Bassist in the Pat Metheny Quartet alongside the guitar great, pianist Gwilym Simcock and Birdman drummer composer Antonio Sánchez, Linda (May Han) Oh’s latest studio album is to be released in mid-April on Biophilia Records. Oh, as the Malaysian-born Australian was known when she burst on the scene, now also including her birth name in her full nomenclature, initially championed by Dave Douglas is I suppose alongside Esperanza Spalding, among the most high profile female jazz bassists probably anywhere on the international club and festival jazz scene. But her style and artistic persona is of course different. Spalding, certainly in a funk rockier space at the moment and moving more electric while Oh prefers acoustic primarily. Both players certainly came out of modern mainstream straightahead jazz situations, in Spalding’s case with Joe Lovano who of course Douglas has worked with a lot. And Oh has played with both the trumpeter and Blue Note label veteran tenorist in their popular Soundprints outfit who put out for instance a high profile Live at Monterey record not so very long ago and regularly tour to the UK. Walk Against Wind features the core quartet of Kneebody saxophonist Ben Wendel, guitarist Matthew Stevens, who was coincidentally with Spalding on Emily’s D+Evolution, and the highly effective drummer Justin Brown last heard by marlbank on brilliant form performing with Ambrose Akinmusire and who reminds me of the power and glory of Dennis Chambers or Billy Cobham. The net result of the Oh concept on these tracks is some remarkably gutsy highly propulsive pulse-heavy yet airy very rhythmic freed up post-bop which is full of engrossing melodic twists and turns and where intersecting rhythms and different points of entry create driving patterns and somehow rational resolutions. Listen to excerpts, above

Interlocking patterns the name of the game

Brooklyn band Dawn of Midi’s Dysnomia (**** RECOMMENDED) may mean nothing to you. Why should it, it’s not even out yet? Well it will mean something to you when you hear it I’d guess unless your ears have fallen down a pot hole and there’s a kind of odd scary subterranean sonic glare that only allows you to hear old Glenn Miller records properly. Californian bassist Aakaash Israni of Indian descent; Moroccan-born former CalArts student pianist Amino Belyamani; and Connecticut percussionist Qasim Naqvi have come up with something special here. The indie rock press is picking up on it, but it’s kind of jazz as well really although keep that to yourself. There’s been an album already called First that disappeared without a trace and an EP apparently called, not that imaginatively, Live; but the time is right now. The label putting out Dysnomia a word that has stumped the lexico-boffins of at least two well known dictionaries I checked * is Thirsty Ear, best known for its sterling work putting out Matthew Shipp’s albums in quantity. So what’s it all about and is Dysnomia actually beyond definition that the title suggests? Well, not quite. ‘Sinope’ is like Terry Riley-meets-Radiohead which is not a bad place to be. Not as austere as The Necks but not that far away. But how samey is it? Well not very: locked grooves are a great leveller and to my mind running the changes in old bebop patterns can be pretty samey and tedious sometimes too if you can guess where the improvising line is going, which you often can. But when you can't, it's sheer joy. I’m not sure about how much improvising is going on here, but it does feel loose. The scintillating ‘Atlas’ channels the percussion sound of a Zakir Hussain perhaps, whereas the set-up on ‘Nix’ is pure road movie soundtrack; and you can imagine someone like Ry Cooder adding a lonely moment or two to scythe the air here. The band themselves name check Aphex Twin and Can as influences; and there’s been a lot of post-production with two mixes and mastering processes involved. Not that the sound is glossy at all. ‘Moon’ starts to veer off into a space that could go anywhere, and Belyamani even starts to channel Brad Mehldau a bit just with single notes. ‘Ymir’ has a jangling bhangra feel to the beginning (great dance tune), so it's music for the mind and the body as well.
Stephen Graham
Released on 6 August
Dawn of Midi’s Qasim Naqvi above left, Aakaash Israni, and Amino Belyamani. Photo: Falkwyn de Goyeneche
(* The word means possessing a difficulty or inability to think of the right word at the right time; but the context here is that the titles are moons!)

UPDATED Belyamani is Moroccan-born and the music is not improvised. Apologies.


Joyce guests on Harry Allen quartet set Something about Jobim (***1/2) on the Danish Stunt label, an album that was recorded in a Brooklyn studio the summer before last. The Brazilian adds her low toned poetically oblique sensuous input that Allen in his more fogeyish days never really could capture.

Her tune written with Gerry Mulligan, ‘Theme for Jobim,’ (above in a much earlier version with Milton Nascimento), remains simply, staggeringly beautiful. Tenorist Allen whose tone lifts even his non-fans to admiration and silence simply plays out of himself. There isn’t too much distracting swing, drummer Tutty Moreno instead plays a blinder, keeping it really casual by casting a rhythmic invisible spell hypnotically in the air. 

While there are dozens of Jobim songbook albums his music is so constant it reels back the years. Jobim songs are on hundreds of albums but if push were to come to shove I’d go for 1967’s Francis Albert Sinatra & Antônio Carlos Jobim or, just one song, one version, ‘Corcovado’ on Quiet Nights by Miles Davis from four years earlier. On the Allen album the tenorist is joined by Helio Alves on piano, producer Rudolfo Stroeter on bass join Moreno and Joyce (on a few tracks), the album opening with the classic ‘Dindi.’ Allen has learnt a lot from Coleman Hawkins and is now a falconer of considerable skill and taste. In brief it is the Tom and Harry, Joyce-stealing show. And no one can ever in the theme for Tom forget Gerry.

Interesting, understatement or what? Actually pretty stimulating – today’s listening has revolved mainly around Matt Mayhall’s Tropes, out next month on Skirl records (the tasteful US label that has Anna Webber on it).

Mayhall is a drummer/composer who reminds me of Steve Reid a little with dollops of Paul Motian thrown in. Based in Los Angeles his jazz playing credits include Larry Goldings and Adam Benjamin, Tim Lefebvre and Eric Revis, and he was drummer on Charlie Haden’s final recorded performance, Spain’s song ‘You And I.’ He also drums for Aimee Mann, that’s as cool as it gets as any Paul Thomas Anderson fan well knows.

Tropes has guitarist Jeff Parker from Tortoise on it and bassist Paul Bryan (Aimee Mann, Meshell Ndegeocello), as well as keyboardist Jeff Babko (Frank Ocean, Mark Guiliana’s Beat Music), and tenor saxophonist Chris Speed (Human Feel, Claudia Quintet).

The tunes are Mayhall’s and there’s a great lazy quality to them, mood and space hugely catered for and interesting riffs arriving from nowhere that suddenly go somewhere as the band catch on and run with new ideas and input.

It’s the sort of record you might have thought can’t really exist as it falls through the cracks of so many different kinds of music, a kind of a slacker ECM vision with a bit more blood and guts to it than some of the German label’s more pastel shades and poking through lots of bluesy connotations, hints and nods. Parker is magnificent as ever and Mayhall has incredible cymbal touch and a authoritative swagger about him that frames the whole sound. Just great.

Mayhall’s website is here if you want to check out more on the drummer, pictured. 

Photo: Kelly Jones