Consolidating a renewed interest in Jimmy Giuffre witnessed over the past year, Swiss trombonist Samuel Blaser’s new quartet album has plenty of serious intent opening with ‘Cry Want’ a Giuffre tune that was within the current revival included in last year’s freshly unearthed New York Concerts archive release.
Blaser is ostensibly a free-jazz player by instinct, and he’s here keeping freebop company with pianist Russ Lossing (who has co-written the piece ‘Umbra’ with the trombonist), bassist Drew Gress and drummer Gerald Cleaver on this studio album recorded in New Jersey and in Berlin “artistically directed” by Robert Sadin, the distinguished producer and arranger of Herbie Hancock’s Gershwin’s World.
Blaser makes connections spanning in and out of Giuffre’s soundworld from Ellington to Bartók and beyond and it’s a very absorbing listen throughout. Certainly not a “literal imitation”, as Steve Swallow, a former member of the Giuffre 3, points out in the liner notes, the other Giuffre tracks included are ‘Scootin’ About’ from the Giuffre 3 album that ECM renamed 1961 when it reissued the album in the 1990s (‘Cry Want’ was also on that album which collected together the Creed Taylor-produced Fusion and Thesis; as was ‘Trudgin’’ another Spring Rain tune). Carla Bley’s ‘Jesus Maria’ again another 1961 choice plus Bley’s ‘Temporarily’ again from the same album are included too.
Lossing comes alive on keyboards on ‘The First Snow’ and there is a good deal of vitality on the album beyond this highlight especially when the vivid tonal complexity Blaser applies with no little imagination to the material manages to mesh most with Cleaver’s open rhythmic structures. There is a certain meta-musical knowingness from the group too that also feeds into its inviting atmosphere.
Dedicated to Blaser’s former manager Izumi Uchida who departed the planet much too soon in January last year and who did so much to champion the trombonist’s work, Spring Rain is a stimulating album full of great moments and is certainly for me an avant highlight of the year so far but also stocked full of interest for those who aren’t necessarily diehard improv fans or even Giuffre connoisseurs.
Released on 27 April
- Category: Reviews
- Created: Tue 21st Apr 2015 11:47:52
While Jamison Ross is known to most jazz fans as a drummer his upcoming debut is unusual in that it showcases another side of his musical personality, the 27-year-old’s singing voice.
The 2012 Thelonious Monk prize-winning player – you might have seen him on the UK jazz scene playing with Carmen Lundy in recent years – debuts with Jamison this summer, and he sings on 10 of the 12 tracks, a risk by anyone’s standards given that as a singer he is largely unknown. Material on this Concord release includes Muddy Waters’ ‘Deep Down in Florida,’ Eddie Harris & Les McCann’s ‘Set Us Free’, and Carmen Lundy’s ‘These Things You Are to Me.’
With Ross on the album are guitarist Rick Lollar, bassist Corcoran Holt (known for his work with Kenny Garrett), saxophonist Dayve Stewart, pianist Chris Pattishall, organist Cory Irvin, and trumpeter Alphonso Horne III plus special guest pianist Jonathan Batiste.
Jamison Ross, top. Photo: Devin DeHaven/Concord
- Category: News
- Created: Sun 26th Apr 2015 07:28:16
Pastoral, reflective, somehow wise, Westerly is the first appearance on record of this chamber jazz ensemble led by pianist Nikki Iles and the grande dame of British jazz vocals, Norma Winstone, and on which they are joined by Polar Bear saxophonist Mark Lockheart, The Impossible Gentlemen guitarist Mike Walker, double bassist Steve Watts, and drummer James Maddren who this year surfaced to great effect in stand-out hard bop band Bunch of 5.
Recorded as live on a human scale as befits the nature of the music in the Lake District over a couple of days of late-November 2013 and dedicated to the memory of Winstone’s long time musical colleague and friend Kenny Wheeler, songs include a version of Ralph Towner’s ‘A Breath Away’ that Norma Winstone has written lyrics to. Winstone’s lyrics also adorn Nikki Iles’ melody ‘Under the Canopy’ and the title track plus the atmospheric samba ‘Tideway’ named after Winstone’s house in Deal, and another Towner song, the playfully alert ‘The Glide.’
