Sunday, January 22, 2017

1 Sem 2017 - Part One

Bill Evans
Some Other Time: The Lost Sessions From The Black Forest

By Mark Richardson Executive Editor
Some Other Time is a newly unearthed Bill Evans studio album, initially recorded in 1968 in Germany but not released until this month. It still sounds fresh and alive almost 50 years later.
Casual jazz fans know Bill Evans through his association with Miles Davis. Kind of Blue, the one jazz album you own if you only own one, features Evans on piano on four of the five tracks, and his brief liner notes sketch out the group's approach to improvisation in poetic and accessible terms. When you learn a bit more about Kind of Blue, you learn that Davis actually envisioned the record with Evans in mind. And though for years Davis was listed as the album's sole composer, Evans wrote "Blue in Green" (he eventually received credit.)
Another Kind of Blue piece, "Flamenco Sketches," was partly based on Evans' arrangement of "Some Other Time," the Leonard Bernstein standard. (Evans had earlier used the slow opening vamp as a building block to his breathtaking solo piano composition "Peace Piece"). So though he may not be an especially famous jazz musician, Bill Evans played an integral role in shaping the most famous jazz recording of all time, and the arc of his discography is a rewarding one for those branching off from classic Miles. "Some Other Time" continued to be a touchstone piece for Evans for the rest of his life, appearing regularly on his albums (notably on his duet record with Tony Bennett). And now it's become the title track to a newly unearthed studio album, one recorded in 1968 in Germany but not released until this month.
Jazz in general overflows with archival material. It's a live medium, and recordings of shows have been common since the early part of the last century. Studio LPs could typically be cut in a couple of days, which generally meant a wealth of unused songs and outtakes. But it's somewhat rare to have a true unreleased album—a collection of songs recorded together at a session with the thought of a specific release that never saw the light of day.
Some Other Time: The Lost Session From the Black Forest is one of these. It was recorded when Evans was on tour in Europe with a trio that included Eddie Gomez on bass and, on drums, a young Jack DeJohnette, who would go on to much greater fame with Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, and as a leader himself. It was cut between stops on a European tour by German producer Joachim-Ernst Berendt, with the idea that the rights and a release plan would be figured out later. This particular group had only been documented on record just once, on At the Montreux Jazz Festival, recorded five days prior to this date. So the existence of an unheard studio album by the trio is a significant addition to the Evans story.
The piano/bass/drums trio setting is where Evans did his most important and lasting work. He thrived on both the limitations and the possibilities of the set-up, and returned to it constantly over the course of his quarter-century recording career. He generally favored truly collaborative improvising in the setup; the bassist in his trio was expected to contribute melodically and harmonically, in addition to rhythmically, and he could often be heard soloing alongside the pianist. Eddie Gomez, heard on this album, was a steady partner of Evans' for a decade, and the level of empathy between the two players is something to behold. On "What Kind of Fool Am I?," Gomez's dancing lines darts between Evans' bass notes, almost serving as a third hand on the piano. On the immortal title track, Gomez seems like half a conversation, accenting and commenting on Evans' melodic flourishes. For his part, DeJohnette offers tasteful and low-key accompaniment, heavy on the brushwork and soft textures on cymbals—he was more of a role-player at this point in his career. But the three together feel like a true unit.
The tracklist on Some Other Time is heavy on standards, with a few Evans original sprinkled in. To love the American songbook is to be in love with harmony, and Evans never stopped discovering new possibilities in old and frequently played songs. He had a way of phrasing chord progressions for maximum impact, and he used space as virtually another instrument. Evans recorded "My Funny Valentine" many times in a number of different arrangements, often uptempo, but here he drags it out into an achingly poignant ballad that picks up speed as it goes. In his autobiography, Miles Davis famously described Evans' tone as sounding like "like crystal notes or sparkling water cascading down from some clear waterfall," and the tumble of notes on the faster sections of "My Funny Valentine" evince that crystalline loveliness. In addition to the material planned for the original LP, there's a second LP of outtakes and alternate versions that feels very much on par with the first disc.
Evans' art has endured in part because he has a brilliant combination of formal sophistication and accessibility; critics and his fellow musicians heard the genius in his approach to chords, his lightness of touch, and his open-eared support of others in his band, while listeners could put on his records and simply bask in their beauty, how Evans' continual foregrounding of emotion made the sad songs extra wrenching and the happy ones extra buoyant. He was sometimes criticized for an approach that could sound like "cocktail piano," meaning that it wasn't terribly heavy on dynamics and tended to be lower key and generally pretty, but this turned out to be another strength. If you wanted jazz in the background while engaging in another activity, Evans was your man, and if you wanted to listen closely and hear a standard like "Some Other Time" pushed to the limits of expression by his ear for space, he was there for that too.
Evans was one of those jazz artists who changed relatively little over the course of their career. His style developed and his sound had subtle shifts in emphasis over time, but his general approach to music was remarkably consistent, and he remained apart from most of the fashionable trends that wound through the jazz of his era. His first studio date as a leader, in 1956, was just a year after Charlie Parker's death, with bebop very much still au courant; his last, in 1979, the year before his death, was the year Chuck Mangione was nominated for a Grammy for the discofied light jazz funk of "Feels So Good." In both of those years, Evans recorded small-group acoustic jazz albums featuring his standard trio, playing a mix of standards and a few originals. About midway between those two bookends came this set, recorded in a small studio in Germany and left on the shelf, and it still sounds fresh and alive almost 50 years later.

