Sunday, August 19, 2012

2 Sem 2012 - Part Seven

Kenny Werner
Me, Myself & I

By Larry Taylor
Pianist Kenny Werner, though comparatively unsung, has been appreciated by many since forming a trio in 1981. He is also known for his series of stellar duos with harmonica virtuoso Toots Thieleman. Additionally, he has done yeoman duty with guitarist John Scofield, bassist Dave Holland and saxophonist Joe Lovano, all the while—for more than 20 years—working as arranger and accompanist for singer Betty Buckley.
Me, Myself and Iwas recorded solo in Montreal, Canada at the small Upstairs Jazz Bar and Grill club, in June, 2012, during the city's renowned jazz festival. Of this engagement, Werner says that the "ideas just kept flowing." He was feeling so good about his playing that he mentioned it to owner Joel Giberovitch, who decided to make a live recording. This is the satisfying result.
From the get-go, Werner's relaxed and lightly swinging style is apparent. Of the seven sides, one is an original; the others are pop and jazz standards. The intimate setting is conducive to long takes—four of them last from 10 to 13 minutes or more—giving ample opportunity to stretch and extend his ideas.
Werner explores Thelonious Monk's familiar "'Round Midnight," excavating shards of melody which he shapes into his own impressionistic creation. Werner's own "Balloon" becomes a tone poem based, he says, on the life of a helium balloon. Appropriately, the melody drifts along, suddenly soaring before the sphere inevitably runs out of gas and slowly floats down, the song ethereally resolving. John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" surprises, being rendered in a light and lyrical manner—not with solid "sheets of sounds," as a critic once described Trane's style.
Two standards round out the album. "All The Things" (Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein's "All the Things You Are") shows Werner's ballad prowess, hinting at an indebtedness to Bill Evans but finishing in a blaze of notes. He plays an extended version of Thad Jones and Louis Ouzer's "A Child Is Born," examining every aspect of this lovely piece. In a charming touch near the end, he whistles the song.
Hearing Werner alone and unfettered, as on Me, Myself and I, is a great opportunity to fully appreciate his ample talent.
Track Listing: Round Midnight; Balloons; All The Things; blue is green; I Had a King; Giant Steps; A Child is Born.
Personnel: Kenny Werner: piano.

Al Jarreau
and The Metropole Orkest: Live, with Vince Mendoza

By Shannon
If you shy away from orchestral settings fearing they will be either too serious and cerebral or (on the other side) too lite and easy this album is the myth buster. All you have to do is look at arranger-conductor Vince Mendoza's credits listed above to see that he is able to come up with material and arrangements that fit the songs and the artists perfectly and bring a lot of out-of-the-box originality to the party and Metrople Orkest is not just billed as a Jazz big band, they proudly fly the pop music flag too. These virtuoso musicians play anything and everything and make it all sound effortless. This is also one of the rare live recordings that actually captures and projects the feeling of exuberance that sweeps over the audience when Jarreau starts working his magic onstage.
The song selection is perfect. Mendoza, Jarreau, and Jarreau's musical director Joe Turano have chosen songs that have not been overworked and overexposed - deeper album cuts, a few classic gems, and tracks from several albums that fell through the cracks during the early 20th century music biz sea-change (including "Accentuate The Positive" which is probably one of the most underrated contemporary jazz albums ever). Combined with the new arrangements it makes the album sound both fresh and timeless. Jarreau is in fine voice - every word and every note is beautifully expressive and you can feel this wonderful thread that connects artist and band - he isn't in front of them, he's inside them, and vice-versa.
It would take 11 more paragraphs to give justice to these songs but words never have been able to distill the essence of the music. Take the leap and click this into your cart and join the fans who heard previews and sold out the first shipment on release day. To quote a cliche - "this ain't your grandfathers big band music" but there is music on here that everyone from your grandfather to your pre-schooler will love. Enjoy!

