Photo:Weeki Wachee spring, Florida by Toni Frissell
Saturday, April 29, 2017
1 Sem 2017 - Part Five
Jakob Bro Streams
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 Fellowship
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. Personnel:
Glenn Zaleski: piano; Dezron Douglas: bass; Craig Weinrib: drums.