A very lovely stately version of Paul Simon’s ‘I Do It For Your Love’, a free improv expansive treatment of John Taylor’s ‘O’, that featured on the Guildhall Big Band album Pure and Simple released in 2007, and a song that might well be manna for Joni Mitchell fans – a finely judged version of the lesser known Rainer Werner Fassbinder-inspired ‘Two Grey Rooms’ Winstone beautifully accompanied by Walker – also find their way in. Nikki Iles’ ‘High Lands’, inspired by the English romantic novelist Mary Webb, as the title track partly is as well, again Walker prominent breaking loose, and Steve Swallow’s waltz with its wry witty lyrics of an observer looking down from a tall buidling on people going home, ‘The City of Dallas’, complete the album.
Mike Walker, above left, James Maddren, Norma Winstone, Steve Watts, Nikki Illes and Mark Lockheart
Bittersweet and sometimes sad, but just as often inspiring, infused with a sense of lost love notably on the ecologically themed ‘Under the Canopy’ and the sumptuous treatment of the Paul Simon song, the band displays a a lot of mutual understanding and finds plenty of space to elaborate cogent responses to the vocals, Iles’ Bill Evans-like forays well complemented by rhythm-like noises off or the floating deftly gauged solos notably of Lockheart whose bass clarinet lines on ‘Under the Canopy’ are a perfect foil to the soft dreamily involving Winstone vocal. Stephen Graham
Printmakers play Bedales school on 5 May and Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton on 9 May with further touring later in the month and in June. The album itself is released on 11 May, and an official launch during release week is to be held at London’s Pizza Express Jazz Club on 14 May
- Category: Reviews
- Created: Sat 25th Apr 2015 06:58:30
Listen above to Scott LaFaro’s ‘Gloria’s Step,’ famous for its inclusion as the opening track on the classic 1961 Bill Evans Trio album Sunday at the Village Vanguard, included on Cyrus Chestnut’s new trio album A Million Colors in Your Mind, his first as a leader for leading US modern-mainstream indie HighNote.
Joined by ex-Cedar Walton bassist David Williams and by drummer Victor Lewis, other tracks on the album recorded at Astoria Queen's studo The Samurai Hotel in New York are ‘I’ve Never Been in Love Before’, ‘Hello’, ‘From a Tip’, ‘Day Dream’, ‘Brotherhood of Man’, ‘Yemenja’, ‘A Time for Love’, ‘Polka Dots and Moonbeams’, and ‘I Didn’t Know What Time It Was.’
Chestnut was last reviewed in marlbank in 2014 at the time of the release of the Baltimore-born 52-year-old’s live Smoke Sessions album Midnight Melodies. His new deal with HighNote is to run over three years.
- Category: Listen
- Created: Sat 25th Apr 2015 09:38:59
Robert Glasper reunites with his In My Element trio for a new covers album to be released in June as previously reported – songs include Radiohead, Bilal & Kendrick Lamar numbers. Glasper’s beautiful version of Radiohead’s Reckoner is now being promoted by Blue Note and added above.
Featuring bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Damion Reid it’s the Canvas and In My Element line-up going back to Glasper’s early days on the label featured on Covered.
- Category: Listen
- Created: Thu 23rd Apr 2015 09:54:50
If the title of chief contender to Jamie Cullum in the classic jazz singer crooner department actually existed, singer-pianist Anthony Strong would fill the role perfectly.
Accompanied by Cullum’s former drummer Sebastiaan De Krom and Empirical’s Tom Farmer on bass plus a big band stocked with well known players plucked from the modern mainstream scene whose ranks include flautist Gareth Lockrane and saxist Nigel Hitchcock this is far better than 2013’s overly mannered Stepping Out.
Strong’s voice has matured more into his own style and rather than sounding like a younger, more bashful Cullum as he did unavoidably on the earlier album but not so here (his voice is a little higher than Cullum’s with a different timbre) there is a confidence here that translates live too as witnessed last year at the city of Derry jazz and big band festival where he delivered an excellent show in the Spiegeltent. The Croydon born 30-year-old is also a fine piano player although that side of his musicianship is overshadowed here by the emphasis on vocals.
This new album was co-produced by Curtis Schwartz, known for his work with Stacey Kent, and is bookended by the Burton Lane/Alan Jay Lerner song ‘On A Clear Day’, first performed by another Cullum, actor/singer John Cullum in the mid-1960s, and Strong’s co-written song with Guy Mathers, ‘The Outgoing Admininstration.’
The big band sounds like it is an old fashioned sometimes swaggering unit of some power and it is even more retro in the arranging than the style favoured on the big band tracks of Joe Stilgoe’s new album. But there are some lighter touches in the set-pieces and the odd flourish or two, with for instance a little quotation from George Shearing’s ‘Lullaby of Birdland’ sewn into the rip roaring lining of ‘Whatever Lola Wants’ adding a touch of magic. The horns are boppy and bright throughout.
