Saturday, April 29, 2017

1 Sem 2017 - Part Five

Jakob Bro

By Matt R. Lohr
Guitarist-composer Jakob Bro’s 2015 ECM release, Gefion, was one of the year’s most effective sonic explorations. While not as commanding as that recording in its mood-altering impact, Bro’s ECM follow-up, Streams, nevertheless finds him continuing to expand the textural possibilities of his instrument, with empathetic collaboration from drummer Joey Baron and Gefion bassist Thomas Morgan.
Bro’s compositions are panoramic, with tones at once sedate and ever shifting. His skillful echo and reverb weave a thrumming surface, upon which the musicians evince a delicate chemistry. Sometimes the sound will push into tense, eruptive territory, as on “Full Moon Europa,” which evolves from Morgan and Bro’s single-note unison pluckings to blistering guitar exhortations goaded by Baron’s all-over-the-kit assaults. But the prevailing air is becalmed, tinged with glimmers of melancholy. On “Shell Pink,” Bro and Morgan drift with bewitching gentility along Baron’s easygoing brushwork, while “Heroines” finds the guitarist evoking medieval balladry over Baron’s understated drum rolls and Morgan’s precisely placed descending runs.
The trio communicates at a high level throughout the recording, Morgan and Baron giving themselves fully to Bro’s musical conception. On “PM Dream,” the sole composition attributed to all three musicians (and dedicated to the late drummer Paul Motian), Bro spends the song’s first half in support, creating a roiling drone over which Baron’s clattery interpolations mingle with Morgan’s sliding notes. The collaboration takes on a starker color on the album-closing “Sisimiut.” With Baron at his busiest and most aggressive, Bro whines out of the mix with keening harmonica-like sounds, over Morgan’s scratchy arco undercurrent. And then it all fades away into hazy sighings, almost like shifting fog-bound shapes. The sound of Streams is not always one of sharp edges and crystal clarity, but the emotional landscapes it guides you through are honest and deeply felt.

David Friesen Circle 3 Trio
Triple Exposure

By David Whiteis

Expect no pyrotechnics. Bassist David Friesen, pianist Greg Goebel and drummer Charlie Doggett convey intense feeling through subtlety and craft, their finely honed chops on display to enhance the artistic excellence that permeates this set.
Friesen’s bass serves as the primary rhythm instrument on most of these outings, establishing contexts that range from straight-ahead swing through modified funk to Spanish-tinged, off-center lopes. His solos—sure-fingered, exploratory, firmly directional—elaborate on both the rhythmic and melodic ideas at hand, many of which he himself plays a dominant role in establishing. Both Goebel (the actual lead voice throughout) and Doggett add texture and dimension, sometimes complementing Friesen, sometimes challenging him to switch direction and respond to their proddings. Even a ballad like “Soft as Silk,” so gently caressed that it barely seems to have a rhythm at all in the conventional sense, reveals itself a chiaroscuro of pulses and aural shadings, its somber minor-key theme rescued from bathos by the firmness of Goebel’s touch and the dexterity with which both Friesen and Doggett interweave with his gently ascending chords and single-note interludes.
“Bright Light Sky,” though, is more representative. Friesen sets both the tempo and the mood—dancing around, below and above the tune’s meter without ever seeming to fall directly into it—as Goebel ignites soft-edged sparks and Doggett slides effortlessly into the groove Friesen has established with his quick-fingered fretwork. “Let It Be Known” reflects the Zen-like ambiguity of its title, sounding like both a proclamation and a meditation, as it seems more manifested than forced into being.

Ryan Cohan
One Sky

By Scott Yanow
Ryan Cohan is a talented pianist and arranger/composer whose music stretches the modern mainstream of jazz. While one can hear the influence of Herbie Hancock and, to a lesser extent, Chick Corea, Cohan mostly displays his own personality in his playing and especially in his writing. For this sextet date (the two percussionists are only on two pieces while James Cammack and Larry Cohen split the bass chair), Cohan's writing frequently makes the group sound larger than a three-horn ensemble. The versatility of Bob Sheppard and Geof Bradfield, who between them play seven instruments, is a major asset. Cohan contributes four modern pieces (all of which clock in between seven and eight minutes), takes "Lush Life" as a piano solo, and displays some of his most colorful writing on the last five selections, which together form "One Sky: Tone Poems for Humanity." Excellent music, well worth several listens.

