Saturday, April 26, 2014

Old Jazz CD's 2014 - Part Three

The Fred Hersch Trio

By Oscar Treadwell
An Acquired Taste ...on listening to pianist Fred Hersch First notes go anywhere, everywhere, then dawn imperceptibly from there to THERE. Sound stream plethora of vague reminiscences of known strains that tantalize and jog the song bank micelle. Nuances of a shared experience or a conversation of peers Key cognition of non-verbal communication and move giver and receiver in sync. No shout...bombast...pyrotechnics. Shards of Remember This? reticulate the muse maze, you understood. A nascent humanness sheltering love's beauty midst the world's cacophony of noise. A surreal realness embracing the unambiguous life force of Family and All God's chillun are one. Beauty is an acquired taste, love is its vehicle.
Track Listings:
1. Milestones; 2. Iris; 3. Played Twice; 4. Con Alma; 5. Mood Indigo; 6. Speak Like a Child
7. Evanessence; 8. Think of One; 9. Daydream; 10. Forerunner; 11. Moment's Notice
12. Doxy

Lynne Arriale Trio
The Eyes Have It

By Audiophilia
Digital Music Products (DMP) is a small, audiophile label based in Stamford Connecticut, which, under the direction of the label's producer and engineer Tom Jung, has been using 20-bit technology to make purist recordings for more than five years. Although DMP has been around for over twenty years, they seem to have a much lower profile in the audiophile community than labels like Chesky, Reference Recordings and Mobile Fidelity. This certainly isn't because their recordings aren't first rate, as my recent exposure to a handful of them indicates. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
While not exactly a household name amongst jazz lovers, the Lynne Arriale Trio have certainly taken my own personal jazz world by storm. Their debut recording, The Eyes Have It, released in 1994, is a wonderful mix of jazz standards and original Arriale compositions beautifully recorded by DMP's Tom Jung.
Arriale, a native of Wisconsin and now living in New York, is an exceptionally talented and multi-faceted pianist, possessing the rare ability to swing hard one minute and to display the most delicate of touches, reminiscent of the late, great Bill Evans, the next. While not yet obtaining the commercial success of some of her contemporaries, Arrialle's abundant talents certainly haven't gone unnoticed in the professional jazz world, as she was awarded first prize at the 1993 International Great American Jazz Piano Competition.
On The Eyes Have It, we find Arriale, with bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Steve Davis, in a mostly sentimental mood, covering tunes like Gershwin's My Man's Gone Now and Rodgers and Hart's My Funny Valentine, with lovely arrangements by Arriale. Arriale's Evans-like touch and minimalist approach to chord usage is much in evidence, and used to great effect, on tunes like My Man's Gone Now, My One And Only Love, and her own lovely compositions Elegy, Blues For T.J. and The Eyes Have It.
Arriale and her trio do take a few opportunities to crank up the meter a bit on tracks like Witchcraft and Jerome Kern's Yesterdays, a track which demonstrates Arriale's prodigious technical prowess.
No great piano trio is built on the foundation of a top-notch pianist alone, and the Lynne Arriale Trio is no exception in this regard, Arrialle getting superb support from her rhythm section of Davis and Anderson. Davis isn't a "busy" drummer but is, instead, content to sit back and wait for the right time to contribute just the right cymbal splash, or ride cymbal accent. Listen to his superb use of cymbals and toms to create the almost-dreamy atmosphere on My One And Only Love, a song he co-arranged with Arriale.
The 20-bit recording, engineered by Tom Jung using a Wadia Reference A/D converter and the Yamaha DMR8 20-bit digital mixer/recorder, is exceptional in every respect: Arriale's piano sounds very natural, even at the frequency extremes, Davis's cymbals shimmer and decay beautifully, and Anderson's bass sounds warm and woody. Tom Jung's recordings manage to capture the essence of a live drum kit better than any other that I know of.
The Eyes Have It is a wonderful recording, one which deserves to find a place in every jazz lover's collection.

