Sunday, July 13, 2008

1 Sem 2008 - Part 5

Bill Carrothers
After Hours, Volume 4

by Jim Santella
Pianist Bill Carrothers has selected songs you’ve heard time and again out on the town, when the club is getting ready to close and everyone’s left but you and the band. Dedicated to Frank Sinatra, the album contains romantic ballads that would follow heartbreak and reveal hopes of turning one’s love life around. Carrothers has a deeply emotional piano style that stresses harmony by overlapping the tones to create soundscapes. Supported by Billy Peterson, a lyrical bassist who works hand-in-glove with the pianist, and drummer Kenny Horst, a timekeeper with a feel for appropriate textures, Bill Carrothers works his way through one dreamy melody after another. Billy Strayhorn’s "Chelsea Bridge" and "A Flower is a Lovesome Thing" have all three artists pouring out their hearts, finding new and different modes of expression. The bass rumbles, the drum head squeaks, and the piano drifts on, moaning about what’s going on in one man’s heart while others elsewhere may be dancing down the street. Again on "For All We Know," the trio searches out new and different ways to provide a variety of textures. Horst introduces metallic squealing sounds from the cymbal while Peterson spells out the familiar pizzicato melody. All the while, Carrothers is coloring with overlapping tones and lingering thoughts. There are microphones in and around the trio; however, the sound isn’t the best. It does add authenticity, though; makes you feel like you’re there in the club. The material on this album was recorded after hours, between 2:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. over several nights. In the "Wee Small Hours" of the morning a dreamy piano begins all alone, is joined by bass & drums, and then the three improvise until it’s time to go home. Sssh, be careful on the way out. You may wake up that guy over there in the corner. Recommended.Track listing: Wee Small Hours; Green Dolphin Street; Green Dolphin Street (reprise); For HeavenPersonnel: Bill Carrothers- piano; Billy Peterson- acoustic bass; Kenny Horst- drums.

Guido Manusardi Trio
No More No Less

Year Of Release: 2006
Label: Soundhills Records - SSCD-8135
Total Time: 65:52 min

1 Softy As In A Morning Sunrise
2 Like Sonny
3 You Stepeed Out Of A Dream
4 Ice Drops
5 Bios
6 Old Folks
7 Who Can I Turn To
8 Just One of Those Things
9 Here's That Rainy Day
10 Untitled 7
11 Labytinthus
Personnel: Guido Manusardi - Piano; Yuri Goloubev - Bass; Massimo Manzi - Drums