Glenn Zaleski

By Dan Bilawsky 
Ever overcook a dish? The end result is usually dry and wilted. How about undercooking? Has one of your meals ever succumbed to that fate? If it has, you've probably been disappointed by the raw and shapeless dish sitting before you. In composition, as in cooking, you need to find the perfect temperature that sits between those extremes. Go too far in either direction and the magic is ruined. Pianist Glenn Zaleski gets that. "Overwriting can stifle improvisation, but underwriting can result in monotony and chaos," he notes in his liner essay for this project. Knowing how far to go and when to stop is the challenge, and it's one that Zaleski lives up to again and again on Fellowship.
Those who were enamored with Zaleski's classics-heavy My Ideal (Sunnyside Records, 2015) will likely be won over by the charms of this one. With the same trio and a different focus, it makes for the perfect companion piece. This program leans toward originals, giving Zaleski, bassist Dezron Douglas, and drummer Craig Weinrib a chance to play with the pianist's recipes. That trio strikes a fine balance between instinctive movement and proper discourse throughout. The music manages to be held in place by intellectual girding, but it's constantly transformed and redirected through responsive maneuvering. Trite as it may be to hail yet another piano trio for its strengths in the open-eared interplay department, the compliment fits here. You can't argue with finely and constantly calibrated music.
The album takes off with "Table Talk," a propulsive vehicle enlivened by Zaleski's slaloming runs and powered by the Douglas-Weinrib engine. Then a change of mood comes quickly with "Westinghouse," a prismatic waltz dedicated to Billy Strayhorn. From there it's off to Duke Pearson's "Is That So," a debonair swinger that's self-assured in its delivery; "Fellowship," a work founded on and furthered by ruminative notions; "Out Front," a firm-footed, fifty-one second Douglas solo that serves as the introduction to the flowing "Homestead"; and "Lifetime," a vibrant, angular blues that proves to be one of the album highlights.
Those seven tracks give a strong enough and clear enough picture of what this trio is all about, but they don't tell the whole story. Zaleski and company save some of the most memorable music for last. In the penultimate position rests the second of two non-originals on the playlist—John Coltrane's "Central Park West." It's a song that's putty in this trio's collective hands, as one beautiful shape or phrase after another emerges in the telling of the tale. Then Fellowship reaches the finish line with "P.S.," a composition inspired by the work of vibraphonist-composer Peter Schlamb. It's an engrossing number that's at once elegant and loose in design, reverberating instantly on a deep emotional level. Some of Weinrib's most individualistic soloing on the record comes to the fore on this wonderfully fitful finale.
Glenn Zaleski has quickly become one of the most important pianists of his generation and it's easy to see why. He's a studied musician who's not bound by the rules, a believer in exactness who's willing to overturn order, and a precision architect who understands that musical designs are malleable. Following him on sideman dates for the last few years has been a pleasure; hearing him lead his own sessions is an even greater one. These ears look forward to following Zaleski wherever he may roam.
Track Listing:
Table Talk; Westinghouse; Is That So; Fellowship; Out Front; Homestead; Lifetime; Central Park West; P.S.
Glenn Zaleski: piano; Dezron Douglas: bass; Craig Weinrib: drums.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

