Saturday, July 30, 2016

2 Sem 2016 - Part One

Brad Mehldau Trio
Blues and Ballads

By Geno Thackara
It's easy to play the blues—or at the very least it's easy to learn the basics—but keeping the form fresh and interesting is another matter entirely. Likewise, any beginner can tackle a quiet ballad, but presenting something simple and pretty is really harder than it sounds. The Brad Mehldau Trio manages its always-distinctive blend of all those things on this lineup's fifth release, still making song-sculpting and harmonic shifting into something both inventive and accessible.
They run a vast gamut in "Since I Fell for You" alone as they stretch that age-old I-IV-V pattern into a ten-minute exploration that never settles into rut or repetition. Mehldau wanders from lightly bouncing shuffle to freeform tonal meandering and back again, whileJeff Ballard and Larry Grenadier demonstrate their impeccable skill for knowing when to add a light touch and when it's best to stay out of the way. The opener and the smoky "My Valentine" wind up bookending the album with the bluesiest treatments while largely sandwiching the more song-based pieces in between. As the title declares, this set omits the genre-spanning originals and modern rock covers (or often reinventions, rather) that usually make part of his mix in favor of more familiar material.
A couple Lennon/McCartney tunes are the newest ones to be found here, while the disc is rounded out by a few standards quite a bit older than that from the likes of Charlie Parkeror Cole Porter. In the spirit (if not necessarily the footsteps) of Keith Jarrett's classic trio, this crew is concerned less with the songs themselves than the possibilities for exploration they can offer. Each provides a springboard to playful dialogue and the chance for surprise. "I Concentrate on You" luxuriates in its airy minor Latin feel while the Beatles' "And I Love Her" gets an extended workout, including staggered rhythmic grooving and a sort of subdued mini-crescendo between the piano and Ballard's drums. The framework may start straightforwardly, but even the simpler pieces get stretched with Mehldau's mix of kaleidoscopic chording and smoothly winding melody runs.
The trio continually enjoys the easy back-and-forth of longtime mates without losing any spontaneity. Whether there's some complexity behind a song's structure or not, the results are always pleasing to the ear and no trouble to simply follow if you don't feel like dissecting what's going on. More seriously intense work can wait for another album (or for the listener, another hour). Forward-thinking envelope-pushers deserve a break now and then as much as anyone, and Blues and Ballads makes an enticing rainy-day listen to give their down time and ours a most beautifully cool accompaniment.
Track Listing: 
Since I Fell for You; I Concentrate on You; Little Person; Cheryl; These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You); And I Love Her; My Valentine.
Brad Mehldau: piano; Larry Grenadier: bass; Jeff Ballard: drums.

Steve Kuhn Trio
At This Time...

By Budd Kopman
The wonderful and deeply satisfying At This Time... brings together pianist Steve Kuhn leading a trio comprised of electric bassist Steve Swallow and the ubiquitous (and always smiling drummer) Joey Baron. The immediate impulse for the recording was an extended set by this trio at Birdland, in New York City in 2015.
Swallow and Kuhn go back forty years to Kuhn's ECM debut,Trance, with Kuhn knowing Baron for more than twenty years. This trio also recorded Kuhn's latest ECM release, Wisteria in 2012.
The set list comes from the tunes played at the gig, and, even though these players all know each other very well, this very feeling of familiarity is enhanced by the fact that they had just played together. Granted, pros can be called together on short notice to play live or record and perform admirably, but there is an ineffable something about the atmosphere created by this album that gives it its special sound.
The nine tracks are mostly in the six-minute range, with Kuhn's "All The Rest Is The Same" taking seven and a half minutes, and "Ah Moore" by Al Cohn reaching over nine minutes, so there is quite enough room for stretching out. However, the record feels as if it flies by, primarily because of the multitude of details that fit together perfectly and which flow ever forward. There is not a moment of fluff or indecision; each tracks sounds like first take, spontaneous creation with nothing to improve upon by trying again.
This feeling of spontaneous perfection is only enhanced by the quality of the recording itself -the piano is crystalline (as is Kuhn's touch), Swallow's amazingly smooth electric bass sound is centered and full, but soft on the edges, while Baron knows exactly what to do and when to do it.
The tunes themselves range from the well known opener, "My Shining Hour" to lesser known standards such as Kurt Weil's "This Is New," "Lonely Town" by Leonard Bernstein and Quincy Jones' "The Pawnbroker" among others. The Kuhn originals are placed in the middle of the set, with the perfect choice of "The Feeling Within" being performed solo, adding just the right touch of intensity.
At This Time... will command attention without demanding it, and the attentive listener will find much in which to revel many times over.
Track Listing: 
My Shining Hour; Ah Moore; The Pawnbroker; All The Rest Is The Same; The Feeling Within; Carousel; Lonely Town; This Is New; I Waited For You.
Steve Kuhn: piano; Steve Swallow: electric bass; Joey Baron: drums.