Kekko Fornarelli
Circular Thought

By Alfonso Tregua per Jazzitalia
Album d'esordio per Kekko Fornarelli, giovane pianista barese, questo Circular Thought cattura immediatamente l'attenzione grazie al suo perentorio avvio, una vigorosa e incalzante Footprints, che mette subito in luce l'incisivo interplay del trio, ampliato con la grintosa voce strumentale del sempre più convincente Francesco Bearzatti. Il versatile sassofonista contribuisce con misura anche nella pacata versione dello standard For Heaven's Sake e nel vivace originale Il Grande Bluff, caratterizzato dalla notevole libertà espressiva che i componenti del gruppo si concedono, mai disgiunta dall'indispensabile controllo della forma.
Più meditativi e lirici risultano invece i tre episodi, ulteriori esempi della vena compositiva del leader, in cui il quarto componente è Marco Tamburini. Si va dalla delicata ballad che dà il titolo al disco, con il piano a fornire elegante contrappunto alle volute sonore intessute dal trombettista, al conclusivo Andante passando per le cadenze da love song di Mari, brano dagli accenti evocativi, permeato da un equilibrato tocco di romanticismo: qui Fornarelli, oltre a ritagliarsi un riuscito intervento solistico, concede spazio, in apertura e chiusura, ai calibrati virtuosismi di Maurizio Quintavalle e Mimmo Campanale.
Particolare attenzione, ovviamente, meritano le due esecuzioni in trio, dove il maggiore spazio disponibile permette di valutare al meglio le peculiarità strumentali del nostro, ben sostenuto dall'efficace sezione ritmica. Un classico, Bluesette di Toots Thielemans, con il fraseggio fluido e insieme frastagliato del pianista in evidenza; ed ancora un originale, The Acrobat, la cui atmosfera in continuo ed evolutivo mutamento è ben rappresentata dal titolo, che richiama l'immagine di un precario equilibrio, di una situazione in bilico e per questo tonificante, atta a tenere i sensi in continua allerta.
In conclusione, Circular Thought è un lavoro pregevole, frutto di un serio e ben meditato approccio alla pubblicazione discografica. Fornarelli mostra, come tratto distintivo, un pianismo angoloso e moderno, derivante da un tenace spirito di ricerca e da una salutare tendenza a sfuggire in maniera sistematica ai cliché, ai percorsi stereotipati e privi di rischi. Traspare in controluce un ascolto attento ed una buona conoscenza dei maestri del passato (e contemporanei), ma al tempo stesso una sicura ed istintiva rielaborazione della materia sonora, una chiara e positiva tensione verso una cifra stilistica personale.

Tessa Souter
Listen Love

By Victor L. Schermer
In Listen Love she is a "thinker's singer," exploring the complex human meanings of songs, each of which has its own special twist, and with a bare minimum of instrumental accompaniment.
In this, her debut album, Tessa Souter brings our attention to the lyrics by holding back on the timing and using the least amount of accompaniment necessary to bring out the flavor of the song. There is no drum set, only slight percussive accents to some of the songs, and often with only one instrument joining in. And with slight shifts in emphasis and tonality, Souter explores a nuance of meaning or tells a more extended story. For instance, in "The Peacocks," a Jimmy Rowles tune with Norma Winstone lyrics, she offers a laid back, reflective version of a ballad with only piano accompaniment, illustrating her minimalist approach. Then, in a way which pleasantly surprises the listener, she takes a classic tune by guitarist Pat Martino, "Willow," sets to it her own lyrics that have more to do with "blue" than with "willow," adds some nice guitar work by Freddie Bryant and the lucid bass lines of Essiet Essiet, and simply reminds us of the gentle side of the legendary Martino—who usually functions in hard drive, but is also capable of sensitivity and tenderness. In John Lucien's "Listen Love," Chambo Corniel provides a pianissimo percussion backdrop, and the music intensifies with the only instance of scat choruses on the album and a breathless ending.
The mood changes with Sting's "Fragile"; a tragic song about anger, pain and suffering and their resolution: "The blood will flow...," "How fragile we are." We have here a musical version of the biblical Ecclesiastes, showing how Souter is capable of taking on some difficult subjects. In "You Don't Have to Believe," a Souter original, the singer starts out with a middle eastern chant and develops an erotic dance with a bitter lyric: "Even though you're not mine, the stars shine." By contrast, "Daydream" and "Insensitez" offer mild Brazilian flavorings. Then Souter renders a Mal Waldron/Billie Holiday song, "Left Alone," placing her own brand on it, enhanced by Freddie Bryant's beautiful guitar accompaniment.
Finally, Souter again surprises us with a spiritual chant: "The Creator Has A Master Plan" by Pharoah Sanders and Leon Thomas, in which the theme from John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" serves as a mantra.

