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jazz music reviews (new releases)

MARKUS REUTER Markus Reuter, Fabio Trentini, Asaf Sirkis ‎: Truce

Album · 2020 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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js
Although he is also a composer and instrument inventor, in the rock world Markus Reuter is mostly known for his Robert Fripp influenced guitar work in King Crimson related projects such as Stick Men and The Crimson Projek(Ct). On his new album, “Truce” Markus sets out on his own with Asaf Sirkis on drums and Fabio Trentini on bass for some fearless free form avnt psych-rock improvs. The Fripp/Crimson influence is still there, but you can also hear some of the same guitarists that influenced Robert, such as Pete Cosey, Terje Rypdal and Sonny Sharrock. Asaf and Fabio are an excellent rhythm section, and its often Trentini’s hard driving Bill Laswell influenced dubbish melodic bass lines that keep these jams together.

The opening track, titled the same as the album, is the top number with its energetic beat and clearly stated guitar onslaught. On this one Markus makes his case for being one of the top soloists in today’s crowded guitar pyro-technique field. From here the band plows into a couple of slow jams and then on to some somewhat scattered wanderings here and there. On “Let Me Touch”, Fabio tries to get the band back in the groove with a limber Jaco style bass line, but the guitar responds with a less distinct and heavily processed sound. There are good moments all the way to the end, but the tight focus of the opener never really returns.

The make or break for “Truce” is how much you enjoy hearing three very talented rock fusion musicians totally winging it without any pre-determined compositions. Its not easy pulling off a session like this and these three do about as well as anyone could hope to.

CHARLES LLOYD 8 : Kindred Spirits (Live From The Lobero)

Live album · 2020 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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snobb
Sax player Charles Lloyd, one of the few still active jazzmen from Coltrane era, made his name in mid 60s playing soulful hard bop and spiritual jazz, often beside rock musicians in arenas, not tiny jazz clubs.

In the eighties, he returned back on scene with slightly modified post-bop, adopted to more chamber-like ECM listeners. Not really grooveless as many European ECM recordings, his music was accessible, tuneful and enough safe to fit comfortably in label's catalog. In new Millennium, Lloyd moved to Blue Note again with some usual and some unorthodox recordings(as 2018's Vanished Gardens with Lucinda Williams). '8: Kindred Spirits ',recorded during his 80th birthday celebration gig on March 15, 2018 at his hometown venue, Santa Barbara’s Lobero Theatre,and released in early 2020,comes as a pleasant surprise.

Recorded with his slightly modified regular band from some last years (guitarist Julian Lage, pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Eric Harland), this album contains strong songs from different periods,but more important - for the first time for many years (if not decades)it leaves safely comfortable (some can say -'sleepy') zone of Lloyd releases from few last decades and music here really burns.

Depending on edition (the regular one contains just four songs plus DVD), the listener receives some well played, muscular and tuneful music, played with enthusiasm, spiritually and a touch of adventure. The opener,'Dream Weaver,'comes from Lloyd's glory day in mid sixties (most probably it is his biggest hit ever). Stretched till twenty-plus minutes, it has enough space for some extended improvisations still staying warm and framed at the end of the day. 'Requiem', the ballad originally released in 1992 on Lloyd's one of ECM album, sounds bluesy and 'organic' against more sterile original.

'La Llorona', a Latin trad tune, is elegant and only very slightly melancholic here.The closer,'Part 5: Ruminations,' is second longest album's composition, and besides of strong tune it has a lot of place for soloists improvs (some of which are quite free). Besides of Lloyd's regular pianist Gerald Clayton,in big part responsible for band's sound for years, there's a guitarist Julian Lage who makes this album so special. Lot of excellent guitars soloing refresh the sound a lot and makes all music sound very gracious.

Other editions can contain three vinyls+DVD and deluxe editions with full concert documented (12 songs). Strong choice of material and lively, inspired musicianship makes '8: Kindred Spirits' one of the better Lloyd release for some years,if not decades.

NIKOLOV-IVANOVIĆ UNDECTET Frame and Curiosity (feat. Magic Malik)

Album · 2019 · Progressive Big Band
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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js
“Frame and Curiosity” is the second album by the Nikolov-Ivanovic Undectet, and it finds them following a similar formula as their first one, modern big band arrangements guided by Balkan rhythms and melodies, although to many, the Balkan influences might not seem so obvious at first. Vladimir Nikolov handles the arrangements and piano, while Srdjan Ivanovic guides the band from the drum set. The two also wrote all of the original material. The group is fleshed out with a wide array of instruments including three saxophones, a horn quartet and accordion, plus special guest Magic Malik on flute. Magic makes for an excellent addition as he provides some of the most creative solos and adds a bright sound color to the arrangements. Although some jazz flautists can sound a bit shrill at times, Malik gets a strong deep sound from his flute that can hold its own against busy horn charts.

The three tracks that open the album are possibly the strongest, and although the press kit review from Jazz Times sites Gil Evans and Maria Schneider, I’m hearing a lot of classic Don Ellis. The odd-metered East European rhythms topped with complex and busy horn workouts recall Don’s ground breaking concert and recording at Monterrey. Maybe no one remembers Ellis anymore … sad. The rest of the album features some impressionistic ballads, a rock influenced track called “Anonymous”, a slight Latin flavor on “Carefree” and one more ambitious big band excursion titled “Sade Sati”. Jazz’s dance floor era passed long ago, but big bands are back more than ever as creative arrangers seek new sounds and tone colors. Fans of the modern big band sound should find much to like on “Frame and Curiosity”.

BILL LAURANCE Live at Ronnie Scott's

Live album · 2020 · Nu Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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snobb
Better known as member of American jazz super-group Snarky Puppy, English pianist and composer Bill Laurance collaborates with some other renown artists and leads own bands as well. His trio (with British bassist Jonathan Harvey and Lithuanian drummer Marijus Aleksa) just released their live album, recorded a year and half ago in legendary London's Ronnie Scott's club.

Full-bodied, well composed and perfectly played acoustic nu jazz, in a key of early Phronesis, is a perfect example of best British music of the genre. No use of electronics, sound effects or studio technology. Each song has own face and appeal,delicate applause in a club adds warm atmosphere to almost studio-like recording.

Continuing the decades long tradition of acoustic piano-bass-drums jazz trios, Bill Laurance trio on this release builds a solid bridge from twenty's century to the first decade of the New Millennium. Best acoustic nu jazz looking from today becomes part of jazz history as well. Laurance's "Live At Ronnie Scott's" is a valuable illustration to the British page of it.

SIMON VINCENT Simon Vincent's The Occasional Trio : Live In Berlin

Live album · 2019 · Hard Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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js
Simon Vincent is a modern composer who often works with electronics and other experimental sources. Occasionally he also performs as a jazz pianist with his trio under the moniker, The Occasional Trio’. Despite his ‘long haired’ and academic background, Simon’s jazz playing is often rough and blues centered, which he then colors with the abstractions of his more avant-garde leanings. Possibly it is because he performs mostly in Europe and the UK, that Vincent is not better known in the US, but this is one pianist that stateside jazz fans would really appreciate if they would give him the chance. Simon points to Monk, Brubeck and Mingus as influences. The Monkness shows up in Vincent’s rough dissonant approach, the Brubeck leanings lead to big block chords played in odd rhythms against his backup players, and you can hear Mingus in Simon’s tendency to take the blues into outside improvisations. His latest album, “Live in Berlin”, was recorded live because in Simon’s own words, “In front of an audience you tend to stretch out and take risks on the spur of the moment which makes the music more exciting, and makes it breathe and come to life.”

Simon’s partners on here include bassist Roland Fidezius and drummer Kay Lubke. Fortunately there is very little gratuitous solos for the other two, instead, all three players keep at it non-stop for the duration of the concert in constant interplay and communication. Given Simon’s diverse musical background you can expect a rather eclectic set from this free wheeling trio. The group’s tendency towards hard hitting bluesy bop shows up on “Blues in Fink”, “Well You Shouldn’t” and “Sweedad’s Pastry”. More lyrical and sensitive post bop approaches s appear on “Raindrops in June” and “Every Moment of Every Day” and an ability to freely improvise in modern idioms can be found on, “Portsmouth Blue” and “Prayer unto the People and unto the Land”.

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GINGER BAKER Ginger Baker Trio ‎: Going Back Home

Album · 1994 · Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 3.11 | 3 ratings
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snobb
Imagine British rock supergroup Cream with jazz bassist Charlie Haden instead of Jack Bruce and Americana-jazz guitarist Bill Frisell instead of Eric Clapton. Here they are - original Cream drummer-led Ginger Baker Trio. They sound actually as it looks on paper - quite oddly.

Frisell fans will recognize his guitar sound from very first seconds, and it stays a signature sound of all album. Haden most of the time stays on safe support, but Baker's ambition to be a leader is obvious, not always for good. His playing recalls an elephant, dancing in a crystal glass room, elegance (with big help of strangely sounding drum set, probably a rock band's one), and this thunder like drums are placed on the front of the sound mix.

Two standards (incl.Monk's Straight, No Chaser) sounds unusually, but hardly all that attractive. Other songs are members' originals, some sounds more like rock songs (and them are probably among better album's songs). Most of the time I've been thinking that album's edition in "minus one" format (without the drummer, of course) would sound really more attractive(if a bit too sleepy, as many similar Frisell's works). In general, all music sounds as it has been recorded separately by each musician at home and then mixed in one in studio, not a good feeling for jazz of any form.

Not really unlistenable,this album has its attraction in weird combination of musicians, but too often it doesn't work properly.

CHARLIE PARKER The Magnificent Charlie Parker (aka The Genius Of Charlie Parker #8: Swedish Schnapps)

Album · 1955 · Bop
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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js
God bless Record Store Day, not only does it help support one of civilization’s finest institutions, ie your local record store, but it has also been encouraging labels to re-release classic vinyl albums that many of us thought would be forever unattainable. If you had told me a few years ago that I would soon be able to buy pristine copies of Charlie Parker LPs, I would have thought you plumb crazy, but then, here we are with another outstanding Record Store Day release in the form of “The Magnificent Charlie Parker”. This album was originally released in the mid-50s on the Clef album and it contains much of Clef’s Parker singles from 1951 when Bird was playing at his best. It’s a wonderful collection of singles all arranged in logical succession with no weird volume or sound quality leaps as you go track to track. Those who are familiar with some Parker CD collections will know what I mean by incongruent track succession.

Side one opens with four tracks that feature a young Miles on trumpet, as well as Max Roach on drums. Miles’ playing at that time was very clean and precise, revealing the influence of Clifford Brown, as well as Miles’ classical background. All of these tracks are great, with “She Rote” being the ultimate in bebop styled abstraction and modernity. The last two cuts on this side are exotica pop numbers with a vocal choir and small orchestra arrangement. by Gil Evans. Side two features Red Rodney on trumpet, possibly Parker’s most cohesive and inspiring sideman outside of Dizzy Gillespie. This group also features a young John Lewis on piano before he became known as a purveyor of 3rd stream chamber jazz.

Every track on here is excellent and its nice that the song choices lean away from show tunes and more towards bebop originals that really bring out the witty urban flavor of one of jazz’s most creative eras. I think there are only about 3000 copies of this available, so grab it while you can.

GEORGE RUSSELL Electronic Sonata For Souls Loved By Nature

Live album · 1971 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Igor91
George Russell's Electronic Souls Loved by Nature is one of the severely underrated jazz releases from the late 1960's/early 1970's. I, personally, would put this up there with Miles Davis' Bitches Brew as far as its inventiveness and uniqueness for the time. The recording is actually from April of 1969 (not released until 1971), which predates the Bitches Brew sessions by about 3 months! This is a very European sounding release, due to the musicians involved in it hailing from Norway, most notably the young Jan Garbarek and Terje Rypdal. The use of tape noises and sound collages with a live band, and recorded in a live setting was innovative for 1969. The musicians performed the piece impeccably and with conviction. There are two, side long tracks that combine cool, repetitive jazz grooves, free jazz, and touches of jazz rock, mostly due to Rypdal's occasional Hendrix-inspired shredding. It has a kind of psychedelic vibe, but in that dark, Norwegian style in contrast to Bitches Brew's very American sound. This one should really be recognized for what is - a groundbreaking jazz classic.

THE BEAT (THE ENGLISH BEAT) Wha'ppen?

Album · 1981 · Dub/Ska/Reggae
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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The Beat’s (English Beat in the US) first album, “I Just Can’t Stop It”, was a high energy ska punk barn burner infused with politically savvy lyrics, and it was a huge success in England and all around the entire world. Conventional wisdom would dictate that they should keep the same formula for their follow up album, but instead The Beat decided to challenge themselves, and their followers, by changing course for their follow up, “Wha’ppen”. The Caribbean rhythms from drummer Everrette Morton were still there, but instead of just high speed ska, The Beat delved into a wide variety of additional ‘riddims’ including dub, calypso and various hybrids that were their own creation. Likewise, their lyrics delved more into personal relationships and a certain malaise where disappointment in relations intersect with political concerns creating a more somber mood. Critics were quick to pan this album claiming The Beat had lost their way, but the band had not lost any creativity or integrity with this second opus as repeat listens reveal an interesting mix of island rhythms and art pop ambitions. The art pop leanings were no accident as band leaders Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger were just as much into David Bowie as they were into the Skatalites.

Yes, “Wha’ppen” is not the exuberant dance fest of their first outing, but as a deeper listening experience, in many ways it is the better album, critics be damned. If I may indulge a bit here, I had just lost a girlfriend when this album came out and it became the perfect soundtrack as I came to terms with the fact that it was indeed all over. I wonder what the guys in The Beat were going through that pushed them in this direction, possibly similar failed partnerships, disillusionment with musical stardom, restless youth back home dealing with terminal unemployment and the growing menace of a possible nuclear war. All of these concerns come together in the lyrics in which personal troubles combine with political apprehension in ways that make it hard to separate the two.

It may sound like this album is just one big downer, but it is not. The song writing is excellent and the syncopated Jamaican rhythms celebrate life no matter what the obstacle. I think many critics missed the boat on this one, its definitely not a repeat of the first album, but it is one of the best art pop albums of the 80s, easily challenging the best work by Bowie, Prince or The Police during this same time period.

DEODATO Artistry

Live album · 1974 · Big Band
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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dreadpirateroberts
On ‘Artisry’ Deodato’s arrangements of classical covers (and his Latin, smooth jazz pieces too) are fleshed out by an orchestra and it’s great to hear them with extra depth compared to the studio recordings.

The sound is maybe a bit ‘warmer’ in a live setting and the band seem to be having a good time too, which I noticed on “St. Louis Blues” and “Superstrut” – especially John Tropea on guitar. Maybe the set list draws a little too heavily from ‘Deodato 2’ compared to what I’d hoped for but if you want a more comprehensive collection of live songs you might have to look to the latter stages of his discography.

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