Here we have the explosive sounding first track released from Circuits by Chris Potter new on English jazz indie Edition in the latter part of February. 

Sounds very jazz-rock, Eric Harland given free rein, groove the order of the day. And yet with a big sprinkling of glassy electronics fed in contributing to a highly customised sound full of episodic metrical changes, twists and turns but pretty full on (and certainly mastered away up on this track so striking even on this lo-fi Bandcamp audio version), the keyboards however sounding very organic.

Check especially underneath the bonnet what the still fairly unknown keyboardist James Francies despite a major label debut recently is doing on this track. His profile I guess will zoom ever higher this year as more people around the world get to hear of him if for no other reason than he is a new Pat Metheny “Side Eye” keyboardist as Metheny cultivates new sounds.

Potter played with Metheny in recent years in the Unity set-up when the guitarist brought the sax back into his sound and it is interesting how families of musicians develop often circles within circles, their past experiences morphing into new spheres as they play on and on.

Potter here, note the credits on the Bandcamp page, overall on the album switches between tenor and soprano saxes, clarinets, flutes, uses a sampler, guitars, keyboards, and percussion so you can imagine how much production went into this album which was recorded in September 2017.

As for Francies well just think the excitement of Robert Glasper when he was unknown for a moment and then lift off into a new orbit (the comparison is even more striking on Francies’ Blue Note debut). Circuits on less than half of the tracks also credits the highly mobile bass guitarist Linley Marthe you may recall from the Zhenya Strigalev record Blues For Maggie.  

Born and raised in Kenya, living later in Minneapolis, J.S. Ondara is doing the promotional rounds soon for his major label debut record to be released in February.

Tales of America is billed by Verve as “an examination of the American Dream from an outsider’s perspective.”

Very acoustic with a rootsy flavour the album was recorded in Los Angeles. Album lyrics are by Ondara who is quoted by the label as saying: “When I came to America five years ago, all I wanted to do was to make a record. I had no leads, no knowledge of how to go about it, I couldn’t even play the guitar at the time. But I loved records so much and I had this dream that someday perhaps, I’d make one of my own. Many a times along the way, I was dealt with challenges that made me doubt my path, but I was too far from home to turn back, so I forged forward. The journey has been long but also short, tumultuous but also exciting. This record is a documentation of my time in America; a deliberation on the times and a search for wisdom and the American Dream.” 

Look out for a London date at the Slaughtered Lamb on 21 January.

Hawkins album

Six years since the release of his first solo piano album reviewed here pianist Alexander Hawkins switches from Babel to Intakt for this latest recording venture which is titled Iron Into Wind (cover above) to be released next month by the Swiss label. Hawkins says in a brief description on his website: “All original compositions; liner notes by Richard Williams; immaculately recorded by Martin Pearson in the studios of the Swiss radio, Zürich, in September 2018.”  

A 2015 studio recording of freely improvised, spontaneously composed music performed by drummer Terry Day whose career has embraced such wildly divergent milestones as appearances with Kilburn and the Highroads and Derek Bailey, Dominic Lash known for his work with Alexander Hawkins playing double bass, and the Mopomoso guitarist/clarinettist Alex Ward.

The track titles have a sense to them although knowledge of what they mean is not at all compulsory or even that relevant however if curious they relate to the geology of the sea and to marine biology so ‘Bathyal’ is a term that relates to zonal sea depths between the continental shelf and the abyssal zone; ‘Abyssal’ refers to ocean depth of 3,000-6,000m; ‘Hadal’ are sea depths of more than 6000m; ‘Zoobenthos’ refers to sea bed organisms; and ‘Phytobenthos’ are plant or algae organisms.

As to how it sounds? Well this is very un-noisy free improv. There is a lot of contemplative open work at play and one of the great strengths of the record is how the three play a great deal together and so the collective nature of their bandplay is far greater than on some records which divide down into long duo or solo episodes.

A very fibrous record, meaning that there is a real sense of natural instruments at work, in other words a physical sense of finger on string or stick on skin, the mechanics of the sound operating very much from a point of view where notions of tone, exact rhythm or metrical divisions do not matter in the least and yet the improvising lines are not difficult to follow or hostile. On ‘Hadal’ Lash really comes into his own and throughout his role is vital. Midnight and Below builds cell on cell: a sense of mystery, fecundity and wild growth feeds a wider eco-system as part of the spell. Beyond experimentation this sounds more about putting long held ideas into effect and proving how well they work in performance. SG

The Art Ensemble of Chicago saxophonist Joseph Jarman has died at the age of 81.

Douglas R. Ewart of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians announced that Jarman passed away in New Jersey although there are no other details so far. The Arkansas-born Chicago raised reedist was an early AACM member in the 1960s and in the Art Ensemble which grew out of the AACM became a world renowned avant gardist staying with the Ensemble until the early-1990s later concentrating on his Zen Buddhist practice and his own solo projects. 

Joey DeFrancesco

Hard on the heels of a high profile 2018 gigging and recording with Van Morrison, Joey DeFrancesco hooks up with another legend Pharoah Sanders on his upcoming album In the Key of the Universe to be released in March.

Selections on the new record include ‘The Creator Has A Master Plan’ and DeFrancesco also has ex-Pharoah Karma drummer Billy Hart on the record.

Quoted by issuing label Mack Avenue DeFrancesco says: “I pride myself on being a musical chameleon. There’s so much good music that it’s hard to stay in one place, at least for me. I love being able to go in any direction, and lately that’s sent my music in a more free jazz direction – but still with a groove. Pharoah is one of the go-to guys when it comes to that spiritual aspect of the music. A lot of people do that kind of thing, but I like to go directly to the source, and he really is the source.

“As soon as Pharoah picked up his horn and started playing that melody, my hair just stood straight up. Then Billy started doing his thing with the mallets, wide open and free. Once it gets going it’s so hard to stop; you could listen to that vibe forever. It was almost an unexplainable feeling – absolutely a downright spiritual experience.

“The direction in which my life is going always affects what I’m doing musically. As I grow older, I find myself attracted to a more spiritual vibe. It’s always been that way, to some extent – especially playing music and going into the zone, which has to do with being in touch with the universe. It’s not about religion, it’s just a spiritual vibe that respects everything, in music and in life.”

Joey DeFrancesco, top. Photo: Wikipedia

22 February sees the release of this new Northern Spy records out-there experimental album by Oregon-raised Nate Wooley.

The album takes its name from a Rocky Mountains ice field in Canada.

With the trumpeter-composer are Mary Halvorson on guitar, Susan Alcorn on pedal steel, and Ryan Sawyer on drums.

The pre-order track you can listen to above has a stark and agile fluency to it, a plangent mood effortlessly summoned and sustained. 

A huge gathering and a who’s who of jazz musicians paid tribute to Roy Hargrove in Jazz at Lincoln Center. Watch above, and read Natalie Weiner’s Billboard report.

Outliers

If ever there was a candidate for some enterprising major label scout on the look out for a well established band to sign up and add to their roster then Stephan Crump’s Rosetta Trio are that act. 

On 19 February bassist Crump’s trio return with their fourth album which is titled Outliers to be released on the Papillon Sounds label.

The trio have always stood out, quietly constructing their own approach, and which involves their harnessing of loose and lucid jazz tinged flavours and in the rear view mirror the wide open spaces of rural America aligning it slightly with some of Bill Frisell’s investigations in the area.

And like Frisell Crump is not afraid to take the road less travelled and while accessible there is always something of a puzzle in just how harmonically the group are going to resolve their themes which certainly keeps you listening.

Best known for his work with Vijay Iyer, Crump manages to make his bass seem ever bigger than it is both tonally when exposed and when he hides himself beneath the huddle of guitar textures.

Opening with ‘In Waves’ the trio journey from the melodic to a less certain hinterland, the chord changes becoming testier and the distance between each of the players shrinking to produce even greater intimacy. This album thrives on the up close and personal. ‘Re Eyes’, following, slows things right down and the tune seems to boil down to pure vibration to eventually bounce up the guitar line brightly and confidently when it emerges, a kind of counterpoint ensuing between guitars and bass as the improvising lines intertwine and strand by strand make a sound collage that makes sense out of all the fractured segments the trio create.

Thinking back to an earlier album of theirs like Thwirl this is somehow picking up where their earlier ideas left off, because this is like another chapter rather than some sort of sequel. Those quixotic welcome solos that just seemed to happen, like a remark someone interesting might have made in the course of a conversation, again are the order of the day from Crump and guitarists Liberty Ellman and Jamie Fox.

Rosetta are certainly more about the pastoral than a big city urban sound and certainly all three know how to channel their emotions say on ‘Middle March’ and the bluesy ‘Dec 5’ pieces written for Crump’s late brother, Patrick, a dedicatee of earlier album Rhombal.

The title track ‘Outliers’ is a tense account that nevertheless thrives on momentum as descending and ascending intervals run against each other in clashing tonalities and invigorate the tiny microscopic differences between individual melody lines for a certain piquancy. This track is closest to the Iyer sound, the clusters and collisions helping to create a post-modern world that fractures and transforms.

‘Synapse’ has a strumming swagger to begin with before Crump sets the mood with a solo bass figure that is then heated up by the other two players in a frazzle of notes, again the woozily tart anti-melody resets your ears and the piece thrives on a battle on the borderlands of melody and conventional tonality.

Liberty Ellman tune ‘Cryoseism’ contains the ache and passion of a Charlie Haden-type sound world and like all the tunes here retains a sense of freedom and experimentation without being too self-conscious about it. ‘Away From, A Way To’ which goes back to a 1997 Crump album called Poems and Other Things gets another run-out and has a freshness to its voicings that would sit well with say the mood summoned by Pat Metheny on Bright Size Life.

‘Esquima Dream’ at the end again sits well with the Metheny comparison, a driving soundscape feel to it that I can easily imagine electrified and scaled up in a jazz-rock setting but its power remains in the understatement as much as its potential. A big strength of the Rosetta trio is the way the trio use unconventional improvisational methods to achieve both strong rhythmic and melodic results. They manage to say things that resound and hit home while speaking in a veritable whisper. And that is so rare and welcome a quality. SG

Lage trio

Keith Jarrett’s rapidfire composition ‘The Wind Up’ seems to be flavour of the month. Not only is Branford Marsalis covering the instrumental that twists and turns in band interplay as reported here on his upcoming The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul but the Jarrett tune which appeared on the classic 1974 album Belonging crops up too on a new trio album by wildly popular and pretty prolific jazz guitarist Julian Lage.   

Love Hurts will be released in February on the Mack Avenue label. Lage says: “The connection we were trying to draw was between this effusive era of Keith Jarrett’s music and all the tributaries that go away from or lead to it.” Dave King of The Bad Plus and bassist Jorge Roeder complete his trio. Love Hurts tracks include the Boudleaux Bryant title track recorded by the Everly Brothers and also known in a famous version by Roy Orbison, the big O, dating back to the beginning of the 1960s. Full track listing is: 1. In Heaven 2. Tomorrow Is The Question 3. The Wind Up 4. Love Hurts 5. In Circles 6. Encore (A) 7. Lullaby 8. Trudgin' 9. I’m Getting Sentimental Over You, and, 10. Crying (while a Don McLean song, another Orbison connection).

Dave King, above left, Julian Lage, and Jorge Roeder. Photo: Nathan West/Mack Avenue