Tommy Smith & The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Modern Jacobite

By John Fordham
Tommy Smith, the great Scottish saxophonist, composer, bandleader and educator, studied classical orchestration in the 1990s, and has played in plenty of challenging jazz/classical settings. But Modern Jacobite is his most ambitious journey yet, centred on an intricately woven three-movement symphonic work inspired by the Jacobite uprisings; it is bookended by a rapturous tenor-sax improvisation on Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise, and by Chick Corea’s famous Children’s Songs interleaved with Smith’s own Bairn’s Songs as personal variations on the same theme. The Jacobite pieces embrace violent, cinematic soundscapes for slewing brass and thundering percussion; deep cello themes that segue into pulsating tenor-sax ruminations; Scottish folk dances that become pipe-toned tenor jigs. There are seamless sprints into swing and fast-changing scene-shifts in which Smith’s sophisticated awareness of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra’s full potential testify to his long-honed musical class and attention to detail. Jazz/classical crossovers can be full of pitfalls, but this one is a triumph.

Edward Simon
Latin American Songbook

Latin American Songbook

By Peter Hum
However you want to frame it, pianist Edward Simon’s latest disc, Latin American Songbook, is excellent.
The album, which was released Friday, has all the virtues of Latin jazz going for it, and in heaping quantities. With his interpretations of popular songs by great Cuban and South American composers, Simon dials up broad, direct emotions and stirring, rhythmic adventure. That’s as you might expect. For Simon, a native of Venezuela who now lives in the San Francisco area, re-imagining a beloved bolero, tango or bossa nova is intensely personal.
The CD is also a superior jazz piano outing, with Simon, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Adam Cruz demonstrating a remarkable rapport as they course through the disc’s program and profoundly explore their material. Of course, Simon’s jazz credentials are impeccable, including his sideman work with such leaders as Bobby Watson, Paquito D’Rivera and Terence Blanchard, not to mention his work with peers such as David Binney, John Patitucci, Brian Blade and Luciana Souza.
Ultimately, it’s best not to pigeonhole Simon’s latest recording as this kind or that kind of record — as some jazz critics’ polls might have you do — and simply enjoy its rush of passionate and deeply articulate music.
With its seven tracks over 55 minutes, Latin American Songbook creates a compelling sonic world. A charged version of Astor Piazzolla’s Libertango, kicks off the disc, and the famed Argentinian bandoneon player’s classic, dramatic piece loses nothing in translation for piano trio. Simon delights with glowing chords and urgent, racing, melodic improvising and the support from Martin and Cruz, sounding especially supercharged, is unrelenting and utterly in sync.
A perfect down-shift follows with the elegant ballad Alfonsina y el mar, by the Argentinian composer Ariel Ramírez.
Gracias a la vida, by the Chilean composer Violeta Parra, is a meditative, bittersweet exercise in slow, open, rubato playing that brings Martin’s bass into the spotlight for its theme after Simon’s austere introduction.
There’s room on Simon’s disc for one Brazilian piece, namely Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Chega de saudade. The twist here is that Simon redeploys the piece as a bright, driving swinger, complete with piano and drums trading eight-bar sections, and his move works like a charm.
Closing the disc is the tender Cuban bolero En la orilla del mundo. A version some years ago by Charlie Haden, which featured pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, set the bar for jazz interpretations of this piece, but Simon’s take is just as moving and beautiful.
It’s certainly a bonus that Simon’s artistry has made me discover his inspirations. But you don’t need to be acquainted with the originals or their lyrics to be fully won over by Simon’s music. It has more than enough power and grace in its own right.