A mix of Great American Songbook-type classics and more contemporary material, hoary old tunes such as ‘As Time Goes By’ and ‘Unforgettable,’ the latter done as an airy samba, are placed alongside Stevie Wonder’s ‘Higher Ground’ and Elvis Costello’s ‘Baby Plays Around’. Strong’s co-written song ‘That Kind of Guy’ is the best of his original songs (although ‘When It Moves You’ comes close), the rapport between singer and exuberant big band full of spirit, and the originals contribute heavily to the success of the album.
Increasingly a draw on the festival circuit both in Europe and the Far East Strong’s career trajectory is clearly on the rise, and that process of growth should receive an extra boost with the release of On A Clear Day on 18 May as it is made to measure for fans of classic jazz vocals with just enough of a contemporary twist to keep it real. Stephen Graham
- Category: Reviews
- Created: Fri 24th Apr 2015 06:58:10
The push and pull, sheer ease in execution, the mellifluous knitting together of trombone, Hammond organ and drums Symbiosis picks up where 2011’s The 11th Gate left off.
Ex-Maceo Parker and Courtney Pine trombonist Dennis Rollins, putting the instrument on the jazz map in recent decades, is here joined once more in his Velocity trio by Hammond organist Ross Stanley (who appears as the main pianist on Jamie Cullum’s latest album Interlude) and Portuguese drummer Pedro Segundo who first made his name on the London scene as a regular house drummer at Ronnie Scott’s.
A world away from Fred Wesleyian jazz-funk, an area Rollins excels at, this souped up straightahead trio belongs to another dimension, Rollins in a kind of Steve Turre space going to the heart of the classic jazz club sound unusual only that it is trombone rather than guitar or a sax fronting the trio. A Hammond trio is always a bit more than the sum of its parts, the organist’s pedal wizardry drawing on the role of bass player for added value and mobility, and Stanley here on ‘Reverence’ particularly shows just what he can do to inject a little more zip.
There is nothing showy about the trio, and even the covers, a raucously swinging highly accented treatment of Roger Waters’ ‘Money’ from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon; a respectful version of revered Portuguese anti-fascist songwriter Jose Zeca Afonso’s ‘Senhora De Almortão’; and a suitably sentimental lightly gospelised version of Amanda McBroom weepie ‘The Rose’ from the late-1970s, a big feature for the tonally magnificent Rollins, don’t flatter to deceive. The New Orleans-flavoured Velocity-written ‘Boneyard’ provides deep jazzhead fodder the rhythm verging on a boogaloo, dancing shoes required here. The album swerves towards a party vibe by the end of ‘Bakkra’ using multi-tracked trombone against a big bass beat and crowd noise fed in, definitely something of a massive attack. SG
Pedro Segundo, top left, Dennis Rollins, and Ross Stanley
Dennis Rollins’ Velocity trio play the City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival on Sunday 3 May
- Category: Reviews
- Created: Tue 24th Mar 2015 08:31:58
Edinburgh “prog-funk thrash-jazz” outfit Thunkfish have a new single, ‘Renegades of Pthronk’, out released via Bandcamp and iTunes, the new music emerging two years on from their debut EP.
A trumpet, saxophone, electric guitar, bass and drums band whose personnel includes members of bands such as Trio HSK Thunkfish are led by flautist-saxist Tom Pickles.
‘Renegades of Pthronk’ samples 1950s sci-fi radio series Exploring Tomorrow and a video accompanying the single is above.
- Category: New band radar
- Created: Fri 24th Apr 2015 10:51:15
Tickets have gone on sale for a concert by Marcus Miller the first significant international headliner announced for this year’s Cork jazz festival.
To perform at the city’s Everyman Theatre on 24 October Marcus Miller, probably the most in-demand jazz bass guitarist leader on the global jazz scene, is synonymous with Miles Davis late classic Tutu and for collaborations with Luther Vandross, Herbie Hancock, George Benson, and many more. His latest album Afrodeezia was released last month and is reviewed below:
Inspired by his work as a UNESCO artist for peace and spokesperson for the Slave Route project making his Blue Note Records debut here bass guitar don Miller is joined by an eclectic list of guests including rap royalty in Chuck D, soul aristocracy in singer Lalah Hathaway, and the princely jazz presence of trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire added to the core band of saxophonist Alex Han, trumpeter Lee Hogans, pianist Brett Williams, guitarist Adam Agati, and drummer Louis Cato.