Cassandra Wilson

by Thom Jurek
Vocalist Cassandra Wilson has used her 15 years at Blue Note to explore the interpretive range of her voice, whether singing tunes by Van Morrison, Robert Johnson, Lewis Allan, Miles Davis, or Hoagy Carmichael. In many ways, Wilson has offered a new view of the standard by using classic rock and Delta blues tunes in her live and recorded repertoires. That said, Loverly is her first offering comprised almost completely of American songbook standards since Blue Skies 20 years ago. Wilson produced the recording in Jackson, MS, and surrounded herself with old friends: guitarist Marvin Sewell, bassists Reggie Veal and Lonnie Plaxico, drummer Herlin Riley, and labelmate and pianist Jason Moran. The material is beautifully chosen; it ranges from Oscar Hammerstein's "Lover Come Back to Me" and Luiz Bonfá's "A Day In The Life Of A Fool" (the English version of "Black Orpheus") to Juan Tizol's "Caravan," Irving Mills' "St. James Infirmary," and Ray Noble's "The Very Thought of You." Given Wilson's working methods, these standards are performed in iconic ways — without losing the central integrity of their sources. A prime example would be "Caravan," where the basic rhythmic pulse has been doubled with a snare, hi-hat, and taut, edgy piano. Wilson offers the melody as written, but with her own stretched-line phrasing applied to the lyric. "Lover Come Back to Me" carries within it the gentle bounce of the original, and Wilson evokes both Nina Simone and Betty Carter in her rhythmic approach to the lyric and melody. The warm double-time guitar strut of Sewell paces the track; Moran's solo walks a line between show tune formalism and vanguard improv that is fresh and exciting. The reading of "Black Orpheus" here is unusual: Wilson is very conservative in her approach to the melody, so much so that the beautiful Portuguese "saudade" element is texturally amplified and bossa is stretched to the breaking point. The band's meld of subtle Afro-Latin rhythms evokes Cuban son, and conserves the root elements in the original. The duet between Sewell's truly unique acoustic guitar style and Wilson's vocal on "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most" is utterly tender. A pair of left-field cuts are here as well. First is a group improvisation called "Arere." Propelled by a hypnotic, nearly funky upright bassline, Sewell plays short choppy chords with Afro-Cuban percussion in the backdrop; Moran plays around and through the polyrhythms as Wilson sings and speaks — she improvises with the band in a number of different languages. Strangely, it doesn't feel out of place here. The other ringer is a read on Elmore James' trademark blues "Dust My Broom." It is not offered as the raucous barroom wailer it classically is. Instead, it's snaky, sultry, and steamy. Sewell's edgy, razored slide guitar, hand percussion, and Wilson's finger snaps accompany her voice on the first verses, establishing a groove before the rest of the band enters. Her phrasing is pure sassy soul that gradually takes this blues firmly into the jazz camp. Wilson has done what many other singers — many of them on Blue Note — couldn't even envision: she has taken a substantial part of the American songbook, employed a crack, risk-taking jazz group, and added new depth, texture, and meaning to these songs, without sacrificing their elegance or appeal. Loverly is the only reason to avoid imposing a moratorium on the very tired standards genre that has become the bane of jazz in recent years. It cannot be recommended highly enough.

