Jazz Music Reviews (new releases)

VIJAY IYER Uneasy

Album · 2021 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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snobb
Last year in jazz, heavily influenced by the COVID pandemic, wasn't a regular one. With live gigs and even studio recording sessions being very often unavailable for many, musical market reacted quite soon flooding on-line sales points with tons of vaults material, rehearsal recordings and DIY-level home-made new music, which too often wouldn't be released under normal conditions at all.

There still were released (and still continue to come) some really good albums during these difficult times, renowned American pianist Vijay Iyer's new just released "Uneasy" is one of them.

It is Iyer's second trio album for ECM, the previous one was released in 2015, but the new trio is quite different from the first one. In fact, now we have a super-trio of sort, including one of the brightest creative drummer of the last few years Tyshawn Sorey and growing stylish bassist Linda Oh, who's solo works require a wider introduction, and she's one of the busiest acoustic bassist on today's scene as a collaborator.

From the very first sounds one will note that the new album sounds quite unusual for an ECM release. Recorded at Oktaven Audio Studio in Mount Vernon, NY, it doesn't have that characteristic cool and sterile sound of Oslo's Rainbow studio, or some other European facilities beloved by ECM. The opener, "Children Of Flint", is one of the best compositions on the whole album, with a lot of emotion and even some drama. As almost all the other album's songs, it is an Iyer's original (Gerri Allen’s “Drummer’s Song” and not really impressive version of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day” are the two only non-originals here).

Iyer's own compositions come from different periods of time, some of them have been already recorded on his other albums. Still, here they sound way different. Not as radical as many of Iyer's previous albums, "Uneasy", with its dominating mid-tempo all-acoustic groovy sound and extremely successful balance between post-bop tradition, creativity and modern sound, is possibly one great candidate for being a soundtrack for this last pandemic year - worried, calmer, sad and hopeful. Surprisingly, it was recorded in December 2019, but it anticipates pretty well the atmosphere of changes which came very soon.

Quite accessible, it brings lot of pleasure when listening, one of the very best works already released this year.

GARY BARTZ Gary Bartz & Maisha : Night Dreamer Direct-To-Disc Sessions

Album · 2020 · Fusion
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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snobb
Sax player Gary Bartz was a celebrity of sorts half-a-century ago when he played on the forefront of the then young American fusion and post bop scene. Seasoned veteran doesn't record too often but still is active today.

Maisha is a fashionable British African fusion band, playing relaxed and sunny-bright music around burgeoning London scenes. Combination of the two is presented on "Night Dreamer" - vinyl-size long album, recorded in 'popular in 80's' direct-to-disc techniques in Dutch Haarlem (not American Harlem).

Starting from the opener, "Harlem - Haarlem", the listener can enjoy the usual Maisha sound, just less relaxed, better framed and more energized. Or - Bartz's fusion, made from Maisha's African influenced jazz. To be honest, "Maisha featuring Gary Bartz" would be a better tag to this album than tagging it as Gary Bartz's album as leader as the album is currently titled.

The sound is great, Bartz sounds warm and soulful and the music is positive and comfortable in general, but quite soon one can feel like you are listening to just one long song. Repetitive rhythms with no striking tempo, rhythm or tonal changes make this short album sound a bit like a long live jam without any specific direction. Some short pieces can be accepted as nice examples of modern revitalization of fusion from the early 70s, but unfortunately, in full it doesn't work as well.

Here we have two great artists coming together to sound much like musical wall paper, it isn't what one would expect from such a collaboration.

10000 VARIOUS ARTISTS Blue Note Re:Imagined

Album · 2020 · Nu Jazz
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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“Blue Note Re:imagined” is a two CD collection of tracks on which current UK jazz, hip-hop and RnB artists use classic Blue Note songs as inspirations for new creations. Taking a jazz song that was originally written in swing time and then slapping a contemporary backbeat on it does not always go well, so its fortunate that many of these artists often create creations that bear little resemblance to the original. Looking at this collection as a whole, if you are expecting some hip contemporary jazz leaning pop, then you will be happy with this, but if you expecting every track to be a heavy modern jazz statement, you may find yourself wanting, but all the same, there is some good contemporary, or ‘nu’, jazz to be found.

