted, in this case with no time and no discernible changes, its melody remains recognizable amidst the freewheeling yet carefully controlled freedom and interaction within which this group operates.
The other important change is, for the first time, having an external producer—in this case, ECM label head Manfred Eicher. As good as Copland's two previous recordings sound, there's a notable and tremendous difference in how this date sounds: more delicate, more rarefied, with every note discernible right down to its final decay and even the most delicate touch of a cymbal occupying its rightful place in the overall soundscape. From the first notes of Abercrombie's opening "Vertigo," with Copland's repeated single-note motif supported by both his left hand and Abercrombie's careful voicing—one of the guitarist's strengths always being his intrinsic ability to work with other chordal instruments without either ever getting in the way of them—it's clear just how transparent everything is, allowing the music to breathe in ways that previous collaborations with Abercrombie, Copland and Gress have not.
Copland's delicate touch—at times, seeming to barely brush the keys, as on Abercrombie's balladic "As It Stands"—is definitive, as is the relentlessly reliable support coming from Gress and Baron, whether swinging elegantly on the pianist's brighter, appealingly lyrical "LST" or the guitarist's slower-tempo'd "Bacharach," the pair shifting feels so seamlessly as to be almost unnoticeable ... almost.
The interaction, in particular between Abercrombie and Copland, is as deep as decades playing together would suggest, and if this program of largely new composition feels both fresh and familiar to fans of both players, there's one tune that is particularly so: "Another Ralph's," an update—or, perhaps, sequel—to Abercrombie's "Ralph's Piano Waltz," originally written for guitarist/pianist and duo mate Ralph Towner, first heard on Timeless but which has become, along with that album's title tracks, one of Abercrombie's most often-played tunes, having been recorded by everyone from Towner himself on Solo Concert (ECM, 1980) to Abercrombie, who revisited the tune on Current Events (1986), with his then-trio of Marc Johnson and Peter Erskine.
Eicher often encourages artists to engage in free improvisation at his sessions, and while neither Abercrombie nor Copland are strangers to such unfettered contexts, "Shadow of a Doubt" is the first recorded instance of the two engaging in such completely unplanned spontaneity. Between Gress' soft arco, Copland's harp-like, sustain pedal-driven sweeps and Baron's textural cymbal work, it slowly coalesces into form as Abercrombie joins in with volume pedal-swelled lines, angular in nature but somehow soft and rounded in timbre, even as the quartet gradually turns to more oblique territory as the three-minute improvisation nears its end.
As good as their previous recordings together have been, 39 Steps represents a major leap forward for Abercrombie and Copland's relationship, even as the guitarist returns to the piano-based configuration that was his first touring context, back in the late '70s. With Copland a welcome addition to the ECM roster and Eicher paying so much attention to music coming out of the New York City area these last couple of years—notable (and diverse) examples beingTim Berne's Shadow Man, Craig Taborn's Chants and Chris Potter's The Sirens, all 2013 releases—here's hoping that this quartet will continue, and that Copland will ultimately be afforded the opportunity to record more for the label...perhaps, even, a solo piano session, whose potential would be most intriguing with Eicher in the producer's chair, and with the lucent sonics of the label that Abercrombie has called home for nearly forty years.
Track Listing: 
Vertigo; LST; Bacharach; Greenstreet; As It Stands; Spellbound; Another Ralph's; Shadow of a Doubt; 39 Steps; Melancholy Baby.
Personnel: 
John Abercrombie: guitar; Marc Copland: piano; Drew Gress: double bass; Joey Baron: drums.


