Recommended: Ben Goldberg – Orphic Machine

March 29, 2015


Ben Goldberg - "Orphic Machine"Sneaky avant-garde is a phrase that’s been thrown out there to describe the music of Ben Goldberg.  His style is strikingly unconventional, and he seems to abide by cryptic rules of engagement when it comes to his creative vision and the listener’s ear.  Whether it’s a modern post-bop style or something more traditional, or, in other instances, immersions into klezmer, folk, blues, classical or music that simply falls under the heading of experimental, Goldberg deftly crafts his inspirations into something immutably tuneful.  No matter how many walls a listener might have to scale to engage with Goldberg’s challenging music, he always manages to leave plenty of plateaus and footholds along the way so that, surprisingly, it feels like a walk in the park.  It’s not an easy to thing to make an avant-garde project wholly embraceable, but Goldberg pulls it off time and again.

No better example of this can be found than his newest release, the 2015 recording, Orphic Machine, which features an all-star line-up of trumpeter Ron Miles, pianist Myra Melford, vibraphonist Kenny Wollesen, drummer Ches Smith, bassist Greg Cohen, tenor saxophonist Rob Sudduth, guitarist Nels Cline, and violinist Carla Kihlstedt, who also has an outstanding turn at singing words taken from a book about poetry.

Not actual poetry.  Just words about writing and reading poetry.  A treatise on the subject, with not a bit of actual poetic verse to be found.  And yet, Goldberg’s ensemble brings it to life in a way that takes it out of the classroom and sends it out running free and wild.  This is the equivalent of novelist John Barth scripting an epic story by including instructions on how to write an epic story.  It illustrates that art is what we view it to be, and the ability to frame something didactic into something majestic is just a creative inspiration away.

As Kihlstedt’s voice, like a plume of smoke, sings about “the function of poetry” and “the act of care” and the “autonomic systems of which consciousness is a contingency,” the ensemble matches her enthralling vocal turns with passages of New Orleans traditional, blistering guitar rock, angular post-bop, Motown R&B and more.  They are walking down the halls of the traditional and the past while humming a new tune for the new day.

On this album, quiet lullabies grow into grand celebrations, get-up-and-dance grooves transition to electric guitar burns, and the strong pulse of bass and crash of drums disperse for lighthearted passages and sunny jaunts.  For as challenging as this project is, there is an irrepressible charm that is as winning as it gets.

It’s the kind of thing that should be clunky or cheesy or disingenuous or simply fall flat on its face.  But Goldberg’s ensemble brings an immaculate lyricism to the affair that is simply magnetic, not to mention unabashedly fun.

The words are taken from a book by Allen Grossman (The Sighted Singer: Two Works on Poetry for Readers and Writers), a former professor of Goldberg’s from back in the day.  Sadly, Allen Grossman recently passed away.  But what a lovely thing to do, to give new life to old words, and expressed in a way, perhaps, the original creator never envisioned.

An absolutely striking album, supremely enchanting, and when measured in terms of difficulty of challenge, an outstanding achievement.

Go buy this album.  It’s one of the best purchases you’ll make all year.

Your album personnel:  Ben Goldberg (clarinets), Ron Miles (trumpet), Rob Sudduth (tenor sax), Myra Melford (piano), Nels Cline (electric guitars), Kenny Wollesen (vibraphone, percussion), Greg Cohen (bass) and Ches Smith (drums, percussion).

Released on Goldberg’s label BAG Productions in collaboration with Royal Potato Family.

Jazz from NYC.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon


Ben Goldberg - "Unfold Ordinary Mind"Explore more of Goldberg’s music on his Bandcamp page.  The first album I’d recommend is his excellent 2013 release, Unfold Ordinary Mind. Read more about that recording on this site (LINK).


These are videos that I like: Klabbes Bank – “Scott & Melody”

March 29, 2015


Today’s featured video is from Klabbes Bank, performing the song “Scott & Melody” from their 2013 release Protect the Forest.

As a precursor to their upcoming release, Z, I just wrote up a huge rundown of their past albums, including the one this song originates from.  Follow this LINK to read it.  In the meantime, enjoy this video…

Performed live at Parken for The Jazz Sessions.


I hope your weekend is wrapping up nicely.