Mellow and always accessible yet without indulging too soft a centre, the African flavours characterful and empowering from the outset on opener ‘Hylife’ that even develop into a Songs in the Key of Life-type vibe in the vocal chorus of fourth track ‘We Were There’ adding much warmth and flavour, Miller’s hugely mobile and communicative bass (and selectively bass clarinet) the guiding light everything revolves around.
Silky at times but not smooth in the genre sense at all Miller takes a bird’s eye view over a huge panorama of music here drawing from jazz, soul, African music and beyond all blended according to his own recipe.
Collaborating with musicians from West Africa, South America, the Caribbean and the US paying tribute to his African ancestors who became African-Americans Miller’s music has a global sweep to it without being bland at all although it does sound more like commercial music you’ll hear on the better radio stations out there rather than self-consciously arthouse musings.
Scroll back to the 1980s and Tutu – the freshest and most coherent late-period Miles album from the vantage point of 2015, which Miller wrote and produced and has himself reimagined over the years – and you’ll find the essential elements are still at play in his work even if the music has moved on into different areas keeping up with the times.
Breathing fresh air into ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone,’ a hit for the Temptations in the 1970s, the Brooklyn-born multi-instrumentalist’s energy and ideas answered by a responsive band and great rhythm that doesn’t go glossy is just one way-in here, the serious ‘I Still Believe I Hear’ featuring cellist Ben Hong a complete contrast, serene and expansive.
‘Son of Macbeth’ has a wired electric guitar opening wail to it before heading into a ridiculously infectious Caribbean direction. And there is also a restlessness dotted throughout the record that doesn’t allow for much hanging around stylistically.
After a short sonic gym workout of an interlude the gorgeous ‘Xtraordinary’ draws on the tender balladic side of Miller’s writing, while ‘Water Dancer,’ more a band tune and finally ‘I Can’t Breathe’ ancient yet modern with scintillating percussion and infectious groove Chuck D and bassist Mocean Worker (aka the Masked Announcer’s son Adam Dorn) a potential crowd-pleaser.
Everyone’s highlights will be different I suppose and there are plenty of pleasurable moments to choose from. The sunny ‘We Were There’ is up there for me as is the sparkling take on ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone.’ Certainly one of the year’s big records so far – the Miller legend just keeps on growing and growing.
- Category: News
- Created: Wed 22nd Apr 2015 08:29:27
The Gefion trio of Jacob Bro, Thomas Morgan, and Jon Christensen; the Mathias Eick quintet; Giovanni Guidi trio and Andy Sheppard quartet are to appear at this year’s Jazzahead! as part of an ECM club night quadruple bill performing at the European jazz industry expo that takes place in the German city of Bremen.
Bro’s albums to date include the sublime December Song from 2013 Gefion amounting to his first album as a leader for ECM the 36-year-old guitarist joined by the Belonging Band’s Jon Christensen and David Virelles bassist Thomas Morgan. Gefion is released on 9 February featuring tracks ‘Gefion’, ‘Copenhagen’, ‘And They All Came Marching Out of the Woods,’ ‘White’, ‘Lyskaster’, ‘Airport Poem’, ‘Oktober,’ and ‘Ending.’ The ECM night at Jazz Ahead is on 25 April.
Jon Christensen (above left), Thomas Morgan, Jakob Bro Photo Ryo Mitamura /ECM
- Category: News
- Created: Mon 2nd Feb 2015 15:38:20
The latest incarnation of singer-songwriter Lauren Kinsella is in new band Snowpoet who quietly released an EP ‘Butterfly’ towards the end of 2014.
Literary influences, electronica, and cutting edge vocal improvisational styles collide in a uniquely sensitive way, more than the sum of the several parts, as you can glean from recent video ‘Mermaid’ above. Kinsella together with bassist Chris Hyson, saxophonist Josh Arcoleo, pianist Matt Robinson, guitarist Nick Costley-White, and drummer Dave Hamblett play the Sunday Sessions at the Union Chapel, London on 26 April.
- Category: New band radar
- Created: Thu 9th Apr 2015 09:58:08
The German Moers festival is the latest recipient of the Europe Jazz Network’s adventurous programming award. EJN established the award in 2012 and Moers was this year’s unanimous jury choice.
The festival at Moers began in the early 1970s, and in 2014 moved to a new large purpose-built venue ushering in a new era. This year's festival begins on 22 May. Reiner Michalke, artistic director of the festival, reacting to news of the award said: “It is a great honour for us to receive the EJN Award, the highest recognition a European music festival can receive. And I’m very grateful to the jury, my team and the City of Moers who made this possible.”