Graham Dechter
Takin´ It There



By Dan Bilawsky 
A quartet is usually a self-contained collection of four, but sometimes these groupings serve as part of a greater whole; guitarist Graham Dechter's foursome does both. Dechter, drummer Jeff Hamilton, bassist John Clayton and pianistTamir Hendelman serve as the rhythmic power source for theClayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra but they can also stand on their own in fine, grooving fashion.
Dechter, in his mid-twenties at the time of this recording, has been keeping company with Clayton and Hamilton since he joined the rhythm section of their illustrious orchestra when he was only nineteen. He played the hell out the guitar back then and he's continued to mature at a rapid pace ever since. Right On Time (Capri, 2009) gave him an opportunity to spread his wings and fly as a leader for the first time, fronting the very same rhythm unit that gave him his first big break, and Takin' It There is round two from this team.
These guys have all made their individual and collective reputations on the fact that they keep better time than a Rolex, so this fact isn't really worth an at-length discussion. The leader's style, direction and vision, however, deserve comment. Dechter may be operating in the present, but it doesn't seem to be his favorite time. The young guitarist is a '50s and '60s jazz devotee and it comes through in every way. His song choices, which reference guitar greats likeWes Montgomery ("Road Song") and Barney Kessel ("Be Deedle Dee Do"), bossa nova kingpin Antonio Carlos Jobim ("Chega De Saudade") and trumpeter Lee Morgan ("Hocus Pocus") are the first indication. His playing, which is rooted in the Montgomery, Kessel andHerb Ellis schools, is the second signpost. Smoking single note lines, blues-based rejoinders and clean-toned melodies, which nod to those three guitar greats at different times, sing forth from Dechter's axe.
Familiar material is around every corner on this disc, but that doesn't mean it's run of the mill in execution. "Chega De Saudade" carries a certain degree of intensity in its being that's rarely encountered in other takes on this classic and "Come Rain Or Come Shine" is given a winning makeover. When Dechter and company put the classics aside, they prove equally capable of creating down-home feels and/or musical finery. "Together & Apart" is a mellow original from the leader which opens on some beautiful, cello-like arco work from Clayton, Josh Nelson's title track takes a little while to catch fire, but Dechter and Hendelman eventually fan the flames with some fine soloing, and Clayton's "Grease For Graham," powered by Hamilton's shuffling stick work, is a gas.
While some of the positive feedback for this recording will likely be focused on the established veterans, Dechter deserves his due. He may have the luxury of playing with the cream of the crop, but they don't carry him. Graham Dechter's playing is capable, confident and charismatic in every way.
Track Listing: 
Road Song; Be Deedle Dee Do; Chega De Saudade (No More Blues); Together & Apart; Takin' It There; Father; Grease For Graham; Hocus Pocus; Come Rain Or Come Shine; Amanda/Everytime We Say Goodbye.
Personnel: 
Graham Dechter: guitar; Tamir Hendelman: piano; John Clayton: bass; Jeff Hamilton: drums.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

1 Sem 2014 - Part Five

Daniel Humair 
Sweet & Sour - Parisien/Regard/Peirani



By Dave Gelly at The Observer 
Even if you didn't know that Humair is one of France's top percussionists, you might guess that this was a Gallic offering by the presence of an accordion in his quartet, in place of the customary piano. Not that this is by any means an easy-listening cafe experience. In fact, some if it is so abstract that it's quite hard going, but the way these players develop whole musical narratives out of the simplest initial ideas can be mesmerising, if you give it a chance. The veteran Humair has certainly found kindred spirits in musicians half his age, especially the remarkable accordionist, Vincent Peirani.