The best jazz cuts on here come from the artists who have the strongest reps, including Shabaka Hutchings, Alfa Mist, Blue Lab Beats, Nubya Garcia and Ishmael Ensemble. Of the pop tracks, Fieh’s “Armageddon” is a standout with its interesting chord progressions. Of the tracks that don’t work as well, Ezra Collective tries to place a hip-hop beat on Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints” and it totally undermines the mystical flow of the original. There is a saving grace on this one though via an amazing keyboard solo from Joe Amon-Jones. On the other hand, Nubya Garcia’s hip-hop reworking of “A Shade of Jade” is almost an improvement over the hard bop original. A surprise success is an odd wordless vocal rendition of “Maiden Voyage” by Mr Jukes that works really well despite what that idea would sound like on paper. I ended up making my own CD off of this two CD album by recording just the best tracks and leaving off the others, with a little editing like that you can end up with a very good collection of today’s UK nu jazz sound.

TERJE RYPDAL Conspiracy

Album · 2020 · Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Steve Wyzard
COMEBACK OR FINAL THOUGHTS?

For those of us who can never get enough of albums like What Comes After, Odyssey, and Chaser, this album came as a HUGE surprise. For the past 20 years, Terje Rypdal has entirely devoted himself to classical composition and experimental collaborations, as opposed to the fusion performances that saddled him with the sobriquet, "the Jimi Hendrix of Norway". Without warning, we are suddenly graced with a retro/throwback album called Conspiracy.

With Stale Storlokken on keyboards, Endre Hareide Hallre on basses, and Pal Thowsen on drums/percussion, Rypdal's worldwide fan-base can be forgiven for thinking this is an outtakes album from the late-1970s or early-1980s. All of the classic trademarks are here: the soaring, ascending, infinitely-sustained guitar tones, dreamy pre-digital organ textures, busy bass/drums, thunderous dirges, and a general howling, wind-driven sub-Arctic atmosphere.

Composed entirely by Rypdal, he never dominates the material and everybody receives a chance to show their stuff. Three tracks in particular deserve comment. "By His Lonesome" is an ethereal backdrop for a Hallre bass solo: Rypdal doesn't even enter until almost the 2-minute mark. "Baby Beautiful" (the longest track at 8:01) opens with tinkling tuned percussion before Thowsen (who longtime ECM listeners will remember from Arild Andersen's quartet in the 1970s) sets up a rhythmic pattern for the solos to follow. The album closer "Dawn" begins with a very low rumble, as if a huge double bass section is playing in the distance, before dissolving into guitar effects and then vanishing.

Recorded in Oslo in February 2019, the immediate initial reaction to Conspiracy regards its length: 35:04. We've come a long way from the mid-1990s where everybody felt it was obligatory to issue 65-minute albums. Now that the LP has returned to the mainstream, shorter albums are once again back in fashion, but at what cost? Rypdal is now in his 70s: the cynical are likely to dismiss this as just a cash-grab to help with inevitable healthcare costs. Some would suggest this is an exercise in nostalgia, perhaps an aural last-will-and-testament. When there is such a deep, accessible back-catalog (even tribute albums), one might be tempted to say, "Not bad, just not much." Conspiracy neither greatly adds to nor subtracts from Rypdal's recorded legacy, but is rather an excellent quick reminder of just what he did so uniquely well.

PAT METHENY From This Place

Album · 2020 · Fusion
Cover art 4.91 | 2 ratings
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darkshade
Pat is back! With a new lineup, bringing over long-time bandmate at this point, Antonio Sanchez, on drums. On bass is Linda May Han Oh, and on piano is Gwilym Simcock. The band is backed up by an orchestra. This is arguably one of his best albums over a 50 year career, which is quite a feat this late in the game. I haven't felt this great about a Pat Metheny album since The Way Up, released almost 15 years prior to this album. There's been some good stuff released in between, but nothing that has been as enjoyable as anything from 2005 and earlier... until From This Place.

