I enjoyed Songways, the Battaglia trio’s 2013 album, more than any on their work to date now even including this new album.
Having said that there are moments of sheer joy dotted about on In the Morning, and it’s patently obvious how much of a quality trio at ease in navigating the more ascetic end of modern jazz piano traditions that draw to mind say trios led by Paul Bley that this is. Look to the third track ‘Moon and Sand’ and ‘Chick Lorimer’ right at the end for the best signs of trio empathy and improvisational ambition.
Organised around an Alec Wilder theme, the approach within this concept is often to take the path less travelled in terms of repertoire because a few of the best known Wilder pieces (‘Blackberry Winter’ [maybe to avoid the Bop-Be Jarrett comparison?] and ‘I’ll Be Around’) aren’t included. All the tunes are by the American composer and songwriter who died in 1980, with well crafted Battaglia arrangements making them correspond uncannily to the slightly reserved ECM chamber-jazz style of piano trio we’re all so accustomed to.
From Milan Battaglia, who has been an ECM artist for ages, is here again with Sassari-born double bassist Salvatore Maiore, and the Vicenza-born drummer Roberto Dani. A live album recorded in a Turin theatre last year, the audience sounds a little tired in their applause so the trio weren’t getting that much back from the auditorium at least as detected by the microphones. Sample a few tracks first (definitely the ones mentioned above) via download as a try-out before committing to the whole album. Less might well be more.
Released on 28 August
Lately I have been reading Teju Cole’s novel Open City bought on impulse in a well stocked book shop which even puts on jazz as part of their evening programme of events – their No Alibis series returns in a few weeks.
The book first published on this side of the Atlantic approaching eight years ago is set in New York and Brussels and the reason I mention it is that it is dotted with jazz references, not particularly crucial to the story but skilfully dropped in.
A young doctor, the main character and narrator, has dinner with a fellow, older doctor who he met on the plane over from New York. She advises him to ‘be sure to get Cannonball’s Somethin’ Else... that’s the great one of all his albums, a true classic.’ Julius duly promises he would. Nat Adderley, writer of ‘Work Song’ and brother of Cannonball the fictional doctor treated, as she did his brother and she and her husband through them later met other jazz musicians including Chet Baker.
As for Cannonball the Copasetic Foundation has just received a grant from Arts Council England to launch ‘Portrait of Cannonball’ – a celebration of Cannonball’s music with Tony Kofi on alto sax, Kind of Blue-featured Cannonball’s instrument, and Byron Wallen on cornet, Nat’s preferred horn, a favourite instrument going back to the early days of jazz as championed by Buddy Bolden no less.
I thought I heard Cannonball say more like, the Portraiture group includes pianist Alex Webb, Andy Cleyndert or Daniel Casimir alternating on bass depending on the gig and drummer Alfonso Vitale plus a guest spot by award winning singer Deelee Dubé who will reference Cannonball’s work with Nancy Wilson, the group publicity points out. SG
The first show is on 2 February at London jazz club the Vortex.
The first set of the Underground’s return to Ronnie’s was gritty improvising of the highest order by one of the greatest saxophonists alive in his prime and the band’s the thing.
The flavour was metrically advanced freebop, by times funky and tender often dizzyingly uptempo particularly in the early forays. With Chris Potter, the former Dave Holland, Pat Metheny and Steely Dan sideman, who switched from tenor saxophone to flute on ‘Zea’, were the mighty bluesician Adam Rogers on electric guitar; the big fingered baseball cap wearing London born New Yorker Fima Ephron a Rogers playing partner on his 2017 album Dice on a white bass guitar; and Dan Weiss on drums, his absorbing solo in the latter part of the approximately 60-minute set splashing the cymbals from the heat of the anvil to the spa of lapping wave.
Tunes back-announced by the quietly spoken side hair parted simply dressed Potter – who left the stage to disappear backstage when his three colleagues were getting their thang on simmeringly 20 minutes or so in – two long numbers on and which were ‘Train’ (like ‘Zea’ more about which in a mo from 2007’s Follow the Red Line: Live at the Village Vanguard) and ‘Time’s Arrow’ (from 2009 album Ultrahang) and to keep distracting words to a minimum tidily then forward announced before the extraordinary ‘Zea’ utilising a captured live-recorded just created flute figure that the technology allowed Potter to play over on tenor, and ‘Tweet’ (“l’ll have to rename it,” the Chicago born 47-year-old joked) – the set burnt on the camphor of the night.
Upstairs in Ronnie’s bar as the second set downstairs got under way, Deelee Dubé, (above, centre in the photograph and in a promotional video for her upcoming much anticipated release) sang ‘Sassy’s Blues’ while on double bass “Level” Neville Malcolm behind her, beating like thunder on China Moses’ Nightintales released in 2017, was warm and listening as Alex Hutton on the upright piano locked hands and broke loose to George Shearing’s ‘Lullaby of Birdland’ and the evergreen, wise, ‘Come Rain or Come Shine’, among their standards choices. Stephen Graham
Chris Potter’s Underground continue tonight. Streaming, live.
Siren call: Top from left-to-right, Fima Ephron, Chris Potter, Dan Weiss and Adam Rogers. Photo: courtesy Transient Life/Steven Cropper. [updated, corrected, and with additional links added 14/03/18] Ronnie Scott’s pic Frith Street exterior, above middle, and upstairs bar interior performance shot, marlbank.