Saturday, November 29, 2014

2 Sem 2014 - Part Twelve

Gwilym Simcock

By John Kelman
It's rare when an artist emerges to accolades like "the most important new pianist on the British scene," and even rarer when such praise is justified. It's rarer still when it's an artist like Gwilym Simcock who, at twenty-six, has won a bevy of British awards despite coming to jazz from a classical background less than a decade ago. For an artist so young, Simcock has racked up a staggering array of accomplishments—a member of drummer Bill Bruford's Earthworks and co-member, along with Earthworks saxophonist Tim Garland, in bassist Malcolm Creese's trio Acoustic Triangle. Simcock is also a significant composer, writing for groups ranging from trios to a forty-piece ensemble featuring a gospel choir and strings.
Too many young artists step out as leaders far too soon. Still, Simcock has paid plenty of dues in a short time span, including Acoustic Triangle's sublime Resonance (Audio-B, 2005), drummer Spike Wells' intimate Reverence (Audio-B, 2007) and Garland's ambitious If the Sea Replied (Sirocco, 2005). With Perception, Simcock debuts as a leader, and it's every bit as ambitious and mature as one might expect—and hope.
Revolving around a core trio of bassist Phil Donkin (another youngster at twenty-seven) and drummer Martin France (an exceptionally flexible drummer who's become ubiquitous on the British scene over the past two decades), Simcock's front-and-center on this album of largely original material that also features a few high profile (at least, on the British scene) guest appearances. "A Typical Affair" opens on a demanding Latin-esque note but, with complex shifts in meter that make it a challenge to "find the one," it remains accessible nonetheless. Simcock builds his opening solo carefully, as much a function of rhythm as melody, but with a deep sense of harmony that swings through his tough-to-navigate changes.
Saxophonist Stan Sulzmann, guitarist John Parricelli and percussionist Ben Bryant (heard here on vibes) flesh things out to a sextet for "Sneaky," a buoyant tune that references the knotty yet groove-heavy writing of the late Michael Brecker, and features a robust solo from Donkin as well as a brief but gritty solo from Parricelli. The romantic classicism of "Time and Tide," with Paricelli's nylon-string guitar, Sulzmann's soprano and Bryant's percussion, feels like Oregon at times, but with France's strong backbeat propelling parts of the tune, it's more grounded, less rarified. The rubato "Almost Moment" is darker but no less beautiful, with Sulzmann's tenor and Parricelli's electric swells creating long tones over which Simcock and France layer more fluid expressionism.
Simcock closes the set with two standards—a 10/4, wildly contrapuntal take on "The Way You Look Tonight" and a solo version of "My One and Only Love" that proves Simcock as capable without accompaniment as he is with. It's a fitting closer to a debut that makes it clear just how far-reaching this young pianist is. While he's already delivering on promises suggested by his emergence earlier this decade, Perception augurs much more to come.
Track Listing: 
A Typical Affair; Sneaky; And Then She Was Gone; Time and Tide; Almost Moment; Voices; Affinity; Message; The Way You Look Tonight; My One and Only Love (live).
Gwilym Simcock: grand piano; Phil Donkin: double-bass; Martin France: drums; Stan Sulzmann: tenor and soprano saxophones (2-5, 7); John Parricelli: acoustic and electric guitars (2, 4, 5, 7); Ben Bryant: tuned and untuned percussion (1, 2, 4, 5, 7).