From the massive prog-jazz opening track America Undefined, to the final heartfelt Love May Take Awhile, this album is a journey, and an emotional roller coaster, as Pat's best albums usually are. I enjoy every track here. The opener is very intense, with even some kind of rock out section in the last part, very exciting way to open things up. Same River is very classic Pat Metheny, Pathmaker is possibly the most fun tune on this album, and the harmonica player from The Way Up appears on The Past Is Us, a great tune. The emotional title song touches on the political climate of the late 2010s, but I think the final two pieces, Sixty-Six, written for Pat's age at the time, and the aforementioned Love May Take Awhile, are two of the most powerful pieces of music Pat has put out yet. The orchestral strings really shine on these last two.

I am reminded of Lyle Mays throughout this album, who passed away about a week before this album was released. The tune Sixty-Six takes on a whole other meaning for that is the age Lyle was at his passing, and the music is reminiscent of the Pat Metheny Group classic, "Last Train Home" makes it seem like a tribute to the life of Lyle Mays. The piano work of Gwilym Simcock is to be commended as he really brings out the spirit of Lyle throughout the music of From This Place. The orchestra does this as well, providing the synth-heavy background ambience Lyle would often provide in the PMG along with is piano playing, with an orchestra instead.

Overall, this album is like a marriage of Secret Story and The Way Up, while also bringing back some of the mid-Western sound from the 70s bands, with a pinch of the 80s PMG sound for good measure. All the while pushing things forward, there are many surprises throughout, some things I've never heard Pat do before. As far as his guitar playing, of course it's fantastic as usual, but this time he sounds more inspired than usual as of late, and his classic tone is back. Pat has never sounded so good. His clean guitar tone here is well balanced and warm, unlike his previous few albums where his tone was dry, far-away sounding, and cold.

Highly recommended for anyone who is even slightly into Pat's music. Great album from the modern master of Jazz.

JOHN DAVERSA Cuarentena : With Family at Home

Album · 2020 · Latin Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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js
Its not unusual for a John Daversa album to carry a theme outside of the music itself, so it is with his new album, “Cuarantena: With Family at Home”, on which he explores the importance of familial relationships in a time of quarantine through a collection of boleros, a musical form that was often a part of his family gatherings when he was young. Many of these compositions by Daversa are homages to various family members, and also many other of the compositions were written by other family members. Interspersed between the tracks, the various members of Daversa’s quintet discuss how family and music interact in their own lives. Speaking of the assembled quintet for the recording, this is an all-star ensemble with top names at every position; Gonzalo Rubalcaba on piano, Carlo De Rosa on bass, Dafnis Prieto on drums and Sammy Figueroa on percussion.

As mentioned already, every one of these songs is a bolero, but do not expect sameness, instead this album is laden with creative eclecticism. Boleros tend to be rhythmically laid back and very melodic, and you do get a lot of that on here, but there are variations too. “#45” features some high speed bebop unisons, “#22” contains fiery solo trade offs, “Puppitas” has a far out arrangement that borders on the avant-garde, and “#19”builds into an aggressive samba like energy. Still, the hallmark of “Cuarantena” are the more laid back boleros that fascinate with their open spaces and relaxed timing. The open spaces can almost recall a classic ECM disc, only with a Latin flavor and no icy reverb. When Daversa’s lonely trumpet plays over a sparse accompaniment I’m also reminded of Miles’ classic “Quiet Nights” album. All members of the band are careful not to overplay and the tracks are made more interesting because different members of the band will drop out of the mix for a while instead of all five going at it all the time. Overall, a most valuable player award could go to Rubalcaba whose wide ranging skills can add variety through his knowledge of post bop, Latin jazz and classical.

This is a beautiful album, very thoughtful and sensitive. Its great to hear musicians with mind blowing chops set their pyrotechnics aside for a while to just play music that anyone can relate to, not just fans of jazz or Latin music.