I listen to all of this: Klabbes Bank

March 28, 2015


Klabbes BankA handful of years ago, I stumbled upon the music of Klabbes Bank during one of my late-night sessions of just wandering the halls of the internet in search of cool new music.  They had just released their album Je Suis la Mer, and I immediately gravitated to it and everything else they’ve done during their career.  They’ve released four albums, which I’ll cover in today’s column.  They have a fifth album out now.  We’ll visit that one next week.  For now, I just want to give a rundown of what’s led up to this point.

There is a Friday Night Out On the Town quality to this Swedish jazz ensemble… an immediacy to the music that makes me feel like I’m not that far removed from a few rounds of beer.  The music feels like a celebration.  There’s an exuberance to how the individual members of the sextet throw their weight around.   And even when their individual contributions sound detached from one another, the music possesses a synchronicity that leads to a wonderful confluence of creative expressions.

This band is fun, and their music is joyful even during its darker moments.  And there are plenty of darker moments, heartbreaking at times, but then the spirits rise again with the blast of trombone, the ascendent optimism of piano keys, the eminence of sax blaring that all is right with the world, and bass, drums and percussion blazing a path to a long night that says The Weekend Is Here.

Now, about that music.

Let’s begin…


Klabbes Bank – Musik För Sånna Som Mormor & Morfar

Klabbes Bank - "Musik For Sanna Som Mormor Morfar"Their debut was the 2004 release Musik För Sånna Som Mormor & Morfar.  In addition to serving as an introduction to the ensemble as recording artists, it also presents all of the elements that have contributed to later recordings, in varying degrees.  Their debut spreads it out pretty evenly.  Looking back on it, their debut provides the least amount of definition to the band’s personality and vision.  However, by way of setting the table for what was to come, Musik För Sånna Som Mormor & Morfar was an excellent way to say “hello.”

Of all their albums, this one displays the greatest influence of post-bop in their discography.  Opening track “Hampe & Balle” develops a nice little groove and laces it with some post-bop heat.  This also happens to a greater degree on “I Värmland Är Det Schönt,”

“Skräcken” keeps the groove going, but spurs it on with a greater determination.  But the song’s selling point is the melodic dramatics going for a big sound and even some chaotic dispersal to bring the song to a close.  Their ability to draw out a melodic beauty even during sudden and dramatic surges of intensity is something Klabbes Bank excels at.  It’s also a quality that serves them well in subsequent recordings, as they become increasingly willing to utilize that talent on new compositions.

“Schysst Schönt” is a song made of moonlight.  It’s a form of expression that comes up often with Klabbes Bank.

The title-track gives some indication of what’s to come later, though never truly manifesting in its complete form until their 2013 release Protect the Forest.  The song has a fluid, but rapid motion, not unlike driving down long highways… a sense of a constant high rate of speed that feels almost serene, by way of its effortless propulsion and acclimation to a strange but familiar sound.

“Tunnelbanan” falls right in line with this.  It’s a preview of a distant point on their creative arc, while also encapsulating their potent mix of melodic enchantment and percussive engagement.  On the other hand, the celebratory tones and freer, volatile motion of “I Värmland Är Det Schönt” is a preview of music approaching much sooner.

The album ends with the sole vocal track, “Dödenlåten,” displaying the band’s ability to create profoundly heartbreaking moments out of the sweetest, warmest expressions.

It’s an excellent debut, the kind of album that is likely to generate some serious intrigue into what would come next.

Your album personnel:  Klas-Henrik Hörngren (piano), Thomas Backman (alto sax, clarinet), Tobias Sondén (bass), Fredrik Hamrå (drums), Joel Wästberg (tenor sax), Markus Ahlberg (trombone) and guest:  Mariam Wallentin (vocal).

This album is Self-Produced.



Klabbes Bank – Kålsäter

Klabbes Bank - "Kalsater"What came next was the 2007 release Kålsäter.  The immediate impression it makes over its predecessor is of a greater presence.  The expressions are bolder and brimming with confidence.  And all throughout the recording are huge melodic pronouncements, sung out with a certain gravity indicative more of substantive depth than pro forma dramatics.  Furthermore, the rhythms are crisper, punctuated not for the sake of force but decisiveness.

The album opens right up with a dramatic melodicism, showing more control over their ferocity than displayed on their debut… which enhances the melodic sweetness now.  “Dina vackra lockar, min tomma lägenhet” is the sound of heartbreak.  Soft piano phrases lead into some strongly expressive saxophone parts, digging deep.

“Gondolen” is all about the party-time demeanor that carries a contemplative mood just behind its smile.  The foot-stomping jaunty cadence is juxtaposed against the long, gliding strokes of wind instruments calling out the melody, sometimes with a quiet roar, sometimes as the gentlest coo.