- Category: News
- Created: Thu 23rd Apr 2015 10:49:01
A different side to Wolfgang Muthspiel emerges with the release of Vienna World, which is released in the UK and Ireland on 18 May.
The guitarist in singer-songwriter guise it’s a musical voyage of discovery that began in Sweden, led to South America and on to New York City and finally back to Muthspiel’s home country of Austria.
Released on his own Material Records imprint the album features five different groupings of musicians ranging from a duet with singer Becca Stevens to an orchestral tango-inspired piece.
Artists featured include pianist Billy Childs on ‘Angel Envy’ and classical violinist Benjamin Schmid on song of home ‘Austria.’
A video of ‘Millions of Opinions’ from the album is above. Muthspiel, singing and playing guitar, is joined by cellist Svante Henryson, bassist Sven Lindvall, and drummer Per Lindvall
- Category: Listen
- Created: Thu 23rd Apr 2015 09:32:50
There has always been a maverick quality to Mina Agossi, the French singer now well into the second decade of her career. This side of her artistry is both her strength and on occasions contributes to her weakness.
This latest Paris-recorded studio album, partly a career retrospective with new arrangements of older material, is an improvement on the misfiring Red Eyes from 2011 on which she was joined by long time mentor Archie Shepp. But it is not as coherent as the earlier and much more reliable Just Like a Lady.
Songs here often have unusual points of entry. Whether an empty fridge, the subject of Mina’s inspiration on opener ‘Fridge’, has inspired many songs I’m not sure but this kind of oddity often jostles with more effective if goofy rocked-up love songs (for instance the title track ‘Fresh’) and solid African-inspired material (‘Mina Waltz’), both English and French language material included.
I have an aversion to songs that include mocked-up phone conversations as part of the atmosphere therefore ‘La Vallée,’ which unfortunately has one at the beginning, does nothing for me and the album overall is an often patchy affair.
Joined by bass guitarist Eric Jacot, drummer Simon Bernier with fellow drummer Philippe Combelle guesting on some tracks, guitarists Stéphane Guery and Phil Reptil, and with violinist Alexei Aigui another guest the material is largely Agossi’s own creation. But this is a frustrating listen overall regardless of Agossi’s many talents as a singer of considerable personality. Stephen Graham
Released in the UK and Ireland on 4 May
- Category: Reviews
- Created: Wed 22nd Apr 2015 07:32:16
Concord are starting to roll out the promotional build-up for the new Kurt Elling album Passion World.
Set for a June release the label sees it as Elling's “most ambitious” album to date, the singer joined by his quintet of keyboardist Gary Versace, guitarist John McLean, bassist Clark Sommers, and drummer Kendrick Scott. Guests include Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, singer Sara Gazarek, German trumpeter Till Brönner, French accordionist Richard Galliano, and not one but two big bands in the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and the WDR Big Band featuring pianist Frank Chastenier.
Elling’s fifth album for the label after a long stint on Blue Note he takes a few risks in material notably covering popular material in U2's ‘Where The Streets Have No Name,’ and by contrast tackling literary fare by singing the words of a James Joyce poem on ‘Where Love Is’ set to music by Irish composer Brian Byrne as well as singing in languages other than English. The singer comments in pre-release publicity material: “Part of my joy as a singer is to give gifts to people, and one way I try to connect to them is to add something in French, or German, or whatever. It’s the one time during a performance where people see me being very vulnerable in their context, instead of them feeling vulnerable in ours. And if I mess it up, they seem to appreciate that I tried.”
The full track listing is:
1 The Verse (1:38)
Music by John Clayton, Lyrics by Kurt Elling
2 After The Door (3:55)
Music by Pat Metheny, Lyrics by Kurt Elling
3 Loch Tay Boat Song (7:02)
Traditional, Composed by Annie C. MacLeod, Lyrics by Sir Harold Boulton
4 Si Te Contara (5:35)
Music and lyrics by Félix Reina Altuna
5 La Vie En Rose (8:12)
Music and lyrics by Edith Giovanna Gassion and Louis Guglielmi, Additional lyrics by Kurt Elling
6 Bonita Cuba (6:37)
Music by Arturo Sandoval, Lyrics by Kurt Elling and Phil Galdston
7 Where The Streets Have No Name (4:51)
Music and Lyrics by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen
8 The Tangled Road (7:18)
Music by Richard Galliano, Lyrics by Kurt Elling
9 Você Já Foi à Bahia? (2:18)
Music and lyrics by Dorival Caymmi
10 Nicht Wandle, Mein Licht (Liebeslieder Walzer Op. 52, No. 17) (7:00)
Music by Johannes Brahms
11 Who Is It (Carry My Joy On The Left, Carry My Pain On The Right) (4:49)
Music and lyrics by Björk Guðmundsdóttir
12 Where Love Is (5:13)
Music by Brian Byrne, Lyrics by James Joyce
- Category: News
- Created: Tue 21st Apr 2015 09:14:42
ESP-Disk label founder Bernard Stollman has died at the age of 85. He had been fighting colon cancer since 2014, according to a statement the label have issued, that had spread to his spine and he was also suffering from pneumonia and had low blood oxygen.