CHRISTIAN SCOTT (CHRISTIAN SCOTT ATUNDE ADJUAH) Axiom

Live album · 2020 · Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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snobb
Five years ago I saw Christian Scott playing live on his European tour with almost the same band (vocalist Isadora Mendez Scott is not on board, sax player Braxton Cook instead of current Alex Han and percussionist Joe Dyson instead of Weedie Braimah). He sounded quite similar to what is recorded on this newest album "Axiom", just here he sounds a bit better.

Exactly as during the gig I saw live, Scott speaks a lot, plays trumpet and manages his band well. Flutist Elena Pinderhughes is a night's star filling space with nice solos generally, not too knotty for the band's music. Lawrence Field's retro keys sound great and add a lot of 70s spirit.

Comparing with some of Scott's last studio albums, music here is much more organic, and that's for good. There is a groove and a lot of African percussion, and in general this album is not much different from today's popular London based African fusion influenced sound.

Exactly as during the concert I saw, songs here are quite long, being accessible and not too complex, the lengthiness can make the album simply sound a bit bulky as a result. Still, taking in account all the pros and cons, "Axiom" is probably the best Scott album I have ever heard.

WYNTON MARSALIS Wynton Marsalis & Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra : The Ever Fonky Lowdown

Album · 2020 · Third Stream
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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js
After an incredibly long and productive buildup, it looks like Wynton Marsalis has hit the apex of his career with “The Ever Fonky Low Down”, a tour de force of spoken word, music and dance that speaks volumes against the negative forces that have been on the rise in recent times. The album itself is excellent, but I do hope someday he makes the filmed performance of this more available because with dancers, a large music ensemble and a charismatic narrator in Wendall Pierce, much of the appeal of this opus is visual. The real star of the show here is the lengthy text read by Pierce as the hustling character, Mr Game (“Sell you a loan that will take your home“). Mr Game is part insincere wealthy preacher, corrupt politician and conniving criminal hustler all rolled into one as he attempts to brainwash his audience. The words were all written by Wynton, who is apparently just as talented at libretto as he is with music as he displays the background for the cynical logic that threatens our world today. I won’t try to give out too many details about Mr Game’s rap as he tries to deride ‘they’ and buildup ‘his people’, but you will hear similarities to Hitler’s speech about the Polish people, Trump’s exaggerated and fabricated claims about illegal immigrants and the twisted logic of those who try to justify, or deny, the evils of slavery, genocide and ‘ethnic cleansing’. But its not just about the Mr Games of the world, instead, Wynton is challenging us to look deeper at how we react to Mr Game and his opponents. Do we let them manipulate and divide us, or are we able to think for ourselves and keep our moral compass on track.

The rhythms on here are pure New Orleans in many flavors such as RnB, Dixieland, odd metered modern jazz, post bop modal grooves, street marches and more. On top of this rhythmic foundation Wynton interjects his orchestrations that show similarities to Ellington, Mingus, Stravinsky, Bernstein and Sun Ra. There are plenty of hot solos from the all-star band and lots of free form interaction during the longer jams. It's very telling that the music is based in New Orleans, that fertile birthplace of creativity from which a subjugated people ended up spreading their culture and changing much of the world. As mentioned before, this is a very visual production and its great watching the three male dancers improvise and move in synchronicity with methods taken from jazz ballet and New Orleans street dancing. Also enjoyable is Wendall Pierce’s very charismatic performance, especially when his eyes flash like the devil when Mr Game moves in for the ‘closer‘. Wynton's hand picked musicians bring much personality to the proceedings as well, particularly the three female singers and blues/country guitarist and vocalist Doug Wamble, whose southern drawl can sound charming and also ironically troubling.

What makes ‘Fonky Lowdown’ so powerful is that Marsalis has very thoroughly laid out what dangers lay in wait in today’s world. In a recent interview Wynton pointed out, “This is no time to be sleep walking”. I was already aware of much of what Marsalis relates here, but I have never heard it all illustrated in such a cohesive manner, once again, in Wynton’s own words, “showing us a blueprint on how to rise above populist propaganda”. Don’t expect easy answers or liberal platitudes on how to make things better. Also don't expect cliche shaming and a roll call of past grievances. Instead, Marsalis is shooting for bigger game as he displays the thinking that allows those that should know better to stand by while the 'Mr Games' of the world go about their business. 'Fonky Lowdown' is a call for everyone to pay attention and be ready to act if needed.