Carlos Franzetti & Allison Brewster Franzetti
Alborada



By Dan Bilawsky
Pianist Carlos Franzetti's versatility is one of his many virtues. Few artists could pull off a solo piano project like Mambo Tango(Sunnyside, 2009), and then turn right around and create such moving music for orchestra and piano. Fortunately, Franzetti has the talent, drive and discipline to match his ambitions andAlborada is the proof.
Both Franzetti and his wife, Allison Brewster Franzetti, alternate between the podium and the piano bench throughout the album, and share a similar philosophy about the overall arc of these works. They seem to be in complete agreement that mood should win out over muscle and, while they get their fill of solo space, both pianists wisely prefer to integrate their playing into the overall orchestral web of sound, rather than forcing it to stand too far apart from the general atmosphere of each piece. Some of the music has overt Latin ideals, like Franzetti's tribute to author Gabriel Garcia Marquez ("Mombosa"), while other pieces are more European at heart ("Illuminata"). The latter number moves from a menacing place to placid impressionism and beyond, while the former stays the course that's set from the beginning.
The funky orchestral patterns on "Mirage" almost sound like a vastly reworked version of the rhythmic landscape from Freddie Hubbard's "Red Clay," and Carlos Franzetti takes things further afield into fusion territory with his Fender Rhodes work. "Pasacaglia" is breathtakingly gorgeous and cinematic in scope, and the balance between the orchestra and Allison Brewster Franzetti's piano is simply perfect.
The rhythm duo of bassist Robert Balzar and drummer Jiri Slavicek work their way into the music in subtle ways during the majority of this music, but their presence is essential. They add a little bounce to the music ("Iguazu"), deliver superbly understated swing on the trio-meets-orchestra music of "Song Without Words," and provide finishing touches in other places throughout the album. Maurice Ravel and Bill Evans were the primary inspirations for the A and B sections (respectively) on the title track, and this piece proves to be a wonderful showcase for the female Falzetti.
"Serenata" sizzles with the heat of Latin America and Allison Brewster Franzetti's playing is elegant, yet enticing, as she delivers the most passionate piece on the album. The final composition on the album, "For Ever Milton," is dedicated to Milton Nascimento, and a bit of a Brazilian funk hybrid feel underscores the orchestra and piano. Alborada is truly a triumph for the Franzettis, and a fine example of how jazz and classical can meet on common ground without giving up their own identities in the process.
Track Listing: 
Mombasa; Illuminata; Mirage; Pasacaglia; Iguazu; Song Without Words; Alborada; Serenata; For Ever Milton.
Personnel: 
Carlos Franzetti: piano (1, 3, 5, 6, 9); Allison Brewster Franzetti: piano(2, 4, 7, 8); Robert Balzar: bass; Jiri Slavicek: drums; City of Prague Philharmonic.


Walter Norris & Leszek Mozdzer
The Last Set - Live at the A-Trane





Last Set: Live at the A-Trane album by Leszek Mozdzer / Walter Norris was released Feb 12, 2013 on the Act Music + Vision label. 
Recording information: A-Trane, Berlin (11/02/2008). Last Set: Live at the A-Trane 
Songs Editor: Leszek Mozdzer. Last Set: Live at the A-Trane 
Personnel: Walter Norris (grand piano); Leszek Mozdzer (grand piano).
Liner Note Author: Herb Geller. Last Set: Live at the A-Trane CD music contains a single disc with 8 songs.


Kirk Lightsey
Lightsey to Gladden



By CrissCross
In 1990, when he recorded this scintillating date, now released for the first time, pianist Kirk Lightsey was one of New York's first-call pianists, a regular in the rotation at Bradley's, the legendary New York piano saloon, with the likes of John Hicks, Walter Davis, Jr., Tommy Flanagan, George Cables, and Roger Kellaway.
Here he convenes a cohort of New York A-listers --- trumpet giant and fellow Detroiter Marcus Belgrave; tenor saxophonist and flutist Craig Handy, then making his first impact on the scene; bassist David Williams, who could boast a decade's experience as Cedar Walton's bassist of choice; and drummer Eddie Gladden, Lightsey's bandmate with Dexter Gordon's group before --- to play a program that includes strong repertoire by Lightsey, Wayne Shorter, Detroit drummer Lawrence Williams, and choice standards.
Tracks:
1. Donkey Dust (Kirk Lightsey); 2. Number Nine (Lawrence Williams)
3. Everyday Politics (Craig Handy); 4. Wayne Shorter (Harold Danko)
5. Pinocchio (Wayne Shorter); 6. Moon (D. Durrah); 7. Working Together (Lawrence Williams)
8. Midnight Sun (Lionel Hampton)
Total Time: 66:40
Recorded January 3, 1991 in New York City, NY, USA by Max Bolleman


