Saturday, December 06, 2014

2 Sem 2014 - Part Thirteen

Fred Hersch Trio

By Dan Bilawsky
Live albums and studio albums can by miles or millimeters apart in terms of presentation, conception, quality, layout and reception; it all depends on the circumstances and intentions when a record is made. Pianist Fred Hersch's Floating, for example, nearly erases that potential divide.
While it's against his very nature, Hersch could've haphazardly thrown together a random list of tunes and gone into the studio cold, using an ad hoc group to flesh out this album. In the end, he did the exact opposite. Hersch took his rightfully acclaimed working band—the Fred Hersch Trio—into the studio right after a run at New York's Village Vanguard, the recording sight of his two previous records. Then, he put together a playlist that mimics the nature of one of the trio's live sets, starting with a standard, moving on to originals, throwing in a dose of classic balladry, and ending with a taste of Monk. The end result is a studio album that sits well next to the pianist's live dates.
The aforementioned album-opening standard is "You & The Night & The Music." Here, this warhorse is transformed by the ceaselessly choppy-and-rolling, Latin-inflected 12/8 feel that the trio adopts. Restlessness and respect are the two qualities that shine through as Hersch and company stay faithful to the music in certain ways, yet remain consistently on the move. The title track comes next, occupying a completely different space; it lives up to its name as it drifts and glides along.
Hersch's penchant for penning tributes is well-known at this point, so it should come as no surprise that this album contains more than its fair share of such pieces. Hersch pays respects to his mother and grandmother with a brief episode of beauty ("West Virginia Rose"), tips his cap to this group's bassist—John Hebert—with a swampy-and-groovy show ("Home Fries"), and delivers an airy and loosely flowing tribute to gone-too-soon pianist Shimrit Shoshan("Far Away"). Other works in this category include a dynamic-yet-sensitive nod to bassist Esperanza Spalding("Arcata"), a gentle piece written in honor of Finnish artist Maaria Wirkkala, and a swirling, almost-swinging piece for pianist Kevin Hays("Autumn Haze"); Hersch and Hebert fall into line on that last one, but drummer Eric McPherson cunningly circumvents the feel for the majority of the tune.
The end of the journey—a gorgeously enthralling take on "If Ever I Would Leave You" and a hip run through Monk's "Let's Cool One—further illustrates Hersch's genius and the rapport that exists between these three simpatico travelers.
Track Listing: 
You & The Night & The Music; Floating; West Virginia Rose (For Florette & Roslyn; Home Fries (For John Hebert); Far Away (For Shimrit); Arcata (For Esperanza); A Speech to the Sea (For Maaria); Autumn Haze (For Kevin Hays); If Ever I Would Leave You; Let's Cool One.
Fred Hersch: piano; John Hebert: bass; Eric McPherson: drums.

Christoph Stiefel & Inner Language Trio
Big Ship

By Bruce Lindsay
Big Ship is the latest album to grace the extensive discography of Swiss pianist Christoph Stiefel and the fourth release from his Inner Language Trio. Stiefel is an underrated pianist. He lacks, so far, the public profile of other European players such as Joachim Kuhn or Michael Wollny but that's no reflection on his talent—as Big Ship clearly shows.
For some time Steifel has been working with the concept of isorhythms—a musical strategy that dates back to mediaeval composers. On albums such as Live! (Basho Records, 2012) Stiefel has signposted this concept by sub-titling his compositions as "Isorhythm #19," "Isorhythm #28" and so on. Tellingly, there's no such numerical classification on Big Ship—isorhythms still influences some of his writing (notably the immediately engaging groove of "Attitudes") but it's no longer as critical a force.
This lineup of the Inner Language Trio features bassist Arne Huber alongside Kevin Chesham, who made two appearances on Live!, on drums. Hopefully this combination will stay together, for Huber and Chesham form a tight and responsive rhythm section.
Stiefel's writing continues to produce tunes full of surprising rhythmical twists and turns—such as "Big Ship" and "The Dance"—but some of Big Ship's finest moments arise in the quieter, less frenetic, compositions. The delicate "First Blossom" is a brief piano solo that's characterised by the calm spaciousness of an Erik Satie composition. "South" is another slow tune, combining a flowing melody and pleasing harmonies. The lovely "Solar Glider" features Stiefel's percussive left-hand patterns, as well as some of Huber and Chesham's most atmospheric playing. "Elegy" is the most striking of these tunes, its flowing beauty the result of a fine ensemble performance.
Out on the oceans, a big ship can seem ungainly and slow to respond. No such problem for this Big Ship. Throughout the 11 tunes the Inner Language Trio demonstrates a masterly command of rhythm and dynamics—shifting direction and pace with the agility of a speedboat one moment, then gliding sedately with the grace of an ocean liner the next.
Track Listing: 
Thalatta; Attitudes; Elegy; Pyramid; New May; Big Ship; First Blossom; The Dance; South; Angel Falls; Solar Glider.
Christoph Stiefel: piano; Arne Huber: bass; Kevin Chesham: drums.