Stollman set up ESP-Disk in 1963 (the ESP standing for Esperanto) and it quickly became synonymous with the avant garde, artists such as Albert Ayler – free-jazz classic Spiritual Unity for instance was an early release – Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, and Cecil Taylor joining the label roster. The label ceased operations in the mid-1970s but resumed in 2005 fourteen years after Stollman’s retirement as Assistant Attorney General of the State of New York. A memorial service for Stollman is to be held in New York next month. Bernard Stollman, above. Photo: ESP
- Category: News
- Created: Tue 21st Apr 2015 06:30:44
The ultimate in acoustic jazz cool, oh since at least Ahmad Jamal’s heyday, the piano trio – a configuration brought back to life in classic clothes by Keith Jarrett’s standards trio, then practically reinvented by EST from the 1990s on, and retooled for the hip-hop generation by Robert Glasper in the noughties – is still where it’s at for sheer experience. But what about 2015? Scroll down for a state of the art 5
1 Vijay Iyer trio, Break Stuff, ECM
A working trio for 11 years Iyer here once again recording with bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore.
This Manfred Eicher-produced affair recorded in New York in June last year includes a rhythmically engrossing tribute in ‘Hood’ to techno DJ/producer Robert Hood – a track that plays the same transformative role on Break Stuff as ‘Galang (Trio Riot Version)’ did in a different idiom on Historicity.
The title of Break Stuff refers to what pianist/composer Iyer describes, more obliquely than at first glance, is contained in the “break” as “the basis for breakdowns, break-beats, and break dancing... the moment when everything comes to life.” There may not be a lot of dance potential on this highly complex album where there’s no obvious beat – it’s all about flow – but certainly there is a sense of the unexpected in the jagged pauses, weighted phrases, tiny deafening silences, and runaway momentum of the material on the album some of which was premiered at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and some from Open City, a collaboration with writer Teju Cole.
Of the historical material Thelonious Monk tune ‘Work’ gets a look-in as well sounding fairly unMonk-like, a feat in itself, and there is also an excellent solo piano version of Strayhorn piece ‘Blood Count.’ The version of Coltrane’s ‘Countdown’ coming towards the end is elaborately introduced and unrecognisable to begin with, the interpretation itself delayed teasingly, the essence of the tune eventually captured very rewardingly.
Last year Iyer switched to ECM releasing Mutations, his first album for the label, a slightly elusive electro-acoustic chamber work shaped around a 10-part suite scored for string quartet, piano, and electronics. While that album sat firmly in the New Music and ‘contemporary classical’ domain tangentially retaining jazz-flavoured elements the long ‘Mutations’ suite was actually quite old music first performed in 2005. The music on Break Stuff is more recent and more jazz-grounded picking up where Accelerando left off. It's also more about the here and now, a state-of-the-art jazz piano trio album. No one sounds like them.
And If you think how different the 2013 collaboration with Mike Ladd, Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dreams Project sounds or in vivid contrast the recent Radhe Radhe: Rites of Holi “magical realist” side to Iyer’s music, it’s easy to understand how fertile a musical imagination Iyer possesses and that is in these instances away from the talismanic unity of the trio. Yet this facility of imagination is also his and the trio’s strength particularly in performance whether in the studio or live: the unit clearly going from strength to strength as the language of jazz continues to be enriched in their hands.
2 Giovanni Guidi trio, This is the Day, ECM
The second act for the City of Broken Dreams trio, the Italian pianist once again in the playing company of US double bassist Thomas Morgan and of Guidi’s fellow Rava-ite the Portuguese drummer João Lobo.
This time around there are lots of the pianist’s own tunes again, as a composer succinctness to the fore cloaked in an atmosphere of reverie. But the standard ‘I’m Through with Love’ is included too, pawed with glacially in all its loveliness; and also a selection here is Osvaldo Farrés’ ‘Quizás, quizás, quizás’ (aka ‘Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps’) plus a piece by Lobo. The standards provide a certain relief in one main sense in that you are able to listen to the pianist’s own tunes with different ears in so doing understanding them better given what he does with the known.