“Mellanspel” dives into melancholy waters, whereas “I Protest” shows that their strong sense of melody is retained even when they rise up and shout.  They layer loudness atop loudness, but with a discernment that allow the melodicism to cut right through the thick of it and to the bone.  “Sovlåt” hints at a stately dance, a formal affair designed loosely.

The album is marked by shifting tides of intensity.  “Kålsäters äng” moves slowly, inching ahead, creeping forward, followed by the pounding grind of “I Love You,” which screams and roars the melody out… no less beautiful for its rage, the melody handled no less deftly either.  This is followed by the soft moonlight of “Inte krig,” a song that has the boozy sonority of last call neighborhood bars.  “Ta taratta” is a rare moment of truly free improv.  Shrieking, skronking and a series of jabs and body blows that somehow develop into a parade march dance.

And just like on their debut album, Kålsäter ends with a sole vocal track, the lullaby “Vatten.”  It’s a nice way to look back to their past as the band develops into something new.

Your album personnel: Klas-Henrik Hörngren (piano, vocals), Joel Wästberg (alto & tenor saxes), Thomas Backman (alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet), Magnus Wiklund (trombone), Tobias Sondén (bass) and Fredrik Hamrå (drums).

Released on Imogena Records.



Klabbes Bank – Je Suis La Mer

Klabbes Bank - "Je Suis la Mer"The thing about their 2009 release Je Suis la Mer that really defines this album as a step up from previous albums is how the group uses the same ingredients as past albums but provides the expressions with stronger defining characteristics.  The songs are put together with a greater craftsmanship.  The ensemble gels.  Even when a song is given a hazy shape and scattered pattern, it’s presented in sharp focus.  The ensemble is really coming into its own.  Kålsäter was their new sound taking form.  Je Suis la Mer is that vision manifesting in its entirety.

It opens much like Kålsäter did.  “Yngre” has the contemplative piano and the impatient tapping of percussion and the moody saxophone.  The melody drips from the song like candle wax, a flickering light that echoes off all the dark walls.  And the strong imagery is given a vivid presentation… the shape of the melody possesses a sharp outline and the colors that fill in the shapes are bold and self-assured.  The tempo lights a path that keeps within sight, even when the music grows unpredictable.

“Det Brinner Inte Längre” is pure, undistilled melancholia, radiating an inner serenity when it expresses the melody like a firm pronouncement, a strong, simple statement.

The title-track is full-on celebratory.  The shuffle and sway of its cadence invokes a sense of the days of swing, and its catchy melody is built to stick around.  It leads in nicely to the up-tempo “Cowboyhäst,” which scoots right along at a brisk pace and a melody that, like its predecessor, has staying power.

“Sju” is Klabbes Bank in classic form, illustrating how heartbreak and hopefulness can form a single expression.  It’s the face of sadness or sunny days, depending on your perspective in that instant.  Its unifying trait is its sheer beauty.  That they are able to follow it up with the whimsical “Elg” and make that transition sound practically logical in the flow of emotions is a tribute to their craftsmanship, and as good a sign as any of their maturity as an ensemble over the course of three albums.

Breaking from tradition, the final track, “På Natten I Norge Nån Gång” is strictly instrumental.  It’s an ambient blues, a boozy sonority that speaks of the last of the moonlight before the sun rises, the last of the whiskey before the tavern’s neon signs flicker off.  It’s a beautiful way of ending the album.  And its break from tradition is nothing like what their next album pulls off.

Your album personnel:  Klas-Henrik Hörngren (keyboards), Thomas Backman (alto sax, bass clarinet, clarinet), Tobias Sondén (bass, guitar), Magnus Wiklund (trombone), Joel Wästberg (alto & tenor saxes) and Martin Öhman (drums, electronics).  Pretty much everyone in the band contributes to the percussion effort at some point on the album.

Released on Hoob Records.



Klabbes Bank – Protect the Forest

Klabbes Bank - "Protect the Forest"On their 2013 release Protect the Forest, Klabbes Bank broke from past form and began moving in a new direction… kind of.  Whereas previous recordings were tiny melodic bundles of heartbreak and sunshine, on Protect the Forest, the songs manifest with a sweeping grandeur and rhythmic intensity that take root with a heavy utilization of electronics and effects.  This isn’t something that was necessarily frowned upon previously, but the use is more pronounced and widespread, and it’s the closest, by far, that the band has strayed to a Jazz-electronica fusion.  This, however, wasn’t a sea change for the band.  Their debut hinted at this direction ten years earlier, it’s just the sound was more organic, less electronic.  Protect the Forest swings dramatically in the opposite direction.