1 Sem 2017 - Part Four

Alessandro Galati Trio
On A Sunny Day

By Neri Pollastri 
Dopo il riuscito Seals, il secondo disco del trio di Alessandro Galati conferma la crescita di una formazione la cui intesa continua a maturare grazie al maggior rodaggio e alle tournée fatte nel frattempo.
Il lavoro include, con una sola eccezione, tutte composizioni del pianista fiorentino, dall'andamento prevalentemente narrativo ma con atmosfere anche assai diverse tra loro. L'incipit e la title track, per esempio, sono brani caratteristici del suo stile, con personalissimi arpeggi alla tastiera, ma vedono anche la forte presenza del contrabbasso di Gabriele Evangelista -sempre più autorevole interprete dello strumento -che accanto ai soli rimane spesso in prima fila sulla scena insieme al piano, e con il sensibile lavoro di Stefano Tamborrino ai piatti. "In Beijing" è invece sviluppato su un tema orientale, ispirato proprio dal tour cinese dello scorso anno, e ha momenti di paritetica distillazione dei suoni; "Crazy Winter" è più swingante, ma alterna lirismo e astrattezza, mentre "Hungaria," dal forte andamento ritmico con un bell'intervento di Tamborrino alle percussioni, e "Insensatez," di Antonio Carlos Jobim, richiamano certe cose dei trii di Melhdau, senza alcuna agiografia.
Ma i momenti forse più alti del lavoro sono due brani narrativamente struggenti: "L'incontro," titolo che indica assai bene il contenuto melodico espresso dal pianoforte, a momenti quasi romantico, punteggiato da opportuni interventi "devianti" di contrabbasso e batteria; e "MMMM," il cui titolo cela la dedica a uno sfortunato collega, aperto da Evangelista e poi condotto in libertà, con nostalgica drammaticità, da Galati.
Un disco che mette in luce una formazione fortemente paritetica, classico quanto a temi ma anche giustamente attraversato da un libero dialogare dei suoni, così da essere al tempo stesso godibile, coinvolgente e sempre aperto. Va detto infine che, proprio come Seals lo scorso anno, anche On a Sunny Day ha vinto la classifica del miglior disco internazionale dell'anno della rivista giapponese Jazz Critique, come "Best Instrumental Album."
Track Listing:
Balloons; Insensatez; In Beijing; Crazy Winter in Town; L'incontro; On a Sunny Day; Drop Down Tango Shore; Hungaria; MMMM; Smell of the Air; Yellow Brain.
Alessandro Galati: pianoforte; Gabriele Evangelista: contrabbasso; Stefano Tamborrino: batteria.

Rantala/ Danielsson/ Erskine
How Long Is Now ?

By LondonJazz
The jazz piano trio holds a special place in most people’s affections. Finnish pianist Iiro Rantala, Swedish bassist Lars Danielsson and American drummer Peter Erskine have recorded an album of 13 short tracks whose linking factor is a relaxed, upbeat mood - warmth, if you will. The emphasis is on simple melody, particularly noticeable on the title track, and if that sounds like the sort of thing that could send serious jazz fans tut-tutting from the room, well, hold on just a minute: there is something fresh and uplifting about this music. It isn’t about minimalism, it’s about optimism. (If you prefer your Nordic minimalism without optimism, there’s always Tord Gustavson - whom I very much admire and enjoy, by the way). The point is, this lot are way past needing to show off their chops – although these are clearly in evidence on such demanding tunes as Assisi Consequently How Long Is Now? is the sort of album that even non-jazz fans should enjoy.
Erskine, who can kick ass with the best of them, is on musically light duties, often involving the delicate use of shakers or tambourines. Danielsson shines on the double bass, highlights including the eastern-sounding intro to his own composition Taksim By Night (Taksim is in Istanbul), and his solo on the beautiful Trust, where a subtle reverb effect adds just enough mystery.
On Jimi Hendrix’s ballad Little Wing, Rantala slowly builds on the drama of the melody, punctuating it with an ascending scale. Erskine’s Each Breath is the sort of tune Abdullah Ibrahim might write - light, melodic, uncluttered, driven by an insistent tom-tom rhythm, and garnished with another great solo from Danielsson.
Although Rantala has written most of the tunes, J.S. Bach has kindly contributed the Kyrie from his Mass in B Minor - a glance back to one of Rantala’s formative influences: the boys’ choir he sang with at the age of seven. And it sounds gorgeous, reminding us that the classics are there to be plundered by the jazz piano trio, as David Rees-Williams has proved.
After two tunes inspired by the Finn's two sons Bruno and Topi - the latter demonstrating what a muscular, rhythmic pianist Iiro Rantala is - things are wrapped up with Danielsson’s sweet, introspective Choral.
A lovely album. Play it in the morning and set yourself up for the day.

