Sunday, November 10, 2013

2 Sem 2013 - Part Fifteen

Alex Wilson

By Bruce Lindsay
Combining live and studio recordings, original and classic tunes, up-tempo grooves and reflective ballads, the Alex Wilson Trio is a punchy, energetic, album. This is the ninth album from Wilson, but it's his first with a piano trio lineup. Wilson has released all of these albums on his own label, fitting in other projects such as his role as musical director for Rodrigo y Gabriela and his work with guitarist Ernest Ranglin between releases.
A quick scan of Wilson's discography reveals repeated references to Latin music and especially to salsa. Alex Wilson Trio has a much broader range than this: although Latin grooves are plentiful the influences of straight-ahead jazz, pop-rock and the American Songbook are also apparent. Wilson is accompanied throughout by the excellent Davide Mantovani on bass. For three tunes the drum chair is taken by Tristan Banks: for the rest it's occupied by Frank Tontohwhose lightly swinging style, inspired by pop, soul and Highlife, contrasts well with Banks' more muscular, straight-ahead, approach.
Wilson's "Kalisz," inspired by the Polish jazz piano festival, is a full-on, intense, display of his musical ability. Miles Davis' "Solar" gets a re-working inspired by Cuban danzón: the result is a slinky, sensual, version that showcases Mantovani's equally slinky bass solo. Tontoh's "Jasmina" is another delightfully danceable tune rooted in Mantovani's bass lines. "The Quest," another Wilson original, is slow and moody, a contrast to the upbeat drama of Mantovani's "Arab Spring."
Most of the tunes on Alex Wilson Trio were recorded live at Warwick Arts Centre and the Pizza Express Jazz Club in London. The band's sound is captured well. Unfortunately the audience enthusiasm on display on these live tracks is rather muted and sparse, even with its occasional whoop and whistle, diminishing rather than enhancing the live music experience. It may have been wiser to edit those responses out, leaving the trio's energy and verve to speak for itself.
Track Listing: 
Fly; Kalisz; Remercier Les Travailleurs; Solar; We Work The Black Seam Together; Jasmina; The Quest; Arab Spring; What Is This Thing Called Love.
Alex Wilson: piano; Davide Mantovani: bass; Frank Tontoh: drums (1-3, 6-8); Tristan Banks: drums (4, 5, 9).

Edgar Knecht
Dance On Deep Waters

By Stuart Nicholson
Conceptually this album is faultless - some of the tunes are refracted through the prism of bebop, 'Froiing', or the latin inspired 'Gedankenfreiiheit', but the album's centre is Knecht's interperetive mastery, eloquent musicianship and sheer creativity that makes this album sing. In Europe, the critics have been falling over themselves with delight since this album came out a few months ago, "Sometimes it's so good, it makes you cry," said Hessische Allgemeine, and you can understand where the reviewer is coming from. Edgar Knecht is a special talent.
On their new album 'Dance on Deep Waters', the brilliant quartet continue their forage through the 'Old German Songbook'. As a result, some of the most popular songs of the romantic era are turned into works of spine-tingling, mesmerising ­intensity, including Latin-flavoured 'Gedankenfreiheit' or lightning-speed bebop-piece 'Frühling'.
With his unique and refreshing approach, Edgar Knecht has both raised the bar for those following in his trail and opened up new gateways to long-lost traditions. Thanks to their airy, playful magic, his songs are suspenseful spaces for the imagination to run wild and seeming paradoxes to co-exist; 'Der wilde Wassermann' ('Wild Aquarius') is both minimal and classically rich, while tragic love story 'Es waren zwei Königskinder' ('Once there were two king's children') seems to ­dispense with time and space altogether.
Piano, bass and drums are dancing on the waves of deep waters, rhythms and melodies are rising like ecstatic fireworks. 'And all of this', according to newspaper Hessische Allgemeine, 'is done with plenty of Innigkeit, a boisterous joy of playing, a love for improvisation and spontaneity. Sometimes it's so good, it makes you cry.'
Produced by Dagobert Böhm for Ozella Music
Recorded and mixed 2012 by Stephan van Wylick, fattoria musica, Osnabrück
Mastered by Hans-Jörg Maucksch, Pauler Acoustics, Northeim

Orrin Evans
"...It was beauty"

By Mike Shanley at Jazztimes
Orrin Evans works with one drummer and four different bassists on ...It Was Beauty, all of whom have played with the pianist in different ensembles. While Eric Revis plays on most of the tracks, Luques Curtis and Alex Claffy each get their turn and Ben Wolfe joins Revis on two tracks that manage to flow easily and avoid getting too busy in the low end. All of this is significant because the album’s mood shifts with nearly every track, emphasizing how equally adept Evans sounds in different situations.
The album’s programming bears this out, since only two of the 10 tracks were written by Evans. Evans turns Ornette Coleman’s “Blues Connotation” into a New Orleans groove; reveals his deep spirituality in Andraé Crouch’s hymn “My Tribute,” with Claffy’s assistance; and slows Hoagy Carmichael’s “Rockin’ Chair” down to a crawl to give it a deeper examination. The dual basses of Revis and Wolfe work as an anchor and a countermelody, respectively, in “African Song,” leaving plenty of space for drummer Donald Edwards to cut loose. “Commitment,” an excerpt from a longer Evans original, never gets overly heavy either, and shows the deep variety of moods inherent in Evans’ piano work, by turns weighty and gentle but always enthralling. If anyone released an album this year that’s more diverse yet coherent, I’d like to hear it.
Tarbaby is a collective trio consisting of Evans, bassist Revis and drummer Nasheet Waits that began seven years ago. They’re joined on Ballad of Sam Langford by alto saxophonist Oliver Lake (back for a second time with the trio) and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. (Evans’ son Matthew also plays finger piano on one track.) The album’s title subject was a boxer from the 1900s known as the “the greatest fighter nobody knows,” who also had the unfortunate nickname “the Boston Tarbaby.” Aside from opening and closing with tracks called “Title Bout,” this strong set of music doesn’t exactly come off like a concept album, not that it needs a concept.
All five musicians wrote songs individually for the set. Akinmusire might seem like the wild card among the group but he sounds at home, whether adding wild growls and vocal squawks on “Korean Bounce,” or delivering the delicate ballad “Asiam” in a duet with Evans. Lake, whose fire and passion seem to grow with age, blends effectively with the trumpeter on “When” and “MBBS,” both of which have a ’60s Miles vibe about them. Then there is the core trio, which can easily take the music from straight-ahead to free and back. Waits’ lyrical “Kush” is a highlight among highlights. With the younger Evans joining them on “August,” they also engage in a little AACM fun, with Waits on recorder and Revis also on finger piano. All parties sound uninhibited, and the feeling is infectious.