CHARLES TOLLIVER Connect

Album · 2020 · Fusion
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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snobb
Trumpeter Charles Tolliver made his name during the late 60s-early 70s, playing creative post bop in small bands with pianist Stanley Cowell and sax player Gary Bartz among others and co-founding an impressive progressive big band Music Inc. His albums from early 70s all are classics and sound pretty well even now.

From late 70s Tolliver disappeared from active recordings with a very few predominantly live recordings coming from 90s and 00's. "Connect" is his first studio album in fourteen years.

Recorded and released in UK, the veteran's album is of traditional 70s size - 39 minutes (or vinyl LP) long. It contains four Tolliver originals, some of them has been already heard on his more current albums in big band arrangements. His cross-generation all-American quintet (recorded in renown RAK studio during European tour) contains seasoned musicians bassist Buster Williams (played with Herbie Hancock and Archie Shepp among many others) and drummer Lenny White (of RTF fame), mid-generation altoist Jesse Davis and youngster pianist Keith Brown. Fashionable Brits tenor Binker Golding participates as a guest on two tracks.

Well recorded, music itself is quite conservative and recalls more early fusion era than second decade of a New Millennium. What is not necessarily a bad thing, just depending on the listener's taste. Compositions are tight, up-tempo, quite straight and not too knotty, just well played without any tricks. Fans of early fusion ca.72 will probably enjoy the sound which is really rare nowadays.

There are two reasons why "Connect" isn't as great an album as some of Tolliver's best works. First, compositions are not all that memorable, and second - drummer Lenny White (as almost always) sounds very much as rock drummer in a jazz band - heavyweight,straight-forward and non-subtle that doesn't add elegance to whole music at all. It's interesting that Binker Golding's, who is an artist of very different background and generation, soloing is quite successful and embellishes the song's sound a lot.

MAGIC MALIK Magic Malik Fanfare XP, Vol. 2

Album · 2020 · Nu Jazz
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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js
You may have noticed the recent drop off in new albums since the world wide pandemic put a serious dent in things. As many people seek the refuge of self quarantine, artists have been forced to dig through their recording archives and release things that may not have been put out under better circumstances. We can consider our selves very fortunate that Magic Malik was able to release “Fanfare XP Vol 2” while things cleared up in Europe for a while, because at this point, this album looks to be one of the best this year so far.

For many jazz woodwind players, the flute is a secondary instrument, something to play when they aren’t playing saxophone, but for Malik, it is his main axe, and it shows. Malik gets a big beefy sound out of the flute, no small feat as it can lean towards shrill thinness very easily. “Vol 2”, like many of his albums, features a fairly large ensemble with big sounding horns like the trombone to compete with, but Malik’s muscular flute tone is always able to elbow its way into the mix. Making yourself heard is not always easy in a Malik composition as he often has more than one solo going at a time, plus most tracks feature busy ensemble arrangements that compete with the soloists for air time.

You could roughly categorize the music on “Vol 2” as ‘nu jazz’, due to its use of modern beats and tasteful electronics, but unlike other trendy nu jazz offerings that tend to be lite and fluffy, Malik’s compositions are big on substance and innovation. Its that balance of attractive modernity and deep complex musical arrangements that promote concentrated listening that make “Vol 2” such a success. It’s not boorishly heavy, but it is definitely way more than hip background. If you want to hear something new in jazz that will still sound great 50 years from now, “Fanfare XP Vol 2” is your ticket.

TOWER OF POWER Step Up

Album · 2020 · Funk
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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snobb
Tower Of Power were a true giant of funk in the seventies, and even if they celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2018, they are not going to slow down. Their previous release "Soul Side of Town" was a perfect one, presenting rich sound of funky brass band with excellent vocals and quality songwriting. From very first seconds, their most current album "Step Up" sounds as continuation of that previous one, and it's not strange at all.

