Jazz Music Reviews (new releases)

ANDREW CYRILLE Andrew Cyrille/Wadada Leo Smith/Bill Frisell : Lebroba

Album · 2018 · 21st Century Modern
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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snobb
Seasoned drummer Andrew Cyrille is better known by his collaboration with leading jazz musicians of different time periods starting from Cecil Taylor to Anthony Braxton to Oliver Lake among many others but he has released two dozen albums as leader as well."Lebroba" is his second album for prestigious German ECM label and here he leads a super trio containing living legends trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and guitarist Bill Frisell.

Don't worry much about unimaginative album's title(Lebroba is a contraction of Leland, Brooklyn and Baltimore, birthplaces of trio's members), the music is really more impressive.

Frisell,who did his name playing with John Zorn's radical avant-garde projects and later moved solo towards trademark Americana-jazz, is in great form here and differently from his many solo works from last decades he plays more inventively and far not such safe. There are even some explosive guitar solos what wasn't heard from him possibly from 80s. Still everyone knowing his sound will easily recognize who's playing guitar here.

Wadada Leo Smith was one of AACM founders in early 70s and he experiences huge renaissance during last two decades after all these years.His trumpet is a main beauty of "Lebroba" music. On many pieces he sounds as early electric Miles but not pushing the music ahed with explosive soloing but slowing it down with aerial and quite dry sound.

Now the music - it is expected for those familiar with Smith's most current works, but still quite different. Low-to-mid tempo songs are well-composed and sound not meditative but dry-calculated, minimalist and contains some internal tension. The opener is renown Frisell song "Worried Woman" sounding here as if Frisell has invited Miles Davis to his small band.

"Turiya:Alice Coltrane Meditations and Dreams:Love" is written by Smith and lasts 17+ minutes."TGD" is written by all three members and last two songs are Cyrille's.

Minimalist, with anchoring drummer and airy guitar and trumpet interplay (what an usual format for a trio!)spiced with tasteful and live-full (and sometimes free) soloing this music is new, beautiful,quite accessible but trully creative.

It's almost unbelievable how jazz veterans (with youngest Bill Frisell(68))can take risks searching for new sounds and succeed doing it.

SOFT MACHINE Hidden Details

Album · 2018 · Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 3 ratings
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kev rowland
There can be few British bands that can say that they have had as much impact on music as the mighty Softs, and here a mere 37 years after their last studio album they are back with a new one. Originally formed in 1966, with their debut album in 1968, they have continued to be at the cutting edge of fusion and have had some incredible musicians pass through their ranks. The band officially disbanded in 1978, then reformed briefly in 1981 and then 1984 before returning as Soft Ware in 1999, which in turn became Soft Works, before morphing into Soft Machine Legacy in 2004, and then at the end of 2015 they decided to drop the word “Legacy”. But given that guitarist John Etheridge, bassist Roy Babbington and drummer John Marshall were all in the same line-up(s) in the Seventies, they have a more than valid claim to the name. The only member of the band who wasn’t involved back then is Theo Travis, who provides sax, flute and Fender Rhodes. But, he joined Soft Machine Legacy as long ago as 2006, when he replaced Elton Dean after he had passed away.

Anyone who admits to enjoying Canterbury progressive rock or fusion will have multiple Soft Machine albums in their collection, and this one fits right in. John Etheridge is an incredible guitarist, and it takes someone very special indeed to step into the shoes of Allan Holdsworth, not once but twice. He is lyrical, dramatic, restrained yet over the top, simple yet complex, allowing the music to take him where it will. Every musician is an absolute master of his craft, and they push the envelope in so many ways. Jazz, prog, fusion, call it whatever you like but this is intricately crafted music that is both awe inspiring yet inviting, eclectic yet so very easy to get inside of, and the more time spent with it the greater the rewards. Some of these guys are nearly 80 years old now, yet show no sign at all of slowing down. This is an essential purchase.

SATOKO FUJII Kira Kira : Bright Force

Live album · 2018 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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snobb
Pianist Satoko Fujii is one among best internationally known creative jazz artist from Japan leading numerous projects (usually incl. her husband trumpeter Natsuki Tamura). Smaller groups as rule have each own name so Fujii/Tamura quartet with French duo of Peter Orins(drums) and Christian Pruvost(trumpet) is known as Kaze,all-Japanese drum-less quartet with Yasuko Kaneko(trombone) and Kazuhiko Tsumura(guitar) is known as Gato Libre(Satoko plays accordion not a piano here).

Kira Kira is Satoko's newest project to date where usual pair of Fujii and Tamura is combined with renown Australian keyboardist Alister Spence and young Japanese drummer Ittetsu Takemura who is a regular member of Satoko's big bands.

"Bright Force", project's debut, contains two polar parts both coming from same concert recorded at Knuttel House in Tokyo in 2017. Because of problems with sound quality recorded material has been seriously edited, putting the gig's opener meditative micro-tonal three-part suite "Luna Lionfish" to the end of the album and bringing energetic "Because Of The Sun" and "Nat 4" at the beginning. Not like the recordings sound became better but loud explosive two first pieces with soloing trumpet on the front prepare the listener to easier acceptance of knotty but not so catchy suite's entry.

Main music's characteristic on whole album is still a tension, build by Tamura's freer trumpet solos and Spence's Rhodes passages. The drummer is a rock-heavy and Satoko's percussive piano work adds even more muscularity in a sound. Add lot of Spence's electronic effects for full picture.

Fujii,Tamura and Spence previously already played together as quartet(with The Necks drummer Tony Buck)so there is a feel of working band in Kira Kira music.

A bit more ascetic and more complex than usual Fujii's music renown from her American,European or Japanese Orchestras,"Bright Force" is another strong release of prolific Japanese pianist. Celebrating her 60 jubilee Satoko promised to release a new album every month during all 2018(Kira Kira's debut is one of them). Big part of her program is already released, mostly all of them contains an interesting music. Waiting for more to come.

MARC RIBOT Songs of Resistance 1942-2018

Album · 2018 · Jazz Related Pop/Art Song/Folk
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Matt
Marc Ribot’s latest offering “Songs Of Resistance 1942-2018” comprises quite a few well known guests covering some originals and old nuggets fitting the album’s title. Tom Waits, Steve Earle, Fay Victor, Meshell Ndegeocello, Sam Amidon , Justin Vivian Bond and an artist who does not want to be named due to possible ramifications concerning their residential status is mentioned as “Ohene Cornelius”. The album was recorded as a protest against the current U. S. Administration with eleven tracks included with Fay Victor being the biggest contributor after Marc Ribot of course as she appears on three with Steve Earle being an old political campaigner himself appearing in two.

The old Gospel number “We Are Soldiers In The Army” with Fay Victor on vocals gets things underway with some quite interesting saxophone accompaniment bringing a different touch to this old nugget but what the majority of listeners will be interested in is the following old Italian Anti Fascist song “Bella Ciao ( Goodbye Beautiful)” with Tom Waits providing his unique style delivered close to a lament with Marc Ribot’s guitar backing it all up as he has done on so many songs that they have recorded together. Steve Earle wrote “Srinvas” concerning an Indian immigrant’s murder as a direct result from racism with quite a pick up for the tunes ending. “How To Walk In Freedom” is where we get the folk singer Sam Amidon leading vocals with Fay Victor assisting with flute bringing texture to the song and “Rata De Dos Patas” is Latin based with a not to subtle English introduction for the persona Ohene Cornelius.The protest songs keep coming with two more from Marc Ribot, Fay Victor doing “John Brown”, another from Steve Earle and even the trans genre artist Justin Vivian Bond comes in to finish things up with “We’ll Never Turn Back” and perhaps even Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger might approve.

Interesting listen and I have tried to keep out of the politics not being my own Country and just cover the music with what it is about and there are some great sounding songs and tunes included and I hope that they do resonate from this project for the artists. Tom Waits is a great addition for Marc Ribot within the album as he will increase sales with those fans of Tom’s that want them all, still I feel like many Political themed album’s they are doomed to a short lifespan.

CUONG VU Cuong Vu 4-tet ‎: Change In The Air

Album · 2018 · Fusion
Cover art 3.67 | 2 ratings
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Antonis Kalamoutsos
.... and then, there are these moments when the only thing you ask of music is to embrace and surround you like a huge, colourful cloud.

Born in Vietnam and based in Seattle, Cuong Vu has already accomplished some great achievements in the jazz genre, despite being still at his late 40s. The most important achievement though is that he has shaped his own personal voice, having explored with his trumpet a variety of different jazz paths, from “traditional” to fusion and from there to its most experimental aspects. So, his very breath has managed to form that huge, colourful cloud that shades everything tenderly, peacefully and with limitless expressive power. Let us not forget that the trumpet is an ideal case if you want to hear the Man behind the instrument. Well, Vu sounds like a great man and this is neither irrelevant nor insignificant.

Change in the air is Vu’s second release with 4-Tet where he coexists and co creates with three wonderful musicians, guitarist Bill Frisell, bassist Luke Bergman and drummer Ted Poor. This collaboration is fulfilled with terms of equal and collective creation, a strategic choice that makes the album take off. That is because Vu’ s trumpet may stand over the compositions, like a parental supervision, being also the music’s “battering ram” but that doesn’t mean his companions get lost in the background. On the contrary, they are equally under the spotlight next to him.

Frisell’s guitar feels like a multilingual instrument: it explores all kinds of harmonic moods and polysemous chords, it discreetly uses modern effects and decorates music with its unrivaled presence. On the other hand, the rhythm section of Bergman/Poor, being one of the wisest and more balanced I have ever encountered in a jazz album, spreads gigantically in space supporting, emphasising and sending light to any dark corners, always in the best possible expressiveness.

The above mentioned collective effort is mostly reflected on the fact that all four musicians contribute almost equally their compositions, with three tracks each and Bergman adding one. As a result, Poor and Bergman are equivalently pointed out as amazing composers. Poor instantly sets the bar to unreachable heights with the opening nostalgic noir of ''All that's left of me is you'' and the ravishing and personal favourite ''Alive'' that follows, a composition in which the band dares to enrich with an almost bluesy Americana aura. Bergman’s ''Must concentrate'' carries a completely different rhythmic, almost dancing character while progresses into one of the album’s most intense moments. The three compositions by Frisell reveal a distant relation with those of Poor, with a dominating sense of bittersweet and sometimes sexy melancholy, as well as an immense harmonic richness. As for Vu, he keeps for himself the album’s most experimental and dark moments ''Round and Round'' and ''Round and round (Back around)'', as well as ''March of the owl and the bat'' , probably the only genuine fusion track involved. While these compositions are not my cup of tea, i think they are extremely valuable for the album’s flow, painting it in darker tones for a while.