Lili Araujo
Casa Aberta

By Mauro Ferreira
Cantora e compositora carioca, Lili Araujo descende da linhagem nobre de Joyce e Rosa Passos. Não é por acaso que Joyce avaliza o segundo álbum de Araujo, Casa Aberta, em texto escrito para o encarte do CD. O samba que abre o disco, exaltando a alma africana da Bahia, Negro Coração (Alegre Corrêa e Raul Boeira), poderia figurar no repertório de qualquer álbum mais recente de Joyce pelo balanço que remete de imediato ao cancioneiro desta conterrânea de Araujo. Quatro anos após lançar seu (bom) disco de estreia, Arribação (Oficina Records, 2008), trabalho em que filtrou o samba e o choro pela estética do jazz, a artista continua envolvendo a música brasileira em atmosfera jazzy, sem jogar nota fora, sem abrir espaço para improvisos exagerados. A boa influência do jazz é perceptível em todo o disco, mas notadamente em certas passagens de Até Quando Durar (Daniel Santiago e Mauro Aguiar) e da faixa-título Casa Aberta (Lili Araújo), destaques do disco produzido pela própria cantora (e cada vez melhor compositora) com o guitarrista Daniel Santiago. O piano de João Donato imprime em Não Tem Nada Não (João Donato, Eumir Deodato e Marcos Valle, 1973) o tom latino típico do músico. A faixa é outro trunfo de disco que reitera o apego de Araujo ao samba, ritmo recorrente ao longo das 11 faixas de Casa Aberta. Um desses sambas, Não Tem Perdão, é da safra inicial de Ivan Lins, parceiro de Ronaldo Monteiro de Souza no tema lançado por Leny Andrade no álbum Alvoroço (EMI-Odeon, 1973). Outro, Onde Estiver (Chico Pinheiro e Paulo Neves), é cantado em ritmo veloz por Araujo em fina demonstração de sua destreza vocal. Um terceiro, Vai Saber (Lili Araujo), confirma a evolução da compositora, que também assina Pra se Lembrar de Mim, balada interiorizada (e menos envolvente no confronto com outros temas do disco). No todo, Casa Aberta hospeda a boa influência do jazz (e de Joyce) na música brasileira, sinalizando a desenvoltura de Lili Araujo em gênero hoje mais recebido no Exterior do que na sua humilde residência. Entre com ouvidos abertos para o samba jazzy...

Janis Mann & Kenny Werner
Celestial Anomaly

By Christopher Loudon
Five years ago, L.A.-based vocalist Janis Mann paid exquisite tribute to timekeepers, alternating among a quartet of preeminent drummers on A Perfect Time. Now, two albums later, two of the four—Roy McCurdy and Joe LaBarbera—return for the equally sublime Celestial Anomaly. This time, though, co-billing is ascribed to pianist Kenny Werner. Bassist Hamilton Price, as impressive as his better-known bandmates, completes the rhythm section.
Astronomically speaking, the title refers to an apsis, the farthest point between two bodies in elliptical orbit, which seems an odd insinuation. If the two bodies are Mann and Werner, then their union couldn’t be closer—a masterful fusion of musical minds. And though Werner’s playing is expectedly brilliant, the entire ensemble, whether anchored by McCurdy or LaBarbera, is tight and interdependent.
Mann is often likened to Sarah Vaughan, and certainly shares Sassy’s dark, rich texture and her versatility. But Mann adds an enticing air of mystery, a dusky hint of veiled possibilities. She is not only one of the most skilled vocalists around, but one of the most alluring as well. Her excellent taste in standards here extends from a smoky “So in Love” and an intriguingly propulsive “Early Autumn” to an entrancing “Wild Is the Wind” and spellbinding “Throw It Away.” More contemporary material is as shrewdly interpreted, including gorgeous readings of Elton John’s “Come Down in Time” and Sting’s “Fragile.”

Andre Vasconcellos
+ Brasileiro

By Kees Schoof
This is bassist André Vasconcellos’ fourth album. 2, also reviewed on our site, easily gained international success. The bass style of André Vasconcellos (Brasília, 1979) attracts many jazz fans and critics. After 2 there was a live album in 2012. Now we’re pleased to hear + Brasileiro, on which the bassist is surrounded by a bunch of musicians who are all among the best and most promising in their field. On piano is David Feldman, who studied with the great Luiz Eça (1936-1992). The influence of Eça is quite noticeable in Feldman’s playing on this album. On drums is the promising rising star called Rafael Barata; he seems to be everywhere these days. On four tracks drummer Xande Figueiredo is in charge. We already know him from his work on the album Amicizia from the jazz group 8VB. Guitarist is Pedro Martins, whose striking album Dreaming High was recently reviewed on our website. Then there are the talented saxophonists Josué Lopez (Rio, 1980) on tenor and Danilo Sinna (Rio, 1987) on the alto. They all mean serious business on André’s recording date! Their eagerness is heartwarming. It’s how good friends make good music, with fun and dedication. The compositions of André Vasconcellos give space for each musician to show why they’re so in demand. They don’t shy away from complicated harmonic and rhythmic challenges, like in “Meio Sem Fim” and “Um Girassol da Cor do Seu Cabelo.”
The bassist is also know from his work with Hamilton de Holanda. Hamilton is guest on “Tempo de Partir.” “Sem Adeus” features another member of the Hamilton de Holanda group: Gabriel Rossi on harmonica. Third guest is flutist Eduardo Neves on the sunny “Bolero.”
On + Brasileiro André Vasconcellos gives us the confirmation that jazz is alive in Brazil. Jazz with an unmistakably Brazilian touch. The bassist/composer dedicates the music on this album to the musicians and composers from Brazil’s artistic fruitfully 1970s and 1980s. A mission that’s completed in a more than fantastic way.

