Post-Fusion Contemporary

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Post-Fusion Contemporary is a broad umbrella genre that contains several recent trends in jazz. One important branch of Contemporary Jazz (which first appeared in the mid 1970s) is rooted in Northern Europe and is often associated with the ECM label. This is a somber style of jazz often played in straight (non-swing) rhythm with elements of regional folk music and early 20th century classical music. This style is sometimes referred to as ‘chamber jazz’. Some early practitioners include Keith Jarret and Jan Garbarek. Although originally rooted in Europe, today this style is played and enjoyed around the world.

Another branch of the Contemporary sound started in the late 70s when artists such as Jeff Lorber and Pat Methany began to play in a style that mixed fusion with elements of smooth jazz and post bop. This was a somewhat light and radio friendly style of jazz, and a very dominant force until acoustic post/hard bop made a comeback.

Although most early forms of Contemporary Jazz were of a light and borderline easy listening nature, today’s Contemporary artists are often playing in a more energetic and rhythmic style influenced by indie rock, hip-hop, RnB, drumnbass, world beat and fusion. Leading the way in the new sound is the modern jazz piano trio. Heavily influenced by the popular trio, e.s.t., most of these groups consist of a trap set, acoustic bass and a very powerful virtuoso piano player.

Today’s Contemporary genre often borders on Classic Fusion, but there are differences. The rock influence in fusion comes from extravagant jam band artists like Jimi Hendrix, while the Contemporary artist draws from moody and dronish indie rock bands like Radiohead and REM. Fusion tends to have a basis in Afro-Latin or funk rhythms, while Contemporary Jazz tends to have straighter rhythms taken from pop and art rock.

Generally speaking, the difference between Contemporary and Post Bop is that Post Bop usually swings, while Contemporary often does not, although the new Contemporary piano trios continue to blur lines by occasionally playing in a post bop swing style too. Harmonically speaking, Post Bop usually uses the extended harmonies of jazz (9th chords, 11ths etc), while Contemporary may mix jazz harmonies with the simpler triadic harmonies of pop or classical.

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post-fusion contemporary Music Reviews

ESPEN ERIKSEN Espen Eriksen Trio with Andy Sheppard : Perfectly Unhappy

Album · 2018 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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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.

KETIL BJØRNSTAD La notte

Live album · 2013 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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Matt
Commissioned by the Molde International Jazz Festival and Recorded Live in 2010 at the Norway Festival for later release By ECM records has the multi talented Norwegian Ketil Bjørnstad presenting his perception in music on Italian Filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni with his 1961 film sharing the title of this very album from Ketil Bjørnstad “La Notte” ( The night). Ketil Bjørnstad has been around since the late sixties since playing Classical piano in his later teens but in the seventies headed for Jazz and Folk with a distinct Northern European influence of retaining Classical elements within his compositions. He has recorded over fifty albums as well most likely written as many books, hence the multi talented which is often used to describe his artistic output. Although this album was recorded in 2010 ECM did not release it until three years later in 2013 due to most likely the fact they already had an album recorded by Ketil prior, still in the can being “The River”.

The album line up is a Sextet with the majority involved having played with each other in various ensembles and bands with Arild Anderson the bassist having the most extensive experience with Ketil Bjørnstad and just about everyone else in European Jazz. The cellist David Darling who has played with Ketil extensively in the past is not present and has been replaced with the stunning German born Anja Lechner who usually you will find in ECM’s New Series having played with the Rosamunde Quartet, Tarkovsky Quartet, the pianists Vassilis Tsabropoulos and Francois Couturier as well as the great Bandoneon player Dino Saluzzi. Andy Sheppard who is usually in Carla Bley’s ensembles or leading his own these days is on tenor and soprano saxophone, Marilyn Mazur is on percussion and drums having played with Jan Garbarek for one as well as doing her own albums and also included is Eivind Aarset also an artist in his right as well as playing with Andy Sheppard above and who also has many well known productions behind him is playing guitar and providing electronics.

Ketil Bjørnstad has composed eight parts within the album’s structure with “La Notte I” commencing with a slight electronic drone and touches of bass and percussion with the sound picking up as the introduction of piano and cello is added in this mediative opening number. Andy Sheppard’s tenor and Eivind Aarset’s guitar inject two lovely pieces with Ketil’s piano and Marilyn’s percussion as the base in the bolder “La Notte II”. The ensemble delivers a delightful mix within “La Notte III” with Andy Sheppard’s saxophone barely noticeable coming in over Anja Lechner’s cello with a superb middle timed underlay from the rest of the musicians within the piece. It’s a slow tempo for “La Notte IV” primarily comprising piano and more of that beautiful cello from Anja Lechner who I have to say is the star amongst all these musicians within these beautiful compositions from Ketil Bjørnstad. The album continues with more of the stunning mediative input for “La Notte V and VI” with more stunning cello, soprano sax and Marilyn Mazur’s just right percussion comprising the odd chimes, beat etc with the ensemble picking things up again in “La Notte VII” with Arild Anderson’s superb bass opening and Eivind’s fabulous guitar solo. The album comes to an end with another beautiful slow relaxing piece in “VIII”

Leaning towards Classical at times and leaning towards some great Fusion at others in this highly interesting album which after quite a few plays with many in a row, I still have not tired of. One other note although the album states it is Live there is not a whisper of audience sound to be heard.