I won’t go into the album any further.  Follow this LINK to my original recommendation of the album, where I go through it track by track.

But I will say that it did mark a big departure for Klabbes Bank from previous albums.  They continued to use the ingredients of happiness and heartbreak, potent melodicism and sharp tempos, but the ultimate form given those elements was a relatively surprising development, though not an unwelcome one.  There was a risk of stagnation, of the profound become formulaic, and Klabbes Bank sidestepped that outcome quite deftly.

Your album personnel:  Joel Wästberg (alto sax), Thomas Backman (alto sax, clarinets), Magnus Wiklund (trombone), Klas-Henrik Hörngren (keyboards), Jacob Öhrvall (bass), and Martin Öhman (drums, electronics).

Released on Hoob Records.


Klabbes Bank albums available at:  eMusicAmazon



Klabbes Bank has a new album coming out.  Titled simply Z, it shows that the changes embodied by Protect the Forest were neither a one-shot deal nor an end-point.  I’ll be publishing a recommendation of that album soon, so be sure to check back in.

In the meantime, go to my Facebook page to check out a brief promo video for the album.

(Sorry, couldn’t figure out how to embed a Facebook vid in this post)



These are videos that I like: Ben Goldberg – “Care”

March 27, 2015


Ben Goldberg - "Orphic Machine"Today’s featured video is from Ben Goldeberg performing the song “Care,” a track from his new release Orphic Machine.  It’s from a March 2012 show at Berkeley, California’s Freight and Salvage.

The line-up is nearly identical to the ensemble that appears on the studio release, except for Jeff Parker is on guitar for this live show (Nels Cline performs on the album).  It’s a wonderful video performance, sounding identical and different from the studio version in all the right ways.  An excellent job done by Black Parrot Productions in putting this video series together.

Orphic Machine was my This Is Jazz Today Pick of the Week for the week of its release.  Read that column here (LINK).

Your video personnel:  Ben Goldberg (clarinets), Carla Kihlstedt (violin, voice), Greg Cohen (bass), Kenny Wollesen (vibraphone), Ron Miles (trumpet), Ches Smith (drums), Jeff Parker (guitar), Rob Sudduth (tenor sax) and Myra Melford (piano).


Have a great start to your weekend!



This Is Jazz Today: Ben Goldberg, Petros Sakelliou, Yves Rousseau 4tet & more!

March 26, 2015


BitW square avatarThis is a good week for those of you who prefer your music to wander out to the fringes and take an unconventional path getting there.  Many of the albums recommended from this week’s batch of new jazz releases will satisfy that particular craving.  That said, there’s a couple excellent options for those who prefer their jazz come at them like a fastball right over the center of the plate.

Nobody gets left out of the recommendations column.  I’ll always find something you like.  With that thought in mind…

Let’s begin.

*** Pick of the Week ***


Ben Goldberg – Orphic Machine

Ben Goldberg - "Orphic Machine"Goldberg has always been the inventive sort, but it’s his way of being sneakily avant-garde that should earn him the most praise.  His ability to render challenging music into something quite embraceable is no easy thing, but that Goldberg does it one project after the other is a considerable feat.  His newest has him putting to music the words of his former teacher’s book about the art of poetry.  Joined by a very strong cast (Ron Miles, Myra Melford, Kenny Wollesen, Ches Smith, Greg Cohen, Rob Sudduth and Carla Kihlstedt), Goldberg turns the didactic into the kind of creative inspiration that the lyric’s source material instructed upon.

Read more about this album on Bird is the Worm this Monday, March 30th.

Released on BAG Productions/Royal Potato Family.

Artist site | Listen | Buy:  eMusicAmazon


*** This week’s featured albums ***


Petros Sakelliou – Visual Music Circus (Self-Produced)

Petros Sakelliou - "Visual Music Circus"A very cool perspective from pianist & composer Sakelliou, who nicely fuses Mediterranean, Afro-Latin, jazz and classical into a singular expression.  His large ensemble, strong on the reeds & strings, deftly gives a light touch to a big sound.  Whimsical, enlightening and inventive.  Expect to read more about this album on Bird is the Worm in the coming weeks.