Stefano Battaglia
Re: Pasolini

by Thom Jurek
To call Stefano Battaglia's Re: Pasolini on ECM, ambitious would be an erroneous understatement. In fact, it is an undertaking of enormous propensity. In the United States, Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922-1975) is known primarily as a filmmaker, whose works such as the Decameron, Canterbury Tales, Medea, and the notorious Salo (based on the Marquis de Sade's mammoth encyclopedic novel of perversion and violence, the 120 Days of Sodom, reset in the Italian countryside during the Second World War). He was in fact, a true renaissance man in the grand Italian tradition and was widely known as one: he was a popular poet, playwright, journalist, novelist, actor, painter, linguist and a truly controversial political activist who also challenged the Italian government, the Church and consumerist Italy openly. He was brutally murdered on an empty beach on the evening of All Saints Day (the murder has never been fully explained). Pasolini was a giant figure, a near mythic figure in Italian society and an aesthetic giant in all of Europe. So how does one represent such a figure in music? Battaglia has decided to look at Pasolini's life and work in equal measure. He celebrates and examines them so closely in his medium, so as to be as close to the inside eye of the artist — and perhaps the man — as is possible. Over two discs, he uses two different ensembles to meditate upon the legacy left by this great and tragic artist through his chosen medium: a music that combines in equal parts jazz, classical, and improvisation. Disc one features a sextet that includes trumpeter Michael Gassman who has been collaborating with Battaglia for 15 years. The other members of this first ensemble include Mirco Mariotinni on clarinet, cellist Aya Shimura, bassist Salvatore Majore, and drummer Roberto Dani. The music here is lighter; reflective, melodic even at its moodiest. The opening track "Canzone di Laura Betti," is a song inspired by Pasolini's muse, an actress who worked not only with him but also Bernardo Bertolucci, Alberto Rosselini Federico Fellini and other great Italian directors. Led so beautifully by the piano, the tune serves the deep lyricism of the truly Italian form of jazz, cinema music and the ballads sung by traditional Italian singers, and even opera arias. The cello lilts in and around the piano as it quietly digs into the lyric line and celebrates it to brushed drums and a simple bassline. This gorgeous piece reflects on the actress in a nearly spiritual manner. Other tunes here reflect poems written by Pasolini, and the place of actors he worked with, and the fifth cut, "Fevrar," is named for one of Pasolini's poems. Battaglia uses it as an implement for melodic improvisation on a rural landscape. Sparse, nearly skeletal lyric lines open mysteriously and are commented upon by Majore's bassline, a tapped bell on a cymbal, and intermittent trumpet lines that last only moments. The droning repetition of the bassline suggests the rhythmic line of a poem even as it opens out onto another musical vista, where it never strays far from the emptiness and elegance of the landscape. The entire disc reflects the aspects of his subject's character, an artist and man for whom tenderness, classicism, romanticism and nostalgia were motivating factors and states of being The second disc is another matter altogether as Battaglia teams with members of Louis Sclavis' band — Dominique Pifarély (violin), Bruno Chevillon (bass), and Vincent Courtois (cello) — along with drummer and percussionist Michele Rabbia offer a much darker, more improvisational — and at times tenser — meditation on less pleasurable aspects of Pasolini's life and the often radical nature of his work: his troubled relationship to the Roman Church and his radical politics that were truly committed to a working prole (during the student strikes and riots in Italy in 1969 he backed the police over students because the former were true working men and the students "pampered boys," the leftists backed the students) and railed against the kind of materialism that gave way to consumerism and, he claimed, ruined Italian society. This is chamber music that walks a thin and blurred line between classical music and free improvisation: not free jazz. It courts tension. It is fully engaged, with sometimes-heated dialogue between musicians, but it is also dirge-like in places, brooding and full of uneasy space. It feels like an elegy. Its pieces wind through and around an eight-piece "Lyria" of shorter works. This reflects both the scenic work of the cinema and the episodic nature of epic Italian poetry that often ends in tragedy. Here "Ostia" (named for the beach where Pasolini was killed) — the only long work on disc two and its second from last cut — is full of ambiguity, darkness and open space between the lower register chords of Battaglia's piano and the alternately mysterious strings. The set ends with a sorrowful, melodic ballad that is as moving as the final cue of a soundtrack as it plays the final credits, the last moments of an opera that ends in tragedy. It is one that denotes memory, dignity, and loss. Battaglia has achieved his ambitious aim. His devotion to the work of his subject has moved through him and inhabited him. Not as a ghost, but as a Muse who speaks through his compositions and the truly empathic communication of both these groups. As a true bonus, Battaglia annotates his liner notes, track by track, exhaustively, offering their sources and inspirations as further information. America may have known Pasolini as an art house filmmaker; via Battaglia's Re: Pasolini, he has become something more, something other, a force of the mythic universe. Battaglia's work is an epic, and yes, a masterpiece that is a force in and of itself to be reckoned with. It is the high point in an already celebrated career.

Jessica Williams
Songs For A New Century

O melhor de 2008. Suas composições são fortes e tem inspiração para um brilhante Cd de Jazz. E solo, mas nessse nivel, quem precisa de outro instrumento.