This is all extremely quiet music, recorded meticulously in Lugano in April last year. In this hushness a rustle of paper would be like an explosion. Yet beyond this basic aspect Guidi shares something in common with Enrico Pieranunzi in the lushness of his preferred voicings (if not his fellow Italian’s more swing and bop-attuned modern mainstream leaning) more than he does his extrovert labelmate Stefano Bollani.
The trio go free-form and out on a limb more on the Lobo tune ‘Baiiia,’ and that free-jazz thread resumes on the Bley-ish track ‘The Debate’. ‘Quizás, quizás, quizás’ is lighter, the fun bit such as it exists on a sometimes sombre album yet still somewhat reluctant, Lobo at his best.
The tenth track is a variation on the first tune. It’s instructive to listen to both together and out of sequence for some further insights as to how the material generates new ideas. One initial difference is the early bass intervention on the variation, this ‘Trilly’ theme of Guidi’s of Morricone quality.
Morgan reminds me of Palle Danielsson in the nobility of his tone and he introduces ‘The Night It Rained Forever,’ the beautiful final track with a long slightly dismal arco note, Lobo with mallets for raindrops, Guidi at last at his most bravura and emotional. This is the Day made me think of a comment in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall: “It’s not about joy, it’s about the memory of a joyful time that’s gone for ever.” Guidi knows more than most it seems that now is for realists but somehow still hears a rhapsody out there somewhere that he must respond to however modern the method and his own personal aesthetic. And it’s simply marvellous.
3 Aaron Goldberg The Now Sunnyside
A high performance bebop and Brazilian-flavoured trio set from the Harvard-educated 40-year-old pianist Aaron Goldberg in the company of his familiar playing partners Charles Lloyd double bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland.
Recorded for the large part in Brooklyn back in April, although three tracks date five years ago to a Swiss recording session, there’s a surprise at the end with guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel cropping up on the glassy ‘One Life,’ its melody obliquely bringing to mind the 1940s Jule Styne song ‘I Fall in Love Too Easily.’
The Now is accessible modern mainstream piano jazz rooted in templates laid down by the likes of Ahmad Jamal and in its more introspective moments Bill Evans, with hooky shifts and turns from Goldberg and some highly decorative phrases bubbling out of nowhere on opener Chico Buarque’s ‘Trocando em Miúdos’.
Goldberg’s approach to paraphrasing melody, though not as dark or as intense, resembles Brad Mehldau’s a little; the Bostonian’s own tunes, for instance ‘The Wind in the Night’, gently persuasive and not a little sentimental. The inclusion of Charlie Parker’s ‘Perhaps’ is a surprise, a tune Bird recorded in 1948 with Miles Davis, pianist John Lewis, bassist Curley Russell, and drummer Max Roach, Goldberg sticking roughly to the same tempo and giving it a feelgood spin. There’s a more serious almost baroque strictness to the Djavan song ‘Triste Baía Da Guanabara’ one of the Switzerland-recorded songs and a definite highlight, the scampering Warne Marsh rarity ‘Background Music’, which appeared on Lee Konitz with Warne Marsh, fast and dazzling. So, lots to luxuriate in all in all from a Rolls-Royce of a trio.
4 Justin Kauflin, Dedication, Jazz Village
Dedication opens with the Glasper-ish ‘Elusive,’ not the typical sound of the album by any means.
This Silver Spring, Maryland-born player who by the age of 11 had lost all his sight, revels in writing highly involving tunes whether anthemic on ‘B Dub’ or tuggingly heartfelt on ‘No Matter’, or even, in the ultimate test of any album in this idiom, the ability to be so natural on ‘For Clark’ dedicated to mentor Clark Terry.
Kauflin’s trio – with Christopher Smith on bass, and Billy Williams on drums – at heart is a cultured old-fashioned unit enhanced by guitarist Matt Stevens and also by nylon string guitarist Etan Haziza who guests on the homespun ‘Thank You Lord’ which boasts a gem of a bass solo feature by bassist Smith. I’d just as much prefer hearing the trio all the way through although the track order sequencing means the switch-abouts to go bigger or more intimate don’t disrupt. ‘Tempest’ is the track I’ll be returning to often, a beautifully rhapsodic trio piece along with the hymnal solo piano track ‘Mother’s Song,’ the cadences crisp and authoritative.