Peter Delano
Bite Of The Apple

By Tom Krehbiel
Bite of the Apple displays a focus and depth of character that eluded pianist Peter Delano on his earlier Verve release. This set features Delano in a variety of ensembles exploring genres from chamber jazz with cellos and alto flute to traditional trio performances to hard bop modernism laced with a Latin beat.
Everything works and its a pleasure to follow Delano from one intriguing setting to another. One thing is far from a pleasure about this production, however. The stereo perspective is ridiculous, particularly when it comes to drums and vibes. Engineers take note--a drum set is one instrument, normally played by one person.
How can a listener possibly accept the ride cymbal in the left speaker, the crash cymbal on the right, and the snare drum in the middle as being related to an actual musical performance? How long are Victor Lewis' arms supposed to be? Or Peter Washington's or Bill Stewart's or Adam Nussbaum's or Joe Chambers'? They all get stretched on the same stereophonic rack, as do Joe Locke's vibes. What's next? Panning a bassist's four strings across the left to right stage?
Speaking of bassists, one of the most rewarding of the many pleasures from Bite of the Apple is the stupendous bass work of Gary Peacock, both as accompanist and soloist. He and Delano make as fine a team as he and Bill Evans did. (Delano's playing often puts one in mind of Evans, but with some McCoy Tyner crankiness, and Herbie Hancock heft thrown in.)
So this is the paradox of Bite of the Apple. Delano and colleagues create such excellent, ingratiating music that you want to listen closely not to miss a note, but if you listen too closely, the irritating perspective jumps out to spoil the experience. It kind of makes you pine for the good old days of monaural recordings. In fact, engaging your amplifier's mono mode could be the perfect cure for what ails Bite of the Apple.

McCoy Tyner & Bobby Hutcherson
Manhattan Moods

By Michael G. Nastos
The pairing of pianist McCoy Tyner and vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson had them teamed up with firebrands of modern jazz in the '60s, but some 20 years later they made this recording in duet performance with their minds focused on the mellow side. That's not to say their progressive ideas are completely harnessed, but this recording is something lovers of dinner music or late-night romantic trysts will equally appreciate. They play a mix of standards and originals with the genius inventiveness and spontaneous interplay you would expect, while also elongating beautiful melodies that will warm any cold or bitterly emotional situation. Where Tyner's single-minded witty and improvisational extrapolations are always a part of his musical persona, Hutcherson varies the sonic imprint, playing the noble wooden marimba on several tracks, lending a more earthy, organic feeling. There's magic in the air, or at the very least a common ground of shared values that makes this combination of two great musicians turn everything golden. A take on Thelonious Monk's "Blue Monk" is a shining example of how to make a well-worn standard all your own, as the pianist imbues a pure Kansas City blues flavor into the tune, and Hutcherson's marimba leads it carefully into new, woodsy territory. Mal Waldron's "Soul Eyes" is interpreted as faithfully and profoundly as the original, but with new voicings sans a rhythm section, taking the adoring melody into deeper fathoms. Tyner's signature chord accents during "Dearly Beloved" echo the splendid title as tacked onto Hutcherson's shimmering vibes, while the pianist's penchant for modal foundations is clearly exuded on his partner's relaxed marimba-coded original "Isn't This My Sound Around Me?" and the definitive, dependable Tyner staple "Travelin' Blues." "Manhattan Moods," penned by the pianist, is solemn as can be, considering that it is dedicated to the rat race borough of New York City, while Hutcherson's other composition on the date, "Rosie," is as pleasant a waltz as you will hear short of what Randy Weston might do. These groundbreaking musicians are not rotating the Earth or signaling any new directions with this effort. They are completely in touch with their own hearts and souls, as well as those of humankind in general, on this exquisite and gorgeously crafted set of pure unadulterated jazz.

Tha Adam Makowicz Trio
My Favorite Things - The Music Of Richard Rodgers

By J. Levinson
Czechoslovakian immigrants Adam Makowicz and George Mraz are both jazz virtuosos on their instruments, piano and bass, and they are in great form here as they find new layers of beauty in these familiar yet well-crafted tunes. Mraz's bowed melody on "My Funny Valentine" is a highlight. Makowicz playfully quotes a short phrase from "Fiddler On the Roof" during his "Lady Is a Tramp" solo. Alan Dawson, one of the most consistently tasteful and solidly swinging drummers in jazz, is also on his game here. If you like jazz piano trios and classic tunes, it doesn't get any better than this. 

Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Paul Motian
At The Deer Head Inn

By Scott Yanow
Keith Jarrett returns to his roots, both musically and physically, on this CD. His first significant jazz gig was at the Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania, and 30 years later Jarrett agreed to perform at the venue again. With the assistance of bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Paul Motian, Jarrett plays six jazz standards (several of which were associated with Miles Davis) plus Jaki Byard's medium-tempo blues "Chandra." The inventive interpretations give listeners plenty of surprises and variety, making this a very enjoyable outing.

By ECM Archive
Keith Jarrett piano, Gary Peacock bass, Paul Motian drums
Recorded September 16, 1992 at the Deer Head Inn
Engineer: Kent Heckman
Produced by Bill Goodwin
By the fall of 1992, Keith Jarrett had already spent 30 years as a notable jazz performer. What better way to celebrate than to return to this record’s eponymous venue in his birthplace of Allentown, Pennsylvania for a once-in-a-lifetime gig? Switching out his usual go-to, Jack DeJohnette, for Paul Motian (no stranger to Jarrett, with whom he’d worked in the 70s), the trio works wonders with the new colors the latter provides. Peacock and Jarrett are both verbose players who manage never to step on each other’s toes. With Motian backing them, they take longer pauses for reflection, listening to the wind as it blows through their leaves. His presence and panache are as palpable as the prevalence of alliterations in this sentence, bringing an irresistible brushed beat to the squint-eyed groove of Jaki Byard’s “Chandra.” That hook keeps us sharp to improvisatory angle and inspires some youthful banter from Peacock, who feeds off those drums like Christmas. Motian excels further in the balance of fire and ice that bubble throughout “You And The Night And The Music.” The band also dips into Miles Davis-era waters with glowing renditions of “Solar” and “Bye Bye Blackbird.” Atop quilted commentaries from the man at the kit, Jarrett’s unpacking of these timeless melodies is the cherry on the sundae. Sweet toppings also abound in the laid-back “Basin Street Blues,” in which, with closed eyes and an open heart, Peacock finds the perfect resolution for Jarrett’s uncontainable fire. All three musicians up the ante in “You Don’t Know What Love Is.” Jarrett negotiates its changes like breathing while Peacock and Motian speak in vocabularies just beyond the radar of feasibility. Before we know it, we’re caught up in a joyous surge and relaxation. By ending with “It’s Easy To Remember,” the trio saves its finest translucent china for last.

Old Jazz CD's 2014 - Part Two

Makoto Ozone

By B.H. Hopper
But sitting on his haunches and enjoying success was simply not Ozone's style. He embarked on a decision to seriously concentrate on music once again, shifting his focus to acoustic jazz. Contaced by Verve Polydor records, he signed to them in 1994. A landmark decision that served as a catalyst: for the unveiling of his true brilliance, all cam gushing forth like a breaking of a dam. Always a favourite in Europe, Ozone's return to the jazz piano was lauded enthusiastically. He commenced a string of exhilerating live dates that included performances at the North Sea Jazz Festival, Nice Jazz Festival, and the Montreux Jazz Festival. Back in Japan, his first album from the Verve/Polydor label was released. A solo piano album "Breakout", caught the jazz scene off guard, but it was a glorious surprise indeed. Ozone's unexpected return to jazz was a cause for celebration among jazz fans everywhere.
Tea Up; Don't Slice It!; Wild Goose Chase; Lake Thun; Spin Around; Pure Thoughts
Black Forest; Does Your Dog Bite?; Remember T.; My Little Dream; The Dark Shadows
Bullet Trane; Time for Romance.