The Impossible Gentlemen
Internationally Recognised Aliens

By John Kelman
When you come out of the gate as strongly as The Impossible Gentlemen (Basho, 2011), you create a pretty high set of expectations for the follow-up. Of course, when it's a quartet of musicians this accomplished—a transatlantic, trans-generational group consisting of a living legend (bassist Steve Swallow), a less-known but equally active American cohort (drummerAdam Nussbaum), a rising British star (pianist Gwilym Simcock and fellow Brit deserving far greater recognition (guitarist Mike Walker—there's an intrinsic recipe for a sophomore effort that can (and does) easily transcends their superlative debut. Add to that—based on the self-penned liner notes and photos—a group of players that don't just get along, but whose collective chemistry is clearly as much about joy and fun as it is serious music-making, and it means Internationally Recognisable Aliens is a record that, like its predecessor, is destined for year-end "best of" lists.
Bumping into Simcock in Montreal this past summer, he described The Impossible Gentlemen as "music written for what we hoped the group would be" while, with more touring under its belt,Internationally Recognised Aliens was "for what we know the group can be." On the road, the Impossible Gentlemen's members also discovered that they got along like gangbusters, and their joie du vivre is all over this record, from the unexpectedly gritty opener, "Heute Loiter"—its John Scofield-esque funk less than a total surprise, perhaps, given Swallow and Nussbaum's history with the guitarist on early 1980s albums like Shinola (Enja, 1982)—to the buoyant,Keith Jarrett-tinged "Modern Day Heroes" which, also co-composed by Simcock and Walker, grooves along amiably despite a tough set of changes and knotty yet singable melody that lead into a fiery trade-off between the clean-toned Walker and similarly irrepressible Simcock.
Internationally Recognised Aliens also ups the ante by recruiting producer Steve Rodby. A longtime member of the seemingly forever-on-hiatus Pat Metheny Group, In addition to being a fine bassist, Rodby has proven himself an astute producer on recordings by Eliane Elias, the late Michael Brecker and Metheny himself, as recently as The Orchestrion Project (Nonesuch, 2013). Here, in addition to helping bring the Impossible Gentlemen's effervescent personality to greater life, Rodby contributes some acoustic bass to Simcock's gentle, Latinesque "Just to See You," and "Barber Blues," an extended 16-bar blues also imbued by the spirit of Samuel Barber and a reminder that, not much more than a decade ago, the 32 year-old pianist was immersed in classical studies and had yet to make the leap over to the dark side.
Throughout, Swallow and Nussbaum provide the kind of support of which many bands dream, the bassist's five-string instrument allowing him, at times, to cross paths with the low end of Walker's guitar, as he does on his closing "Ever After," its piano/guitar intro ultimately assuming greater shape when bass and drums enter. It's a gentle ending to Internationally Recognisable Aliens, an even more exceptional record than the Impossible Gentlemen's debut, and evidence of the power and value of evolving friendships—musical and otherwise—that unequivocally influence how a group lives and, consequently, plays together.
Track Listing: 
Heute Loiter; Just to See You; Modern Day Heroes; The Sliver of Other Lovers; Crank of Cam Bay; Love in Unlikely Places; Barber Blues; Ever After.
Mike Walker: guitar; Gwilym Simcock: piano; Steve Swallow: electric bass; Steve Rodby: acoustic bass (2, 7); Adam Nussbaum: drums.

Joey Calderazzo Trio

By Mike Shanley
This new document of live-action jazz did not originate at the Village Vanguard, or anywhere near New York City for that matter. Joey Calderazzo’s trio is heard stretching out at Daly Jazz in the relatively remote locale of Missoula, Mont. If this set offers any indication, the venue is just as inspiring a room as some of its big-city counterparts. Pianist Calderazzo, also a member of Branford Marsalis’ quartet, takes his time on these six tracks, stretching out for an average of 10 minutes per tune. Bassist Orlando le Fleming and drummer Donald Edwards fill out the group and give their leader a foundation that is alternately steady or reactive; they often punctuate solos with a gallop that pumps up the energy leading into the next chorus.
“To Be Confirmed” begins with a funky groove based on a New Orleans second-line feel, but rather than simply sticking to a crowd-pleasing romp, the trio shifts into a walking 4/4 tempo that inspires the pianist to create several choruses that flow seamlessly into one another. Calderazzo spends a fair amount of time exploring his lyrical side with Keith Jarrett’s “Rainbow,” Bill Evans’ “Time Remembered” and Bobby Troup’s “The Meaning of the Blues.” But the highlight of the album is the 17-minute reading of Paul Motian’s “Trieste.” Beginning with a gentle 5/4 riff, it turns into a wave of chords that Le Fleming and Edwards build into cascades of sound. The performance comes off as both a unique interpretation and a musical profile of the composer.
1. The Mighty Sword (Calderazzo); 2. Rainbow (Jarrett); 3. To Be Confirmed (Calderazzo)
4. The Meaning of the Blues (Troup/Worth); 5. Time Remembered (Evans); 6. Trieste (Motian)
Joey Calderazzo - piano; Orlando Le Fleming - bass; Donald Edwards - drums

Dominic J. Marshall Trio

By Bruce Lindsay
Just who is Dominic J Marshall? A little bit of George Shearing, a spot of Esbjorn Svensson, a modicum of Robert Glasper and a smidgeon of Neil Cowley are all present on Icaros, the second trio album from the young pianist. Lest this sounds like Marshall is a man who has yet to find his own voice, it's worth stating at the outset that such a combination has blended together to create an individual sound: Marshall is Marshall.
Marshall comes from Bannockburn, a village in Scotland best know for a battle in 1314 which saw the Scots vanquish Edward II's invading army. After studying at Leeds College of Music, Marshall relocated to Amsterdam, where he is now based. He released his debut trio record,The Oneness (Self Produced) in 2011, while in his parallel career as a beatmaker he's released a series of recordings. Clearly, a busy musician. Just as clearly, as his playing and writing onIcaros demonstrate, a talented musician with an ability to mix contemporary hip-hop and electronic influences with those from recent decades of jazz history.
The pianist is blessed with a genuinely exciting rhythm section. Dutch bassist Tobias Nijboer and Latvian drummer Kaspars Kurdeko are tough, dynamic and imaginative players and deserve recognition for their part in creating the Trio's distinctive sound. Kurdeko is readily able to contribute punchy and powerful beats, but he's also a very melodic player. Nijboer is a fluid and creative pizzicato bassist while his arco work— heard all-too-briefly—is delicate. The pair can also swing with old school style, underpinning Marshall's playing on "Sphere"—perhaps inspired by Thelonious Monk—with a rare elegance that matches the pianist's own.
In the company of this excellent rhythm section, Marshall's contributions as a writer—all of the compositions on the album are his—and as a player are consistently enjoyable. His solo opening to "Smile For Us" has grace and melancholy; on "The Basement," he shifts from hard-hitting percussive phrases to jagged chords to funk with ease (and the help of Kurdeko and Nijboer's superb rhythm playing) before ending with a minute or so of gentle classically-influenced playing; "Pointer" highlights the confident energy in his lower register work.
Marshall had just turned 23 years of age when he recorded Icaros in June 2012. He's a precocious talent, still absorbing influences and experimenting with his approaches to playing and composition. Exactly where he'll end up is not yet clear but he certainly has an approach to the piano trio that shows real promise for the future— particularly in the company of Nijboer and Kurdeko. Icaros is a fine album, a promise of even greater things to come.
Track Listing: 
Loose In Your Atmosphere; Pointer; Smile For Us; Sphere; Ojos De La Pastora; Makarska; The Way Of The Dinosaurs; Alongside Aliens; No Umbrella; The Basement.
Dominic J Marshall: piano; Tobias Nijboer: double bass; Kaspars Kurdeko: drums.

