A very so-so affair from pianist Yonathan Avishai, Yoni Zelnik on bass and Donald Kontomanou, drums. Joys and Solitudes opens with a glacial version of ‘Mood Indigo’ followed by seven fairly bland originals of Avishai’s. A studio affair recorded in Lugano last year this is as neat and tidy as it possibly gets. Tasteful, well played and professionally presented for sure but there is nothing however that really screams passion or adventure here. Archetypal chamber jazz instead, there is a discreet and polite playbook at work but too much so and this teeters over the line into over-compliance with too many assumed norms. A record that could certainly do with a lot more heat and risk-taking to properly engage. SG.
Released on 25 January.
IT IS hard to know where to begin with Trio Tapestry. Somehow, listening, you feel that you have stepped into the wrong room. It could even be a Charles Lloyd record. A long way from a hard bop blowing session, which is what you might expect with Joe Lovano, this is open, thoughtful and challenging music delivered in an unfamiliar language although its building blocks are deep down always there in terms of tone, blues connotation and means of expression.
‘Seeds of Change’, which in sequence is the second of the 11, is very beautiful with a real feeling of aching intimacy and rapport, and you might swear it hints at the melody of ‘Equinox’ before veering into a free floating bluesy reverie, an emergent Marilyn Crispell in serene contemplation. As the tonality waveringly oblique adds mystery and a sense of occasion, a weightlessness wraps the atmosphere in ribbons of space. percussionist Carmen Castaldi sweeps forth in the latter part emerging as a glinting observational presence amid the steely fragility of the momentous mood.
Recorded last year at a studio in New York the overall approach strips sound back to poetic forms and if you think of albums as novels, short stories or poems this is definitely a poem.
There is nothing trite here and yet no overdone pomposity either. On ‘Razzle Dazzle’ instead of a show stopping anthem you get an ominous piano solo from Crispell who plays impeccably throughout, Lovano accompanying her mournfully as if this is a lament. ‘Sparkle Lights’ taken at a lento tempo also has that mood of requiem and the interplay between sax and piano is very respectful. In the end you consider that eternal rivalry of time and silence.
Lovano mostly refrains from showing us the powerful side of his playing although the ‘Piano / Drum Episode’ midway through has a weight to it that contrasts heavily with what has gone before or after when his tender side is more explored. His experiments with gongs on one track are frankly less engaging, however.
A very atypical Joe Lovano record all considered, not always overly stocked with great moments to be fair and a little lacking in killer material, but there is plenty here to enjoy and Lovano is to be applauded for his adventurous spirit and the seriousness of his spiritual questing. SG
Released on 25 January.
Quite beautiful... a piano-clarinet duet by pianist Lucian Ban and clarinettist Alex Simu taken from the upcoming Free Fall to be released by Sunnyside records on 15 February that serves as a tribute to reedist Jimmy Giuffre.
There is something quite special in the rapport the pair have on ‘Quiet Storm (for Jimmy Giuffre)’ and especially the atmosphere they convey, a tingling extra element that exists invisibly beyond the simplicity of the appealing melody and its slow, hypnotic, wheeling, motion.
From The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul Andrew Hill’s ‘Snake Hip Waltz.’
The album was recorded over the course of three days in the Alexander Theatre at Monash University in Australia last year it features the Branford Marsalis Quartet “in the usual line up on all tracks, no guests this time,” says OKeh label chief Wulf Muller.
So that’s sax icon Branford Marsalis also the producer, with pianist Joey Calderazzo, double bassist Eric Revis, and drummer Justin Faulkner.
Tracks are: 1 Dance of the Evil Toys by Eric Revis; 2 Conversation Among the Ruins by Joey Calderazzo; 3 Snake Hip Waltz by Andrew Hill; 4 Cianna by Joey Calderazzo; 5 Nilaste by Eric Revis; 6 Life Filtering From The Water Flowers by Branford Marsalis; and 7 The Windup by Keith Jarrett.
Branford Marsalis says: “Some musicians may need to work in different projects to create the illusion of sounding different by changing the context, whereas we are confident that we can adjust our group sound so we don’t have to change the context. What always appealed to me were the great bands, not just the great players who could start and stop at the same time. Staying together allows us to play adventurous, sophisticated music and sound good. Lack of familiarity leads to defensive playing, playing not to make a mistake. I like playing sophisticated music, and I couldn’t create this music with people I don’t know.” To be released through Sony on 1 March the same day as the Branford Marsalis Quartet play London’s Barbican.
Christoph Irniger has been ploughing his furrow for a while with his quintet Pilgrim and maybe it is time for a change of direction. A ponderous beginning to this latest outing Crosswinds (Intakt, **) hardly bodes well: would this track not have been better pushed further back into the album? But hang on most of the album is like this! All pervasive introspective moods dressed in moody chamber-jazz livery failed to hook me in. What we have throughout all just seems instead like navel gazing. Most of the tunes are Irniger’s with bassist Raffaele Bossard and pianist Stefan Aeby also contributing as well as one group-penned piece. Dull fare. SG
Released next month I have been listening today to Citizen by the virtuosic Partikel saxophonist Duncan Eagles who opens for Joshua Redman at the Barbican on 18 February. US fans via his new label Ropeadope will probably get to know Eagles for the first time and he is a talented player who first came to notice jamming in Streatham club Hideaway at the beginning of the 2010s.
A sober studio affair on which Eagles is joined by guitarist David Preston, pianist Matt Robinson, Eagles’ erstwhile Partikel bandmate bassist Max Luthert, and drummer Dave Hamblett, the style falls in a no man’s land. Compositionally strong, although the writing is oblique, the title track which opens proceedings has good cohesion and interplay between the solo line passages and the rhythm section underneath, and its bustling momentum displays a lot of energy. It is pretty earnest stuff and a little dry, though! On the plus side, however, the tracks that follow offer plenty to admire and the album is beautifully recorded, a soft texture to the listening sheen has somehow been fashioned by the engineers, a harsh abrasive listen this certainly is not.
Luthert leads off ‘Conquistador’ which again shows how well the bass has been recorded but there is an airy spaciousness here rather than a spiritual glow to the style which sucks the momentum out of the record and it is pretty short on really strong melody lines which is slightly frustrating given that the album is pretty melodic at least in inclination. ‘Shimmer’ with its accessible style comes closer and the airy ‘Folk Song’ is even more direct but Preston’s role is overcooked and the tune really didn’t grab me that much but I think it probably will work better live and turn into a bigger feature.
The track certainly has more drama to it than most of the other numbers. ‘Taxco’ is the sort of track you will hear Swiss trio Vein tackle and certainly there is a maturity here that can be a scarce commodity when you hear a lot of party-jazz bands out there just relying on groove and quirky effects to get the crowd going. Citizen is not that kind of record. There is a lot of improvising content and again live I am sure this will be even more evident. Certainly as a muso band Eagles has cracked it but to civilian listeners will his appeal be as strong? SG