Helge Lien Trio
Badgers and Other Beings

By Jakob Baekgaard
Since he signed to Dagobert Böhm's Ozella Music, Norwegian pianist Helge Lien has reached a new artistic plateau with his trio. Hello Troll (Ozella, 2008) was an immediate success that showcased the group's lyricism and tight interplay and the spacious beauty of Natsukashii (Ozella, 2010) added new colors to a wide musical vocabulary rooted in the Nordic aesthetic.
Badgers and Other Beings continues the trio's journey in sound and like the previous releases, it has been superbly sculpted by famous engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug in his Rainbow Studio in Oslo. However, there is a significant change. Drummer Knut Aalefjær, who has been with Lien for 13 years, has been replaced by Per Oddvar Johansen. In many ways, this signals a new era, just like it did when drummer Jorge Rossy left pianist Brad Mehldau's trio and was replaced by Jeff Ballard. But like the case of Mehldau, it is a matter of nuances and not a complete artistic transformation. There's still a sense of continuity, but of course, Oddvar Johansen, a highly skilled drummer who has played with pianist Christian Wallumrød and saxophonist Trygve Seim, brings something new to the table.
The most important thing is that he is a dynamic drummer, who is able to navigate in complex situations and change between introspective and expressionistic approaches. He is a sophisticated player who doesn't make the obvious choice in a given situation. For instance, when Lien builds a powerful crescendo with minor chords on "The New Black" where Frode Berg's buzzing bass adds to the drama, Oddvar Johansen doesn't emphasize the mood with thundering strokes on the kit, but plays contrapuntally with understated swing and light splashes on the cymbals. It is a perfect way to build tension and avoid the threat of a bombastic musical statement.
It is characteristic of Lien that he isn't afraid to move into highly emotional territory, but his great gift is that he avoids sticky pathos. Few pianists are able to write a composition about their mother without plunging into the depths of sentimentality, but Lien's bittersweet "Mor" ("Mother") balances the delicacy of a simple singing melody with a tinge of sadness, but most of all adds a warmth that reflects a love that is built like a gentle thread of memories.
While it is true that Lien plays in the great tradition of the piano trio, the trio has its own sound. There's a specific Norwegian sensibility where the folk-melodies of classical composer Edvard Grieg echo through the hills and mountains. Lien's dictum seems to be that he should be able to sing his compositions. This is also the case with a pianist like Keith Jarrett, but whereas the collective unconscious of Jarrett is based on the blues and the standards, Lien's sound is born out of a tradition that is distinctly Nordic. This doesn't mean that he avoids inspiration from outside his country. He knows standards, he knows the blues. The trio even has its own take on calypso on "Calypso in Five," but here the warm sounds of the West Indies are also filtered through the sweet melancholy of the North.
Underneath it all is a life-affirming rhythmic energy that confirms that Helge Lien's trio is here to stay and among the most exquisite proponents of the noble art of the piano trio. Badgers and Other Beings isn't the sound of a trio that has become tired, but rather the evidence of a group that has realized its enormous potential and is still hungry for more.
Track Listing: 
Mor; Joe; Hoggormen; Hvalen; Folkmost; Early Bird; Knut; Calypso in Five; The New Black; Badger's Lullaby.
Helge Lien: piano; Frode Berg: bass, Per Oddvar Johansen: drums.