5 Kari Ikonen trio, Beauteous Tales and Offbeat Stories, Ozella
With a detail from a 16th century painting by Hieronymus Bosch on the cover rendered from the Triptych of the Temptation of St Anthony, a flipped representation of two figures riding on the back of a flying fish, two Finns and an Armenian come together in a combination as devastatingly effective as [em] in their pomp or the Helge Lien trio at their grittiest there is great flow here the ultimate requisite for a top piano trio. Exuberance, ideas, and above all trio empathy are all present and correct here, too.
Finnish pianist Kari Ikonen has a different style to his fellow Finn Iiro Rantala, perhaps a little more Herbie Hancock-inclined in the jazzier episodes and less overtly classical in his method although this latter side of his playing is clear say on the introduction to ‘The 4th Part of the Harbour Trilogy’. Like Rantala Ikonen knows how to run with an improvisation, the skill at speed on the sparkling if bizarrely titled ‘L’avant-midi d'une elfe’ quite something to behold.
It’s not all fireworks: the serious arco bass at the beginning of ‘Astri Pes,’ a lament that owes its origins to the work of poet Gusan Ashot (1907-1989) arranged by the bassist Ara Yaralyan, takes us into a different dimension that Ikonen then responds to with painstaking solemnity resisting the urge to resort to melodrama a process that sucks you in completely. Drummer Markku Ounaskari is a listening presence at all times injecting just enough heat to make his role plain or stepping in to open up proceedings deftly on the absorbingly complex ‘Verhotango.’
A softly unfolding iridescent version of John Coltrane’s ‘Countdown’ is another significant talking point as well as a number of highly evolved Ikonen compositions, this album is full of surprises and interesting content: even a consciousness expanding Bollywood choice keeps you guessing. A record worth getting to know in all its carefully rendered detail.
And looking ahead to June get the ready reckoner out as the In My Element trio reunite
- Category: Interviews and features
- Created: Fri 10th Apr 2015 06:32:44
A Manchester of the imagination on one level, musicians playing on the roof garden of the Midland Hotel almost a decade before the first world war began depicted on the cover. A certain whimsy to the beginning of opener ‘Raindrops on Our Rooftop,’ the folksiness of a tin whistle breaking through from the ensemble of piano, bass, drums, marimba, French horn and woodwinds points to another preoccupation entirely.
Location is not as literal as this scene lost in time might indicate, as the inspiration in the title actually arose from a visit to Prague. But much of the material on the album saw its origins in a Manchester Jazz Festival commission and the album was recorded in the city so the two very different worlds somehow collide.
The woodwinds input make a huge diference on an album that is resolutely beyond genre. On one level it might be the music you’d hear decorating a period drama on a Sunday night slumped in front of the TV. On another, and especially as the album develops there is a Mitteleuropa feel (that aviators’ ball link perhaps) on the title track the strings gloriously swaying at the beginning and Steve Chadwick’s cornet taking up a beautiful theme soaked with melancholia a world away from brass bands but separate too from those cosmopolitan salons far away.
Owens has cut his teeth as an arranger and playing bass with the likes of Kirsty Almeida, the co-producer of this album, and debuts here on a work that draws on chamber music, folk and tiny bits of jazz quite seamlessly. Singer-guitarist Tom Davies contributes ‘Mouse Song,’ his alto voice soaring about flute and cor anglais, one of the tracks that lies at the woodwind heart of the album. Actually it is an album that is cut adrift from most genres without seeming woolly, and is certainly accessible to all who appreciate a lovingly arranged tune and are willing to be transported to some distant land of the imagination. With Owens among the personnel are jazz trumpeter Neil Yates and pianist John Ellis of the Cinematic Orchestra plus quite a large cast of players especially when you factor in the Souza Wind Quintet and the Vintage String Quartet.
Opening up ‘Going Back to The Village’ with a bass ostinato and then an adherence to a strict beat in the joining-in urgency of drummer Danny Ward backing vocals later taking up the slack the more open-ended the album becomes, as here, the more its impact is felt. On another of Owens’ compositions, ‘Every Wish Is For You,’ that winsome hugely melodic side of the bassist’s artistry rises up again, the alto flute of Atholl Ransome conveying so much so simply. But it’s the haunting Ríoghnach Connolly take on the Appalachian folk song ‘Black is the Colour (of My True Love’s Hair)’ covered famously by Nina Simone and Joan Baez in the 1960s, Cara Dillon and Christy Moore more recently, that steals the album completely in terms of impact and might just take your breath right away. SG
Released in May
- Category: Reviews
- Created: Thu 2nd Apr 2015 08:03:08