The opener "East Bay! All the Way!" jumps right on the dance floor but unexpectedly disappears after less than a minute (very same way as on their previous album). What comes after is "Tower Of Power" at their best - beautiful vocal harmonies, memorable tunes and groovy perfectly arranged music, on the level of their best releases, coming from the 70s.

Under the skin, new album is not actually all that new - it contains solely tracks from the same sessions which gave us their previous release, "Soul Side of Town". Then, its pros and cons lay right in its origin. The material is surprisingly strong since we're speaking about the album of outtakes, some songs are possibly even stronger than some numbers included in "Soul Side of Town". From the other hand, there are no visible difference in sound, arrangements or compositions between current and the previous release. "Step Up" could easily be a second half of imaginary double "Soul Side of Town" set.

Both albums represent best funk and groovy r'n'b coming right from the 70s, the genre's golden age. After many line-up changes, the band still is rooted in their founders Emilio Castillo lead vocals/tenor sax and Stephen ‘Doc’ Kupka bari, and the full sound of a twelve-piece band with some guests. There is no particular use of electronics, and no traces of more modern arrangements, but for fans of big sound of funk/r'n'b bands from 70s, (like Earth,Wind & Fire), this music is a real pleasure. If you like it that way, and still didn't listen to "Soul Side of Town", better start there. If you already like "Soul Side of Town", take "Step Up" for another doze of excellent music.

MUHAL RICHARD ABRAMS Celestial Birds

Boxset / Compilation · 2020 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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snobb
It is almost an axiom that no-one likes compilations in jazz (and rock music as well). Still, there are hundreds and thousands of them, predominantly with the openly commercial reason of trying to sell old as new, usually collecting all the most successful pieces in one place.

"Celestial Birds" is oppositely different. It contains some more unusual Muhal Richard Abrams compositions, with a strong accent on early electronics sound.

Avant-garde jazz never had a commercial potential as musical genre, and it has even less in the 20's. The risk of releasing such albums is moderately high, but thanks to zeitkratzer series director Reinhold Friedl and German label Karlrecords the world got the rare possibility to refresh (and for many newcomers - to find out) this lesser know side of AACM founder.

Vinyl album's side A is dedicated to 22+ minutes long "The Bird Song", which originally filled whole side B of Abrams debut, "Levels and Degrees of Light", released in 1968. The composition opens with recitative Chicagoan poet David Moore's poem and continues with dominating analogue synthesizer's vibes scented with minimalist saxes(Anthony Braxton & Kalaparusha), bass(Leonard Jones), drums (Thurman Barker) and violin (Leroy Jenkins). Differently from later and more regular use of electronics in jazz, here the whole music sounds quite cold, technological and close to minimalist composers pieces. It's interesting, that for this compilation the original version of the song has been used, with reverberations removed from the CD reissues.

"Conversations With The Three Of Me" is taken from much later, 1989 album "The Hearinga Suite", released in Italy. Here we found Abrams playing solo, first on piano and then - on synth. Piano part sounds as neo-classic dry composition which ends as spacey synth improvs. "Think All, Focus One" is another Abrams solo composition, played solely on analogue synths (comes from 1995 album of the same name). Abrams sounds not much different from Frank Zappa playing Synclavier on his unorthodox album "Jazz From Hell". The closer, "Spihumonesty", is recorded with a larger combo, including Roscoe Mitchell on reeds among others. Dominating synths sound here is mixed with free jazz small orchestra.

Early recordings presented on this compilation are coming from the time when synthesizer meant actually an extremely expensive studio, which were rare and hardly accessible for the jazz musician. Abrams was among very first jazz musicians experimenting with synthesis of jazz and electronics, and his works sound interesting even now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN John McLaughlin, Shankar Mahadevan, Zakir Hussain : Is That So?