Fred Hersch
At Maybeck: Volume Thirty-One

By Richard S. Ginell
Fred Hersch's first solo recital came about thanks to -- what else? -- the Maybeck Recital Hall series, which devotes Vol. 31 to his survey of several well-worn pop standards, a few jazz tunes, and a couple of originals. Luckily, Hersch likes to use a percussive form of counterpoint often enough to juice things up, a plan that launches "The Song Is You" and "Everything I Love" in unorthodox fashion. "In Walked Bud," an inventive takeoff on Monk's own stabbing manner, is also clever in its spiky, asymmetrical way. The opening and ending of "Haunted Heart" work well with a nostalgic drone in the bass, and Ornette Coleman's "Ramblin'" gets a gospel-influenced workout that fans of Keith Jarrett's early solo concerts would appreciate. As for the two Hersch originals, "Heartsong" is ebullient and romantic at the same time, while "Sarabande" concentrates solely upon lyricism. In other words, another classy, technically unimpeachable, spotlessly recorded outing in the Maybeck series.

Roy Hargrove Quintet
With The Tenors Of Our Time

By Scott Yanow
Trumpeter Roy Hargrove has the opportunity of a lifetime on this recording, sharing separate songs with five great tenors: Johnny Griffin, Joe Henderson, Branford Marsalis, Joshua Redman, and Stanley Turrentine. Everyone fares well, including Hargrove's group (Ron Blake on tenor and soprano, pianist Cyrus Chestnut, bassist Rodney Whitaker, and drummer Gregory Hutchinson). The young trumpeter (who is vying for Lee Morgan's unoccupied chair) keeps up with the saxophonists on this generally relaxed affair; recommended for hard bop fans.

Ahmad Jamal
Chicago Revisited: Live at Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase

By Scott Yanow
Although it had been more than 40 years since his debut recording, pianist Ahmad Jamal's playing was as viable as ever in the 1990s. Teamed up with bassist John Heard and drummer Yoron Israel for this live Telarc CD, Jamal plays a particularly inspired repertoire that includes "All the Things You Are," Clifford Brown's "Daahoud," John Handy's "Dance to the Lady" and "Be My Love" among its nine selections. Jamal's style had developed since his early days, but his basic approach was unchanged while still sounding quite fresh. This date is an excellent example of Ahmad Jamal's unique sound and highly appealing music in the '90s.

Chick Corea

By Dave Connolly
Having put the Akoustic/Elektric band to bed, Chick Corea didn't delve into another group project right away, opting instead to get in touch with himself on the solo Expressions. This is just Corea on a Yamaha grand piano thumbing through a songbook that includes standards as well as one new track, "Blues for Art." (The disc is dedicated to Art Tatum.) Sometimes subverting the original melodies ("I Want to Be Happy") and other times giving them fairly straight interpretations (his own "Armando's Rhumba"), Corea seems comfortable, if not always inspired. However, unless you're well acquainted with the original versions, it's nearly impossible to glean what the pianist is adding to (or saying about) the music. Because of the similar circumstances for each recording, individual tracks rarely stand out from the whole. There are discernible moods as the pianist waxes sentimental ("This Was Nearly Mine"), indulges in the intellectual ("Oblivion"), or grows restless ("It Could Happen to You"), but the tricks and timbres become familiar before long. Corea has released relatively few works of solo piano, and they tend to be hit-or-miss affairs. By revisiting the standards, Expressions at least gives listeners a point of reference to enjoy this music from, but those looking for dazzling technique or brilliant revisionism will find better examples of these peppered throughout Corea's catalog. It's not a lightweight record, but reputations are made from stronger stuff. 

Kenny Barron
Wanton Spirit

By Lee Bloom
Kenny Barron began to impact the jazz scene in 1961, gigging briefly with reedman Yusef Lateef. He then spent nearly five years with Dizzy Gillespie's group before working with Freddie Hubbard and later rejoining Lateef. He is generally considered a great consolidator rather than an innovator, and his reputation as a world-class mainstream player has grown slowly but steadily over the years. Wanton Spirit further establishes him as a leader and teams him with bebop legend Roy Haynes on drums and Charlie Haden on bass. The early influences of Tatum, Powell, Monk, plus the melodic lines of Tommy Flanagan, the pentatonic harmony of McCoy Tyner, and the rhythmic fluidity of Herbie Hancock have all been thoroughly absorbed by Barron. Dizzy Gillespie's triumphal anthem "BeBop" is not taken at its traditionally frantic tempo; instead its components are decelerated and deconstructed -- revealing in its melody and harmony a hauntingly unstable edge. Barron gives us lyrical ballad interpretations of Tom Harrell's beautiful "Sail Away," Strayhorn's "Passion Flower," and Victor Lewis' "Loss of a Moment." His solo piano rendition of Ellington's "Melancholia" is gorgeous. This talented pianist's humility is evident in his choice of the title track, a composition penned by his student Earl McDonald. As a whole, Wanton Spirit is meticulously recorded, although the studio separation, coupled with digital recording and editing, can make the session sound almost too pristine -- lacking the warmth of a live performance. And though his work is masterful, Barron's playing sometimes frustrates critics since his own personal style is not always simply and readily identifiable. If one listens deeply, though, there is much to savor.

