Jazz Music Reviews (new releases)

CHICK COREA Chick Corea, Christian McBride & Brian Blade : Trilogy 2

Live album · 2018 · Post Bop
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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snobb
Same way as five years ago, with first snow Chick Corea acoustic trio's live recordings collection from world tour comes again this early winter. Titled "Trilogy 2" it is obvious continuation of their successful 2013 Japanese release (in 2014 released in Europe and US as well). Complied from 2010-2016 concerts, this time it is a double CD (previous one was a triple) and comes from Japan again. Most probably next year will offer more accessible Western editions as well.

Working formula didn't change a lot - with opener "How Deep Is The Ocean" (the only song presented on both first and second "Trilogies") with Corea's Latin/Fusion hits "500 Miles High" and "La Fiesta", his early success "Now He Sings, Now He Sobs" and few standards.

As in case with first "Trilogy", biggest interest here is a new interpretations of known songs. Started with very relaxed and even unusually for him slightly sentimental manner, Chick after few first songs returns back to more dynamic enthusiastic grooving post-bop - music he plays best starting from mid 70s.

Despite of obviously entertaining character of presented material, trio of highest class professionals never sound repetitive or boring, mostly because of unexpected takes on well known material. It's really impressive to hear how different from popular versions many songs sound without leaving mainstream/chamber jazz frames.

Great X-mas present for pianist fans.

ESPEN ERIKSEN Espen Eriksen Trio with Andy Sheppard : Perfectly Unhappy

Album · 2018 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
Cover art 3.98 | 2 ratings
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Matt
For this latest release “Perfectly Unhappy” from Norwegian Espen Eriksen and his Trio, one of Britain’s most well saxophonists Andy Sheppard joins them bringing a change in texture to their current slightly minimal but still highly melodic sound that the Trio display within their compositions. Their first album release garnered extremely good praise and many great reviews for “You Had Me At Goodbye” with the following two albums “What Took You So Long” and “Never Ending January” keeping the standard right up there. If you have not heard of them before Espen Eriksen is the pianist, Lars Tormond Jenset, bass and Andreas Bye is the drummer with the Trio performing together since 2007 with this album being the ensemble’s fourth release. Andy Sheppard’s addition of saxophone in the album works beautifully bringing quite a bit of a fresh sound for the Trio and keeping things in an interesting manner but still keeping them well within the melodic style that they have become known for.

“Above The Horizon” opens with a beautiful piano and bass interchange before stating the composition’s theme before Andy Sheppard’s saxophone to joins on this lovely inward piece with the following “1974” having a beautiful contemplative sound where Espen’s piano is more prevalent. The melancholy and contemplation just keeps on coming with the album’s title ‘Perfectly Unhappy” with Andy’s saxophone and Espen’s brief solo providing a lovely wistfulness within the number. “Indian Summer” just keeps the dreamy spaced melody prevalent, where “Suburban Folk Song” has a slightly more intricate opening and all these melodies that are intertwined with space and beautiful timing just keep coming with “Naked Trees”, the following “Revisited” containing a delightful solo from Espen and the beautiful melancholic closing composition “Home”.

Lovely album and an absolute delight to have on with the compositions being in a similar realm to Mathias Eick’s of maintaining a strong melody and quite a lovely contemporary sound. One other note is Andy Sheppard plays quite a major part and is in the majority of all the compositions with that gorgeous deep tone that he resonates.

WAYNE HORVITZ The Snowghost Sessions

Album · 2018 · Nu Jazz
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Matt
In 2015 Wayne Horvitz headed out to Montana to record this album at Snowghost studios, hence the title “The Snowghost Sessions”. Comprising a trio with Wayne on piano as well providing keyboards and electronics, Geoff Harper who had previously appeared with Wayne on his 2014 release “At The Reception” on Contrabass and Eric Eagle who also had appeared with Wayne on “At The Reception” as well the 2015 release which was a tribute to the writer Richard Hugo “Some Places Are Forever Afternoon” is playing drums. Wayne Horvitz states that he had not recorded a Trio album since the eighties and took quite a few tunes and sketches to this session with the majority of the album recorded Live and Wayne providing some overdubs with keyboards. He actually says that he did not set out to make an album but just wanted to try some ideas that he had with amplified and processed piano as the studios at Snowghost are in a class of their own for acoustics with the addition of an already installed Steinway Grand Piano. For these sessions the studio owner Brett Allen is the album’s engineer and co-producer with Wayne.

Fifteen tracks on the album if one counts the bonus with none running over five minutes which keeps things quite fluent with the beautiful “The Pauls” opening being a lovely spaced composition and as with the majority of the album it is down tempo with the following composition “No Blood Relation #1” bringing the electronics into the mix but in a subtle manner with wonderful recurring chords from Wayne on piano with superb support from the bass and drums by just being there in a minimal fashion which is how their support is performed right throughout the majority of the album. There is “No Blood relation #2” being the eighth track and that composition is its own without borrowing from the prior #1. More of that gorgeous piano space and time for “Trish” with many people describing this as contemplative but it sure has that Wayne Horvitz piano tone. “IMB” does bring out the Electronics and would be the album’s most up tempo composition with Eric Eagle having quite a shot on the drum kit within the number.There a quite a few more interesting and beautiful compositions included with the following “Apart From You #1” , “Northampton”, “For James Tenney”, “The Trees”, Yukio and Noa’s Duet” with these four tracks divided by the short piece “Flies On Friday”. All of those compositions having something different to say and some are straight while others have that subtle electronic keyboard effect added. “55 6 (21) Variations” has that organ addition and “55 6 (7) Variations” has a much deeper bass and piano sound bring us to the album’s end with “Apart from You #2” comprising the trio with more of those subtle electronics appearing more to the fore as the composition progresses.

Wonderful and quite different piano based Trio album from Wayne Horvitz and band which requires a few listens to fully appreciate and gets better with every play. Well worth the purchase as Wayne Horvitz albums are.

VASIL HADŽIMANOV Vasil Hadžimanov Band : Lines in Sand

Album · 2019 · World Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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js
How does one put out an interesting fusion record these days? Once the new kid on the block, fusion has been around for almost 60 years now, what can someone do that’s new in the fast approaching third decade of the new century. A good place to start would be to check out, “Lines In Sand”, the new CD by Balkan keyboardist Vasil Hadzimanov. Here we find music that combines influences from the Balkans and Middle East with American jazz, funk and RnB plus plenty of modern day sounds and rhythms via the youthful world of electronica and European nu jazz and you end up with a creation that opens new doors and presents fusions of fusion that you haven’t heard before.

Vasil Hadzimanov has been performing and composing professionally for almost 25 years now, and his group featured on here has been together since 2001. The fact that these guys have known each other for some time shows in their intuitive interactions. For being a fusion record, “Lines in Sand” is gratefully short on long winded solos. There are plenty of barn burning rides for Vasil and his band mates when needed, but often they eschew the solos for a more team oriented approach to improvisation. In that respect they recall classic Weather Report at their best. Of the solo spots themselves, honorable mention must go to guest saxophonist Rastko Obradovic and his Coltrane like excursions.

It’s the variety and the creativity within that variety that makes “Lines in Sand” work. Here is a band that can go from swinging acoustic post bop to Balkan techno within one song and make it sound as organic and natural as a hearty bowl of super crunch granola.

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

Album · 2018 · 21st Century Modern
Cover art 4.02 | 2 ratings
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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 ahead with explosive soloing,instead 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.

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.

BOBBY PREVITE Rhapsody / Terminals Part II : In Transit

Album · 2018 · Third Stream
Cover art 4.49 | 4 ratings
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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.

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