Claudio Filippini

By Daniele Vogrig
A seguito dei lavori realizzati con il trio scandinavo, al fianco di Palle Danielsson e Olavi Louhivuori (Facing North del 2013 e Breathing in Unison del 2014), e l'ultimo album registrato, in ordine di tempo, con Luca Bulgarelli e Marcello Di Leonardo per il suo trio italiano (Squaring the Circle del 2015), Claudio Filippini matura la sua ultima fatica discografica all'insegna di una precisa svolta artistica, musicale e umana.
Overflying è il primo disco in piano solo realizzato dal musicista pescarese, il quale si è prestato al pianoforte per un dialogo intimo e personale. Come suggerisce il titolo, si parla di un sorvolo al di sopra della materia musicale cara al suo creatore ed esecutore, il quale opera con costante lucidità e intelligenza lungo processi di composizione e scomposizione, tra pezzi classici, brani inediti e ben dosate improvvisazioni, trascendendo decisamente i tradizionali confini jazzistici, gli usuali spazi offerti dagli standards, così come i suoi precedenti lavori.
Dodici pezzi, dodici esperienze, dodici scelte sviluppate con "ardua semplicità," vale a dire all'insegna di un connubio ispirazione-esecuzione-registrazione che si rivela in un moto d'animo istantaneo, innato. Brani come tracce sbiadite di una mappa, che conducono l'ascoltatore verso approdi sicuri, cioè verso le salienti sfaccettature dell'indole musicale di Filippini.
Forza ed energia permeano l'album, a partire dal vigoroso incipit, "Voilà," o nella nervosa "Haze," dove, sulla scia di cellule ritmico-tematiche, tese e minimali, si aprono squarci di tenue improvvisazione, rivelando un animo in perfetto equilibrio tra inquietudine e distensione. Non mancano i momenti più morbidi, densi di languido pathos, come "El Noi De La Mare" e "Mentre dormi," la prima una nenia natalizia catalana rivisitata tematicamente, la seconda una delicata ballad, un dissonante canto della buonanotte che proietta una luce soffusa sul lato più intimista e, forse, sugli affetti del compositore.
Di particolare interesse appaiono le rivisitazioni classiche, a partire dalla Sonata "K 135" di Domenico Scarlatti, un excursus lungo gli ultimi confini del Barocco musicale europeo, della quale ci vengono offerte una pressoché fedele esecuzione della partitura scarlattiana e, parallelamente, una nervosa improvvisazione che decresce lungo un pacato finale dalla profonda cantabilità. De "Le Tombeau de Couperin -Forlane" di Maurice Ravel viene eseguito il terzo movimento, la vivace "Forlane," mentre della "Sonata N. 14—Opera 27 N. 2 -2nd Mov." di Ludwig van Beethoven, la sonata del "Chiaro di luna," viene proposto il secondo movimento, l'Allegretto. Una scelta inusuale, forse controcorrente, ma in linea con gli equilibri interni dell'album, stavolta vivacizzati da un ¾ che ben si sposa con la tensione generale che governa buona parte di questo lavoro.
"Tales of the Old Grandmother" di Sergej Prokof'ev è un passaggio breve e intenso: Filippini ne esegue il secondo movimento, l'Andantino, per una rivisitazione lirico-melodica resa personale da una serie di coloriture quasi impercettibili, che tuttavia distinguono e personalizzano il dialogo che il pianista instaura con il passato. Sergej Prokof'ev Nel complesso, Overflying è una raccolta di minuti racconti musicali, i quali tracciano soltanto alcuni tra i lineamenti di Claudio Filippini, per un continuo divenire musicale ancora tutto da scrivere e da leggere, nel tempo.
Citando François Mauriac: «"Dimmi quello che leggi e ti dirò chi sei" è vero; ma ti conoscerei meglio se mi dicessi quello che rileggi».
Filippini sembra averlo preso alla lettera.
Track Listing: 
Voilà; El Noi De La Mare; Haze; Tales of the Old Grandmother - 2nd Mov.; Phantom Zone; K 135; Impro K 135; Le Tombeau De Couperin - Forlane; Mentre dormi; Sonata N. 14 - Opera 27 N. 2 - 2nd Mov.; Impro Mozart/Beethoven; Via andante.
Claudio Filippini: piano.