Gogo Penguin
Fanfares



By Bruce Lindsay
Jazz musicians are some of the most musically imaginative souls on the planet, but their imaginations often desert them when it's time to choose a band name. So thanks must go to whoever decided to name this group GoGo Penguin: it's a suitably imaginative name for a trio full of imaginative music. Three young men who met at the Royal Northern College Of Music in Manchester, with a sound that combines jazz, dance music, electronica and rock: that's Gogo Penguin. Fanfares, on Manchester-based trumpeter Matthew Halsall's Gondwana Records, is an emphatic opening statement for the trio's career.
GoGo Penguin may be a piano trio, but it's by no means a piano-led trio. Grant Russell takes on more than the usual bassist's share of the melodies. Drummer Rob Turner's constantly inventive percussion reveals new joys on repeated listening. The tunes are all originals—the rather minimalist sleeve notes don't give credits for individual tunes, suggesting that they may all be group compositions in some shape or form, and the equally minimalist band website isn't giving much away either.
There are attention-grabbing tunes and performances throughout Fanfares. "Seven Sons Of Björn" wears its influence on its sleeve: the title giving a strong hint, the music—driving, energetic, full of movement—making it clear. This is GoGo Penguin's tribute to theEsbjorn Svensson Trio (e.s.t.). Elsewhere, there are resemblances to pianist Neil Cowley's Trio ("Fanfares") and to Phronesis ("I Am That"), two bands that also share GoGo Penguin's openness, drive and passion.
The hypnotic "Last Words" is underpinned by pianist Chris Illingworth's repetitive three-note bass line, the melody shared between Illingworth's right hand and Russell's bounding bass while Turner's busy, skittering, drumming displays a resemblance to the style of e.s.t.'sMagnus Ostrom. "Unconditional" is another tune built around a hypnotic groove but it's a gentler affair altogether; Russell and Turner keep things cool while Illingworth takes the lead role on this beautiful and melancholy piece. "Akasthesia" begins with Russell's confident and soulful bass solo, becoming a brief drum and bass duet and, with Illingworth's entrance, opening up into a graceful, expansive melody. The punchy, assertive "HF" demonstrates GoGo Penguin's more muscular side, yet Turner's arco playing on the tune has a spectral beauty.
So, GoGo Penguin gets the award for Band Name Of The Year: an impressive accolade in itself, but of little consequence if the band were to fail on a musical level. But Fanfares doesn't fail; this would be an impressive fourth or fifth album, let alone a debut release. 2012 year end Best Oflists await.
Track Listing: 
Seven Sons Of Björn; Last Words; Unconditional; Fanfares; I Am That; Akasthesia; HF.
Personnel: 
Chris Illingworth: piano; Grant Russell: bass; Rob Turner: drums.