By Dan McClenaghan
If you slip into Jessica Williams' web site and ride the currents of her blog, you could get the feeling that the (proudly) sixty year-old jazz pianist is something of an eccentric. Which is a good thing—in this case, an eccentric being one who has walked away from the hype, b.s. and group think with her head held high, coming up with her own take on the world and this thing called life that we're trying to navigate with as much grace as possible. Her writings reveal a woman of exceptional grace and wide-ranging intelligence, and they also reveal a woman who just might get a wild hair idea and break out her tool kit—the screw drivers and the socket set—to take apart her piano and reassemble it in a fashion that is more to her liking. An eccentric.Williams' Songs For A New Century, a solo piano outing, reveals an evolving artist. Williams thinks it may be her best work. A re-spin of her outstanding Live at Yoshi's, Volume One (MaxJazz, 2004)—a trio affair featuring bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Victor Lewis—spotlights an artist making beautiful sounds and taking beautiful risks within a mainstream framework, a pianist with the joyousness and flair of Erroll Garner, the swinging virtuosity of Oscar Peterson, the depth of emotion of Bill Evans, the sly pizazz of Fats Waller and the soul of John Coltrane.Songs for a New Century is a step forward. The set of all Williams originals, and one Sonny Rollins tune—"A Blessing in Disguise"—opens with "Empathy," an achingly beautiful ballad full of delicate, crystalline notes in a teardrop melody—a spiritually salubrious sound if there ever was one. "Toshiko," for pianist/big band leader Toshiko Akiyoshi, glows eastward sporting a Japanese aura, with Williams making koto sounds, via the tool kit lady's mechanical tweaking (?) of the piano strings. "Dear Oscar," a nod to Oscar Peterson, swings easily on a bluesy late night roll, while "Spoken Softly" sounds like a gloriously implacable truth revealed.Amazingly, Williams recorded this life-affirming set while wrapped in the life-draining, leaden embrace of hypothyroidism, when she had energy for her art and little else.She is evolving; but multiple spins of this gorgeous music say that Williams must be very close to the absolute pinnacle of artistic growth on the enthralling Song for a New Century. With her diagnosis and subsequent management of her disease, who knows how far she can take her musical endeavors.Track listing: Empathy; Toshiko; Fantasia; Song for a Baby; Blessing in Disguise; Lament; Dear Oscar; Spoken Softly; If Only.

Alboran Trio
Near Gale

By John Kelman
Groups like e.s.t. and The Bad Plus have undeniably given the decades old piano trio format a much needed kick-in-the-ass but, as innovative as they've been and continue to be, some of their founding premises run the risk of inherent self-limitation. Still, despite e.s.t.'s ever-increasing pop sensibility and integration of electronics and sound manipulation, the extended tracks of Live in Hamburg (ACT, 2007) demonstrate that its improvisational acumen and longstanding chemistry remain intact.In some ways, however, it's the trios remaining truer to their acoustic roots who are providing definitive evidence that the format is not an anachronism relegated to endless interpretations of the Great American Songbook. Brad Mehldau Trio's recent Live (Nonesuch, 2008) combines unexpected source material like Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" with clever reinventions of classic jazz tunes and complex originals material. By contrast, Italy's Alboran Trio relies almost exclusively on compositions by its pianist, Paolo Paliaga on Near Gale, it's follow-up to Meltemi, the ensemble's 2006 ACT debut.Paliaga's writing (drummer Gigi Biocati contributes one tune, the gently optimistic closer, "Seguendo Il Filo") is unmistakably informed by a warmer and breezier Mediterranean aesthetic than e.s.t., but the group chemistry is no less evocative. Bassist Dino Contenti is every bit as imaginative e.s.t.'s Dan Berglund and just as capable with a bow, based on his intro to "Invariable Geometries." But while Berglund's extracurricular heavy metal proclivities compel him to, at times, wail on his double bass guitar-like, Contenti is overall subtler, more lyrical. Classical romanticism is a part of Paliaga's playing and writing—unmistakably evident on "Invariable Geometries"—the overall approach of the trio is rarified, even as the rhythm section picks up steam behind the pianist's gradually intensifying solo.Contenti is also a focused and theme-oriented pizzicato soloist on tracks like the initially elegant "Fuori Stagione," where he dominates for the first half of the tune before Paliaga takes over and the tune turns idiosyncratic, largely due to Biocata's texturally focused but nevertheless propulsive kit work.Mediterranean references aside, another Alboran Trio demarcator is Biocati's broad worldview. The percussionist has studied rhythms from around the world, having spent significant time in Africa, where he examined and compared its cultural rhythms with those of Europe, America and Asia. The result is a pan-cultural approach to the kit that is never directly referential but, instead, suggests an integrated cosmopolitanism, providing gentle forward motion on the impressionistic and dark-hued "Olvido," while delivering some unexpected hand-driven funk on the barely more grounded "Rrock in the Dark."Alboran Trio may not have the instantly attention-grabbing qualities of e.s.t. or TBP, but with Near Gale it proves itself a nascent group on the move. For those who think the piano trio is an outdated concept with nothing new to offer, Alboran Trio and Near Gale represent a compelling argument to the contrary.
Track listing: Selen Moi; Autumn Mist; Delle Cose Nascoste; Also Sprach Raul; Rrock In The Dark; Fuori Stagione; Invariable Geometries; Olvido; Pow Wow; Selon Moi 3/4; Seguendo Il Filo.
Personnel: Paolo Paliaga: piano; Dino Contenti: double bass; Gigi Biolcati: drums.