Artist site | Listen | Buy: BandcampeMusicCDBabyAmazon


Max Frankl – Fernweh (Unit Records)

Max Frankl - "Fernweh"Nice textures created by Frankl’s use of acoustic, electric and classical guitars.  Shifts between straight-ahead modern, Nordic serene and shades in-between.  Strong imagery, often quite vivid.

Artist site | Listen | Buy:  eMusic | Bandcamp | Amazon

Read more about this album on Bird is the Worm (LINK).


Yves Rousseau 4tet – Akasha (Abalone)

Yves Rousseau - "Akasha"Stunning chamber jazz session from bassist Rousseau’s quartet (which includes drummer Christophe Marguet, violinist Regis Huby and saxophonist Jean-Marc Larche).  Vivid harmonic passages are the glue between strong melodic surges and punctuated rhythms.  Strength and beauty.

Artist site | Listen | Buy:  eMusicAmazon


Ryan Truesdell’s Gil Evans Project – Lines of Color (Blue Note/ArtistShare)

Ryan Truesdell - "Lines of Color"A live performance of Truesdell’s Gil Evans project that’s no less brilliant than its studio companion.  The orchestra’s big sound is made unimposing by its abundance of warmth.  An amazing album that repeatedly provides a sense of liftoff.

Artist site


Aaron Comess – Aaron Comess Quintet (Innsbruck)

Aaron Comess QuintetVery likable live sets from drummer Comess.  Covers of Coltrane’s “Resolution” and Harris’s “Freedom Jazz Dance” are excellent centerpieces for the straight-ahead originals.  Vibrant music with plenty of heart.

Artist site | Listen | Buy: eMusicAmazon


George Crowley – Can of Worms (Whirlwind)

George Crowley - "Can of Worms"An interesting session from saxophonist Crowley’s quintet.  Twin tenor sax formation leads to some nifty solos and warm harmonies.  Those tunes where he launches off from standard post-bop to fuzzier forms of jazz/not-jazz is where the album really takes off.

Artist site | Buy:  eMusicAmazon


Clara Haberkamp Trio – You Sea! (Laika)

Clara Haberkamp - "You Sea!"A pleasant easy-going nature to Haberkamp’s newest, which gives the piano trio format some disjointed and rambunctious moments that ratchet up the album’s personality.  Strong melodic treatments add contrast, especially when the vocals enter at unexpected intervals.  Plenty here to like.

Artist site | Buy: eMusicAmazon


Beppe di Benedetto 5tet – Another Point of View (TRJ Records)

Beppe di Benedetto - "Another Point of View"Solid new release from trombonist di Benedetto.  Like his solid 2012 release See the Sky, his quintet generates plenty of warmth and buoyant energy.  Straight-ahead jazz that speaks to both old- and new-school forms of expression.

Artist site | Listen | Buy: eMusicCDBabyAmazon


Kevin Eubanks & Stanley Jordan – Duets (Mack Avenue)

Kevin Eubanks, Stanley Jordan - "Duets"Remarkably engaging duo guitar set from two vets of the jazz scene.  Tunes possess a peaceful easy-going ambiance, even when the duo tackles the complexities of a composition or just decides to bring some heat.  Quite beautiful.

Download a free album track at Eubanks’ site (LINK).

Artist site | Listen | Buy: eMusicAmazon


The Ordinary Square – When In Paris (Hoob)

Ordinary Square - "When In Paris"Engrossing modern straight-ahead set from this Swedish quartet (sax, piano, drums, bass).  When they turn up the heat, it keeps to a comfortable warmth and when they enter a moody phase, the music stays sufficiently sunny to keep away the sadness.  Nice rainy-day music.

Artist site | Buy: eMusicAmazon


Chris McNulty – Eternal (Palmetto)

Chris McNulty - "Eternal"Rather struck by the accompaniment of vocalist McNulty’s trio as well as the chamber orchestra.  There’s a subdued grace to the music, even as it gives the impression of a sweeping majesty.  Pretty music that stays sincere.

Artist site | Buy: eMusicAmazon


Reggie Quinerly – Invictus (Self-Produced)

Reggie Quinerly - "Invictus"Drummer Quinerly’s newest is noticeably more standard modern fare than his excellent 2012 release, Music Inspired by Freedmantown.  That said, it’s plenty likable, and radiates a real friendly sort of energy.  Warren Wolf’s work on vibes are an absolute delight on this session.

Artist site | Buy:  CDBabyAmazon



Have a great time digging through the list!

And remember, it’s simple:  You like what you like.