Alexi Tuomarila Trio
Seven Hills



By John Kelman
While not entirely rare, it is relatively uncommon to find relationships forged so strongly that the musicians find themselves working together in multiple contexts, where the names remain the same, only the leader changes. Finnish pianist Alexi Tuomarila and drummer Olavi Louhivuori have been working together in a variety of contexts for the past several years, most notably with Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko's quintet responsible for Dark Eyes (ECM, 2010), but together withMats Eilertsen, they've not only worked together as the trio responsible for the pianist'sConstellations (Jazzaway, 2006), they've also been at the core of the Norwegian bassist's SkyDive quintet, heard on its self-titled 2012 Hubro debut.
Reconvening under the pianist's leadership for his trio's long overdue second release, Seven Hills is, however, the first to receive international distribution from UK pianist Dave Stapleton's Edition Records. Continuing to build on the trio's intrinsic chemistry in a program of all-original music, Seven Hills positions Tuomarila as not just a pianist of watch-worthy merit, but a composer of equal value.
These days, when the words "European" and "piano trio" are put together in a sentence, comparisons are made, all too often, to that now defunct superstar of European piano trios,Esbjorn Svensson Trio (e.s.t.), whose career was cut short by the untimely death of its pianist in 2008. More often than not it's a lazy, superficial association so let's get one thing out of the way right now: Alexi Tuomarila Trio is not the next e.s.t., nor does it need to be. Tuomarila's early quartet records, from just after the turn of the millennium, were good enough to capture the ear of American pianist Brad Mehldau, and for good reason: unlike young pianists for whom Mehldau is an obvious touchstone, the distinctive Tuomarila's references are far more subsumed.
On "Prologue"—one of two tracks featuring guest guitarist (and album engineer) Andre Fernades, whose gently overdriven tone further expands the trio's soundscape with quirky, idiosyncratic inevitability—Tuomarila's motivic approach to soloing in the second half of this episodic, irregularly metered piece floats over a modal foundation. The pianist's gently majestic tack during the opening title track's folkloric intro gives way to a fiery solo over Eilertsen's robust 7/4 groove, further bolstered by Louhivuori's flexible mesh of light touch and frenetic polyrhythms, as the trio's mitochondrial connectivity makes the equally graceful "Jibeinia" a rubato tone poem of rare perfection that contrasts with the swinging free-bop of "Visitor Q."
None of these players has yet to reach 40—with Louhivuori the youngest at 31 and Tuomarila the oldest at 39—but they've already amassed such a broad collective resume that none of them have anything left to prove. Virtuosity may be a given—and there are plenty of glimpses to be found throughout Seven Hills—but it's equally clear that this trio's concerns are focus and collective interpretation rather than singular spotlights.
Tuomarila, Eilertsen and Louhivuori represent a different kind of piano trio to e.s.t.-aspirants—one that, based on the commanding, challenging and accessible Seven Hills, values real improvisational acumen reliant on motif-based, in-the-moment development rather than catchphrase predictability and access-driven familiarity.
Track Listing: 
Seven Hills; Cyan; Prologue; Jibeinia; Skuld; Pearl; Visitor Q; Miss; Ceremony.
Personnel: 
Alexi Tuomarila: piano; Mats Eilertsen: double bass; Olavi Louhivuori: drums; Andre Fernades: guitar (3, 9).

1 Sem 2014 - Part Four

André Togni Trio
Lugar de Sal



By vemviverbrasilia
Baterista, compositor e produtor musical, André Togni possui formação jazzística e pesquisa há muito tempo a cultura popular brasileira. Ganhou o Prêmio Tim 2005 como produtor musical, baterista e percussionista do Grupo Casa de Farinha, e participou de diversos festivais no Brasil, Estados Unidos e Europa.
Gravado ao vivo no estúdio Beco da Coruja, o CD "Lugar de Sal" apresenta ao público oito músicas, cinco composições próprias e três interpretações executadas com a formação de trio liderados por André Togni.
A produção de "Lugar de Sal" concretizou um antigo desejo do baterista: gravar um disco de jazz acompanhado por músicos com quem tem grande entrosamento musical, evidenciando as possibilidades das composições, a elasticidade dos arranjos e a liberdade criativa dos improvisos.
Nas oito músicas prevalecem a criação coletiva, a precisão instrumental e uma dinâmica quase telepática entre os músicos. Lugar de Sal tem influências do jazz contemporâneo e ritmos brasileiros, com uma abordagem focada no improviso em, que a voz principal passa de um instrumento para outro como um diálogo.
"O som é impactante e profundo, com muita energia", diz André.
Personnel:
André Togni - drums; Oswaldo Amorim - bass; Serge Frasunkiewicz - piano Yamaha