Old Jazz CD's 2014 - Part One

Harvey Wainapel
The Hang

By Owen Cordle
Wainapel, a longtime resident of San Francisco, opens this album, his third, with "Beautiful Love." From his tenor saxophone solo, it's apparent that he favors a mature, take-your-time approach to improvisation a` la Scott Hamilton, Gene Ammons, or Clifford Jordan-with a touch of Lovanoesque modernity applied. This is his most distinctive and appealing horn. (He also plays soprano, alto, and clarinet on the date.)
Next comes "The Buzzard," a slow, bluesy original in a Ray Charles vein-Wainapel worked with the singer's band for 10 months-and there's more fine laid-back tenor. Several performances later, we get to Wayne Shorter's "Pinocchio," a burner that demonstrates that Wainapel is no slouch at uptempo. These three tracks sell me on the saxophonist, although I have no quibbles with the rest of the performances either. He picks good notes.
Kenny Barron appears on piano. (Wainapel's second album showcased Barron's compositions.) Larry Grenadier is on bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums, with trumpeter Phil Grenadier added on three cuts. Barron's lines are impeccable, as usual. His sectionmates prove worthy company throughout.

André Ceccarelli Trio
Avenue Des Diables Blues

By Dean Christesen
The French can swing hard. Let Andre Ceccarelli's 2005 release Avenue des Diables Blues be evidence of this. Frenchmen drummer Ceccarelli and guitarist Bireli Lagrene along with Joey DeFrancesco on Hammond organ display fine technique and wisely executed playing all throughout this Parisian release.
"Nardis" leads off with a bang and wandering time before snapping into the melody. The band explores different feels as they feel appropriate, which becomes somewhat of a theme for the whole album. Nothing feels out-of-bounds for the trio as they slip comfortably into double-times and loose Afro-Cuban grooves.
DeFrancesco gives his tribute to one of his biggest influences, Jimmy Smith, with his unadulterated yet imaginative take on "Summertime." Ceccarelli maintains a nice foundation with brushes, but his switch to sticks brings out a new fire in Lagrene's solo. The tune shuffles right into the organ solo, in which DeFrancesco draws obvious inspiration from Smith while still pulling from his own unique vocabulary.
While Ceccarelli sounds great at all times on the record, the lack of solo time is noticeable. He shines on one chorus in "Nardis" and a sub-2 minute solo entitled "Prelude." The listener is sometimes even teased with what seems like the beginning of a feature for the drummer but quickly fades into a band mate's solo. Nonetheless, the time he does have to speak is filled with thoughtful phrases, technically impressive rhythmic motives, and clear emotional presence. It is on the bright closer, "The Song Is You," that he trades solos with the band and sounds his best, fusing flashes of hand speed with palette-cleansing moments of slower rhythms and cymbals.
Beautiful presentations of Norah Jones' "Sunrise" and Jaco Pastorious' "3 Views of a Secret" join the program of standards and a lone Ceccarelli original, "Avenue des Diables Blues" (co-written by Eric Legnini).
The album feels like a live set at a club, showcasing a steamy performance by three men with a lot to say. Unfortunately, the energy of what might be a three-hour set is compressed into 57 minutes, which at some times leads to overwhelmingly busy solos. Regardless, the way the trio responds to each other's high level of energy is very impressive.
Track Listing:
Nardis; Sophisticated Lady; Summertime (Tribute to Mr. Jimmy Smith); Prelude; April In Paris; 3 Views Of A Secret; Avenue Des Diables Blues, La Vie En Rose; Sunrise; The Song Is You.
Andre Ceccarelli: drums; Bireli Lagrene: guitar; Joey DeFrancesco: Hammond organ.