Ahmad Jamal
It's Magic

By Ian Patterson
That a Japanese mountaineer successfully scaled Mount Everest in May 2008, at the age of 75, is proof that age is no barrier to those with new goals to conquer. If pianist Ahmad Jamal, at 78, were a mountaineer, he too would surely be attempting to scale Everest. There are those, however, who argue that Ahmad Jamal reached a creative peak in the late '50s, but the truth is that Jamal is neither better nor worse than when he recorded the classic Ahmad Jamal at the Pershing (Argo, 1958) and But Not for Me (Argo,1958). He has simply evolved, and done so without compromising or losing his musical identity. The tremendous energy, finesse and sheer originality present in It's Magic, which has characterized much of Jamal's music this last decade in particular, is evidence that there is plenty of life in the old dog yet.The opening "Dynamo" is, however, something of a misnomer. Jamal and his musicians' energy levels are unquestionably high, but the tune is a bit stop-and-start. It's as if, like a young pianist debuting, Jamal wants to say all he can inside four minutes. There are the trademark contrasts between light and heavy touch, alternating punchy chords and short staccato bursts interspersed with longer, dazzling runs, and here and there flirtatious reference to old standards and even The Beatles. The song is not without merit, but there's almost too much going on.Thankfully, Jamal steers a steadier course on the remaining tunes. The grandiose and elegant "Swahiliand," a perennial Jamal favorite, is reappraised with drummer Idris Muhammad's cymbals marking the pianist's bold chord changes. Jamal has recorded this tune at least four times since the '70s; like Duke Ellington, for Jamal a song is not something with limitations or fixed parameters, it is an ever-evolving work. Similarly, "Arabesque," first recorded on Crystal (Atlantic, 1987) gets a brush down. An infectious bass motif from James Cammack and gently percolating percussion from ex- Weather Report percussionist Manolo Badrena lend this beautiful melody a delicate, lilting swing.There are several old show-tunes: the softly played "It's Magic," by Sammy Cahn and Julie Styne, which finds Jamal at his intimate best; Ned Washington and Dimitri Tiomkine's "Wild is the Wind," which segues into "Sing," by Joe Rapaso, where Jamal gives his most extended workout; and the Jerome Kern/Dorothy Fields ballad, "The Way You Look Tonight," where Jamal is sensitively accompanied by Cammack on bass. This latter tune and the self-penned "Papillon" are reminders that few pianists can play a ballad the way Jamal does.Four old tunes revisited, three show tunes and only two completely new tunes might sound like a less then indispensible Jamal recording, but in spite of this, his playing is as sensitive, as passionate and as hypnotic as it's ever been. At 78, fifty years on from one peak, and three years on from yet another, the universally acclaimed After Fajr (Dreyfus, 2005), this most influential of pianists shows no signs of slipping off the mountain top just yet.
Track listing:
Dynamo; Swahililand; Back to the Island; It's Magic; Wild is the Wind/Sing; The Way You Look Tonight; Arabesque; Papillon; Fitnah.
Personnel: Ahmad Jamal: piano; Idris Muhammad: drums; James Cammack: bass; Manolo Badrena: percussion.

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