John Ellis Quartet, Bizet: Carmen in Jazz, Blue Room Music ***1/2

I am not at all a fan of jazzing up classical music as a rule because some essence of the original music seems to evaporate in the transformation and you are left with some sort of middle way that is never that satisfying. But there are exceptions …

Published: 16 Jan 2024. Updated: 42 days.

I am not at all a fan of jazzing up classical music as a rule because some essence of the original music seems to evaporate in the transformation and you are left with some sort of middle way that is never that satisfying. But there are exceptions and I think Bizet: Carmen in Jazz is one especially when saxist/bass clarinettist John Ellis' quartet move beyond the oh so familiar themes of Bizet's and feed in new improvisations that the themes have inspired. I'd go for 'Gypsy Song' and 'Card Song' as the meatiest of the tracks here in terms of improvisation. But overall Jason Marsalis on drums injects a lot of pace - the quartet completed by the great bassist Reuben Rogers and revered pianist Gary Versace, so it's a fine band at work. And it's surprising what develops the more the band frees itself away from the edifices of the famous melodies themselves. SG

Tags: reviews

Michael Bates and Samuel Blaser Quintet, Book Nine, Blaser Music ****

Last we heard from trombonist Samuel Blaser was on his formidable Don Drummond reggae tribute Routes last year. Here the Swiss jazzer is on more familiar territory resuming an old band acquaintance that walks the line between the outer, more …

Published: 16 Jan 2024. Updated: 42 days.

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Last we heard from trombonist Samuel Blaser was on his formidable Don Drummond reggae tribute Routes last year. Here the Swiss jazzer is on more familiar territory resuming an old band acquaintance that walks the line between the outer, more progressive, edges of hard bop and touches if only in passing the nearby precincts of freer jazz (for instance on the track 'Wings') with his One From None band co-led by bassist Michael Bates. With Michael Blake on tenor saxophone, Russ Lossing on keys - loose and funky on 'Blue Point' but switching to the piano on 'The Fallen One' much more rhapsodic - and Jeff Davis on drums Book Nine was recorded in a New Jersey studio. Inspired by John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy and Jimmy Garrison the title track is dedicated to Blaser and Bates' former agent and manager Izumi Uchida and to Ken Pickering, founder of the Vancouver Jazz Festival. The writing is excellent and spirit that delivers it all a joyous noise - what a must.

Out on 8 February