2 Sem 2013 - Part Fourteen

Stefano Bollani & Hamilton de Holanda
O Que Será

By Thom Jurek
Recorded live just a year before its release, O Que Será pairs Italian postmodernist jazz pianist Stefano Bollani with one of Brazil's great musical innovators, Hamilton De Holanda playing bandolim (a ten-string mandolin). The pair met on-stage in 2009 and played just two numbers, but it was enough; they realized what was possible. They played a full show in 2011, and in August of 2012 they appeared together at the Jazz Middleheim Festival and made this recording. Despite the stark instrumentation, this program is lively and full of risky moves. Of the ten pieces here, seven are from the Brazilian canon. Each participant contributed one composition and there is a haunted, heartbreaking read of Astor Piazzolla's "Oblivion." The classically trained De Holanda is well known in his own country, having recorded several albums both solo and orchestral. He has also collaborated with everyone from Mike Marshall and Béla Fleck to Richard Galliano and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Bollani has, in recent years, become well known as a stylist, recording material by everyone from Prokofiev and Scott Joplin to the Beach Boys and Thelonious Monk. He has employed Brazilian music on numerous recordings, among them Orvieto with Chick Corea and on his own fine Stone in the Water. O Que Será commences with a limpid, graceful reading of Edú Lobo's "Beatriz." The duo demonstrate their intimate communication skills, moving through the melody with elegance and restraint yet chock-full of emotion. Next up is Bollani's fiery yet dryly humorous "Il Barbone Di Siviglia," which employs a brisk tempo that quotes the opera, but via the pulse of baião and his high-register arpeggios, the improvisational quotient is high. The effect is knotty and slightly dissonant, yet deeply intuitive. This contrasts beautifully with De Holanda's "Caprichos de Espanha," which weds flamenco, bolero, Middle Eastern modal music, choro, and Western classical musics in a dazzling, labyrinthine journey. The tender reading of Jobim's "Luiza" engages bossa but shifts the focus toward jazz in order to reveal another musical possibility for this simple song. "Canto de Ossanha" is a burner that weds choro, samba, and syncopated modernist jazz in a fiery display of near symbiotic interaction with electrifying solos. O Que Será is a one of a kind dialogue between two musicians who understand that music is an adventure; they submit themselves to it fully with a wealth of ideas and bring out the heat, intimacy, and humor in these tunes. 

Tim Lapthorn
Seventh Sense

By John Fordham at TheGuardian
Tim Lapthorn is a young UK pianist who is very much absorbed in standards, and the 40-year-old piano trio legacy of the late Bill Evans. How much he favours the Evans trio's conversational approach is firmly declared in the opening account of Thelonious Monk's clangy Bright Mississippi, which becomes a conversation between all three members ( Arnie Somogyi is the bassist, Stephen Keogh the drummer ) almost as soon as the theme appears. Lapthorn has the long-line vision of the best improvisers, which he often sustains within pieces that have contrastingly fragmented rhythmic identities, and he uses references to familiar jazz-piano licks sparingly. Three out of the nine tracks are his own, with the quiet title track having a little of Brad Mehldau's inclination to develop slowly-blooming melodic possibilities from a simple vamp-like start. The Bark and the Bite merges a contemporary rhythmic feel, a classic-bop melody and a long, uptempo improvisation against Keogh's cymbal beat and Somogyi's emphatic walk. Lapthorn's touch, flow and fresh ideas suggest a lot of music to come, and in all probability it won't always be as close to the tradition as this is.
6. LAURIE (EVANS) 7:11

Fred Hersch & Julian Lage
Free Flying

By Victor L. Schermer 
This album is the latest of several recordings in which pianist Fred Hersch solos or joins forces with some highly intelligent, advanced musicians to provide jazz renditions with a sophisticated, chamber music quality. Others are Hersch's Alone at the Vanguard (Palmetto, 2011); Leaves of Grass (Palmetto, 2005)—an ensemble composition based on Walt Whitman's poems—and two additional solo albums: Fred Hersch plays Jobim (Sunnyside, 2009) and In Amsterdam: Live at the Bimhuis (Palmetto, 2006). He also collaborated with trumpeter Ralph Alessi on Only Many (Cam Jazz, 2013). On Free Flying, Hersch collaborates with guitarist Julian Lage , who, at 25, has already achieved a performance level which makes a good match for Hersch and challenges him in some respects. Lage was hailed as a guitar prodigy when, at age eight, he was playing with Carlos Santana . He was early attracted to jazz, and by the time he was 13, he had performed with Gary Burton and Herbie Hancock. Since then, he has developed into a top-flight guitarist both as a leader and sideman, and has released his own albums, including Sounding Point (Emarcy, 2009) and Gladwell (Emarcy, 2011) The fate of a musical prodigy depends on whether he can transcend the "genius" stereotype and become a working musician, evolving his own musical idiom; Mozart accomplished this and became a composer for the ages.
Closer to home, guitarist Pat Martino —a slow developer compared to Lage—was playing with top groups in his teens, and went on to become an icon because of his innovative and instantly identifiable approach and sound. Lage has reached the point of mature competence and is now striving to evolve into a true guitar master. This album shows that he has the potential to join that venerated pantheon, along with the likes of Martino. Doing so will depend on live and studio encounters that give him an opportunity to fully develop his own influential idiom. Here, he has already demonstrated his superb craftsmanship and ability to step up and work closely with a master like Hersch; his job is to blend and, in doing so he succeeds supremely well. Only the future will determine whether or not he adds a unique stamp to his guitar playing.
The key element of this outstanding album is the seamless interplay of piano and guitar. Historically, and instrumentally speaking, if you combine a piano and guitar, you get a harpsichord, a keyboard that plucks the strings rather than hammering them. This was the primary keyboard instrument of the Renaissance and Baroque eras, soon to be supplanted, in Bach's time, by the pianoforte—the modern piano. Moreover, Bach owned and wrote several compositions for lauten work, a harpsichord with the softer sound of a lute, a precursor of the guitar.
The historical connection between lute, harpsichord and guitar hovers around this duet collaboration between Hersch and Lage. Moreover, as an important basis of jazz counterpoint, highlighted in the bebop era, it derives from Bach as well. Thus, the musical sensibility of this recording is not unlike Bach's tightly textured yet exploratory "Goldberg Variations," except that Hersch and Lage carve out jazz motifs and modern harmonics. The delight of the music comes from its contrapuntal weaving of themes, and variations so well integrated that, except for the different sonorities, they seem to emanate from one player and instrument. Like Bach and the harpsichord, Hersch and Lage vary dynamics and intensity sparingly. The listening pleasure, of which there is plenty here, comes from the mutual brilliance of execution and the architecture and development of musical ideas. This is co-improvisation taken to the highest level.
The compositions on this album are largely Hersch originals previously recorded in other contexts by the pianist. The two exceptions are "Beatrice" by Sam Rivers and "Monk's Dream," from Thelonious Monk
. The setting is the Kitano jazz club in New York—a small, intimate space with a Steinway piano that has been fingered by some of today's best contemporary jazz pianists, among them Don Friedman , Bill Mays, Roberta Piket and Jim Ridl. The result is studio quality sound with a live ambiance and a touch of emerging jazz history.
The initial track is Hersch's "Song without Words #4: Duet," which evokes a madrigal-like quality, as if it could have been performed on period instruments from the Renaissance. The development has a modal feel, as the lilting melody soon lends itself nicely to a rumba-like dance development. (Hersch often mimes the mix of Latin and stride piano heard in the radio days of the 1920s and '30s.) Lage picks up on Hersch's phrasing, so that piano and guitar interact seamlessly. A natural follow-up is "Down Home," which relaxes into syncopated vaudeville with a ragtime twist. The emphasis on rhythmic patterns characterizes the whole set.
The mood changes significantly with "Heartland," a reflective ballad whose melody is introduced by Lage, providing a contrast to the driving quality of most of the tracks. Hersch gives a sampling of romantic lounge piano playing at its best, with an open, lyrical quality that owes something to the ethereal beauty achieved by the great Bill Evans.
The title tune,"Free Flying" first appeared on Fred Hersch Pocket Orchestra Live at the Jazz Standard (Sunnyside, 2009). The percussive, four-bar theme and variations clearly illustrate the Bach influence, as does the repetitive drone-like bass and alternation of unison and counterpoint between the two instruments. Hersch and Lage work so tightly together that sometimes the only way to tell who's playing is by the sound of the instruments.
"Beatrice" a post-bop song by the late great saxophonist Sam Rivers, is one of the most swingable ballads in all of jazz. Here, Hersch and Lage take it at a lively pace, alternating off-beat syncopation with straight-ahead rhythms, releasing themselves from the tight contractions of the other tracks. The rhythm work is more playful, yet a certain tension and holding back of the beat pervade the piece.
As the album proceeds, Hersch gives Lage more room for his own improvisations, and the guitarist is clearly up to the challenge. "Song Without Words #3: Tango" is vaguely reminiscent of "Midnight Sun," with its descending lament motif. It features Lage, and is a perfect foil for him. He develops a blend of tango and blues in single lines resembling some of Pat Martino's best ballad playing, represented for example in the latter's memorable performance of "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life."
"Stealthiness" is dedicated to guitarist Jim Hall, possibly with some reference to the ingenuity of his playing, and the duo engages in rough-hewn Monk-ish rhythmic shifts and quizzical phrases. In this track, each player takes solos with the other comping, in contrast to the contrapuntal playing featured elsewhere. Eventually, Hersch leads up to an energetic coda, a quiet release, and a punctuated end. In turn, "Gravity's Pull" continues with the focus on Lage, showing his melodic style. After a quiet beginning, there is a gradual "pull" that develops into some brilliant Bach-inspired counterpoint.
The set ends with "Monk's Dream," with the duo using the Monk tune as a way to play their own version of Monk's punctuations; arrhythmias, and playful use of the upper register. They outdo Monk in eccentricity.
To sum up, Hersch and Lage mesh superbly and have put together a coherent and listenable set of sophisticated improvisations which fuse baroque counterpoint, punctuated rhythms, and diverse jazz motifs in a disciplined yet exciting way. Simply by virtue of the close coordination of piano and guitar and tightness of performance, the album points up the continuity of music from Bach to bop to modernity, and in this respect represents something of a measuring rod for the development of jazz forms.
Track Listing: 
Song without Words #4: Duet; Down Home; Heartland; Free Flying; Beatrice; Song Without Words #3: Tango; Stealthiness; Gravity’s Pull; Monk’s Dream.
Fred Hersch: piano; Julian Lage: guitar.

Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet

By John Kelman 
Since returning to the ECM fold in 1994 to record Matka Joanna(1995), Tomasz Stańko has virtually rebooted a career that demonstrated significant promise back in the 1970s, when he released Balladyna (1976) for the label, and worked with others including Finnish drummer Edward Vesala and American bassistGary Peacock. The Polish trumpeter was far from dormant in the period between 1981 and 1994, releasing a slew of recordings in Poland, but none—with the exception Bluish (Power Bros, 1992) and Bosonossa (Gowi, 1993)—came close to his work for the German label. That those last two recordings were made with stalwart ECM artists—Bluish, with bassist Arild Andersen and drummer Jon Christensen, and Bosonossa with the same group that would go on to record bothMatka Joanna and Leosia (ECM, 1997) (pianist Bobo Stenson, bassist Anders Jormin and drummer Tony Oxley)—may well have something to do with rekindling ECM headManfred Eicher's interest in Stańko.
Whatever the reason, the trumpeter's career has been refreshed and renewed over the past two decades, even as he's fronted a variety of projects ranging from his tribute to fellow Pole, pianist/composer Krzysztof Komeda (1997's Litania) to grooming a young Polish trio that, beginning with 2000's darkly melancholic Soul of Things, would ultimately continue as a standalone entity on ECM (Marcin Wasilewski Trio, last heard on 2011's Faithful), even as the trumpeter formed a new group for Dark Eyes (2010), which brought together a stunning Danish/Finnish collaboration whose 2009 performance at Norway's Molde Jazz Festival was but a warm-up for the quintet's incendiary closing show at the TD Ottawa International Jazz Festival a year later.
Now splitting his time between New York City and Warsaw, Stańko may well have put together the best group of his career with his New York Quartet and its debut recording, Wislawa. Over the past decade, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerald Cleaver have shaped growing presences on the label, Morgan for his collaborations with guitarist John Abercrombie and pianist Masabumi Kikuchi, and Cleaver for his work with reed multi-instrumentalistRoscoe Mitchell, and bassist Miroslav Vitous and Michael Formanek.
Pianist David Virelles is the wildcard here, just as he is on saxophonist Chris Potter's outstanding leader debut for the label, The Sirens (2013). With Continuum (Pi, 2012), the Cuban expat was already breaking free of the shackles that confined his early work with Canadians including bassist Roberto Occhipinti and saxophonist/flautist Jane Bunnett. Not that he's deserted his Latin/Afro-Cuban roots, which Virelles combines with classical studies and a penchant for more idiosyncratic jazz pianists like Andrew Hill and Thelonious Monk, but with The Sirens and, quite possibly even more so here on Wislawa, Virelles is now able to more freely explore all points in this unique constellation and, despite still being on the shy side of thirty, has quickly proven himself worthy of mention in the same breath as Jason Moran, Craig Taborn andBrad Mehldau, three other American-based pianists who've caught Eicher's ear in a big way in recent times.
What makes Wislawa stand out amongst Stańko's consistently impressive ECM discography is that the trumpeter seems to have found a group that, from the get-go, is capable of the broader purview his recordings have always shown, but each in more specific, individualistic ways. Here, Stańko's quartet is capable of moving from effortless demonstrations of purer freedom ("Faces"), fiery swing ("Asssassins") and indigo balladry ("Metafizyka") to rubato tone poems ("Song for H"), episodic raptures ("Tutaj—Here") and pensive melancholy ("A Shaggy Vandal"). Two versions of the title track move from unfettered elegance ("Wislawa") to incendiary displays of power that are virtuosic without ever resorting to self-congratulatory pyrotechnics ("Wislawa, var."). The rewards of this quartet are plenty good enough without relying on the kind of back-patting gymnastics that all-too-often unnecessarily define whether or not a group is succeeding.
Instead, while every member of this group clearly shines individually and collectively—has there been a more imaginative bass/drums pairing, in recent years, than Morgan/Cleaver, who effortlessly groove when necessary, but with ears ever-open to respond to or push against what their partners are up to?—and there are impressive solos aplenty, it's always in service of Stańko's insidiously recognizable writing. Stańko's tone, with its characteristic grit, speaks of a lifetime of experiences good and bad; and his ability to levy visceral moments almost instantly contrasting with passages of revealing vulnerability remain unparalleled to this day.
Every one of Stańko's groups since Matka Joanna has been exceptional—each with its own definitive strengths—but none has afforded the trumpeter the breadth of freedom heard over the course of Wislawa's two discs, twelve songs and one hundred minutes. Stańko's quartet with Wasilewski slowly grew into freer playing over the course of seven years but never lost its innate lyricism; despite the occasional moment of departure, his Dark Eyes quintet was very much about time; and his Leosia quartet, even with players as capable of motivic melody as Stenson and Jormin, couldn't help but interpret those qualities in the context of Oxley's more liberated approach to time.
With Wislawa, Stańko has it all, with a group whose possibilities already seem limitless. With an unmistakable allegiance to the tradition, even as it twists, turns and occasionally collapses its supporting structures and introduces incidental contextual ideas from beyond, Stańko's New York Quartet feels like the group he's been searching for all along.
Track Listing: 
CD1: Wislawa; Assassins; Metafizyka; Dernier Cri; Mikrokosmos; Song for H. 
CD2: Oni; April Story; Tutaj - Here; Faces; A Shaggy Vandal; Wislawa, var.
Tomasz Stańko: trumpet; David Virelles: piano; Thomas Morgan: double bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums.

Manu Katché

By John Kelman
Since joining ECM for Neighbourhood (2005), Manu Katché has carved out a very specific niche for himself at a label whose purview continues to broaden—with this French-Ivorian drummer, perhaps surprisingly so. Contemporary? Yes, Katché has fashioned a nearly four-decade career as a superb groove-meister, whether in the rock world with artists Sting or Peter Gabriel, or with more decidedly jazz-centric artists like saxophonist Jan Garbarek, on Dresden (ECM, 2009), or keyboardist Herbie Hancock, on his (admittedly more pop-oriented) The Imagine Project (Herbie Hancock Music, 2010). But with his now four ECM recordings defined by accessible grooves and singable melodies, they're still absolutely players' recordings, and certainly nowhere near "smooth jazz" sphere to which some folks attribute them.
Manu Katché follows Third Round (2010), but returns to the slightly longer song lengths of Playground (2007), allowing his quartet, which brings back Third Round's Tore Brunborg, more maneuvering room. The saxophonist first appeared on the international stage with ECM and Masqualero, the now-legendary Norwegian quintet, led by bassist Arild Andersen and drummerJon Christensen, that also included a young Nils Petter Molvaer, here making his recording debut with Katché. The trumpeter has garnered significant attention, beginning with the paradigm shift of his electro-centric, pan-cultural 1997 ECM debut, Khmer, through to the present, his current trio continuing to bust down borders of orthodoxy, style and culture on Baboon Moon (Sula, 2011).
Manu Katché represents, then, a reunion of sorts for Molvær and the equally busy Brunborg—whose star has been on its own ascendancy for recent ECM work with pianists Ketil Bjornstad (2010's Remembrance) and Tord Gustavsen (2012's The Well). Katché rounds out his bass-less quartet with British pianist/organist Jimmy Watson, for a program that ranges from the post-bop swing of "Short Ride" and soulful, tom-driven vamp of "Bliss" to the modal funk of "Beats & Bounce," and "Loving You," a ballad at its core but possessing, with Watson's intervallic-leaping Hammond, considerably more forward motion.
Molvær expands Katché's soundstage, for the first time, with his technology-driven approach; harmonized, with copious reverb and other effects, the trumpeter's solo on the propulsive "Walking By Your Side" is a sonic tour de force, though he adopts a more burnished, acoustic tone in the front line melodies with Brunborg on tracks like "Short Ride" and "Loose," but with an immediately recognizable embouchure.
As ever, Brunborg solos with effortless aplomb, weaving melodic yet change-aware lines through Katché's writing, while Watson demonstrates similarly unfettered imagination on piano, whether it's on the soft ballad, "Loving You" or "Beats & Bounce," where he channels his inner Herbie Hancock.
Katché rarely solos, though when he does near the end of "Short Ride," it's quickly clear that he's got plenty of jazz chops to spare. Katché made the right decision to leave more space on Manu Katché, because it would be an absolute mistake to constrain a quartet this good to just three or four minutes. Still, not a note is wasted with what may be his best group yet. Manu Katché may be ECM's most vital, booty-shaking record ever—and live, this group must be positively nuclear.
Track Listing: 
Running After Years; Bliss; Loving You; Walking By Your Side; Imprint; Short Ride; Beats & Bounce; Slowing the Tides; Loose; Dusk on Carnon.
Jim Watson: piano (, Hammond B3 organ; Nils Petter Molvær: trumpet, loops; Tore Brunborg: tenor and soprano saxophones; Manu Katché: drums, piano solo (10).

2 Sem 2013 - Part Thirteen

The Mike LeDonne Trio
Speak : Live at Cory Weeds' Cellar Jazz Club

By Pierre Giroux at
In the liner notes to this Mike Ledonne Trio Cellar Live release entitled Speak, highly regarded pianist Bill Charlap offers the following assessment of the performer: “Mike Ledonne is one of my favorite pianists. An artist of great integrity and depth, he’s incapable of playing a dishonest note”. High praise indeed, but a listen to this album confirms this appraisal.
The first five tracks of this recording are all tied together as part of “Suite Mary” a story told in music and dedicated to Ledonne’s daughter Mary, who has a very rare disability called Prader Willi syndrome. All of Ledonne’s musical sensibilities are on display in the various sections where he brings each one to life. Demonstrating showy form, assured attack, and interesting turn of expression, Ledonne delivers a scintillating palette of music.
Pianist/composer James Williams wrote “What Do You Say Dr. J” for basketball legend Julius Irving and it is given a groovy downhome reading by the trio with drummer Farnsworth delivering a confident rhythmic signature and bassist Webber in full grasp of his instrument. “I Loves You, Porgy” opens with Ledonne stating the theme in soft Latin frame then picking up the pace to 4/4 time on the bridge. All in all an unusual rendition of the composition. A breakneck speed rendition of Ledonne’s composition “Blues For McCoy” which is dedicated to McCoy Tyner shows the pianist’s capability of owning the keyboard with an especially boisterous drum solo from Farnsworth. The set closes with Cedar Walton’s composition “Bleeker Street Theme”. Walton died on August 19, 2013 and was acknowledged as one of jazz’s most esteemed composers with a book of compositions that covered a panoply of styles. Ledonne’s take on the tune runs the gamut of Waltonian touches that give each piece its identity. Throughout this album, Ledonne demonstrates his profuse technique coupled with storytelling insight.
Suite Mary Part 1: Speak; Suite Mary Part 11: Listen; Suite Mary Suite 111: Play; Suite Mary Part IV: I Will Always Love You; Suite Mary Part V: Little M; What You Say Dr.J; I Loves You, Porgy; Blues For McCoy; Bleeker Street Theme
Mike Ledonne – piano; John Webber – upright bass; Joe Farnsworth – drums

Eri Yamamoto Trio

By Britt Robson  at JazzTimes
On the surface, Japanese pianist Eri Yamamoto may be the most conventional artist on the intrepid AUM Fidelity label. Yet there are virtues in Yamamoto’s music that are rarely heard elsewhere. One is the depth of her rapport with a rhythm section that has gigged with her regularly for over 13 years, making whole a steady stream of new compositions from her prolific muse. Another is Yamamoto’s ability to evoke ephemeral feelings and concepts with such precise intonation. On this new album’s opener, “Memory Dance,” she commemorates deceased friends with lyrical riffs of increasing intensity, altering their emphasis and tempo ever so slightly without milking the resonance—and trusting bassist David Ambrose and drummer Ikuo Takeuchi will provide the shading while honoring her subtlety.
That longstanding but still delicate balance is altered a bit on Firefly, however. It is the Yamamoto Trio’s first live recording, a setting that almost inevitably generates fervor, and Ambrose and Takeuchi are more prominent and forceful in the mix on these eight new originals. It enhances the caliber of their solos and exchanges with Yamamoto on the evocative title track and the sweet gambol of “Playground.” But it’s preferable when Yamamoto is more obviously first among equals, because she is best equipped to add gravitas and emotional heft to the lyricism of her songs. (Or maybe I just cherish the trio’s studio status quo.)
Firefly closes with “Real Story,” probably the most expressive blues Yamamoto has written in years, although it remains a slinky, midtempo affair. Here is the vehicle for more loose-limbed phrases, but Yamamoto, like her mentor, Tommy Flanagan, sounds august even when she’s being impish, and even as the emotions are so effectively seeping through.

Gregory Porter
Liquid Spirit

By Bruce Lindsay
Gregory Porter has a lot to live up to. Widespread critical acclaim, Grammy nominations and reviewers suggesting that he's the next big jazz star, the man to bring jazz back to mainstream popularity, all lay a big artistic burden on his (admittedly quite broad) shoulders. Liquid Spirit is his third album and it heralds a move to a major label, Blue Note. Maybe that just raises expectations even higher. No matter—Porter meets, and even exceeds, such expectations.
Porter's voice is a joy to hear: warm, engaging, capable of conveying emotion with subtlety. He's technically impressive, but he never uses technique just to impress. He's a fine songwriter as well, combining beautiful melodies with lyrics that tell stories and express feelings that seem to come straight from the singer's heart.
For Liquid Spirit Porter has retained a quintet of musicians from his second album, Be Good (Motéma, 2012). The saxophones of Yosuke Sato
and Tivon Pennicott come together to excellent effect on the hard bop-come-gospel flavored title track, the soulful "Movin'" and the cheerful "Wind Song" but the album's finest moments appear when the instrumental accompaniment is pared down to just Chip Crawford's piano, Aaron James' bass and Emanuel Harrold's drums.
The sad but beautiful "Water Under Bridges" keeps things really simple: just Porter's voice and Crawford's piano. The result is a three and a half minute triumph: bluesy, heartfelt and heartbreaking. "Hey Laura" and "Brown Grass" run it a close second, both songs enlivened by Harrold's sympathetic drumming. "Wind Song" is more upbeat, a celebration. Soul classic "The 'In' Crowd" swings, Harrold and James laying down the groove, Crawford crafting a strong solo and Porter making it clear that he's in with the "In" crowd—not boasting, just telling it like it is.
There's just one small cautionary note. "When Love Was King" and Sammy Cahn and Jules Styne's "I Fall In Love Too Easily," the album's closing tracks, clock in at almost seven and eight minutes respectively, double the length of most of the songs. Despite Porter's superb vocals, the songs tend to meander and lose focus: a rather downbeat follow on from the gorgeous "Movin.'"
Intriguingly, while Porter's debut album, Water (Motéma, 2010) gained a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album his nomination for "Real Good Hands" from Be Good (Motéma, 2012) was in the Best Traditional R&B Performance category. There are performances on Liquid Spirit that could readily be considered for jazz, R&B, soul or gospel awards. Porter makes the transition between genres with apparently effortless ease—he's a singer and a songwriter at the top of his game and Liquid Spirit is an inspiration.Track Listing:
No Love Dying; Liquid Spirit; Lonesome Lover; Water Under Bridges; Hey Laura; Musical Genocide; Wolfcry; Free; Brown Grass; Wind Song; The “In” Crowd; Movin'; When Love Was King; I Fall In Love Too Easily.
Gregory Porter: vocals; Yosuke Sato: alto saxophone; Tivon Pennicott: tenor saxophone; Chip Crawford: piano; Aaron James: double bass; Emanuel Harold: drums.

Carla Bley/ Andy Sheppard/ Steve Swallow

By John Kelman
In a career more defined by memorable compositions than instrumental acumen, it's easy to forget that Carla Bley may not be the most virtuosic pianist on the planet, but she's a far more than capable one, as evidenced on duo recordings like Are We There Yet? (Watt, 1999), with life partner/bassist Steve Swallow , and Songs With Legs (WATT, 1995), a trio date with longtime collaborator, saxophonist Andy Sheppard —also heard in Bley's larger ensemble of Appearing Nightly (Watt/ECM, 2008) and quartet session, The Lost Chords (Watt/ECM, 2004). On Swallow's recent Into the Woodwork (XtraWATT/ECM, 2013), Bley proved a clever, quirky and comedic organist; with Trios—an album that, perhaps for the first time ever, features absolutely no new compositions—Bley reunites the Songs With Legs trio, refocusing attention on her thoughtful, precise piano work.
That's not to suggest there isn't still a clever compositional mind at work in these fresh, intimate arrangements of music ranging from Bley's elegiac "Utviklingssang," her most-recorded ballad that first appeared on Social Studies (Watt, 1981), to lesser-known but still previously recorded suites including "The Girl Who Cried Champagne," from the aptly titled Sextet (Watt, 1987) and "Wildlife," heard for the first time on the larger ensemble session Night-Glo (Watt, 1986). Only the dark-hued "Vashkar"—one of Bley's most well-known tunes, having appeared on Tony Williams ' fusion classic Lifetime (Polydor, 1969) and, most recently, on John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana 's Invitation to Illumination: Live at Montreux 2011 (Eagle Vision, 2013)—is played on record by Bley for the first time.
Driven by Swallow's superb time—all the more essential to a group's without a drummer—Bley's reading of "Vashkar" opens with the pair exploring its mid-eastern modality for a full ninety second before Sheppard comes in, on soprano, to double its memorable yet quirky melody with Bley's right hand. Sheppard's star has been on the ascendancy for years, but most recently on the superb Trio Libre (ECM, 2012), his second recording as a leader for the label. Here, he demonstrates the same kind of care-ridden patience, his solo reflecting a trio whose ears are wide open, meticulously responding to each others' every move. Even as they adhere to the song's form, there's the sense that were this to be immediately followed by another take, it would be an entirely different experience.
Swallow introduces "Utviklingssang" alone, its haunting melody soon joined by Bley, whose thoughtful introduction of a contrapuntal theme and spartan supporting chords yield to sparer accompaniment still when Sheppard finally enters. While time is something to which the trio adheres carefully when required—Swallow's inimitable swing fundamental to the first section of "Les Trois Lagons (d'après Henri Matisse)"—Trios' ultimate beauty is in the interpretive nuances that allow time to be ever-so-slightly pliant—subtly stretched and compressed to imbue these five pieces with their own personalities.
The balance of the program consists of longer, multipart compositions, but remains underscored by the same attention to detail. Without muss or fuss, Bley, Swallow and Sheppard have, with Trios, created that most perfect of chamber records, filled with shrewd surprises and a delicate dramaturgy that reveals itself further with each and every listen.
Track Listing: 
Utviklingssang; Vashkar; Les Trois Lagons (d'après Henri Matisse): Plate XVII, Plate XVIII, Plate XIX; Wildlife: Horns, Paws Without Claws, Sex With Birds; The Girl Who Cried Champagne: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
Carla Bley: piano; Andy Sheppard: tenor and soprano saxophones; Steve Swallow: bass.

Ahmad Jamal
Saturday Morning: La Buissonne Studio Sessions

By Ian Patterson
Just over a year after Blue Moon (Jazzbook Records, 2012) —Jamal's stellar homage to American cinema and Broadway—the Pittsburgh pianist returns in the same rich vein of form on Saturday Morning. Blue Moon earned a Grammy nomination, and for the second time in recent years Jamal was invited to open the Lincoln Center season in September; clearly, Jamal is enjoying his status as one of jazz's great, elder statesmen. Saturday Morning could almost be part of the same sessions that produced Blue Moon with its mixture of standards, new compositions and reworked older material. Like Blue Moon, this recording occasionally evokes his classic 1950s Argo years, only there's more meat on Jamal's arrangements these days, and remarkably, greater fire in his fingers.
Though drummer Herlin Riley and former Weather Report percussionist Manolo Badrena
first played with Jamal in the 1980s, these latter two Jamal recordings have the feel of a new quartet, especially in the wake of the departure of long-standing drummer Idris Muhammad and bassist James Cammack. Happily, bassist Reginald Veal is much more prominent than on Blue Moon, engendering real swing and irresistible funk grooves. Stepping into Cammack's shoes—Jamal's bassist for 29 years—can't have been easy but Veal's lyricism, bold motifs and striking improvisations color the music greatly. Badrena conversely, plies his wares more subtly than before, while Riley keeps a simple, in the pocket groove throughout, rarely slipping the leash.
Jamal has created his own language on piano; on "Back to the Future" his jangling left-hand powers like rising flood water while rhapsodic right-hand explorations alternate between chordal steps, spinning flurries and long, cascading runs. On this opening number Jamal's two-handed synchronized run towards the finishing line and his trademark final punctuation epitomizes the sense of drama that inhabits his play. On "I'll always be with You" Jamal emerges from a tempestuous improvisation to land on the most delicate of blue notes, as though flung from a washing machine only to land on his feet immaculately attired.
Jamal admirers and detractors alike point to his continual, restless motivic development and compositions like the gently paced "Edith's Cake" and the grooving "The Line" have enough "fiddling and diddling"—to quote Cammack from a 2012 interview—to delight and frustrate according to taste. At his most fluid, when there don't seem to be enough keys on the piano to accommodate his dazzling runs, it's easy to see where pianist Hiromi Uehara finds much of her inspiration.
For all his technical dexterity and passion, Jamal is never more at home than when caressing and teasing the melody of a ballad. There are a few to savor here, notably a majestic rendition of "I'm In the Mood for Love" and Duke Ellington 's "I Got it Bad and that Ain't Good." On the latter, Jamal plays with the melody, letting it drift before gently rekindling the flame. Bass, brushes and percussion lend tender support. Jamal can't resist quoting the melody to "Take The A-Train" here, and on numerous occasions throughout the album he exercises his penchant for quoting the popular melodies he has breathed for a lifetime.
Jamal pays tribute to pianist Horace Silver on the Afro-Caribean flavored "Silver," whose simple melody and uncluttered arrangement harks back to the Jamal of yesteryear. Similarly, the sparse architecture and beautiful minimalism of Saturday Morning recall At The Pershing:But Not For Me (Argo, 1958)—a million-selling album that cemented Jamal's reputation as an original and influential voice. The lilting melody of the title track is hypnotic enough for the quartet to repeat it throughout the song's ten-minute duration without it ever sounding less than charming —a signature tune to replace "Poinciana" perhaps?
The title track from One (20th Century Fox Records, 1978) seems like an unnecessary indulgence on an album that weighs in at a healthy one hour. Nevertheless, its jaunty melody and infectious groove will appeal to new fans and maybe send others back to rediscover an overlooked recording nestled in the middle ground of a discography that dates to 1951. "Saturday Morning (reprise)"—a three and a half-minute radio-friendly version—serves up that delightful melody one last time and burns it into the subconscious mind—if it wasn't already there.
Jamal proves once again that he's lost none of his customary elegance or electricity. His expansive imagination as an interpreter of standards—particularly ballads—remains almost unmatched. The four musicians sound fully molded to each other contours and the result is music that is fantastically tight yet exhilarating. Jamal is still minting great melodies, still blazing his own trail and—for many—still leading the way.
Track Listing: 
Back To The Future; I’ll Always Be With You; Saturday Morning; Edith’s Cake; The Line; I’m In The Mood For Love; Firefly; Silver; I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good; One; Saturday Morning.
Ahmad Jamal: piano; Reginald Veal: double bass; Herlin Riley: drums; Manolo Badrena: percussion.

2 Sem 2013 - Part Twelve

Christian McBride Trio
Out There

By Matt Collar
Christian McBride's second studio album in 2013, Out Here, finds the adept bassist leading his trio through a jaunty, exuberant set of straight-ahead acoustic jazz. The album follows on the heels of his equally as appealing quintet album, People Music. However, where that album found McBride delving into the knotty post-bop sound of artists like '60s Bobby Hutcherson, Out Here is more of a classic standards album in the vein of works by Oscar Peterson and Duke Ellington. Joining McBride here is his working trio of pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr., who was also featured on People Music. Both Sands and Owens are superb, technically adroit musicians who complement McBride's warm, generous bass playing at every turn on Out Here. What's great about McBride leading his own trio is that because he is fundamentally such a monster of a bassist, he can and does take the lead on any given song just as well, if not better, than many of his non-rhythm section instrument-playing brethren. That said, he certainly lets his bandmates shine in the spotlight throughout much of the album. In fact, as on the trio's take on "My Favorite Things," both Sands and McBride take turns interpreting the melody. Elsewhere, they delve into bluesy, gospel-influenced numbers with "Ham Hocks and Cabbage" and "Hallelujah Time," and jump headlong into a swinging rendition of "Cherokee." There are also some gorgeous ballads featured on the album, with McBride's Latin-tinged "I Guess I'll Have to Forget" standing out among them. McBride even summons the spirit of his more funk and soul-influenced albums with the trio's giddy album-closing take on the R&B classic "Who's Making Love."