André Ceccarelli
Golden Land

By Ken Dryden
André Ceccarelli has long been one of Europe's premiere jazz drummers and since the new century began he is getting additional opportunities to showcase his talent as a bandleader and composer/arranger as well. His band includes the brilliant pianist Enrico Pieranunzi, veteran bassist Hein Van De Geyn and the promising tenor saxophonist David El-Malek. Ceccarelli excels at driving a band and is equally at home in driving post-bop numbers like the pianist's "Five Plus Five," his own angular "Free Three" and his solo feature "1er Novembre." Van De Geyn contributed the haunting ballad "Though Dreamers Die," which features El-Malek's emotional solo. Vocalist Elisabeth Kontomanou is added for "Golden Land" (which she co-wrote with the leader, while it is also heard in instrumental form) and the standard "I'm Through with Love." This rewarding session will easily stand the test of time.

Antonio Faraò
Woman's Perfume

By Federico Scoppio
A first-class tribute to film music composer Armando Trovajoli. Top-notch arrangements, superb original compositions, and a flawless trio: a confirmation of creative class and inexhaustible vigor. The Farao' trio alludes to the moods of Trovajoli poetics, expressing itself through music that crosses streets and bridges, when an important decision is about to be taken, defeating snakes and dragons, when no one nearby can be trusted. Music to be listened to, music with a scent. The perfume --the scent-- becomes an entire world to be discovered; a dream, a film, a thing that fascinates, seduces, upsets, evokes darkness and honey, replaces death with life. Especially if the scent is of a woman.

Denny Zeitlin & David Friesen
Concord Duo Series: Volume Eight

By Ken Dryden
When pianist Denny Zeitlin can break away from his full-time psychiatric practice and hook up with the very much in-demand bassist David Friesen, the results are always magical. Both are talented craftsmen on their respective instruments, but together they have the rare musical ESP that enables them to play the best possible line along with each other. This CD represents approximately half of a performance recorded in 1994 at the acoustically superior Maybeck Recital Hall in Berkeley, CA. Cole Porter's "All of You" is reharmonized considerably by Zeitlin, giving it a very fresh sound, while a wild freeform introduction to "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" includes Friesen's droning percussive bass and some far-out excursions by Zeitlin to nicely build the tension before the theme is finally stated to the likely very surprised audience. Jazz classics include a furious run through "Oleo" and a very bluesy finger-snapping interpretation of Ornette Coleman's "Turn Around." Zeitlin's dreamy ballad "Echo of a Kiss" and Friesen's intense and adventurous blues "Signs and Wonders" are compositions worth exploring by other musicians as well. Like their other duo concerts, this CD is highly recommended.

Jazz Sketches On Sondheim
Color and Light

By Scott Yanow
With so few major composers still alive by the mid-'90s, it was logical that jazz musicians would try to expand their repertoire by exploring the works of non-jazz writers. None of Stephen Sondheim's compositions have thus far become jazz standards but that may change after the release of this CD. Three of the tracks unfortunately feature vocals by the overdramatic Nancy Wilson and the R&Bish Peabo Bryson but Holly Cole (on two numbers) fares much better. The most interesting moments are provided by the all-star musicians which include such players as tenors Joshua Redman and Grover Washington, Jr., guitarist Jim Hall, pianist Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter on soprano and trumpeter Terence Blanchard among others. Sondheim himself makes a guest appearance in a piano duet with Hancock on "They Ask Me Why I Believe in You." And best of all, there is no version here of "Send in the Clowns." This varied set has its memorable performances.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

1 Sem 2014 - Part Nine

John Taylor
In Two Minds

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

Vijay Iver

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

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

Gwilym Simcock and Yuri Goloubev: Reverie At Schloss Elmau

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

Jeff Ballard Trio
Time's Tales

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

Shadow Theater

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

1 Sem 2014 - Part Eight

Stefan Aeby Trio

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

Mark Murphy
Memories Of You: Remembering Joe Williams

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

Chip Stephens Trio

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

Basquiat Strings
With Seb Rochford

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

Danilo Pérez
Panama 500

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