Kenny Wheeler
Six For Six



By John Kelman
When artists move into their eighties, every new album is a gift. It's difficult enough for any octogenarian musician to maintain his/her game, but especially horn players, for whom embouchure and breath are so essential to tone and reach. Six for Six is, however, a curious gift from expat Canadian trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, who's made Britain his home since the mid-'50s. Recorded in 2008, it's his first sextet recording since 2003's Dream Sequence—and even that album only featured one piece for all six players. What that really means, then, is that Six for Six is Wheeler's first real sextet date since 1980'sAround 6, and his very first with a lineup consisting, in addition to his inimitable horn work, of two saxophones, piano, bass and drums.
It's a curious program: a full six of its eight tracks were heard just last year on Wheeler's superb big band outing, The Long Waiting (Cam Jazz, 2012), but they couldn't be more different, demonstrating just how malleable Wheeler's charts can be. Recorded in 2011, The Long Waiting, "Seven, Eight, Nine" was a relatively concise, mid-tempo swinger that featured just one solo (Wheeler); here, it's broken into two parts spread across the record. The album-opening "Part 1" opens with a powerful a cappella intro from drummer Martin France that sets the tone for an album that's Wheeler's most flat-out incendiary since Double, Double You (ECM, 1984). Unlike The Long Waiting's mixed meter reading of 7/8, 6/8 and 4/4, "Part 1" here sticks with a constant 4/4, but at a much brighter clip—and with plenty more solo space for Wheeler, tenor saxophonist Bobby Wellins and soprano saxophonist Stan Sulzmann.
Excising the original's second theme for further extrapolation, "Seven, Eight, Nine (Part 2)," is taken at a slightly slower pace than "Part 1" (but still considerably brighter than the big band version) and, while significantly shorter, still leaves room for impressive solos from Sulzmann (this time on tenor), Taylor and Wheeler, with Laurence a firm but pliant anchor and France, once again, playing with fire and unfettered freedom throughout this bright 6/8 take.
Wellins is the only new face here, with Sulzmann, pianist John Taylor and bassist Chris Laurenceall longtime Wheeler collaborators; and, although France only made his first recorded appearance with Wheeler on The Long Waiting, he's been gigging with the trumpeter for some time, and has been a member of Taylor's trio since the pianist's superb Angel of the Presence (Cam Jazz, 2006). Still, with Wellins an alumnus of British luminaries like Stan Tracey andTubby Hayes, it's unlikely that this is the first time he and Wheeler have broken musical bread together. On the flip side to more powerful tracks like "Upwards," which more closely mirrors the energy of The Long Waiting's version, albeit with a significantly altered arrangement, Six for Six's fresh look at "The Long Waiting," with its spare duo intro from Wheeler and Taylor, is taken at a slower pace, while the more amiable pulse of the big band's "Four, Five Six" is deserted here for a shorter version that still manages to squeeze in another piano/trumpet intro, a fiery rubato exchange between Sulzmann and Wellins and, finally—and at a faster clip—space for concise but high octane solos from Wellins, Taylor, Wheeler and France.
It's not just because, with the exception of The Long Waiting, Six for Six is Wheeler's first Cam Jazz recording to feature a drummer—though France certainly lights one heckuva fire underneath his band mates, while still proving capable of a gentler disposition on more subdued fare like "Ballad N. 130" and the brighter, but lighter-textured "The Imminent Immigrant," making its first appearance since Wheeler's quartet date All the More (Soul Note, 1997). In a career now approaching its sixth decade, Wheeler's writing has not lost any of the unmistakable lyricism that's been a defining touchstone since early recordings like the classic Gnu High (ECM, 1976), but even as he's passed the 83 mark this year, Wheeler's lost neither his tone nor his remarkable reach—his closing, stratospheric note at the end of "Four, Five, Six" being something to which many trumpeters half his age still aspire.
Not since Double, Double You has Wheeler released an album as exhilarating as Six for Six. With a sextet capable of delivering both the firepower and the poetry, hopefully this won't be another of the one-shot deals that have defined the rest of Wheeler's nevertheless impressive discography.
Track Listing: 
Seven, Eight, Nine (Part 1); Canter N. 6; The Long Waiting; Four, Five, Six; Ballad N. 130; Seven, Eight, Nine (Part 2); The Imminent Immigrant; Upwards.
Personnel: 
Kenny Wheeler: trumpet, flugelhorn; Stan Sulzmann: tenor and soprano saxophone; Bobby Wellins: tenor saxophone; John Taylor: piano; Chris Laurence: bass; Martin France: drums.