Ellis Marsalis Trio
On The Second Occasion

By JimsJazzNotes
This is the latest release on the resurrected ELM label. Produced by drummer Jason Marsalis, this is a sequel to the 2013 ELM release, On The First Occasion. That disc contained music recorded in 1998. This sequel disc consists of music recorded in 2003. In a recent reply to my review of the first album, producer Jason Marsalis explained how that music had been released once before on CD but only in the local New Orleans market. As far as I know the music on this second recording has never been released before. Like the previous recording, it’s a collection of standards, but as Jason explains in the liner notes it’s meant to contrast with the first release in terms of tempo; consisting primarily of medium to fast tempo tunes. Thanks Jason for bringing this new release to my attention! I promptly purchased it. How’s that for easy sales? :) Once again the musical execution is absolutely exquisite! This recording is a perfect example of the difference between a working band and one time studio sessions. No one time gathering of musicians could ever produce this level of refinement, this consistency of aura, or this degree of clarity.
Ellis is a joy to listen to because his playing is so full and well rounded. He easily goes back and forth between a chord based two handed sound that is full and encompassing, and one handed fiery solos. Bassist Bill Huntington consistently reads and contributes to the particular mood being created by the leader; adding foundational structure, rhythmic intensity, or gut bucket swing, as called for. He also takes a handful of lovely solos, such as on the last cut. Drummer Jason Marsalis assumes a rather large role in this musical outing, consistently taking really powerful solos which often serve to significantly alter the mood or direction of a given tune midway through. His playing seems to really accentuate the difference in sound from one drum to another and at times it almost sounds melodic!
This CD is full of little undocumented surprises. On first listen I noticed at least three small fragments of tunes that are discretely inserted here and there sort of like easter eggs. The final one requires a measure of patience just to find it. :) On another note, unfortunately, this CD is so new that when I went to transfer it to my computer so I could put it on my portable player Gracenotes didn’t even recognize it. I’ve had that happen with a couple other CDs from another label recently as well. Perhaps if I wait a bit longer the data will show up. Anyway, thanks to Ellis Marsalis and his trio for another fabulous recording, and thanks to Jason for putting it all together and sharing it with the rest of us!

Jim Black Trio

By Winter & Winter
Drummer Jim Black, born in 1967 in Seattle, Washington, and residing in New York, forms his first classical piano trio with the almost one generation younger pianist Elias Stemeseder (born in 1990 in Salzburg) and bassist Thomas Morgan (born in 1981 in Hayward, California). Jim Black – who also leads the group AlasNoAxis, plays a major role in Human Feel, creates an exciting new interpretation of Mahler, Mozart and Gershwin with the Uri Caine Ensemble, and belongs to John Zorn's Masada – discovered Elias Stemeseder a couple of years ago during summer classes. From this first meeting a close collaboration develops itself. With Thomas Morgan, performing at that time with Paul Motian, Black finds an ideal partner for the bass. The foundations for this trio are laid in 2010 and already in 2011 appears the debut album »Somatic« on Winter&Winter. Downbeat writes in June 2012: "Black has assembled a remarkably intuitive group here that brings an effective mixture of accessibility and elusiveness to his compositions, a combination that keeps the listener engaged, guessing and surprised."
In January 2014 the Jim Black Trio records its second album »Actuality« live-to-analog-two-track at Sear Sound Studio in New York. All compositions are penned by Jim Black. The album opens with silent, melancholic tones. Jim Black emphasises especially the fine nuances. The concentrated and sensitive interaction of the three musicians, who are excellently connected, is convincing in every phase. The concept of the album resembles a song cycle without words. Jim Black lets his music breathe, gives time and space, opens subtle tones with rich sounds and allows a wide and dynamic spectrum.
A few weeks before the studio production, the trio went on a tour in Europe and gave several live concerts in New York before the first studio day. Jim Black, Elias Stemeseder and Thomas Morgan build an extraordinary unity. It is not surprising that Paul Motian's music has influenced the young Jim Black. In the same way as Paul Motian has shaped the Bill Evans Trio, Jim Black as well does not take the role of a time keeper, but instead plays with his very own, distinctive melodies on his drums and cymbals and remains alway very closely interrelated with piano and bass. Black unfolds a soulful and melodious playing, and Elias Stemeseder and Thomas Morgan make room for these delicate yet powerful sounds. This trio has a particular feeling for overtones and refined nuances. The album ends with the piece "Should Be Painless". From the first to the last resonating tone the Jim Black Trio performs at the highest level.
Jim Black impresses with his musical creativity and endless curiosity, he is one of the most demanded drummers of the jazz world. In 1991 Jim Black moves to Brooklyn, where he has been living until now. In the year 2000 he released his widely acclaimed debut CD »AlasNoAxis« (called by The Wire "a masterpiece of future jazz"). »Actuality« is his ninth leader album on Winter&Winter.
Thomas Morgan starts at seven with the cello, which he will continue until the age of 14 when his attention turned to the double bass. In May 2003 he receives his bachelor of music at the Manhattan School of Music. Thomas Morgan has collaborated with important artists such as Paul Motian, John Abercrombie, David Binney, Joey Baron and Steve Coleman.
Elias Stemeseder decides from the early age of nine to concentrate on the piano as his main instrument. After dedicating himself exclusively to classical music for four years, he develops a deep interest for jazz and launches his first band. At only 15 he is accepted at the Bruckner Conservatory in Linz for the study of jazz piano. His trio receives the prestigious Joe Zawinul Award in 2008.