In total, Change in the air is not an album of intense soloing and technical gymnastics. It is more like a sentimental dive into the Challengers Deep of quality music enthusiasts and like a human structure raised by a broad musical mind. Free and unforced, all the notes never end but just keep on reaching beyond, as if they are to reach the most distant horizons. If it was a painting it would be an impressionistic one, with open forms, diffused light and blurry colours. The subject is rather open to the perception of the listener though. Through my own filters, this is ultimately a midnight album, of nights with undefined moods and purposes unknown.

Change in the air is a work of sheer beauty, unique as a fingerprint and kind as an innocent memory. Washed away from every arrogance and hypocrisy, Cuong Vu 4-Tet deliver a crystal album, a collective breath that rises above until it hangs over your head like a cloud, ideal for all those moments when you just ask of music to embrace and surround you, without offending anything within you.

Originally written for againstthesilence.com

HENRY THREADGILL Double Up, Plays Double Up Plus

Album · 2018 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Matt
“Double Up, Play’s Double Up Plus” is the second album featuring Henry Threadgill’s Double Up Ensemble and like the prior Henry is not playing but just using his compositions and arrangements for the band to work around. If one is not sure what the double up pertains to, it is the use of two pianos and for this current release and concerning the plus in the title we have three pianos as Henry Threadgill quotes within the album’s notes. “ It became imperative to write plus.... a third piano added to 1+1, now 1+1+1”. Elementary with the mathematical conclusion making things sound simple but the music contained within is far from that conjecture with the usual complications he inputs into his compositions inserting an Avante Garde element that is always present within. The ensemble almost remains the same as the prior album “Old Locks And Irregular Verbs” except the pianist Jason Moran is no longer here and has been replaced by David Bryant and Luis Perdomo with David Virelles remaining in both recordings. Also we still have two alto saxophonists with the addition of Roman Filiu’ inputting flute in this one which was not present in the prior release. All in all, even though Henry does not play it still sounds distinctly him.

Although the ensemble has eight members the sound at times seems almost singular with just the pianos opening for the album’s first composition being the longest running for nearly 23 minutes, “Game Is Up” with the ensemble following in later on this composition’s ever changing construction with the pianos at times solo or co-joined and other times are separated from the other instruments of primarily the alto, tuba, drums cello and David Virelle’s harmonium. It is not until over half way the ensemble come together in this extremely interesting number. The last three compositions “Clear And Distinct From The Other A”, “Clear And Distinct From The Other B” and “Clear And Distinct” have all different constructions with each starting in a low key manner and keeping with the album’s theme the piano or pianos are accompanied by either alto, flute, drums, tuba where they reside with an almost solo sound within each of the compositions gradually bringing the ensemble forward to where they are all playing together excepting “B”. My pick of them is “Clear And Distinct From The Other B” but I have always loved flute used in this musical concept but there is also some gorgeous piano to add for the last in “Clear And Distinct”. There is a fifth track registered but it is only a vocal description of the album’s theory with the band’s personnel and associated credits read aloud.

Well you cannot say it is not different or original as Henry Threadgill has always maintained that ideology when it comes to his compositions and ensembles and neither could you say it is just a follow up the his prior release “Old Locks And Irregular Verbs” being more subdued having quite different compositions containing more space. Still I had to get it and glad I have.

JOHN DAVERSA John Daversa Big Band : American Dreamers (Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom)

Album · 2018 · Progressive Big Band
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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js
Down through history there always seems to be a certain politician who is so void of positive ideas and real solutions that he desperately blames the ‘immigrants’ for his nation’s problems and seeks to increase his popularity with this morally corrupt message. This worked well for Hitler, and despite what a tragedy he turned out to be, it still seems to work for some. The problem being that there is always enough of the population who is either under educated enough, or xenophobic enough to fall for such nonsense. Satirical cartoon show “The Simpsons” presented a biting send up of such posturing when they aired an episode in the mid 90s in which their corrupt mayor chose to wiggle out of a tight spot regarding taxes by ‘blaming the immigrants’. So it comes to pass just a few decades later in a prime example of reality imitating TV, the voters of the US elected a politician who used this same tired and predictable rhetoric to actually win the presidency.

Dreamers are children who were brought to the US, under no power of their own, as non-citizens and who have since been working hard to prove themselves as capable US citizens. Many lawmakers support these Dreamers and have been trying to provide a path for their eventual citizenship. Unfortunately, many of these dreams have been dashed lately by a new administration that rose to power by provoking irrational fears about these Dreamers and are busy trying close their path to citizenship. John Daversa’s “American Dreamers” is a new CD that gives these young people a voice and allows them to tell their stories in their own words and also allows them to participate in Daversa’s power packed big band.

If you have ever worked as a teacher, you will recognize the voices in these stories, these are the voices of your students, and believe me, that makes all of this hit you like a ton of bricks. In my many years as a music teacher in the US, I would estimate over half the students I have worked with have been immigrants. To hear the ambitious and unpretentious young people on this CD describe how their dreams may be crushed is beyond heart-breaking, and really kind of burns me up inside. Hopefully this CD will help people realize what a horrible tragedy is taking place here.

“American Dreamers” is a great listen just to hear the young musician’s stories, but you also get John Daversa’s big band playing wild arrangements that can recall ‘out-there’ band arrangers such as Don Ellis, Anthony Braxton and Sun Ra. Most of the tracks are covers that have been completely re-arranged into fresh new pieces. James Brown’s “Living in America” has crazy horn syncopations that sound like the JBs gone berserk. “Stars and Stripes” is given a fast changing de-constructionist arrangement that may remind some of Anthony Braxton’s humorous marching band send-ups. Led Zep’s “Immigrant Song” is given screaming horns and a fierce rap from a young man from Senegal named Caliph. The music on its own would make “American Dreamers” one of the best modern big band albums of this year, but when you add in the importance of the message being presented here, you have a jazz record that has transcended mere art and become a powerful social statement that will hopefully help people understand what is truly going on here.

BRAD MEHLDAU Seymour Reads the Constitution!

Album · 2018 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Matt
Brad Mehldau’s latest release “Seymour Reads The Constitution” is his second for this year after his well received prior “After Bach” As with the majority of the recent Trio releases they are all not Standards but Brad’s own compositions included with a few contemporary Pop or Rock tunes thrown in with this album having two of them leaning more towards the Pop side. His old stalwart Larry Grenadier who been with him since the beginning is back on Bass with Jeff Ballard who joined the Trio in 2005 playing drums. There are eight compositions included with three being Brad’s, one Standard, two Pop and one from Elmo Hope and the other Sam Rivers.

“Spiral” is first being one of Brad’s compositions with title explaining the lay out in the composition having the higher keys climbing in an up and down in a circular manner throughout this delightful first piece. The following track being the album’s title “Seymour Reads The Constitution” is in a slower introspective manner being another one of Brad’s compositions within the album employing that technique that Brad plays on piano with his left hand keeping the basic pattern while his right is adding the improvision in different timing. Larry Grenadier brings the Bass up early during the title’s structure with Brad gradually climbing the piano’s higher notes for the remainder within this beautiful piece. “Almost Like Being in Love” is the album’s only Standard played with that McCoy Tyner influence of joy infusion with a drum solo from Jeff Ballard included within this spritely take. Elmo Hope’s composition Brad keeps well recognisable and does not stray too far from the original with the theme and this time Larry Grenadier has a shot on Bass within . It’s the Beach Boys, “Friends” with the Trio bringing forth a lovely different take to the song with Brad’s left hand keeping the time with the right adding more sparkle throughout followed by the marvellous changing “Ten Tune”. Paul McCartney gets the nod with an interesting take for the song “Great Day” from his “Flaming Pie” album and then we finish up with the Sam Rivers composition “Beatrice” where we get some great interplay between Brad on piano and Jeff on drums for just another of the album’s delights.

Wonderful new album from Brad Mehldau with a bit of difference from the majority of today’s Trio albums where quite a few seem to be primarily ballads injected with crystal clear space and although many of them I do enjoy it is refreshing to get something a bit different.

PHRONESIS We Are All

Album · 2018 · Nu Jazz
Cover art 4.48 | 2 ratings
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snobb
After eleven years of activities and seven successful albums London-based Phronesis were probably most respectable contemporary jazz trio in UK. Few years ago, when their music started sounding a bit too safe and predictable they did a double shot trying to improve the situation. First they recorded (at Abbey Road Studios in London) much more muscular album ("Parallax")then they ever did before. I saw them playing life with these new songs and they sounded as high-energy power trio, but from the bad side their new music lost part of their melodies putting them in danger to become "another fusion piano trio". An year after they released an excellent album of their known songs recorded with Frankfurt radio big band. What's next?

Just released their ninth album "We Are All" doesn't open radically different horizons, but it looks here they finally found their best ever balance between slightly melancholic chamber jazz and more modern and youthful power trio sound. Trio's songs are tightly composed and precisely executed again with bigger attention to melodies. They reduced high energy of "Parallax" till controlled groovy sound with complex interplay between virtuoso piano soloing and physical acoustic bass.

"We Are All" represents contemporary European jazz at its best - multilayered intellectual improvisational music sounds almost as accessible as pop and rock songs without loosing its quality. One critic called "Phronesis" "the best modern jazz piano trio since EST", with "We Are All" release they have serious evidence that he was right.

SOFT MACHINE Hidden Details

Album · 2018 · Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 3 ratings
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js
Its nice to see the longest running act in the world of jazz-rock fusion is still at it, but its even nicer hearing them operating at a creative peak more similar to their early years. I don’t know if this is a live in the studio performance, but it sounds like one. The songs naturally segue way into each other, and there is no evidence of over dubs as every performer is quite clearly in the moment and interacting with their band mates. At this point in their career, Soft Machine are able to cover all the different phases of their past, particularly their jazzy horn driven music of the early 70s, and their more muscular guitar driven jazz-rock of the mid-70s. What’s particularly notable about the current lineup is that they often break things down so that only one or two people are carefully interacting and taking their time building unique sounds and melodies. These frequent changes in ensemble makeup and texture help make “Hidden Details” the interesting listen that it is.

As mentioned earlier, the many styles of Soft Machine are on display here. There are a couple of lengthy funky rock numbers for those who seek the guitar shredding of Chris Etheridge. Theo Travis shines on flute on some up tempo jazz, and on “Life on Bridges”, the whole band goes off on a noisy free improv. “Heart Off Guard” and “Broken Hill” contain moments of pure pastoral melody, and elsewhere they re-visit Soft Machine’s classic minimalist tributes to Terry Riley. There are a couple tracks from previous Soft albums, but this band clearly puts their own stamp on those cuts. The album closes on a good note with the floating looped sounds of Travis' flute. “Hidden Details” is one of the better Soft Machine albums to come out in a while, In particular, Theo Travis on woodwinds and keyboards seems to be in touch with those elements that constituted some of this band’s best music.

CHARLES LLOYD Charles Lloyd & The Marvels + Lucinda Williams : Vanished Gardens

Album · 2018 · Jazz Related Pop/Art Song/Folk
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Matt
Lucinda Williams first ran into Charles Lloyd who himself was already was a fan from her “Car Wheel On a Gravel Road” days after attending one his concerts where they met back stage afterwards which planted the seed for this current project and latest release. Charles stated during an interview co- shared with Lucinda concerning the making of “Vanished Gardens” that “You can’t go in there with fixed ideas” and that perception he keeps throughout the production for the amalgamation of Jazz and Americana bringing something fresh and original for all of us with tired ears who often ponder these days even with a new artist who we have not heard prior, that when their music commences we think, “I’ve heard it before” but at least concerning this album that is difficult to claim. Five of the ten tracks comprising the album are instrumentals with three written by Charles with one other being the standard “Ballad Of The Sad Young Men” and the other being “Monks Dream” . Lucinda’s input is also five tracks taken from various albums from her past productions with the addition of the Jimi Hendrix tune “Angel”.

The album kicks off with the instrumental “Defiant” with Charles opening on tenor saxophone with a down tempo approach which turns to a rolling along number with Bill Frisell’s guitar coming in for the second solo followed by Greg Leisz on pedal steel and finishing up with Charles back again with his beautiful deep tone on tenor . This one has actually been released as a single. Lucinda William s comes in for the following number being “Dust” where the original tune is kept and easily recognisable which is maintained throughout the entire album for all her compositions included within but the difference lays with the backing Quintets input with the loops of Lloyds’s sax and the stretching out of the numbers. Bill Frisell with Greg Leisz open the title number “Vanished Gardens” with a slow build up till Charles appears getting stronger by the second. Another Williams number follows being her classic “Ventura” and once again keeping to its original construction but placed in a Jazz mode. The tracks alternate throughout the album’s duration with an instrumental followed by a Williams vocal song. Charles actually does a little singing in the background during “Unsuffer Me” being one of my favourites from the session but I may add that it is one of my picks from Lucinda’s back catalogue taken from her stunning album “West”. Charles also does do a flute lead for the lovely “Blues For Langston and LaRue” bringing a little more variety to it all.

Does it work?, sure does, I think more to the addition of guitar and pedal steel from Frisell and Leisz which brings a junction point for Charles Lloyd and Lucinda Williams being two Southern artists to combine for quite an interesting listen and yes, something different from two of today’s top musicians. Special mention for Reuben Rogers (bass) and Eric Harland on drums.

WADADA LEO SMITH Najwa

Album · 2017 · Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 3 ratings
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Matt
Variety seems to be the key with the latest batch of releases from Wadada Leo Smith with “Najwa” continuing that mode in an exceptional manner. The prior album “ America’s National Parks” played by Wadada’s Golden Quintet was quite an outstanding effort and deservingly so, being highly regarded after the double album’s release last year in 2016. “Najwa” is quite a different beast being Fusion but this is not Miles Davis or The Mahavishnu Orchestra albeit there are elements contained but due to Bill Laswell’s presence on the album playing electric bass, providing the Mix and the addition of four Electric Guitarists, we are veering just as close to Praxis and Material.

Jazz though is still the key “Ornette Coleman’s Harmolodic Sonic Hierograhic Forms: A Reasonance Change In The Millennium” is performed as a suite with varying times and some stunning trumpet from Wadada in conjunction with the guitarists providing quite a diverse sound with their input but Bill Laswell’s bass is grumbling and booming in the distinct manner that he play’s right along with them. Track 3 “Najwa” is a short dreamy piece. I have to admit when I first saw the title for the next track “Ronald Shannon Jackson: The Master of Symphonic Drumming and Multi Sonic Rhythms, Inscription of a Rare Beauty” I was ready for long percussion pieces but not so, although drum driven there is plenty addition from the band with some great guitar work injected with Wadada’s trumpet thankfully. “The Empress, Lady Day: In a Rainbow Garden, with Yellow-Gold Hot Springs, Surrounded by Exotic Plants and Flowers” finishes the album up in a contemplative manner with pieces from the various musicians floating across an ambient ether that only Bill Laswell could Mix. Track 2 the dedication to John Coltrane has the same high standard.

WADADA LEO SMITH Solo-Reflections And Meditations On Monk

Album · 2017 · 21st Century Modern
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Matt
Solo trumpet sounds a bit dicey but Wadada Leo Smith pulls it of beautifully. I noticed the selections are more towards Monk's slower tempo compositions which seemed to be a wise choice for this concept. Three of the compositions are Wadada's own with the rest being Monk's. Having the music stripped to just solo trumpet it is often the fragments of the tunes whilst being played that just drift the melodies in

"Ruby My Dear", "Crepuscule with Nellie", "Round Midnight" and the not often played early comp "Reflections" are outstanding in their interpretation but that is not to say that Wadada's compositions are any less either bringing quite an interesting balance to the album with perhaps "Monk and His Five Point Ring At The Five Spot Cafe" which gives a nudge to Monk's most renowned Live album, "Thelonious in Action" being my pick.

If you know your Monk you should love hearing these masterful echoes provided my Smith's solo trumpet throughout but if you don't grab a copy of "Monk's Music" and "Genius Of Modern Music Volume 1" where the majority of the original compositions performed by Smith on this recording lay and work from there to gain a better grip and understanding to where Wadada is coming from with the concept to this album. Beautiful and different stuff

ANGLES Angles 3 : Parede

Live album · 2018 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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snobb
Swedes Angles started a decade ago as sax player Martin Kuchen-led sextet playing modern mix of avant-garde jazz, Balkanica and electronic jazz. Very tuneful,emotionally colored and politically sharp songs made them one of most popular Nordic jazz band right after their debut in 2008 (on Portuguese Clean Feed label). They grew up from sextet to octet (Angles 8) for their third album and till nonet(Angles 9) for their fourth one (all - recorded live).

Band'sound became more orchestrated (possibly as the answer to success of their colleagues another Nordic super-group Fire! who grew up from power trio to progressive big band) and more sharp on Angles' two studio albums,recorded in 2014 and 2017. Being a classy band, their formula became a bit too predictable so the year 2018 gives their fans a radical change.

Angles' new album "Parede" (yes, live for sure) is recorded by Angles 3 - and they are really a trio now! Based predominantly on the compositions from their last studio album "Disappeared Behind The Sun", new Angles model is rooted on Albert Ayler free jazz tradition. Sax player Martin Kuchen with old drummer Kjell Nordeson and new Norwegian drummer Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (a member of The Thing power super-trio together with reedist Mats Gustafsson, the leader of above mentioned Fire!) instead of Angles' original Johan Berthling play bare-naked versions of of well-arranged Angles 9 originals.

The difference in music comparing with any previous Angles line-up is significant even if there still are some Balkan tunes, melodies snippets and soulful Kuchen sax soloing. Trio Angles play free jazz of old school, it radiates energy, emotions and live listeners participation is right in place here.

Probably, more Angles side-project than logical continuation, Angles 3 released truly unexpectable album at a moment when it looked they became too predictable. Not every "bigger" Angles fan will stay happy with this new music but I believe they will find some new listeners too with this step.

CHRISTIAN SCOTT (CHRISTIAN SCOTT ATUNDE ADJUAH) The Emancipation Procrastination

Album · 2018 · Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 3.98 | 2 ratings
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js
Duke Ellington’s musical allegory “A Drum is a Woman”, was a clever story that foretold jazz’s future as a musical style that would adapt to every culture on the globe, and even go to outer space, but no matter how far jazz may wander and change, its strength and substance comes from returning to the music of Africa. Drawing upon the rhythms of Africa, as well as African tendencies in hip-hop and Detroit techno, Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah continues to add new vitality to the world of jazz fusion with his latest album, “The Emancipation Procrastination“. Scott’s been on his hybrid style for a while now, so if you are familiar with his last couple albums, then you may know what to expect here, well composed melodies over abstract beats that combine Africa, hip-hop, drumnbass and techno all orchestrated with subtle and tasteful electronics and effects.

Along with Scott, another star soloist on here is flautist Elena Pinderhughes. Most of us probably don’t usually think of strength when describing a flute player, but Elena’s playing carries more strength than we would normally associate with the flute. Her solos and orchestrations are a big plus on “Ruler Rebel (re-mix)”, “Ashes of Our Forever” and “The Cypher”. Other notable sidemen include Braxton Cook on saxophone and Lawrence Fields on keyboards. A host of others help out on bass, guitar, drums, percussion and electronics. Much of the music on, “Emancipation” stays in the aforementioned styles that Scott has become known for, but towards the end of this album comes two lengthy tracks that get into more of a sweaty energetic freeform fusion work out. These two closing numbers make for a nice contrast given the length of the entire CD.

DIVA 25th Anniversary Project

Album · 2018 · Big Band
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Carmel
Singularly the hardest working Big Band in the industry today, the DIVA Jazz Orchestra is lead by superwoman Sherrie Maricle, who not only is the drummer of the band but the collaborative ball of energy that drives the 15-piece group of highly qualified female instrumentalists. The inspiration for DIVA came from Stanley Kay, one-time manager and relief drummer for Buddy Rich. In 1990, Kay was conducting a band in which Sherrie Maricle was playing the drums. Stanley immediately picked up on her extraordinary talent and began to wonder if there were other women players who could perform at the same level. The search was on and through nationwide auditions, the foundation for DIVA was poured in June 1992, and what emerged is the dynamic musical force that holds forth to the present day.

Though DIVA holds dear the traditional jazz idiom, the release of 25th Anniversary Project includes original compositions by some of the members who are genuine, yet ingenious composers. Maricle explains; “the CD offers our listeners 10 original compositions by 9 remarkable composers, writing for 15 friends in 1 amazing band. It’s DIVA’s mission to continue to swing hard and grow, through the exceptional individual talent within the band and their extraordinary composers and arrangers.”

One such composition is by baritone saxist Leigh Pilzer, titled “East Coast Andy,” a romping tune with high flying horn hits, creatively conceived sections that add to the textural interest of the tune and a burning solo by Pilzer herself, as well as trumpeter Jami Dauber who has a penchant for stomping the gates with her high stepping style.

A beautifully written “Square One,” features alto and soprano saxophonist Alexa Tarantino in the writer’s seat. The tune is harmonically rich with soothing pastoral colorizations and emotional dips, that lead to emotive, conversationally based solos between Rachel Therrian on flugelhorn and Tarantino herself on alto saxophone. The elongated melody is stirring and memorable.

Maricle takes the album out with her original “The Rhythm Changes,” which is aptly titled as it refers to the rhythm of the motif and how it changes through the form of the composition. Soloists, Barbara Laronga on trumpet, Mercedes Beckman on alto saxophone, Noriko Ueda on bass and Maricle on drums create an interactive atmosphere for swing era stalwarts and jazz aficionados to savor. 25th Anniversary Project is certainly a keepsake, when taking stock of its measure, one asks; is it authentic to its source and performed with expertise and awareness, in this case a resounding yes can be heard.

AKIRA SAKATA Akira Sakata & Chikamorachi with Masahiko Satoh : Proton Pump

Live album · 2018 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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snobb
On the new "Proton Pump", two Japanese living legends - reedist Akira Sakata and pianist Masahiko Satoh, perform with the younger generation American rhythm duo of Chikamorachi (bassist Darin Gray and drummer Chris Corsano) - live in Tokyo.

Satoh was a key figure in Japanese free jazz in the late 60s-early 70s, who later flirted with fusion and still releases albums time to time. Akira Sakata was another Japanese celebrity, playing with Yosuke Yamashita trio for years, later he started a solo career and is surprisingly active till now - he's possibly the best avant-garde jazz sax player in modern Japan.

Americans Chicamorachi were founded in 2005 and are very prolific, playing with the world's leading free improv artists, such as Jim O'Rourke, Merzbow, Keiji Haino among others.

"Proton Pump", recorded more than two years ago, is a classic avant-garde album of the old school. Starting from the cover art radiating the spirit of the early 70s, and finishing with a clear perfectly mixed worm sound. Sakata is the dominating figure here, with his mad genius screaming sax solos and shamanic vocalizations, but the whole quartet is simply of the highest class. Satoh plays high energy piano out of his trade-mark "science as significant part of the music" which sounded revolutionary in 1969, but too often destroys many of his later albums. Chicamorachi sound muscular, young and hungry - they add strong modernity scent to the surprisingly unsentimental music of two Japanese veterans.

Just four songs (vinyl album's size - as if CD format still doesn't exist!), perfectly played, well executed, all the time variable, but under full control of the band. A lot of tunes have almost lyrical sax timbres at moments - and not even the smallest trace of nostalgia.

This album is a really rare example of when generally over-explored and too often repetitive music sounds fresh, as if half of this century hasn't already passed.

ME'SHELL NDEGÉOCELLO Ventriloquism

Album · 2018 · Jazz Related Pop/Art Song/Folk
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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js
At first glance its fairly obvious that Meshell Ndegeocello’s new album “Ventriloquism”, is a set of cover tunes, but these versions are far more than mere copies, instead, Meshell and her quartet transform each of these songs into something much more than what they were originally. The 80s are often maligned as a musically plastic decade, and there is some truth to that, but listening to how Meshell has taken a handful of mostly lackluster 80s corporate pop tunes and turned them into something deep reveals that there is some gold hidden within this seemingly musical muck. This is an excellent album anyway you look at it, but when you consider what this material sounded like before Ndegeocello transformed everything, it makes “Ventriloquism” into something truly inspired. These pop/RnB songs were the soundtrack of Meshell’s youth, which helps explain why these are the songs she would choose to work with in the first place.

Apparently Meshell’s band spent some time listening to Neil Young’s lonesome and world weary “Harvest” while recording this, and that lowdown country flavor comes through as many of the tracks open with simple finger picking folk/blues guitar, the complete opposite sound that these songs had back in the 80s. Once the tracks get rolling though, guitarist Chris Bruce and keyboardist Jebin Bruni start weaving layers of soft psychedelic sounds that give these songs a pleasant hallucinatory drift. The salient feature are the tempos, all of them quite slow in a very mesmerizing way. Kudos to Meshell that she didn’t break this mood with any ‘uptempo’ numbers, as such a move would have surely hurt the thorough integrity of this art pop masterpiece. Listening to the persistent down-tempo mood of this album may remind some of Roxy Music’s “Flesh and Blood”, on which they also took hot blooded hits like “In the Midnight Hour” and “Eight Miles High”, and turned them into sensual drifting dreams.

So many interesting transformations take place on “Ventriloquism”, but possibly the most surprising is George Clinton’s techno funk hit “Atomic Dog”, which somehow becomes a blissed out psychedelic folk number that early 70s Pink Floyd would have been proud of.

SLY5THAVE The Invisible Man : An Orchestral Tribute to Dr. Dre

Album · 2017 · Jazz Related RnB
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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I have to admit that the idea of an ‘orchestral tribute to Dr Dre’ first hit me as some kind of joke along the lines of The Monkees play heavy metal, or Mozart goes reggae mon. It was hard to imagine the sparse hip-hop arrangements of Dr Dre in an orchestrated format, but Sly5thAve’s new album, “The Invisible Man, an Orchestrated Tribute to Dr Dre”, has certainly proved me wrong. In a year laden with highly creative artsy RnB albums, “The Invisible Man” has been able to stand out as one of the best for 2017. The combination of Dr Dre’s laid back grooves and Sly’s hip, slightly retro, orchestrations are an irresistible combination that may have you playing this one over and over.

Sly5thAve is actually Sylvester Uzoma Onyejaka II, a versatile saxophonist who also produces and doubles on a variety of instruments. His talents have brought him work with many including Prince, Maceo Parker, all of the Marsalis Brothers and many other top RnB, pop and jazz musicians. “The Invisible Man” is just Sly’s second full length album, but it sounds like the work of a seasoned veteran. Right off the bat these orchestrated soulful tracks may have you thinking Isaac Hayes and Quincy Jones, and there is some of that sound here, but even closer is the arranger that Dr Dre was fond of sampling from, David Axelrod. Sly’s use of pulsing steady rhythms often recall Axelrod’s sometimes processional sounding arrangements that could almost border on regal and militaristic in an almost campy sort of way. In that respect, another similar famous arranger comes to mind, and that’s George Martin, the exotica composer who also did arrangements for the Beatles, particularly the ‘Sgt Peppers’ album. Still, with the Dr Dre’s iconic beats and attitude going on, Sly’s orchestral creation stands in a world all its own.

The hip-hop world was all over this record when it came out, but the jazz world didn’t seem to take much notice, which is unfortunate because there is plenty here for a fan of contemporary jazz to like. Many of these tracks feature jazz solos by a variety of top notch musicians, for instance the burning guitar solo by Patrick Bailey on the hard driving “Curtis”, or Sly‘s Eddie Harris like electric sax ride on “The Jam Part III“. Although this album lists 23 total tracks, many of the tracks blend together to make just one song, such as the ultra funky string of tracks that start with “No Diggity”. For those who may be rapaphobic or raptose intolerant, although this is a Dr Dre tribute, there is no rapping on here. Meanwhile. others may want to use these tracks to back up some original free verse.

PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND So It Is

Album · 2017 · World Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Remember the days when jazz was the music for wild hell raising parties and secret drug dens? No, …me neither, because just like you I was not around from the 1920s to the 1940s. Instead, just like you, I came up in that post Miles/Coltrane era when jazz moved out of the dens of sin and into the universities where it now competes with classical music for student dollars. This is not a bad thing because a lot of great jazz has come out since the 50s. While jazz was transforming, Little Richard and Chuck Berry borrowed parts of jazz, gave it a more pronounced backbeat, and created a whole new music for hell-raising and wild parties, rock-n-roll and RnB. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s new album; “So It Is”, doesn’t sound anything like 20s-40s jazz, but it does return jazz to a partying foot-stomping vibe, only with a more current sound.

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band was started back in 1961, and for many years they did exactly what their name implies, they played original New Orleans jazz the way it is supposed to be played, and provided many a good time for tourists on their visit to New Orleans. Starting in the late 90s, under the guidance of a whole new generation that had joined the band, the band began to open up their horizons and started to take on a myriad of jazz styles, as well as music from outside the jazz world. On this latest offering, they find a rhythmic common ground between New Orleans jazz, Afro-Cuban jazz and Calypso, and produce smoking hot beats that make it hard to sit still. On top of these pressure cooker grooves, they layer classic minor key noire melodies, the type preferred by Ellington and others of the swing era, and also often found in early Jamaican ska and Afro-Cuban mambos. The end result is exactly what people are talking about when they refer to ‘hot jazz’, because this is one of the hottest for 2017. This is not background music, try to play this in the car and keep the volume down, you won’t be able to. All seven tracks are great, but if all of them reached the peaks of “Santiago”, “La Malanga” and “Mad”, this would be a five star album. On another plus, all of these tunes are original. One can only hope The Hall Band can deliver more like this the next time out.

BOBBY PREVITE Rhapsody / Terminals Part II : In Transit

Album · 2018 · Third Stream
Cover art 4.49 | 4 ratings
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snobb
In year 1971 Carla Bley's massive 6-sides eclectic jazz-rock opera "Escalator Over The Hill" became sensation of sort presenting bulky if way-too-long collection of musical genres and scenes' stars all mixed together. Where else dedicated listener had the possibility to hear Jack Bruce, Linda Ronstadt,Jeanne Lee,Don Cherry,Charlie Haden,Gato Barbieri,Roswell Rudd,John McLaughlin,Paul Motian,Enrico Rava and some others playing/singing together?

London-based RareNoise label for some last years trying hard mixing their basic prog/rock aesthetics with creative jazz and improvs elements, at their best the results are truly impressive. Last year they released unpredictable "Loneliness Road" where mainstream jazz rooted trio of organist Jamie Saft,bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bobby Previte is improved with Iggy Pop(!) singing on three songs ("Don't Lose Yourself" is a true killer, two others are just fillers though).

Now they continues with Bobby Previte's "Rhapsody" - second in line American drummer and composer's suite where (as almost half a century ago on Carla's "Escalator...") one can hear some leading modern creative scene's musicians playing together. Guitarist Nels Cline,harpist Zeena Parkins,pianist John Medeski are well known to everyone familiar with downtown scene, American (of SE Asian descent) vocalist Jen Shyu is one of the brightest new name among creative jazz vocalists of today. Only dark horse in a list is young Austrian sax player Fabian Rucker, but he does his job really well.

Most important is still music itself - Previte demonstrates here well-framed and tightly composed modern rock opera rooted in prog rock aesthetics of the past (there are few moments sounding as citation from Pink Floyd music of mid 70s),but deeply reworked according to new millennium requirements. Take on material is almost classical with attention to details and melodic lines importance. Combined with neo-classical/Far Eastern trad vocals of Jen (plus tasteful addition of Chinese traditional string instrument erhu sounds, played by her as well) it produces music, which could sound more comfortably in modern opera than on rock scene. Still guitar licks and explosive sax solos together with high energetic level in general make whole music quite accessible and possibly attractive for listeners,more familiar with rock music too.

Freshly sounding, diverse and modern (with respect to different traditions), "Rhapsody" is a really successful release which can attract listeners of very different background/interests.

JOHN ABERCROMBIE Up And Coming

Album · 2017 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.05 | 2 ratings
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Steve Wyzard
WINTERY

Despite being 12 minutes shorter, if you liked John Abercrombie's 2013 album 39 Steps, you should also enjoy 2017's Up and Coming. It features the same supporting cast (Marc Copland, piano, Drew Gress, double bass, Joey Baron, drums) and occupies a similar subtle, measured sound world. Which is not to say the two albums are carbon copies of each other. The end-of-summer wistfulness of 39 Steps has been replaced by a duskier, even chillier atmosphere on Up and Coming that fits in well with the ECM Records "winter afternoon jazz" mystique.

All the players are in fine form, and everyone receives plenty of solo space. This is definitely a band album, with not any one performer (least of all Abercrombie) dominating the material. Whimsically, Up and Coming opens with its two shortest compositions: a dirge entitled "Joy", and the up-tempo "Flipside" that is over before it starts. Copland's searching, thoughtful playing on "Sunday School" and the stately-yet-sobering "Tears" are true highlights. Gress's rumbling double-bass work and the brushes and cymbals of Baron contribute extensively to the album's hushed, sunset-glow textures. Still, it's Abercrombie's poignant, understated tones that make this album unique, with his soloing on "Silver Circle" and "Jumbles" letting everyone know that he hasn't been relegated to a "supporting player".

Since its release, Up and Coming has taken on an added pathos after proving to be Abercrombie's final album with his passing in August 2017. There are no foreboding glimpses into the abyss, nor is this a "grand summation"/"career retrospective" album. Comparisons to recordings from decades past are rather pointless, as Up and Coming looks neither backward nor forward. It's simply four marvelously talented players doing what they do best, saying everything they have to say in 47:16. In spite of its ironic title, this is a worthy addition to the discographies of all the performers, and like 95% of everything Abercrombie ever released, will stand the test of time and repeated listening. Special mention must be made of Sheilah Rechtschaffer's remarkable cover pastel, which (like many ECM covers) visually captures and encapsulates the music contained within.

JOSH NELSON The Sky Remains

Album · 2017 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Josh Nelson’s “The Sky Remains” is a tough one to define. What do we have here, a modern art pop concept album, a contemporary third stream jazz album, a cinematic soundtrack to a movie not made yet? Possibly the best definition would be that this is a composer’s personal pastiche that combines all three of the aforementioned elements, but in all fairness, not all of these compositions are Josh’s, but although some of the pieces were penned by others, they all combine to create Nelson’s very moving look at a select history of the city of Los Angeles. Its hard not to think of Joni Mitchell when you encounter a bittersweet ode to ‘the city of angels’ such as “the Sky Remains”. Truth be told, sometimes Josh’s combination of thoughtful folk pop, jazz and panoramic soundscapes can recall Joni’s best work, but then there are other elements that help Josh’s work stand apart on its own.

The soundtrack like sound of this album appears right off the bat on the opening cut on which soaring wordless vocals state a theme that might have you picturing a favorite Robert Altman ‘Americana’ flick. Apparently concerts of these peices have featured movies and pictures, how perfect for a concept album about the city of movie making dreams. As we move past this opening track we encounter many great treats such as “Ah, Los Angeles, with its repeating buildup chorus recalling the heyday of great art pop in the early 70s. Russ Garcia’s enchanting “Lost Soul’s of Saturn” combines exotica and Latin jazz, its hard to think of two genres that personify Southern California more than those two. “The Architect” is the ‘jazziest’ number as it allows the soloists a chance to go off. Elsewhere, this album’s blend of creative vocal songs and jazz influenced composition blend to build the sometimes melancholy, but always hopeful atmosphere of a city that has a richer history than many would give it credit for. An added plus is a booklet that comes with the CD that explains many of the fascinating stories that inspired this music.

MACHINE MASS TRIO / MACHINE MASS Plays Hendrix

Album · 2017 · Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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If you are going to make a tribute album, you might as well aim high, and that is what Machine Mass has done on their latest outing as they take on the timeless songs of Jimi Hendrix. Not only was Hendrix a pyrotechnical guitar wizard, but he was also a gifted songwriter and tireless innovator in the studio. It’s a tall order to try and do something new with these Hendrix creations, but Machine Mass does well in rising to the occasion, mostly by not trying to imitate Jimi too much. Instead, Machine Mass manage to draw something new out of these well known tracks by following their own musical instincts. For those unfamiliar with the group, Mass consists of Michel Deville on guitar and electronics, and Tony Bianco on drums. On past albums they were joined by a guest woodwind player, but this time around they opt for avant art rocker, Antoine Guenet from Universe Zero, on keyboards, who brings much to the Mass mix.

This CD opens strong with a roving psychedelic jam on “Third Stone from the Sun”. Delville quite wisely does not attempt to imitate Hendrix, but instead supplies his own blazing fusion/rock solos. Bianco’s drumming, on the other hand, does seem to be a tribute to the style of Mitch Mitchell, a stylistic tribute that Bianco maintains throughout the whole album, although Tony flavors his Mitchell type approach with a bit more free post bop swing. The end result is one can hear just how jazz influenced Mitch was when he was jamming with Jimi, its not a far leap from Mitchell’s drum style to a more free-form post bop approach. Some of the other best tracks on this CD come early on, especially “Spanish Castle Magic”, which gives Guenet a chance to provide an over the top B3 solo that is parts Jamie Saft, the young Jon Lord and classic horror movie soundtracks. It would have been nice to hear more Guenet B3 solos on here, he has a very unique and intense take on organ soloing.

Generally, the songs on here don’t adhere too closely to Jimi’s versions, but instead use his music as a jumping off point for free form psychedelic fusion jamming. If you can imagine Ozric Tentacles with a post bop drummer, that might get you close to the sound on here. This mostly works, except for a couple tracks where things get a bit murky, particularly “Little Wing” and “You Got Me Floatin”. Whether one would have wanted Mass to stay closer to Jimi’s melodies and chord sequences is probably a matter of personal preference. Overall, this is a very good tribute by the Mass gang, and a strong addition to the many Hendrix covers already in existence.

JOHN DAVERSA Wobbly Dance Flower

Album · 2017 · Hard Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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No doubt there is a lot of creative abstract intellectual jazz coming out these days, which is all fine and good, but sometimes you may be asking yourself, ‘where is the heat’? Where is that hot jazz that blasts you in the face with kinetic unstoppable energy. A couple years ago it was Walking Distance with their “Neighborhood” album that supplied some much needed fire. This year its John Daversa and his more fun than a drunk barrel of monkeys, “Wobbly Dance Flower”, that is bound to get you up to get down. What we have on this fine disc is a great blend of high speed neo-bebop, soulful hard bop grooves and anarchistic free blowing that all adds up to one of the hottest jazz CDs of 2017. Mostly known for his modern big band arranging, Daversa also adds plenty of interesting changeups and arrangements to keep these tunes far from anything cliché.

Opening track, “Ms Turkey” will grab your attention with one of this CD’s salient features, and that is the aforementioned high speed neo-bebop that exists somewhere between the worlds of Diz n’ Bird, and early Ornette with Don Cherry, but rendered with a modern sensibility that shows no trace of nostalgia. “Be Free”, as the title would suggest, is a free jazz jam that uses the same up tempo bop as a starting point, but then utilizes modern tempo changes that shift and dissolve without warning. Things cool out for the soulful and melodic “Brooklyn Still”, as well as the B3 groove of “Jazz Heads”. “Meet Me at the Airport” is a another B3 soul jazz number that closes with a climbing fusion riff reminiscent of Larry Young’s work with the Tony Williams Lifetime. After this, the album closes out with more short and sassy high speed romps.

The playing on here is excellent. Daversa has a clean and precise tone on the trumpet that recalls Clifford Brown, infused with the energy of Dizzy Gillespie. He is joined by the well known Bob Mintzer on sax and bass clarinet, as well as Joe Bagg on piano and B3, a keyboard player who deserves more recognition. Zane Carney, Jerry Watts Jr and Gene Coye keep things moving in the rhythm section. Looking for your modern le jazz hot, here it is.

CRAIG TABORN Craig Taborn And Ikue Mori : Highsmith

Album · 2017 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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snobb
After the release of probably his best album ever, "Daylight Ghosts", earlier this year, pianist Craig Taborn comes with a radically different work - a free improvisation collection recorded by a duo of himself and downtown laptop artist Ikue Mori.

Mori started her musical career as a self-taught percussionist in the New York no-wave scene, but soon switched to drum machines and electronics. During the last decade, she played and recorded regularly with many avant-garde jazz renown artists, including pianist Sylvie Courvoisier, violinist Mark Feldman, harpist Zeena Parkins, vocalist-electronicist Maja Ratkje, guitarist Fred Frith and cellist Okkyung Lee among many others.

A jazz duo of pianist and electronics/lap top artist probably doesn't sound like a great idea, at least on paper. Surprisingly, "Highsmith" contains more accessible and better organized music than one could expect. It is a collection of free improvisations, recorded in studio soon after the duo played live at the Village Vanguard in 2016, and even if the music sounds like free improvs for sure, it doesn't remind one of a bulky mix of accidental piano sounds and spacey loops, that's for sure.

Taborn plays quite explosive piano passages radiating dark chamber avant-garde beauty successfully combining them with silence without loosing the music's dynamic. Mori improvises using electronic sounds and noises around Craig's more solid sound, filling the space with every-second-changing electronic wizardry. All album long, the listener can't stop marveling hearing this unbelievable masterful use of percussive, in moments abrasive sounds, as equal part of complex (if ascetic) jazzy improvisation.

Lots of things happen every single moment here and after the album's last sounds, there is not even a trace of feeling that the album was too dread, repetitive or just openly boring. Successfully avoiding both formal electronics monotony, and cheap spacey looping tricks, "Highsmith" represents one really rare example of electro-acoustic improvisational music symbiosis which isn't too formal, and contains a lot of life in it, and being really experimental can attract more than a few dedicated listeners.

Interesting new side illustration for Taborn, one of the better recordings for Mori for sure.

MACHINE MASS TRIO / MACHINE MASS Plays Hendrix

Album · 2017 · Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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kev rowland
Yet again there have been some changes in the Machine Mass camp, and here founder members, guitarist Michel Delville (The Wrong Object; douBt; Alex Maguire Sextet) and drummer Anthony Bianco (douBt; Elton Dean; Dave Liebman) have brought in keyboard player Antoine Guenet (The Wrong Object; Sh.TG.N; Univers Zero), to assist them in their adventures. As a starting point the album is quite simple in its intent, namely that in one day last March the trio recorded some Hendrix songs live in the studio to celebrate the 50th anniversary of ‘Are You Experienced?’. It’s just from there that it gets a little more complex.

I am sure that everyone has their favourite Hendrix songs, and probably also their favourite Hendrix covers. For me there has always been something whimsical and emotive about ‘The Wind Cries Mary”, while I still believe that The Hamsters monumental album from 1990, ‘Electric Hamsterland’, takes some beating. But what we have here is something that Hendrix himself would have probably appreciated, namely three top musicians taking his songs as a starting point and then improvising, twisting and melding, them into something that is barely recognisable yet paying true homage to the craftsman who created them initially. Whenever a guitarist dares to cover a song created by a master then they are putting themselves up to fail, but what Michel has done here brilliantly is not only show that he too is a genius with his instrument, but has filled the interpretations full of jazz intensity and experimentalism, to create something that cannot be directly compared as it is just so very different indeed.

While fans of Jimi will enjoy hearing what Machine Mass have managed to do with classic Hendrix songs, this album is also very much for those who may not be close to the originals. Antoine uses some wonderful Hammond sounds as he Anthony try to keep everything under control while Michel sounds like he is deconstructing his guitar while somehow keeping sounds emanating from it. This album is incredibly impressive on every level, from the musicianship and arrangements through to the way they have ripped this material to pieces and then put it back, lovingly and with honour, into a brand-new format. And that they finish with “The Wind Cries Mary” is the icing on the cake. Superb.

GERALD CLAYTON Tributary Tales

Album · 2017 · 21st Century Modern
Cover art 3.95 | 2 ratings
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snobb
I never heard about Holland-born American pianist Gerald Clayton till one autumn night in 2010 when I saw him playing on his first European tour soon after the release of his debut album as leader. Leading muscular all-acoustic groovy trio,Clayton sounded as another "cat" playing quite mainstream jazz with rare freshness and without even a touch of sentimentality or nostalgia (both often destroy great artists music turning it to archival self-parody).

Only after I listened to his both debut and soon released second album, but saying true has been a bit disappointed. Somehow recorded music obviously missed that freshness and modernity which I found such attractive on Clayton live gig.

Now, after some years to come,I gave Clayton another chance and was really pleasantly surprised. Same acoustic trio has been improved with strong 3-piece reeds section (incl. Logan Richardson and Dayna Stephens on saxes and Ben Wendel on bassoon), two percussionists, two poets/spoken word artists and singer Sachal Vasandani. What is even more important - rooted in same neo post-bop,music here is tightly composed by Clayton himself, and he demonstrates non-nonsense composition abilities.

Leading quite a big combo, Clayton never overuse arrangements and as a result tuneful and complex music sounds tasteful if not minimalist. Spoken word pieces are as always an acquired taste, but at least here them don't destroy impression from album's music in whole. Band sounds best on instrumental compositions where post bop rhythmic structures organically interweave with modern composition without becoming too lifeless or frozen-formal as on some third steam recordings. Japanese edition contains Count Basie's "Blues For Stephanie" as bonus.

Serious step ahead and one great modern jazz album containing music attractive for listeners of different tastes.

JAMIE SAFT Loneliness Road (with Iggy Pop)

Album · 2017 · Post Bop
Cover art 3.98 | 2 ratings
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snobb
Some months before the release of this album there were first info/samples presented - it was snippets of ballads, played by such unorthodox avant garde jazz artists as New York downtown keyboardist Jamie Saft and drummer Bobby Previte, plus Carla Bley's regular bassist Steve Swallow, but what was even more shocking - there was vocal on these tracks, and the voice was no one else but punk-rock veteran Iggy Pop's.

RareNoise Records, founded almost a decade ago in London by two Italians, has always been oriented towards listeners with rock background searching for something new in avant-garde jazz, free improvs and similar scenes. Then, releasing the album recorded by the aforementioned jazz trio (even if quite an unorthodox one) adding three Iggy's vocal songs doesn't sound as freaky step. It would hardly attract any mainstream jazz fan, but RareNoise are obviously interested in different followers.

The bigger surprise with the album after it was already released, is that that music here is generally modern mainstream jazz (taking away the three vocal numbers). Since Iggy was planned as release's main star, lets start from him first.

All three songs with Pop's singing are ballads, not sentimental bluesy ones, but more of popular sort of modern urban balladry, characteristic for singing poets. Placed as fourth, ninth and twelfth songs among the instrumental jazz pieces, these songs work on a manner of raisins in a cake, some likes cake with raisins, others like just raisins, and there are some who like both. One things for sure, the addition of such different songs made whole album less monotonous.

As everyone familiar with who Iggy Pop is can expect, he doesn't sing any jazz here. First ballad ("Don't Loose Yourself")is a tuneful one, slightly recalling Jack Bruce's (or late Bowie's) songs of similar genre. Jazz trio play mostly in a manner of rock band here, Iggy sounds convincing and even demonstrates some fire. I can imagine a whole Iggy Pop album of such quality, and it possibly wouldn't be any wrong. Two other ballads unfortunately are more sentimental, and I wouldn't say Iggy's voice is the best choice for such kind of music. For me those left a mixed feeling of sadness and/or sorrow (I really like Leonard Cohen's songs, but he's been doing it much, much better).

Now, the rest of the album is ten more songs, and they are mostly great, if not excellent. Jamie Saft plays piano and organ here, mostly straight but demonstrates enough virtuosity and muscular energy to stay attractive all album long. In a combination with his "rock-like" manner, well crafted melodic compositions have all chances to attract far wider audience than just regular jazz fans.

Biggest album surprise are rhythm section. Pairing of original jazz bassist Swallow with far not so conformist drummer Previte was probably a risky business (ok, they already played together on previous Saft trio album), but here it works well and ... unexpectedly. If Swallow's deep physical groovy bass is's such unusual, I can hardly remember Previte playing with such delicacy and almost tender.

At the end of the day, what sounded at the very beginning as possible bad joke turned out to be a really great album. It just confirms once again how unpredictable true jazz is and - we love it for that.

TINA RAYMOND Left Right Left

Album · 2017 · Post Bop
Cover art 3.00 | 2 ratings
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Certainly a lot of people were upset at the outcome of the last US presidential election. Finding a way to voice their disappointment and frustration may have been difficult for many, but for drummer Tina Raymond, the solution became obvious, and that was to record her first album and have it reflect her concerns about her country in the present, as well as her hopes for the future. The end result is the CD “Left,Right Left”, a collection of instrumental protest songs and patriotic songs. The CD title itself refers to the political divide in the US, often strongly amplified by an overly hyped media, that is more than happy to point out that the coasts of the US tend to represent left leaning politics, while the heartland represents the right. To help her with these musical portraits, Tina enlisted two highly skilled musicians, bassist Putter Smith and pianist Art Lande. Smith also contributed two politically themed originals to help fill out the album.

It’s a varied smorgasbord of styles and tunes that greet us on “Right, Left, Right”. “Union Maid’ and “Saigon Bride” are pretty ballads, while “The Fiddle and the Drum” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” are borderline avant-garde. “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is gospel, while the rest more or less falls into a contemporary post bop vein, but no two tracks seem similar. All three musicians are brilliant, but Lande steals the show with his inventive playing that moves from lyrical to abstract, sometimes within the same track. Two standout tracks include the hard swinging “White Flight”, possibly the best number for straight ahead energy, and the inventive “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, that Lande gives an almost 12 tone treatment that recalls Charles Ives’ avant-garde work with traditional American songs.

Taken on its own merits, “Left, Right, Left” is a fine collection of contemporary jazz, but one can’t help but wonder, if Tina really wanted to make an impact, why didn’t she include songs with lyrics and vocals. If you were to hear any of these instrumental tracks by themselves on the radio, you would probably have no idea about Tina’s intentions.

MICHAEL RABINOWITZ Uncharted Waters

Album · 2017 · Hard Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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kev rowland
When I saw that this album had been released, I knew I had to hear it for myself: I mean, just how many jazz albums have you come across where the band leader plays bassoon? Michael has been making a name for himself since graduating with a BFA in music performance from SUNY at Purchase in the late seventies. He is highly regarded as an improviser within the scene, and has played with and collaborated in many different settings. He first came across Nat Harris (guitar) and Ruslan Khain (bass) in 1995 at the Kavehaz jazz club in New York City, and the trio developed a sound together while playing across the New York metro area. Ten years later he played with Vince Ector (drums) with the Charles Mingus Orchestra, and from there the band Bassoon In The Wild was born. This is their first album, although it is credited solely to Michael.

I don’t think I’ve ever come across a bassoon as a lead instrument in any musical style, and on hearing this I wonder why on earth not? In many ways, it is similar to a baritone sax, but there is more depth and vitality, as well as a surprisingly high register. Michael is an undoubted master, making this large and ungainly instrument do exactly what he requires. He has an incredibly fluid approach, and the notes seem to sweep into each other, almost as if they are a living being. He is often at the forefront of the sound, but is also prepared to take a back seat and let the others take the lead when the moment is right. This is the type of relaxed jazz where each player is a master, and all know that there is no need to be flashy or play five thousand notes to the bar, but rather [play exactly the right note at exactly the right time to enhance the overall feel.

This album isn’t available until the beginning of July, but anyone who wants some classic jazz with some incredibly warm sounds and memorable playing, should have this noted in their diary.

CRAIG TABORN Daylight Ghosts

Album · 2017 · 21st Century Modern
Cover art 4.25 | 4 ratings
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js
Always working at the forefront of what is new and interesting in today’s jazz scene, Craig Taborn has produced one of the better albums of his career, and also one of the better new jazz albums this year with, “Daylight Ghosts”. Building on the style he established on 2013’s brilliant “Chant”, Craig continues to use repeating rhythmic figures to construct his compositions that some have compared to minimalism. Taborn’s ‘minimalism’ has very little to do with composers like John Adams or Phillip Glass, but instead reflects the timeless music of Africa and Indonesia, as well as composers who pull from that deep well such as Steve Reich. To these insistent rhythms Taborn adds a swinging flow borrowed from today’s post bop, as well as some rhythmic drive from the fusion side of things and the end result is a musical style that sounds like no one else but Craig Taborn.

One of the salient differences between “Ghosts’ and the preceding “Chant” is the addition of Chris Speed on tenor sax and clarinet, a musician who totally gets the Taborn musical vision and interacts with Craig as one mind. Much of the solo space on here finds the two musicians ‘soloing’ at the same time, almost in a method reminiscent of the earliest days of New Orleans jazz. Therein lies the roots of Taborn’s musical creation, Africa and New Orleans reconfigured for the modern age. Another new feature on “Ghosts” includes moments of reflective melody, such as “The Great Silence”, on which Chris Speed’s lonely clarinet sounds like isolated quotes from a Stravinsky recital.

Some of the best cuts on here include the opener, “The Shining One”, which features one of Craig’s best aggressive piano solos, and the hard charging “Ancient”, on which the band’s repeating rhythms take on a rock like push similar to a modern math rock combo. “New Glory” also reveals Craig’s renewed interest in melody with a high flying closing chorus that sounds like Weather Report from their Caribbean influenced mid-70s output . “Daylight Ghosts” is highly recommended for anyone who wants to hear what is new and happening in jazz.

MIRIODOR Signal 9

Album · 2017 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 4.00 | 4 ratings
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kev rowland
So the Canadians are back with their ninth studio album, and a slight change in line-up as they move back to a quartet, but as all of the guys play multiple instruments anyway there isn’t a noticeable difference in that area. As with the excellent ‘Cobra Fakir’, the first word that springs to mind is “staccato”, as this is music that is rapidly moving around and for the most part doesn’t have time for long held-down chords but just wants to get on with it. Coming from a RIO/Avant background, they have been listening to some of the early Canterbury bands as well as to King Crimson and Art Zoyd to create something that is always interesting and complex, and just a little different to much that is available within the prog scene, let alone mainstream.

It is the type of album that will polarise opinions, as those who like it will enjoy it a great deal, while others will fall into the “what on earth are you listening to” camp, and won’t give this album the time it both needs and deserves to get the most out of it. This is complex, with lots of melodies and counter-melodies, with Bernard Falaise often crunching the guitar against myriad keyboard sounds, but that can all change in an instant. It is music that does demand respect and attention, and those prepared to do just that will get a great deal out of this, as it is incredibly rewarding.

PHRONESIS The Behemoth

Album · 2017 · Progressive Big Band
Cover art 4.50 | 2 ratings
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snobb
During a decade of their activities, Nordic-British trio Phronesis built a strong reputation as leading UK-based jazz band of new generation. Led by charismatic Danish bassist Jasper Høiby, trio successfully combined renown Swedes EST-influenced contemporary chamber jazz with their own well-composed themes and energetic live performances. After some years of fame, trio members try to find out new destinations where their music could be developed. On "Parallax", their studio album released in 2016, Phronesis for the first time leave safe waters of comfortable and successful music of their early albums and switch to more muscular (and less tuneful/memorable) fusion sound - with mixed success. Seeing them playing live last autumn with program which contained both old (contemporary chamber jazz) and new (fusion) songs, was quite a controversial experience. Older compositions were all much more polished,tuneful and often just beautiful, new muscular songs radiated energy and groove but as rule were quite faceless and unmemorable.

Anyway, this spring Phronesis made another unexpected step - trio released album of their well-known songs recorded with German big band. This time it works without doubts - excellent Julian Arguelles arrangements with lots of horns soloing and perfect muscular big band sound help to show Phronesis compositions' potential in full. There are no tricks or gimmicks in orchestra's music at all - all album sounds as best Gil Evans or Charles Mingus big orchestra recordings. Music is full-bodied, well balanced, tasteful and played with lot of positive energy and enthusiasm.

Excellent generalization of Phronesis first decade of activities - with lot of optimism and looking ahead, not in a past. One of the best big orchestra release I heard for years.

OLIVER LAKE Oliver Lake Featuring FLUX Quartet ‎: Right Up On

Album · 2017 · Third Stream
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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kev rowland


Oliver Lake is showing no signs at all of slowing down, even though he released his debut album as long ago as 1974, and continues to play and record with a variety of ground-breaking jazz groups. He has been working with the Flux quartet since 2002, and this album is their first collaboration together. Somewhat unusually, this isn’t a collaboration in the sense one would normally expect, but instead features The Flux Quartet performing seven of Oliver’s compositions for string quartet, and he only joins them on alto sax for three of these.

The result is something that is grounded in jazz, but with real avant-garde and classical stylings. This is as abrasive as it is compelling, and while never easy to listen to has a depth and breaking soul that cries out to be heard. I have never heard strings played as harshly as this, the beguiling sound one normally expects is nowhere to be heard, and instead we have music that wouldn’t be out of place on a kitsch Seventies Italian horror noir. This certainly isn’t music for the fainthearted, yet for those who are brave enough to keep turning this up there is a very special world indeed to be discovered. To my poor old jaded ears this is fresh, invigorating, compelling and immediate. From the first note to the very last I was intrigued and excited, as these musicians combine to create something incredibly significant.

DUKE ELLINGTON An Intimate Piano Session

Album · 2017 · Swing
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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js
Although Duke Ellington has always been highly acclaimed for his composing, arranging and band leadership, you rarely hear much about his piano playing, possibly because there are not that many recordings available that highlight his skills at the keyboard. That unfortunate situation has been somewhat alleviated recently with this latest release of Ellington archival recordings called “An Intimate Piano Session”, which features Duke, mostly by himself on a grand piano, playing tunes that we don’t hear too often from him. Ellington was not a particularly flashy or technical player, but what he plays is often far more interesting than those who might have greater technical skills. In a recent interview, modern piano maverick Matthew Shipp pointed out that as a developing pianist he avoided the 70s triumvirate of Corea, Jarrett and Hancock, and instead focused on earlier players such as Ellington. No doubt Sun Ra’s path less traveled also revealed a strong Duke influence too.

Some of the best cuts on this CD come with the first four tracks. Here we hear the Ellington harmonic formula; ragtime, blues and stride piano mixed with mid-20th century concert hall music, particularly Debussy and Delius. This mix of blues and elegant impressionism became the predominate musical language of the 20th century, and for much of the current century as well. There are many more great cuts on here, particularly a very moving “Melancholia”, and “New World A-Comin”, which shows Duke at his most extravagant and technically flashy as he seems to be channeling piano virtuosos like Rachmaninoff and Chopin. There are couple cuts that feature vocalists Anita Moore and Tony Watkins. Of these two singers, Moore comes across better, as Watkin’s overly dramatic and operatic tenor sounds like period kitsch in today’s scene. This CD closes with a few cuts that feature Ellington on piano with organist Wild Bill Davis and a small rhythm section. Of these cuts, “The Lake” is sublime Latin exotica, but the rest are hardly essential.

There are a couple cuts on here that could have been left off, track 7 and 17 are unexplainable little song segments that serve very little purpose if any. The version of “Satin Doll” features Duke’s well known rap about finger snapping, possibly amusing if you never heard it before, but most long time Ellington fans have heard this routine a hundred times by now. Also, most of the tracks on “An Intimate Piano Session” are not polished performances, Duke stumbles here and there and attempts things he can’t quite pull off, but really good jazz isn’t necessarily about polish, Also, there is a noticeable tape slip on the second take of “Lotus Blossom”. Overall, this is a good CD that provides valuable insight into Ellington’s harmonic language on the piano, but with a little editing, it could be even better.

EVAN PARKER Evan Parker & RGG : Live​@​Alchemia

Live album · 2017 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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snobb
In a world of modern technologies one need just to have a wish and make few easy steps to establish a new jazz label. Music market is overloaded with releases, many of them are just a memorabilia for artists friends and families, but some contain really great music.

Polish young and ambitious label Fundacja Słuchaj! for some time releases (mostly) live recordings of Polish and world known advanced jazz musicians, many albums contain really impressive music. One of their very fresh releases presents quite unorthodox quartet, formed for one-night concert in probably Polish most renown jazz club Krakow's Alchemia.

British sax player Evan Parker needs no introduction. Being one of the living legend UK's free jazz, he plays and record really a lot, but mostly with avant-garde musicians. Polish contemporary jazz trio RGG are known and really popular collective in Poland playing music influenced by their great compatriot Tomasz Stanko and ECM-style European chamber jazz in general. Here on "[email protected]" Parker and RGG play four free improvised compositions and its works surprisingly well.

First of all, Evan Parker doesn't steal the show but plays as equal collaborator with trio and it saves the gig from being just another "Evan Parker plus supporting local band" night. From other hand, RGG staying melancholic tuneful typical Polish piano trio play freer and groovier than on their regular recordings. In fact, RGG build melodic and rhythmic basis for tasteful and surprisingly lyrical, but always energetic Parker's sax solo improvisations.

Album's music is perfectly recorded and well edited - one can find here that rare balance between accessibility and adventuress which saves any jazz release from being both far too "out" and boringly predictable. True label's success, bravo!

THE MICROSCOPIC SEPTET Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues

Album · 2017 · Swing
Cover art 4.00 | 3 ratings
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js
The Microscopic Septet is one of those eclectic downtown NYC combos that got their start in the early 80s during the so-called ‘knitting factory scene’. The band disbanded in the late 80s, only to reappear a few decades later for today’s NYC scene that still leans toward eclectic influences and a quirky sense of humor. Microscopic has always favored a swing feel in their music, but not in a nostalgic or museum sense, instead, they often infuse their music with bits of the avant-garde, as well as polkas, tangos, cartoon music, punk rock and whatever else may be laying about. On their latest album, “Been Up So Long it Looks Like Down to Me”, the Septet leans heavily on their swing roots as they present eleven originals, plus two covers, that sound like they could have come from a swing dance club in the 40s. All the same, don’t confuse this album with that whole bothersome ’swing revival’ that came out of San Francisco in the post grunge mid 90s. Microscopic’s music is way more informed about what swing was, and can be in the future, than most of the heavy handed dull trend followers that made up the fortunately short lived ‘revival’.

The basic makeup of the Septet is a four piece saxophone section backed by a three piece rhythm section. Right off the bat this gives the band a sound similar to the Four Brothers, the famous spin off combo from Woody Herman’s big band. Other comparisons to the Microscopic sound could be found in the smaller combos led by Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Sun Ra. The fact that most of the members of the Septet are dedicated to this one band gives their horn section a nice cohesion and flow that is often missing from many modern ensembles whose players have to play in many bands just to pay the bills.

There are lots of great cuts on here. “Dark Blue” has a ‘talking’ bari solo that gets into some call and response with the other horns, “PJ in the 60s” opens with a fierce free solo before settling into some excellent Duke flavored riffs, “Migraine Blues’ features some hard driving Count Basie riffs topped by another wild bari solo, and “Quizzical’ has an interesting arrangement that seems to modulate through many keys in a sort of Don Ellis meets Ellington effect. If there is one song that doesn't seem to fit, it would be, "When its Getting Dark", a campy RnB number that sounds similar to the the theme from the old Batman TV show. I guess its only similarity to the other numbers is that, like the rest, it uses blues changes for its chord progression. The song does redeem itself towards the end when it builds up to four saxophones soloing frantically at the same time.

It seems lately that it has become somewhat hip for avant NYC bands to take another look at the possibilities in pre-bop jazz. The result has been some interesting ’hot’ music that gets away from the dry intellectual sound of modern post bop. If this re-examination of early jazz results in imaginative and swinging albums like “Been Up So Long…”, then it can only be a good thing.

CHRISTIAN SCOTT (CHRISTIAN SCOTT ATUNDE ADJUAH) Ruler Rebel

Album · 2017 · Jazz Related DJs/Electronica/Rap
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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snobb
New Orleans trumpeter Christian Scott made his name during the last few years on the wave of jazz crossovers oriented to young rock, RnB or techno fans, during an explosive growth of popularity (Kamasi Washington with his triple CD is another great example).

I happened to see Scott playing live two years ago during his European tour - he demonstrated his showman and leadership abilities leading his young musician's band, and being much more than a virtuoso trumpeter. He spoke a lot (really more than he played trumpet), mostly about racial problems in his hometown of New Orleans.

Two years later, in 2017, Christian Scott announced releasing a trilogy dedicated to "re-evaluation of the social political realities of the world through sound... slavery in America via the prison industrial complex, food insecurity, xenophobia, immigration, climate change, gender inequality, fascism and the return of the demagogue". Not surprisingly, the trilogy's first album "Ruler Rebel" goes deeper into electronics/hip-hop culture and demonstrates sounds that are more usual for London clubs than for New Orleans streets.

Christian Scott leads basically almost the same band as on his previous album, with flutist Elena Pinderhughes on board. The music on here is a quite beautiful mix of African rhythms, heavily adapted to modern urban culture's ears with wide use of samplers and rhythm machines. There are lot of Scott's trumpet soloing on this album, mostly all straight-ahead clear tones flying over electronic rhythms/samples somewhat similar to smooth jazz trumpeter Chris Botti's manner. Probably the main attraction in this album's music is a quite successful mix of New Orleans positive energy and modern urban electronic sound. Not strange is that Scott is even more popular in London clubs than in native America - what may sound as exotic in New Orleans is very close to most modern London youth club's sound standards, with conspicuous difference since similar British bands are usually rooted in Caribbean rhythms.

Not so much a jazz record, this new album's great mission is first of all to introduce young communities, often associated with different musical traditions, to jazz culture and its modern possibilities.

THE MICROSCOPIC SEPTET Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues

Album · 2017 · Swing
Cover art 4.00 | 3 ratings
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kev rowland
The complete title of this album is ‘Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down To Me: The Micros Play The Blues’, and was recorded in just two days last May. The Micros were originally formed in 1980, but split up in 1992 after releasing four albums. These were then reissued as two double CD sets by Cuneiform in 2006, which were so successful that it prompted the band to reform (with only one line-up change). Since then they have released three other albums, and are now back with their fourth. There is only one problem, now that I’ve heard this one I’m going to have to go back and get all the others! When playing jazz recorded before 1960, something I’ve been doing a lot of over the last few years, there are some bands that come close to the boundary with blues, providing a swing and feeling that interweaves the two genres, and that is what I am listening to right now.

This is class Golden Age jazz being taken into blues and creating music that is incredibly accessible, enjoyable, and just so damn soulful all at the same time. My father introduced me to jazz when I was young, encouraging me to listen to Jack Teagarden, Gene Krupa, Bunk Johnson and others, and I know he would get a real kick out of this release as it is right up his alley. They’ve listened to the orchestrations of Duke Ellington, and the way that Thelonious Monk played piano, and brought all this into an incredible album that I can listen to all day. Strangely enough, the song that made the most impression on me is not a blues number as such, but instead is a rather well-known carol. I can honestly say I’ve never heard “Silent Night” played like this before. It starts with just piano, but there is dissonance and chords that don’t quite fit, but actually do very well indeed. This moves into a full band piece that is always recognisable but is taking the song into very new directions indeed. This is a wonderful album, and for details on this and many more invaluable releases visit the label

CRAIG TABORN Daylight Ghosts

Album · 2017 · 21st Century Modern
Cover art 4.25 | 4 ratings
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snobb
American pianist Craig Taborn is at the forefront of modern creative jazz.He played with saxophonists James Carter and AEOC's Roscoe Mitchell (Taborn's first presence on ECM label),collaborated with techno producer Carl Craig among others.

As leader, Taborn debuted in 1994 on Japanese DIW label. Since that he released five more solo albums covering such wide areas as nu jazz,avant-garde jazz and even jazz-electronics. Craig very often plays piano and electric keyboards combining them on the same album and freely adapting different techniques even on the same composition.Once I saw Taborn playing live as Michael Formanek band member with all-star line-up including saxophonist Tim Berne and drummer Gerald Cleaver and Craig really stole the show!

On Taborn more current releases for German ECM label (including this just released Daylight Ghosts) Craig demonstrates newest trend in modern jazz - improvisational musicianship based on tightly composed songs. His quartet contains one of the most influential representative of this stream reeds player Chris Speed (well known by his work in cult Claudia Quintet and solo works for ECM), popular American nu jazz bassist Chris Lightcup and The Bad Plus drummer Dave King.

Of nine compositions eight are Taborn originals ("Jamaican Farewell" is written by Roscoe Mitchell). Mixing rock, electronica,chamber and jazz traditions, album represents a very modern form of jazz, with big attention to composition but staying playful and lively because of continuing jazzy improvisational musicianship. This music can sound attractive for listener of very different background,incl. fans of ambient/rock/electronics, rock-jazz progressive, avant-garde jazz and third stream as well. Based more on atmospheric moods than concentration on technical perfection, this new Taborn release is one among great examples of new jazz, one of this better music making fame to respectful ECM label.

CAROL MORGAN Post Cool Vol. 1: The Night Shift

Album · 2017 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Carmel
Carol Morgan is a jazz trumpeter, composer, educator and author who resides in NYC. Originally from Texas, she is a Juilliard graduate who has worked with many remarkable teachers including Chris Gekker, Mark Gould, Ingrid Jensen, and Dennis Dotson.

Carol’s discography includes six CDs as a leader. The much-anticipated POST COOL (2017) is a return to the Carol Morgan Quartet flavor of her celebrated Blue Glass Music. As a composer, she has been commissioned by DiverseWorks, the Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble, the Arch-diocese of Houston/Galveston and St. Thomas Presbyterian Church, Houston. In 2008, Carol authored what is now a highly-regarded method for jazz improvisation--a textbook entitled The Practicing Improviser.

Post Cool is a definitive calling card for Morgan, her warm and inviting round trumpet sound is uniquely identifiable from the first notes and is what continues to uplift Morgan among trumpet players of this era. Uniquely tasteful in her note choices and approach, Morgan is an excellent foil to her compadres namely Joel Frahm: tenor sax; Martin Wind: bass; and Matt Wilson: drums; the quartet is a dream team of jazz in a post-cool era.

“Strolling” kicks off the festivities with an easy going swing that features Morgan and Frahm in a counterpoint approach. The melody is wistful and Frahm executes a solo that is chalk full of arpeggios and skillful sets, building a likeable interest for the listener. Morgan’s quick runs, offset by tasteful elongated lines builds the solo with tension and release. Wind and Wilson show their salt with inventive rhythms and dynamism that adds to the elevation of swing and sound.

The classic “Night in Tunisia” is given a respectful run, with Wilson creating interesting rhythm textures, while Morgan sticks to the melody and Frahm creates interesting accompaniment dialog under Morgan. The take is reverential, yet interesting enough to be an original version, not just a rehash.

Two originals adorn this offering, one by Morgan “Night,” and the other by Frahm “Song for Mom,” both full of beauty and depth. Morgan’s tune has dark chocolatey notes dripping with highs and lows, Martin Wind’s bass solo is filled with anticipation and beauty. On Frahm’s tune, a lilting melody is presented, and you can almost hear the story of mom unfold through the music. Frahm’s sax is commanding and full of passion, as he digs into the story with his horn. Morgan in toe also creates impassioned lines and fire. The group pushes to the climax of the song while Morgan creates the beauty in the accompaniment on this tune for Frahm, who holds the melody role. One would expect nothing less from Morgan but a fruitful beauty that lingers long past the listen, and once again this trumpeter has delivered. Another gleaming win in an ever-growing discography of potency. Highly recommended.

GREG HATZA The Greg Hatza ORGANization : Diggin up My Roots

Album · 2017 · Soul Jazz
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Carmel
A native of Reading, Pennsylvania, Greg Hatza’s musical instincts came to him as early and as naturally as the ability to walk, around age four he began formal lessons. The Hammond B-3 became his life’s obsession as a teenager. Because there were no jazz organ instructors at the time, Greg was largely self-taught, picking up most of his insider knowledge from the organ players at jam sessions at a local club called the Grand Hotel. It was the Grand that Baltimore Colts football great and jazz fan Lenny Moore asked the teenager to perform at a club he was opening in Baltimore. Moore became Greg’s manager and Baltimore became Greg’s home. The organist played at the club for four years and was something of a young jazz lion himself, recording two albums for MCA subsidiary label Coral Records, The Wizardry of Greg Hatza and Organized Jazz.

In the late sixties, Baltimore was still an organ town and had its share of great players. It was here that Greg really got a chance to hone his jazz organ skills by playing with the best musicians in town. Lenny’s club was a great stopping point for national jazz artists who came to Baltimore to perform. It was here that Greg met his mentor Jimmy Smith and got to play with him. Smith later advised Greg on his soon to be recorded albums. He also met and got to play in jam sessions with such personalities as Kenny Burrell, Groove Holmes, Damita Joe, Philly Joe Jones, Roland Kirk, Les McCann, James Moody, and Sonny Stitt.

Greg Hatza’s formal education includes a Bachelor’s degree in Composition from the Peabody Conservatory and a Master’s from Towson State University, where he subsequently taught jazz, piano composition, improvisation and music theory for many years. He also performed with the Towson Jazz Faculty Quartet in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Diggin’ Up My Roots, is Hatza’s Lucky 13 album, featuring a greasy groovy good time. Hatza and his crew really serve up a rollicking good-time sound and the nord C2D Organ is steaming hot. The first cut is “Baltimore Strut,” it seems a fine tribute to his roots in Organ jazz/blues. A swingin’, deeply groovin’ sound that instantly sets the tone of what is to come. Saxophonist, Peter Fraize gives an outstanding solo with full throttle lines and a round warm sound. Guitarist, Brian Kooken digs in with jazz/blues lines that are soulful yet delicious jazz lines all sewn up into a canvas that allows organist Hatza to wail and shout atop, with quick building lines and trills, it’s the best of blues and jazz rolled into one, and if your pulse hasn’t jump started by now; check it – as I guarantee your feet are already moving.

Another pleaser in the mix is “High Healed Sneakers,” a mid -tempo slinky groove written by Robert Higginbotham and made famous by Tommy Tucker in 1964, the group definitely kept the original essence of the tune, and its authenticity rings through. Again, Fraize rails off a high-flying solo, with Kooken using a highly-sophisticated jazz/blues vocabulary in his note choices.

I have always had an affinity for “Back at the Chicken Shack” and Hatza has learned his history well, a Jimmy Smith classic, Hatza lays it out soulfully and with absolute authenticity. This organist truly grew up through the ranks, he is dripping with soulful elongated lines and links the lines between jazz, blues and soul with rarity of execution. Smith is a hard act to follow, but Hatza certainly is no slouch, and you can tell, he has put the time in the trenches to pull off this tune.

Overall, Diggin’ Up My Roots is a worthwhile offering that should stay in the forefront of your mind long after you take a listen. Hatza has created a lasting sound, and his ensemble of compadres, add to the depth of the overall enjoyment. A highly enjoyable release, that features an exceedingly tight group sound.

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A Love Supreme Post Bop
JOHN COLTRANE
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The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady Progressive Big Band
CHARLES MINGUS
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My Favorite Things Hard Bop
JOHN COLTRANE
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Sisters in Jazz Vocal Jazz
CÆCILIE NORBY
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Double Screening 21st Century Modern
ÉMILE PARISIEN
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Mare Nostrum III Post-Fusion Contemporary
PAOLO FRESU
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Telepathy Hard Bop
CHRISTOPHER HOLLYDAY
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Running Man Fusion
COWBOYS FROM HELL
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