By Jeff Winbush 
There are three reasons why some people will not enjoySpark, the fourth album from the Trio Project featuring Hiromi Uehara, the Japanese-born pianist and composer and drummer Simon Phillips and bassist Anthony Jackson:
1. It's too complex. 2. It rocks too hard to be jazz. 3. It's long (72 minutes).
None of these are good reasons. Here are three reasons which are good ones:
1. Simplicity has its place. So does complexity. 2. Jazz is not a hyphenated word. It's just jazz. 3. You can't make and bake a cake in two minutes. Patience is its own reward.

Hiromi continues to be one of the most inventive and awe-inspiring pianists in jazz today. Phillips' drumming is alternatingly both dynamic and precise. Jackson is the silent partner of the band, but is the glue which holds it together so it doesn't fly apart into undisciplined soloing.
That's the risk involved in a Hiromi recording. At what point will her dazzling proficiency give way to just spraying notes all around the joint like an Eddie Van Halen freak-out turned up to "11" on the overkill scale? This is an entirely fair comparison. Hiromi can match a guitar god like Van Halen for speed, frenzy and mindless self-indulgence when she goes off.
"Spark" leads off with a gently synth/piano solo that takes off as soon as Phillips comes in and Hiromi engages in dueling leads as they chase each other in musical game of "tag." Good luck with figuring out what the time signature is. The stuttering stop-start of "In A Trance" shows off the favored approach of the Trio Project to jazz: aggressive, inventing and very, very fast and furious.
Even when "In A Trance" slows down to a more traditional approach, it isn't long before it reverts to the highly individualized nature of the players. Phillips launches into a drum solo, shows off some hot licks, and then ends up with some killer fills and cymbals work until Jackson and Hiromi come back in with a vaguely Latin piano riff.
Is "Indulgence" a playful jab at the naysayers who accuse the piansit of being more style than substance? Maybe so and maybe no, but whatever the intent it, along with "What Will Be, Will Be" is a showcase for Jackson's contrabass guitar work and some mighty fine funky grooves and the restrained solo piano piece "Wake Up and Dream" washes over the listener like warm spring rain.
Like it or not (and some jazzheads don't), Hiromi is much more than an programmed automaton who can play really fast. The rollicking closer "All's Well" is funky good fun which connects emotionally on every level. For jazz to resonate beyond its base it has to—repeat—has to develop and promote artists the way rock, pop and country does. It cannot thrive and will not survive unless the new generation is alerted of the new innovators residing among them just beyond their range of hearing. Hiromi is one of those innovators.
Oscar Peterson said, "Too many jazz pianists limit themselves to a personal style, a trademark, so to speak. They confine themselves to one type of playing. I believe in using the entire piano as a single instrument capable of expressing every possible musical idea. I have no one style. I play as I feel."
Hiromi Uehara is living what Peterson advised. Hers is the piano in the Spark.
Track Listing: 
Spark; In A Trance; Take Me Away; Wonderland; Indulgence; Dilemma; What Will Be, Will Be; Wake Up And Dream, All's Well
Hiromi: piano, keyboards; Anthony Jackson: contrabass guitar; Simon Phillips: drums