Tigran Hamasyan Trio
New Era

By Jay Deshpande
At twenty-one, pianist Tigran Hamasyan has already done much to launch his name into the world of emergent young lions. He has toured throughout Europe, moving beyond his native Armenia to take prizes in jazz competitions from Moscow to Monaco. And, after winning the prestigious Thelonious Monk Jazz Piano Competition in 2006, he studied in the United States before returning to Paris, where he recorded his first album, New Era.
Hamasyan's predicament is a common one. Like many young jazz musicians releasing their first records, he tries to prove his place in jazz with a few standards, while also working overly hard to showcase his range as a performer through originals and atypical tunes. The result is an album that tries to do too many things, and leaves the listener without a singular sense of the musician's voice.
The suite that opens the album illustrates this problem. The first part, "Homesick," is an energetic romp, carefully structured to let the trio work through a series of hits on the melody, before Hamasyan takes off with an up-tempo solo that hovers over harmonies in the manner of Keith Jarrett's trio work. "Part 2: New Era" borrows a single tumbling fragment of the earlier melody and expands it into a vamp, with Hamasyan doubling on piano and keyboards.
Both sections of the suite would make for nice compositions on their own. But in the end, the relationship between these two parts is so tenuous that one wonders why Hamasyan wanted to draw them together as a suite. And the fact is that the young winner of the Thelonious Monk Jazz Piano Competition can actually perform any of the aesthetics that he samples on New Era. He simply needs to choose which one he will devote himself to for the time being.
Naturally, the most arresting sounds that come off this record are the ones that make the most use of Hamasyan's unique background. In addition to the spate of jazz originals, New Era features two Armenian folk songs. "Aparani Par" and "Zada Es" not only fill out the album—they give it depth, nuance, and a unique character. This development is largely due to Vardan Grigoryan, who plays a series of Armenian woodwinds on these tracks. The narrow, often oriental sounds of the duduk and the shvi, wailing above the melody on "Aparani Par," are not easily forgotten.
The world of young jazz pianists is disturbingly broad, and it's easy to get lost within it, even if one so clearly exhibits the talents and potential of a Tigran Hamasyan. Where this player will be able to come to the fore is in the characteristics that make him an original. Too many others will release first records with "Well, You Needn't" and "Solar" on them as proof of validity, but a song like "Gypsyology" could be found nowhere else. It has all the gaudy bravado of an Eastern European folk dance, and it's frequently hilarious, with its constantly rising chords and unstoppable backbeat. But it's also devoid of self-consciousness, and it's the kind of song that one can't help but listen to.
If Tigran Hamasyan can bring together his virtuosic understanding of past piano masters with this taste for the folksy and dramatic to create a singular voice out of them, he has a long and exciting career before him.
Part 1: Homesick; Part 2: New Era; Leaving Paris; Aparani Par (The Dance Of Aparan); Well, You Needn't; Memories From Hankavan And now; Gypsyology; Zada Es; Solar; Forgotten World.
Tigran Hamasyan: piano, keyboards; Francois Moutin: acoustic bass; Louis Moutin: drums; Vardan Grigoryan: duduk (4,8), shvi (4), zurna(8).

No comments: