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.

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