Dave Liebman Big Band
A Tribute To Wayne Shorter

By Jack Bowers
In a career spanning almost half a century, soprano saxophonist Dave Liebman has appeared on more than five hundred recordings including seventy as leader of various groups. His latest, A Tribute to Wayne Shorter by the Dave Liebman Big Band, may well be the best one yet. Why? Because every single component, from choice of material to arrangements, performance to production, is no less than superlative. In other words, there is simply nothing on this brilliantly conceived and splendidly consummated album that warrants censure of any kind.
In saluting one of the twentieth century's most resourceful and respected jazz musicians, Liebman has chosen (wisely) to focus exclusively on Shorter's more temperate and melodic treasure trove from the mid-1960s, a time during which he wrote such classic themes as "Infant Eyes," "Nefertiti," "Black Nile" and others. A second decision, perhaps even wiser than the first, was to assign arranging duties to Mats Holmquist, a Swedish master who leads his own ensemble and has literally written the book (well, a book) on big-band arranging, "Great Band ABZ." Holmquist's charts are, in a word, sublime, renovating Shorter's compositions, originally designed for quartets or quintets, to make them seem as though they'd been written explicitly for full-size bands.
A third decision, to open the album with a ballad ("Infant Eyes"), could have been less rewarding save for the excellence of the band, Holmquist's wonderful arrangement, and bewitching solos by Liebman and pianist Jim Ridl. Liebman solos on every track, and the thought that arises after listening is "why isn't this guy winning polls?" That's no spur-of-the-moment impression; on soprano sax, Liebman is as sharp and perceptive as anyone you'd care to name. Pay heed, for example, to his dazzling sorties on the fast-paced "Black Nile" and "Yes or No." Improvisation doesn't get much better than that. Speaking of which, there are splendid solos along the way by guitarist Vic Juris("Speak No Evil"), trombonist Tim Sessions and drummer Marko Marcinko("Yes or No"), trombonist Jason Jackson("Nefertiti"), alto / music director Gunnar Mossblad ("El Gaucho"), flugel Scott Reeves and bassist Tony Marino ("Iris") and tenor Dave Riekenberg("Black Nile").
In his liner notes, Liebman affirms "what a pleasure [it is] to play this timeless music with my big band." The pleasure is ours, Dave. Five stars for Dave Liebman, the band, Mats Holmquist and especially Wayne Shorter whose singular talents made this superlative recording possible.
Track Listing: 
Infant Eyes; Speak No Evil; Yes or No; Nefertiti; El Gaucho; Iris; Black Nile.
Dave Liebman: leader, soprano sax, wooden flute soloist; Mats Holmquist: arranger; Gunnar Mossblad: music director, alto, soprano sax, flute; Bob Millikan: trumpet, flugelhorn; Brian Pareschi: trumpet, flugelhorn; Dave Ballou: trumpet, flugelhorn; Danny Cahn: trumpet, flugelhorn; Patrick Dorian: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tom Christensen: alto sax, flute; Dave Riekenberg: tenor sax, flute, clarinet; Tim Ries: tenor sax, clarinet; Chris Karlic: baritone sax, clarinet; Tim Sessions: trombone; Scott Reeves: trombone, alto flugelhorn; Jason Jackson: trombone; Jeff Nelson: bass trombone; Jim Ridl: piano; Vic Juris: guitar; Tony Marino: bass; Marko Marcinko: drums.

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