Lisa Hilton

By Dan Bilawsky
Pianist Lisa Hilton has made an art out of balancing the simple and complex. Her work speaks with extreme clarity and serves as a benchmark for a less-is-more style of piano playing that appeals to a wide swath of listeners, but it isn't plain-Jane jazz. Hilton has a way of taking a basic idea and stretching its conceptual fabric to the breaking point. Singsong ideals are twisted, contorted and distorted, and rhythmic ideas are pulled out of focus, blurring the firm-time realities that actually exist underneath it all. This form of musical cunning helped to make Underground (Ruby Slippers Productions, 2011) and American Impressions (Ruby Slippers Productions, 2012) so intriguing, and it serves Getaway just as well.
Getaway is both a return to standard form and a departure from the norm for Hilton. She's working with musicians who've appeared by her side before, but she's left the quartet comfort zone and ventured into trio territory, where transparency and trickery both seem to thrive. Hilton's most frequent on-record collaborator—bassist Larry Grenadier—and the man who helped her shake things up and put a darker spin on things—drummer Nasheet Waits—join up again. They both assist Hilton in painting a bluesy picture, where shadows and light share space and the brooding and bright coexist in equal measures.
The album takes flight with a dark, cycling pattern that underlines a song that's both diaphanous and direct ("Getaway"). Things progress with jaunty notions, as playful melodic snippets come and go ("Just For Fun"). Both of these formulas, with certain twists, serve Hilton well in other places, but they don't define the album. The music falls into a state of cinematic reverie at other times ("Evening Song"), but excitement and the unexpected are always lurking around the corner ("City Streets" and "Lost & Found"). The majority of the program is given up to Hilton originals, but two covers—"Stormy Monday Blues" and Adele's "Turning Tables"—give the trio an opportunity to try their hand at music of the past and present.
The rarely-encountered marriage between stasis and surprise is central to the success of Getaway. Hilton's left hand often acts as a constant, serving as a steady presence and eye in the storm, and Grenadier often grounds the group, allowing Hilton and Waits to color around his bass. Waits remains the wonderful wildcard, as on Hilton's two previous albums, but he tempers his explosive side. Both Grenadier and Waits are far more technically adept than Hilton—and 99% of the playing population—but they don't flaunt their musical muscle in this setting. They both play in service of the music and all three musicians prove complementary to one another.
Getaway, more than any other release thus far, provides a clear picture of Lisa Hilton as artist, conceptualist builder, and sculptor of sounds. It also confirms what was already known: Hilton is a conjurer of musical spells, moods and magic who defies easy categorization.
Track Listing: 
Getaway; Just For Fun; Stormy Monday Blues; Stepping Into Paradise; Evening Song; City Streets; Lost & Found; Emergency; Turning Tables; Unforgotten; Stop & Go; Slow Down; Huckleberry Moon.
Lisa Hilton: piano; Larry Grenadier: bass; Nasheet Waits: drums.

David Newton
Portrait Of A Woman

By Amazon
'Portrait of a Woman' is the new CD from pianist and composer David Newton with thirteen wonderful original compositions each representing a chapter in a love story. Newton appears alongside his new trio consisting of Andrew Cleyndert on bass and Steve Brown on drums plus guest guitarist Jim Mullen. On the tracks with string arrangements by Richard Niles, the power of Newton's music is suddenly made more apparent. Grand, sweeping symphonic melodies mixed with infectious catchy tunes over elegant and sophisticated rhythms make this a completely unique album. In the early 1990s Newton's reputation as an exquisite accompanist for a singer, spread rather rapidly and by 1995 he was regularly working with Carol Kidd, Marion Montgomery, Tina May, Annie Ross, Claire Martin and of course Stacey Kent, with whom he spent the next ten years recording and travelling all over the world. At the same time, Newton was composing music which he recorded on his own CDs as well as writing specifically for Martin Taylor, Alan Barnes, Tina May and Claire Martin. In 2003, Bright New Day Records was born and soon saw the release of two trio albums by Newton, 'Pacific Heights' and then 'Inspired'. 'Portrait of a Woman' is the label's latest release. Personnel: David Newton (piano, keyboards), Andrew Cleyndert (double bass), Steve Brown (drums), Jim Mullen (guitar), The London Orchestra

The Bassface Swing Trio
Plays Gershwin

By John Sunier at
This may be a recording first: the jazz trio thru the three selections on side one of this direct disc twice, than did the same for the three tunes on side two. They then selected the best side of each and that became the master for the direct disc – as George Goebel used to say, “You can’t hardly get them no more.” At the same time a two-channel DSD master was made and that became the SACD, with a downsampled-to-44.1K copy as the CD layer on this hybrid SACD. There are longer-than-usual breaks between the tracks and you hear the trio preparing for the next tune. There’s no stopping on either side between the tracks, and of course no tape to be edited, which results in the optimum fidelity possible. These normal direct disc artifacts are also preserved on the optical disc.
The German trio is thoroughly professional and swings well, but don’t expect Bill Evans-level creativity. The piano is a Fazioli grand, being heard increasingly on recordings (along with Bosendorfer), and way superior to Steinway in the treble end. Since all three formats came from the same exact source at the same time, we have here a fine opportunity to compare the three formats with some enjoyable and familiar music. I don’t think the ability to A/B a SACD with the same material on direct disc has been done before.
I found the CD to be considerably higher in level than either the stereo SACD or direct disc versions, making comparisons a bit more difficult. The SACD layer had a richer piano sound and more “air” around both the piano and drums. The lowest notes of the acoustic bass had more solidity. Track 3 opens with a rather loud figure on the drum set; on the SACD option you could hear more evidence of the volume/size of the drum set than on the CD option. The distinctive timbre of the various drums was also more pronounced.
Switching to the direct disc produced more presence and the doublebass notes were felt even more strongly than on the SACD. The piano had even more “air” around it and the timbre of the different strings was more pronounced. The deepest bass was so strong that I had to reduce the level on my “butt-shaker” transducer mounted in my sofa. Though LPs and phono cartridges lack the separation of digital, I heard no noticeable loss of separation of the three instruments across the sound stage.
After listening extensively to both and switching back and forth, I stopped and carried out a few tweaks on my Integra universal player which I had not previously done. I turned off the video circuitry, I switched to the DVD output – a direct two-channel analog out, rather than the 6-channel out of which I had been using only the front channels. Finally, I zapped the SACD with my MapleShade Ionoclast (a heavy-duty Zerostat) and placed my Marigo Audio Signature Stabilizer Mat on top. I also used my RadioShack sound level meter to more closely match levels.
Repeating the SACD/direct disc comparison, I found the two now almost totally identical. The only hint I had of the direct disc being played was a very slight hiss in quiet sections, due to having the level turned up quite high on the low-level disc, and a couple of places where there was an extraneous noise on the left channel - perhaps due to “horns” on the grooves of the disc receiving its first playing. Considering the vinyl version is a very limited special edition and commands the highest price for a single new LP I have seen, I would recommend the SACD-only version if you have decent two-channel SACD playback. On one of the two-channel-only SACD decks it may very well surpass the sonics of the direct disc, although I realize it’s heresy to say that.
Thilo Wagner, piano; Jean-Philipe Wadle, doublebass; Florian Herman, drums

Molly Ringwald
Expect Sometimes

By Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Well, of course Molly Ringwald was going to sing "Don't You (Forget About Me)" on her 2013 singing debut Except Sometimes -- it provides the hook to draw the curious into the fold, to bring in listeners who may otherwise have never paid attention to another album of an actor singing standards. And, in most regards, Except Sometimes is indeed another album of actors singing standards, distinguished by a more-adventurous-than-usual selection of songs (Ringwald has good taste and an aversion to shopworn warhorses) and a nicely intimate vibe, suggesting a comfortable, brightly lit nightclub where smoking was prohibited long, long ago. Apart from "Don't You (Forget About Me)," there are no radical rearrangements here, so what carries the day is that sweet, softly swinging feel, as Ringwald is a game but limited singer, hampered slightly by her thin, airless voice. Certainly, she seems to be enjoying herself but she also seems overly concerned with hitting her marks; her phrasing is precise and mannered, contradicting the otherwise relaxed vibes of the record. If Ringwald wasn't well-known, odds are Except Sometimes would never have shown up on a major label, but that's no reason to hate it: it's too cheerful and slight to inspire hate. It's merely a pleasant curiosity, one that seems like you've heard it before.