It’s taken six years since first playing together for Norah Jones, Sasha Dobson, and Catherine Popper to release their debut. Folky alt.country in nature featuring songs by all three plus covers of songs by Tom Paxton, Rodney Crowell, The Band, Roger Miller, Wilco, Neil Young, and Jeb Loy Nichols. Of these covers the Pusses’ take on Robbie Robertson’s ‘Twilight’ is easily the pick, ridiculously laidback and quite affecting in a couldn’t-give-a-damn inevitably maudlin way. All three sing on the album mostly recorded in the studio (although ‘Bull Rider’, ‘Tarnished Angel’ and ‘Down by the River’ are live), with Dobson playing guitar, bass and drums at various points, Jones wielding guitar and fiddle and Popper (who's on Jack White's new album Lazaretto) bass and acoustic guitar in addition. The voices blend beautifully and there’s a real spirit to their interplay, Norah Jones’ own song ‘Don’t Know What It Means’ possessing more of an early rock ’n’ roll veneer to it than anything else here, which shakes the album up a little in the middle section. The more country No Fools No Fun becomes the worse it gets and even though it’s affectionate homage (eg on Wilco’s ‘Jesus Etc’) the danger is unless you wear a cowboy hat to bed and line-dance all the way to work and back day in day out the effect might just push you over the edge. Catherine Popper’s “last cigarettes” song ‘Always’ is just one indication of the remarkable musical rapport the three exhibit although her later song ‘Pines’ drags a bit. Dobson’s ‘You’ll Forget Me’ at the end is a real old time way to close a highly unusual album, but somehow the three can do old-time and not show the scars.
Bobby Broom, My Shining Hour, Origin **** RECOMMENDED The very coolest jazz guitarists can burn when it’s not obvious. They don’t need to show off. But somehow there’s a tipping point, the rhythm changes and tentative narrative forays up and down the frets turn into paragraphs, pages and chapters, the characters are created and the music speaks to you via the guitarist’s imagination in real time. Eddie Lang, Django, and Charlie Christian started the ball rolling in this regard but thankfully there are still a few people to keep the flame alive. The usual suspects you know but one guitarist who should be a usual suspect but sometimes gets overlooked, out there currently supporting the Dan with his Organi-sation, is Sonny Rollins sideman Bobby Broom here with his cultured trio of bassist Dennis Carroll, and drummer Makaya McCraven.
‘Sweet and Lovely’ opens things up on this Chicago studio recording made in March just this year. You have to be patient with the record, it’s not going to muck about and go for the obvious yet things just happen like they're supposed to, musically. Take the passage on the mellow ‘My Ideal’ just before the drummer starts to assert himself at low rattly volume trading licks with Bobby. You’ll hear McCraven has an Al Foster kind of thing going (check Newk’s Here's To The Peoplefor Foster in action), that universal syncopation, and those clever points of entry you really can't predict even when it’s telegraphed.
One of the great things about this excellent record is it shows that playing familiar tunes (venerable standards to you and me) needn’t be an obstacle at all. The trio rebirth all these old tunes. The rubato early on ‘Just One of Those Things’ is an indication that we’re near the tipping point if you’re listening to all the tracks in a sequence and then it’s clover all the way. Broom draws on the more baritone register of his guitar in his involved solo on the Cole Porter tune, the bass and drums obbligati effortless but crucial, Carroll channelling his Jimmy Blanton-like side and walking the tune later.
The title track, a Harold Arlen song, has a beautifully installed tempo at the outset, and we’re just waiting for Broom to speak with his instrument, which he does very eloquently. The beginning to ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ sounds as if it’s a New Orleans rhythm Herlin Riley might play, Broom later moving into a George Benson-like space. ‘The Heather on the Hill’, a Frederick Loewe tune from 1940s musical Brigadoon is nowadays not covered so much as a standard and works well here in the context again allowing Broom to retreat. McCraven on brushes helps bring the atmosphere down to an intimate level, and this is the most romantic part of the album. Broom picks out a monster riff briefly at the beginning of modernist favourite ‘The Jitterbug Waltz’ and the tune takes on a heavy vibe Carroll beefing the low line up confidently. By covering ‘The Tennessee Waltz’ at the end it’s a partial homage to Sonny Rollins, just one of the highlights of an album that shows a lot of learning and tries out a great many ideas that turn out to work. SG
Released on 19 August. Photo of Bobby Broom top: Todd Winters
Always a pointer to future Nordic currents in jazz and improvised music the Young Nordic Jazz Comets showcase held this year in Finland this autumn features Elena and the Rom Ensemble from Finland itself, with Musik För Hemlösa, the Danish entry pictured above, the sax-bass-drums trio of Signe Emmeluth, Amadeus Wedberg, and Björn Petersson. The Swedish representation is the five-piece Intone, while Norway's band travelling to Helsinki is Krokofant, a guitar-drums-sax trio. The Icelandic band taking part is the quartet Aurora.