Ethan Iverson
The Purity Of The Turf

By Michael J. West/ JazzTimes
When pianist Ethan Iverson plays “Song for My Father” on his trio album The Purity of the Turf, it seems light-years removed from his best-known music (the Bad Plus, bands led by Billy Hart and Albert “Tootie” Heath). He plays the standard, well, like a standard, working the pocket for all it’s worth and piling up melodies within Horace Silver’s harmonic signature.
Until he doesn’t. Two thirds of the way through, Iverson rebounds from a conventional turnaround into a clanging, repeated chord that defies the song’s harmony, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Nasheet Waits’ support and any semblance of melody. The device only lasts about 10 seconds, but the effect is permanent. And the fun of listening to The Purity of the Turf is in the anticipation of Iverson throwing such wrenches into the works.
It happens to an unaccompanied (and mostly bridgeless) “Darn That Dream” at the close of the first chorus. Iverson introduces a dissonant, shape-shifting left-hand line that his right soldiers on against as though battling an unforeseen saboteur. On Count Basie’s blues “Sent for You Yesterday,” just when it seems he won’t subvert it, Iverson fills a whole chorus with a five-note vamp, then continues it into the next chorus at a slowing pace that strains so hard against Waits that it seems at first to distort the drum line. (It doesn’t.) On “Confirmation,” the mutations come every few bars.
His bandmates’ originals—Waits’ already-dense “Kush,” Carter’s “Einbahnstrasse” and lovely “Little Waltz”—do get rather straightforward readings (perhaps an indication of Iverson’s respect for their work). So do the pianists’ two originals, “Graduation Day” and the title track, though these are such simple tunes that their structures are nearly irrelevant to begin with. The album’s repertoire of standards and how he reorients them toward his own twisty concept comprise its considerable pleasure.

Eliane Elias
Dance Of Time

By Thom Jurek
Way back in 1991, Brazilian-born pianist Eliane Elias opened Illusions, her debut solo album, with a tune called "Choro." It offered a swinging distillation of the musical form that has been at the heart of her life-long study of samba. Since then, she's revisited her musical heritage over and over again, wedding modern jazz to post-1960 Brazilian jazz and MPB. In the process, she's developed an instantly identifiable sound as a pianist. Dance of Time follows 2015's fine Made in Brasil, a set that relied most heavily on bossa nova. Teaming again with collaborative producers Steve Rodby and husband Marc Johnson, Elias is accompanied by a stellar rhythm section: bassist Marcelo Mariano, guitarist Marcus Teixeira, drummer Edu Ribeiro, and percussionists Marivaldo dos Santos and Gustavo di Dalva on most of this set. Recorded in Brazil and New York, the date also includes a wonderful guest list that includes Take 6's Mark Kibble, Randy Brecker, Mike Manieri, Joao Bosco -- who adds his voice and guitar to a lovely reading of his own "Coisa Feita" -- and Toquinho.
The program contains readings of killer sambas such as "O Pato," Joao Donato's eternal "Sambou Sambou," the wonderful "Samba de Orly" (co-composed by Toquinho, who also sings on it, Vinicius De Moraes and Chico Buarque), and Ary Barroso's "Na Batacuda da Vida." Each of these numbers remains faithful to the originals, but Elias' arrangements, pianism, and breezy, syncopated vocals graft them so thoroughly onto swinging, straight-ahead, modern post-bop, it's difficult to accept they weren't always in the jazz fakebook. But she goes further. She injects Harry Warren's slippery pop blues "You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me," with a slow choro backbeat. She also transforms Kurt Weill's and Ogden Nash's sultry "Speak Low" into simmering, polished modern jazz with a fantastic multi-tracked backing vocal by Kibble and great soloing from Brecker. The best tunes here, however, are her own. "By Hand ("Em Maos") offers another backing vocal from Kibble, as Elias stitches samba onto bossa in a lithe, sensual groove. "An Up Dawn" is a vehicle for her intricate, syncopated chord voicings on her instrument's middle and lower registers, which create an interlocking dance of samba, tango, and bluesy ragtime. "Not to Cry (Pra Nao Chorar)" is a co-write with Toquinho -- who lends his guitar and weathered yet effective vocal in a duet. He began the tune in 1978 as a vehicle (for Elias) with the working title "Eliane." He completed it for this album with participation from the tune's muse. Their singing voices are an elegant yet earthy study in contrasts, while his lilting guitar chords pace her keyboard embellishments. Its tenderness sends the set off with a sweet whisper. Dance of Time is inspired, deftly musical, and truly accessible to a wide range of listeners from jazz to pop to Brazilian music. It's virtually flawless.