Enrico Pieranunzi
Tales From The Unexpected: Live At Theater Gutersloh

By Neri Pollastri
Registrato dal vivo al Teatro di Gütersloh il 29 agosto del 2015, questo disco fa parte della prestigiosa serie "European Jazz Legends" della Intuition, che giustamente sceglie un artista come Enrico Pieranunzi per il suo terzo capitolo.
Il pianista romano si presenta in trio, una delle sue formazioni preferite, con partner europei come il danese Jasper Somsen e il francese Andre "Dede" Ceccarelli; in programma alcune delle sue composizioni più famose, come "Fellini's Waltz" e "Anne Blomster Sang," e ben quattro improvvisazioni.
Pieranunzi conferma le proprie altissime qualità, fatte di grande sensibilità nel tocco, elegante scioltezza nel fraseggio, costante liricità nelle improvvisazioni. Cose che valgono in tutto l'arco dell'ora abbondante della performance, ma che sono ben riassunte nella traccia centrale, "B.Y.O.H.," ove troviamo anche un eccellente assolo di Somsen.
Il pianista è ben assistito dalla ritmica, che interagisce con lui in modo molto sinergico, benché il trio non appaia pienamente paritetico, probabilmente a cagione anche della prevalenza di brani della penna di Pieranunzi. Interessante comunque dare attenzione ai dettagli della relazione tra i musicisti: per esempio, in "Tales from the Unespected" il lavoro svolto da Ceccarelli è a lungo di raddoppio e sottolineatura della tastiera, mentre nelle improvvisate "Improtale" l'interazione è assai più stretta che negli altri brani.
Eccellente lavoro non lontano dalle vette in trio raggiunte nella sua carriera da Pieranunzi,Tales from the Unespected si conclude con la registrazione di un'intervista di una dozzina di minuti al pianista, in inglese, subito dopo il concerto.
Track Listing: 
Improtale 1; The Waver; Anne Blomster Sang; Improtale 2; B.Y.O.H.; Tales from the Unespected; Improtale 3; Fellini's Waltz; Improtale 4; The Surprise Answer; Interview with Enrico Pieranunzi.
Enrico Pieranunzi: pianoforte; Jasper Somsen: contrabbasso; André Ceccarelli: batteria.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Don Friedman 1935 - 2016

By Nate Chinen/ NY Times
Don Friedman, a versatile pianist who moved easily between the modern-jazz mainstream and the more volatile jazz avant-garde, died on June 30 at his home in the Bronx. He was 81.
The cause was pancreatic cancer, his wife, Marilyn, said.
Mr. Friedman had a crisp, fluid technique and an adventurous approach to harmony, which made him a desirable sideman over a career that lasted more than 60 years. He worked for decades with the trumpeter Clark Terry, a popular emblem of swinging ebullience, and also commingled with pioneers of free jazz like the alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman.
During the 1960s, when modern jazz was undergoing a seismic upheaval largely instigated by Coleman, Mr. Friedman darted back and forth across the supposed fault line. He played on albums by the trumpeter Booker Little, notably “Out Front,” a landmark of progressive postbop featuring Max Roach on drums and Eric Dolphy on alto saxophone, flute and bass clarinet. He also toured with the uncompromising reed player and composer Jimmy Giuffre.
But he also freelanced with jazz traditionalists like the cornetist Bobby Hackett and toured with a popular Latin-jazz group led by the flutist Herbie Mann. In 1964 he appeared on “Discovery!,” the debut album by the tenor saxophonist and flutist Charles Lloyd.
In an email, Mr. Lloyd praised Mr. Friedman as “a great sage of beauty and grace” with “a modern, lyrical style.”
Mr. Friedman was a prolific solo artist, if relatively unheralded, except in Japan, where he had a substantial and loyal following. Several of his early albums received five-star reviews (the magazine’s highest honor) from DownBeat, which also anointed him a New Star in its annual critics’ poll. But the later name for that honor, Talent Deserving Wider Recognition, would be much more apt in describing Mr. Friedman’s career as a leader.
Donald Ernest Friedman was born on May 4, 1935, in San Francisco. His parents, both immigrants — his father, Edward, from Lithuania, and his mother, the former Alma Loew, from Germany — encouraged his interest in classical piano, which he began studying at age 4. When he was 15, his family moved to Los Angeles, where he discovered jazz and quickly began playing it, initially with a style derived from the bebop paragon Bud Powell.
Some of Mr. Friedman’s earliest work came with West Coast jazz stalwarts like the trumpeter Shorty Rogers and the saxophonist Buddy Collette. He first played in New York in 1956, with the clarinetist Buddy DeFranco, and he made it his home two years later. His debut album, released in 1961 on the Riverside label, was “A Day in the City,” featuring a suite inspired by his brief studies in composition at Los Angeles City College.
Mr. Friedman formed a close musical alliance with the Hungarian jazz guitarist Attila Zoller, featuring him on a pair of critically hailed albums influenced by free improvisation, “Dreams and Explorations” (1964) and “Metamorphosis” (1966).
In addition to his wife, Mr. Friedman is survived by a daughter, Lynn Friedman; a stepson, Rory Friedman; and three grandchildren. Three previous marriages ended in divorce.
In recent years Mr. Friedman worked mainly as a leader, in a crisply swinging style. Among his notable albums are “Piano Works VI: From A to Z,” a solo tribute to Mr. Zoller (2006), and “Waltz for Marilyn,” featuring the guitarist Peter Bernstein (2007). “Nite Lites,” his final trio album, was released last year.