Album · 2020 · World Fusion
Cover art 2.55 | 2 ratings
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snobb
Living legend English guitarist John McLaughlin is a man responsible for probably best ever recorded guitar fusion album. His early interest to Indian music (and culture in general)is well documented on "My Goal's Beyond"(1971) and more significantly on early Shakti albums which were again excellent examples of Indo-fusion.

Don't be fooled by the name though - the newest work, credited to McLaughlin as leader, "Is That So?", is not in the league of both above mentioned masterpieces.To be honest, "Is That So?" in reality is first of all vocal album of prolific Indian singer and films soundtrack composer Shankar Mahadevan. Being a cult figure in India, he's almost unknown in Western world, so crediting his album to McLaughlin as leader is understandable marketing trick for American label AbstractLogix,who released the album just a week ago.

Then,under the cover we have what we have. Shankar Mahadevan sings six lyrical songs,ballads of sort, under minimalist accompaniment of McLaughlin processed guitars and even more minimalist licks of another Indian,former Shakti tabla player Zakir Hussain.

Fortunately, all music doesn't sound as Bollywood soundtrack. It is more rooted to Indian traditional sound, but it is still first of all singer's album. McLaughlin guitars sound processed using computer,is liquid,rhythm-less and hardly differs from what could be produced using inexpensive synths. Tabla's soloing is most livable and most attractive element of all music, but we don't get a lot of it. Harmony-less Indian music without rhythmic component after some time sounds same again and again, at least for Westerner's ear.

Quite a weird release,it will hardly attract McLaughlin guitar work's fans or even Shakti early albums lovers. Maybe Shankar Mahadevan singing followers will find it interesting though.

TONY ADAMO Did Mark Murphy Believe in UFOS?

EP · 2020 · RnB
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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tonyrocadamo
By NICHOLAS F. MONDELLO Allaboutjazz

The interrogative title of this fine track shares an interesting insight, as well as its supposition. Whether the late singer literally did buy into UFOs—a la Sun Ra who saw "space as the place"—or he didn't is irrelevant. What is key is the fact that Mark Murphy has had a definitive and lasting impact on jazz vocalists today—and very much so on the High Prince of sing-speak, Tony Adamo who salutes Murphy on this infectious single. Further, the savvy integration of Michael Franks' "Don't Be Blue" into the performance adds encouragement and a positive sheen on the proceedings. It's a brilliant production choice.

Adamo, the ultimate hipster's hipster, is dead on his game on this hip-hop grooved masterpiece. Brilliantly performed and laid down over a killer rhythm, Adamo speaks "jazz gospel" and offers verbal high praise to Murphy by way of his own poetics about Murphy's verbiage on Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments." (Murphy wrote a well-known version of lyrics for the classic tune.)

https://www.allaboutjazz.com/did-mark-murphy-believe-in-ufos-tony-adamo-ropeadope-records

JOE MCPHEE McPhee, Rempis, Reid, Lopez, Nilssen-Love : Of Things Beyond Thule Vol 1

Live album · 2020 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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One of the early releases coming in a very beginning of a new year is a collaborative work, recorded by high class free improvisers quintet of seasoned tenor Joe McPhee and cohort of younger creative jazz stars.

Joe McPhee (probably in a pair with Charles Gayle) is one of the busiest veterans of loft jazz around playing with many today's sound names and recorded intensively. His new quintet contains such leaders of modern avant-garde jazz as sax payer Dave Rempis and Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, rising star cellist Tomeka Reid (who toured Europe last year as Art Ensemble of Chicago's member) and relatively lesser known New Yorker bassist Brandon Lopez.

Just two compositions, recorded live at Chicagoan The Hungry Brain on December 16 2018. Each lasts less than 20 minutes.Quite surprisingly, there are only a few explosive moments on this album, slow to mid-tempo music predominates. Saxes often sound as bird calls communication with cello vibrations and lot of percussion on the back. Common mood is more philosophical than energizing, and excellent interplay between quintet members builds intellectual and rousing atmosphere. Without leaving a frames of the genre, this album belongs to a more successful examples of live recordings in prolific Joe McPhee discogs.

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