Maria Baptist
Music For Jazz Orchestra



By Jack Bowers
Like it or not, a new wave of young composer / arrangers has surfaced, scrupulously guiding big bands into heretofore uncharted waters, now and then smooth, at other times choppy, but always intriguing and inspired. Maria Schneider,George Gruntz, Jim McNeely and Carla Bley were among the pacesetters, followed in short order by such (relative) newcomers as Satoko Fujii, Darcy James Argue, Jamie Begian, Keith Karns,Stan Sulzmann, Cecilia Coleman, Magnus Lindgren, Colin Byrne,John Daversa, Pete McGuinness, Gail Thompson, Mace Francis and many others, each one lending his or her singular voice to the lexicon of big-band jazz. Now comes another strong contender, German-born Maria Baptist, whose musical voice is arguably the clearest since Grammy-winning Schneider burst on the scene some two decades ago.
Baptist's most recent plunge into the big-band sea, appropriately titled Music for Jazz Orchestra,comprises eleven of her forward-leaning compositions and arrangements. Much like Schneider, Baptist sketches word pictures—tone poems, if you will—often bending but never overlooking the basic elements of jazz including melody, harmony and rhythm, all of which can be found in abundance in her provocative charts. The first ten were recorded at a studio in March 2011, the last, "Minotaurus," seven months later at Jazz Fest Berlin. Although Baptist limits her duties to writing and conducting in the studio, her persuasive piano introduces the tasteful "Minotaurus," whose other able soloists are trombonist Lukas Jochner and tenor saxophonist Nils Wrasse. The leader puts her best foot forward with the straight-on opener, "AVUS" (solos by drummer Julian Fau, alto Kati Brien), and follows up with the seductive "Blue Pictures" (Christian Mehler, flugel; Clemens Oerding, guitar; Julian Kulpmann, drums), which builds to a powerful climax, and the sinewy "Ibiza Conversations" (Lukas Brenner, piano; Johannes Roosen-Runge, trumpet).
"On Top of the Mountain" is picturesque and passionate, as are "The Blossom," "Lingering" (with its faint echoes of Rob McConnell) and "Goodbye," whereas "Avenue Walk" (Adrian Hanack, tenor), "Rush Hour" and "36th Street Midtown" find Baptist in a sunnier and more congenial frame of mind, coaxing sharp and brassy ensemble phrases from her finely-tuned orchestra. Baritone Christoph Beck offers an especially engaging solo on "Midtown," which benefits as well from Johannes von Ballestrem's nimble piano. End to end, this is one of the more gratifying contemporary big-band sessions to emerge in quite some time. One puzzle, however, is why this is a two-disc set, as the total running time is a tick or two over 80 minutes, and all eleven numbers might have been squeezed (albeit tightly) onto a single disc. Perhaps that was tried and it didn't work. Be that as it may, everything else on this splendid album works almost perfectly.
Track Listing: 
AVUS; Blue Pictures; Ibiza Conversations; On Top of the Mountain; The Blossom; Avenue Walk; Rush Hour; Lingering; 36th Street Midtown; Goodbye; Minotaurus (live).
Personnel: 
Maria Baptist: leader, composer, arranger, piano (11); Matthias Schwengler: trumpet, flugelhorn (2-7, 9-11); Mathis Petermann: trumpet, flugelhorn (3-6, 8, 11); Johannes Roosen-Runge: trumpet, flugelhorn (1-3, 6, 8-11); Christian Mehler: trumpet, flugelhorn 1, 2, 7-10); Fabian Bogelsack: trumpet, flugelhorn (1-7, 10); Steffen Mathes: trumpet, flugelhorn (1-3, 5-7, 9, 11); Kati Brien: alto, soprano sax (1, 3-5, 7, 11); Markus Harm: alto, soprano sax (2, 6, 9, 10); Julian Bossert: alto sax (2, 6, 9, 10); Florian Walter: alto sax (1 3-5, 7, 11); Adrian Hanack: tenor sax (1, 2, 6, 7-9, 11); Nils Wrasse: tenor sax, flute (1, 3-7, 9, 11); Markus Potschke: tenor sax, clarinet (2-4, 5, 8, 10); Christoph Beck: baritone sax, bass clarinet (6-9, 11); Paul Muhle: baritone sax, bass clarinet (1-5, 10); Friederike Motzkau: flute (2-5, 8, 10 ,11); Charlotte Ortmann: flute (2-6, 8, 10, 11); Rebecca Trescher: clarinet, bass clarinet (2-4, 8, 10, 11); Janning Trumann: trombone (3-6, 9); Timothy Hepburn: trombone (1, 2, 7, 8, 10); Lukas Jochner: trombone (1,2, 7, 8, 10, 11); Raphael Klemm: trombone (3-6, 9); Kerstin Maler: trombone (1, 2, 7, 8, 10); Lisa Stick: trombone (3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11); Juliane Gralle: trombone (all tracks); Clemens Oerding: guitar (1-10); Charis Karantzas: guitar (11); Johannes von Ballestrem: piano (4-7, 9, 10); Lukas Brenner: piano (3-6); Stefan Nagler: piano (2, 8); Reza Askari-Motlagh: bass (1, 6-9, 11); Kenn Hartwig: bass (2-5, 10); Julian Fau: drums (1, 3-6, 8); Julian Kulpmann: drums (2, 7, 9, 11).


