Ben Monder, Amorphae, ECM

From 2016. A stimulating departure for the guitarist, who is on the late David Bowie’s album Blackstar, and whose playing credits over three decades span work with Jack McDuff, Marc Johnson, Lee Konitz, Maria Schneider, George Garzone and Paul …

Published: 14 Nov 2019. Updated: 2 years.

From 2016. A stimulating departure for the guitarist, who is on the late David Bowie’s album Blackstar, and whose playing credits over three decades span work with Jack McDuff, Marc Johnson, Lee Konitz, Maria Schneider, George Garzone and Paul Motian.

Ex-Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett American quartet drummer Paul Motian (1937-2011) is featured with Monder on the album. Initially conceived, according to an ECM listing on the US version of Amazon, before Motian’s death, as a series of duos, the Monder/Motian portion of the album was recorded in 2010 (the rest of the album following in 2013).

Monder had been a member of Motian’s Garden of Eden band recording for ECM in 2004 a septet that featured three guitarists all told also including Jakob Bro who also made his label debut as leader this past year. More duos on Amorphae are included featuring free-jazz legend Andrew Cyrille while for the trio tracks synthesizer player Pete Rende joins.

The guitarist has his own bands in the States and appears in duo with singer Theo Bleckmann as well as having surfaced on a substantial number of records as a sideman. His most recent album as a leader, Hydra, was released two years ago on the Sunnyside label. Monder plays electric guitar and electric baritone guitar on the album. The music played is mostly Monder’s, with the exception of Oklahoma song ‘Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.’.

It's achingly beautiful music, long flowing Frippian lines emerging from the murk of headlights through rain, the drone of an exhaust bleeding loud figuratively speaking and broadening, funnelling out, like the sound a truck might make blaring through the liquidy hue of the blackest of nights, the air a wispy presence swirling around. Rende’s expressive synth washes are a foil for Monder. Cyrille and Motian in the sequencing and concatenation of their styles match, a oneness, as earth faces the sky. SG

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Christian McBride, Christian McBride's New Jawn, Mack Avenue

From 2018. All the Ps. Oh. Add perfection if you like. DePending on where you are coming from. On New Jawn, “jawn” is Philly slang apparently for a “Person, Place or thing”. More Ps. And another one, Peace, McBride is at peace. Of course he comes …

Published: 13 Nov 2019. Updated: 24 months.

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From 2018. All the Ps. Oh. Add perfection if you like. DePending on where you are coming from.

On New Jawn, “jawn” is Philly slang apparently for a “Person, Place or thing”. More Ps. And another one, Peace, McBride is at peace. Of course he comes from Philadelphia, they owe him the keys of the city for this and more, and this latest album of his in an outrageously successful career that makes him I'd say a rival for Dave Holland as best jazz double bassist on the planet, is partly a home-town homage but more so a masterclass in a driving straightahead acoustic jazz vehicle which was style synonymous with Wynton Marsalis in the 1980 and 90s and took on a life of its own to build a highway across the desert of popular music for generations of jazzers since to travel on without the baggage the 80s guys were deemed to have picked up.

His quartet here is very straightahead, nothing to do with funk much on this occasion although McBride can be funky when he ain’t being funky if you know what I mean, and at heart just as significantly a swim around the Oscar Pettiford tradition which means that McBride knows how to curl a swinging sound around firm melodies and most importantly to shape his wondrous tonally magnificent sound inside a band of hard blowing players to be the heart of the matter. These here are trumpeter Josh Evans, Marcus Strickland on tenor sax/bass clarinet (who has a new record out on Blue Note), and one of the world's great jazz drummers Nasheet Waits best known for his work with Jason Moran.

There is no scaffolding harmonically because there is no pianist so McBride has to fill in for all that somehow and he does, the bass in a way shadow boxing by leaning into the clashes and chimes of sax and trumpet more than usual but above all listening to the melody of the drums that only a bassist can hear and above all feel.

This is jazz with a beginning, middle and end. Avant it is not. Oh and boring or conservative it is not either. (Terms like avant really are fundamentally about structure + tonal, metrical, and timbral language anyway. We are not talking philosophy or clothes or politics just for a minute which can distract or make you think x or y is avant when really they are not at all.)

McBride always adds an extra shot to the sound whether on his own tunes or those of his band members. I didn't know Waits wrote much but a tune of his called ‘Kush’ here is worth a few listens. As for non-band material the inclusion of Wayne Shorter’s ‘Sightseeing’ a lesser known inclusion from the master, which appeared on the whopping 4-CD live set, The Legendary Live Tapes: 1978–1981 is a talking point. It is highly instructive just how idiomatic a shift such material is in the hands of a composer bandleader master like McBride becomes another world, another place and yet a shared experience melting memories dismantling barriers, inviting anyone in. SG. On Mack Avenue.