JUHANI AALTONEN Juhani Aaltonen & Iro Haarla : Kirkastus

Album · 2015 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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Matt
Juhani Aaltonen and Iro Haarla have been playing together for quite a while now having first meet in the early 1970’s whilst Iro was still a teenager and still studying music and then again a few years later when both were performing with Edward Vesala in the late 70’s and early 80’s where after they went their own ways until reuniting in 2002 whilst recording for the Finnish Jazz label Tum with both appearing on various albums led by Juhani or Iro with the label since. Juhani Aaltonen plays tenor saxophone, flute, alto flute and bass flute within this recording “Kirkastus” whilst Iro Haarla is on piano, harp , guzheng or chen ( Chinese stringed instrument) and percussion for this duo recording released in 2015. Both have extensive histories in music with Juhani first releasing his debut as a leader in 1974 for the album “Etiquette” as well as performing with the Rock band Tasavallan Presidenti whilst Iro Haarla has kept working right up till the late 1990’s with her husband Edward Vesala until his death and did not release an album until 2001 under her own name in conjunction with the saxophonist Pepa Paivanen who also had been playing with Edward Vesala. All the recordings included within the album are written by Iro and as such are predominately intricate ballads with perhaps her most well known album being “Vespers” released in 2011 with the ECM label and a prime showcase for her style of Jazz composing.

“Evening Prayer” open subtlety with Juhani on Tenor saxophone and Iro playing piano for this lovely gentle ballad where one hear can the understanding both musicians have between each other with some beautiful solo input with the piano from Iro on this near six minute piece which is followed by “Out Of The depths” with Juhani on flute and Iro on piano and adding in addition a chimed percussion and although it another ballad which the whole album being it is the variety of instruments used throughout the compositions that keep things from not sounding all the same with the playing still remaining in a beautiful gentle mode.”Still Waters”, “Nightjar” and “ Long Sole Sound” has Iro playing Harp whereas Juhani plays flute on three of the ten ballads and Iro plays the chen on only one for ‘Nightjar” being one of my picks with the addition of “Long Sole Sound” where bass flute and harp are combined keeping the album interesting throughout all the tracks.

Lovely relaxed music with some great playing from Juhani in these beautiful low key compositions and although Juhani Aaltonen is first in the credits it is Iro Haarla’s just as much. She has her own style of composing and it is quite individual leaving her own mark on modern Jazz which is beautifully displayed on this album. Great for those quiet times.

WAYNE HORVITZ Sweeter Than The Day

Album · 2001 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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Matt
Released in 2001 with the same personnel as Wayne Horvitz’s band Zony Mash but not the same music as the band being still a Quartet is acoustic now. Wayne Horvitz has quite a good a resume for a Jazz musician with film scores, various other bands and styles of music predominately Jazz, Electric and Classical that he has participated in. Many know him from his input into John Zorn’s music with the most well known being “Naked City” but this album “Sweeter Than The Day” also being the band’s name is at opposite ends of that spectrum. What we have here is, albeit being a Quartet this album seems to have more of a Trio sound with a laid back subdued take on the compositions that Wayne included for this project. Prepared and standard piano are played by him for this 2nd album by this incantation with Timothy Young on six and 12 string electric guitar, Keith Lowe on bass and Andy Roth on drums.

There is something about Wayne Horvitz’s piano technique that has always entranced me with the sound seeming to harken back to the early years of Jazz but still presented with a beautiful contemporary sound which is quite present in this acoustic album which starts off with the composition “In One Time and Another”. Plenty of space for this lower timed opening number and that old time sound really starts to emanate with the following “Julian’s Ballad” with Wayne keeping the theme never far off throughout with some beautiful subdued guitar from Timothy Young just adding to the sublime. “LTMBBQ” is mid tempo with Wayne again bouncing around the theme and never straying too far which is the technique he applies in all the compositions for the entire album and once again Young’s guitar just adds a lovely texture. “Sweeter Than The Day” the title track is back to a ballad with more of that old sound emanating from the piano input. “Irondbound” follows with “Waltz From The Oven” after which once again contains just a few notes that just keep reappearing to work around and is another of those beautiful subdued tracks within the album. Another that always grabs my attention whilst listening is “The Little Parade”. “George’s Solo” finishes the album up with more space and silence.

Still getting play here after 17 years since it release and for those days where time seems to slow whilst whiling away your day in the sun or just hanging out it is hard not to appreciate how Wayne Horvitz has captured and placed an atmosphere into wherever you are. Lovely stuff.

JULIAN ARGÜELLES Tonadas

Album · 2018 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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snobb
UK-born Graz, Austria-based sax player Julian Argüelles last year arranged (and conducted) his first big band album ("Behemoth") for one of my British scene favourites - Phronesis, with big success. Four days ago he released a new album as leader, so I just need to hear how does it sound.

Argüelles leads a quartet with pianist-drummer-bassist, what generally looks like it could be Phronesis (reed-less trio) plus Argüelles himself. The similarity is even closer since the participating Argüelles quartet pianist is no one else but Ivo Neame, Phronesis' founding member.

"Tonadas" (or "tunes" in Spanish) is a beautiful collection of lively chamber songs. Dominating Latin titles possibly show the source of inspiration for the author, but the music itself is not really Latin-influenced. One can think of this as Phronesis improved with a sax player soloist playing more relaxed music than usual. Pianist Neave has more freedom here compared to his work on Phronesis albums, and he really shines on smart and swinging solos.

This album's music is elegant and warm - much more alive and pleasant than many of today's sterile-sounding chamber jazz collectives. Less energetic, it probably will attract a bit different listener than hard Phronesis fans, but in general, "Tonadas" is a nice modern jazz album for widest listener categories.

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