Gerald Clayton
Life Forum



By Greg Thomas at NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
On his third recording as a leader, Gerald Clayton expands his musical statement, exploring wider sonic textures.
On “Two-Shade” and “Bond: The Paris Session,” he and his trio mates, bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Justin Brown, established their place as one of the top emerging trios. They displayed deep musical rapport and facility with everything from swinging standards to the heady mix of time signatures, which are all the rage these days.
“Life Forum” contains 12 originals by Clayton. He’s atop the heap of young jazz pianists making a firm mark on the scene, along with Aaron Diehl, Jonathan Batiste and Christian Sands. The songs in “Life Forum” reflect, he says in the CD notes, “events in my life, especially love and life transitions.”
Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet) and Logan Richardson (alto sax) provide the date an element of surprise. Tenor saxophonist Dayna Stephens squeezes the depths of his experience through his horn (sounding a tad like Joe Lovano).
Vocally, Gretchen Parlato emits an ethereal beauty; Sachal Vasandani, a gentle touch of evening.
The takeaway from this suite-like recording is not about individual virtuosity. Rather, it’s like concentric circles with Clayton and his trio in the center, the horns expanding outward, and the voices adding another oval.
On the title cut, the voice is of Carl Hancock Rux, with a poetic-philosophical spoken word opening. Such musings give way to “Future Reflection,” which includes a reach for vision, full of hope, yet comes back to the present. The groove of “Sir Third” is like a basketball team, moving forward together, each person playing a role, intersecting, accelerating, breaking and jumping as necessary.
Gerald Clayton's suite-like 'Life Forum' contains 12 original compositions.
“Deep Dry Ocean” features Parlato and Clayton sharing a melody line over a steady bass vamp. It’s given velvet support by the drummer’s brushes on the snare and tom-tom. The in-between-ness of emotions in relationship is captured in “Dusk Baby,” sounding like a modern pop ballad with the harmonic sophistication of years past.
“Mao Nas Massa” features a samba rhythm, refracted through the joy and pleasure of Clayton’s play with a drumbeat. The interlude “Prelude” leads to “Some Always,” where Ambrose’s abstractions rub against a plush bed of syncopated groove.
“Like Water” places a bowed bass line mirrored by the vocalists, followed by an alto sax journey. Vocals take the lead on “When an Angel Sheds a Feather,” and transitions to a swinging conclusion by tenor sax, bass and piano, but no drums.


John di Martino & Warrem Vaché
Impromptu



By CDbaby
IMPROMPTU is a collection of standard tunes with inspired performances from master cornet player Warren Vache and the elegant and melodically inventive pianist, John diMartino. A duo made in "musical heaven" this CD is breathtaking!