Baloni – “Belleke”

August 21, 2014


Baloni - "Belleke"Belleke is an odd sort of chamber jazz recording, where the expected elegance is eschewed for a gawky, captivating motion.  With their sophomore release, Baloni, the string trio of violist Frantz Loriot, bassist Pascal Niggenkemper, and multi-reedist Joachim Badenhorst hit on a range of expressionism that covers the breadth from an uneasy serenity all the way to a crashing wave of dissonance.  Yet, despite the varying degrees of silence and sound, the songs all sound part of a cohesive image.

The gorgeous harmonies that open the door and invite the listener in on title-track “Belleke” continue to lay the groundwork for this album’s underlying tranquility even as Badenhorst slides over the surface with a trembling clarinet passage.  That mix of agitation and ease is why subsequent track “Building Nothing out of Something” can enter with a low hum of dissonance struck through with abrasive growls, and yet still sound fluid and logical in the flow of one album track to the next.

On “Mon Seul Désir,” the trio are like wolves howling up to the moon, the disconnected notes bound by a common purpose.  Similar to tracks “”Snowflakes” and “What Grows Beneath,” the music is framed in an unsettled peacefulness, vulnerable to the shifting tides of “Feuertreppe” and “Forgetting,” both with passages ferocious and stunningly beautiful, as well as the brazen cacophony of “Turning Inwards, Like a Glove,” “Heaving Hearts” and “Casse Méditative,” untamed songs of an unpredictable nature.

And through it all, a motion with a strange and captivating flow.

Your album personnel:  Frantz Loriot (viola), Pascal Niggenkemper (double bass), and Joachim Badenhorst (clarinet, bass clarinet, sax).

Released on Clean Feed Records.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon MP3



Some of this review’s intro was used originally in the weekly new jazz releases column I write for eMusic (via Wondering Sound), so here’s some language protecting their rights to the reprinted material as the one to hire me to write about new jazz arrivals to their site…

New Arrivals Jazz Picks,“ reprints courtesy of, Inc.
© 2014, Inc.

As always, my sincere thanks to eMusic & Wondering Sound for the gig.

My new eMusic Jazz Picks are up at Wondering Sound

August 20, 2014


As most of you are aware, I have been writing a weekly column for that gives a rundown of the best of the new Jazz releases each week (my Jazz Picks).  Well, eMusic has spun off their editorial function to a completely separate site, called Wondering Sound.  It’s still an eMusic thing, but my Jazz Picks will now be posted over on the Wondering Sound site.

So don’t freak out when the link takes you to an unfamiliar site.  I’ll be reprinting this introduction for the next handful of weeks, just so that everyone becomes familiar with the changes.

Now, that said, my new recommendations have just been posted up on the Wondering Music site HERE.

Notable albums from this week’s article are:

Gordon Lee-Mel Brown Septet - "Tuesday Night" Jason Steele's Messenger Collective - "Vol.1 Wirewalker"Jason Adasiewicz Sun Rooms - "From the Region"  Cyrille Aimee - "It's a Good Day"




… and a bunch of other solid options.  Nice diverse mix of jazz subsets, so everyone should find at least one thing that floats their boat.


Brandee Younger – “The Brandee Younger 4tet: Live at the Breeding Ground”

August 19, 2014


Brandee Younger 4tet - "Live at the Breeding Ground"There is a raw energy to The Brandee Younger 4tet: Live at the Breeding Ground, which is a potent quality for a contemporary jazz fusion album to possess.  A forward-thinking contemporary jazz sound, harpist Brandee Younger‘s quintet doesn’t treat the thick grooves as the reason for the season, but instead simply utilizes those grooves as fuel for some great solos and interplay.  The result is a live performance recording that will make a listener feel like they are there in the moment, and that the moment is already transitioning to something new.

Also important, Younger keeps her harp in the middle of the pack.  Too many times, a musician leading a jazz unit with a non-traditional instrument either stays too far to the back of the stage, almost hesitant to make a peep or swings in the opposite direction and insinuates their sound into everything… as if saying, look, my instrument is a real jazz instrument, too!  But Younger doesn’t lean to either extreme, instead finding her spots in each song, leading from the center of the music, and displaying not a little bit of confidence… a remarkable thing considering that, aside from a 2011 EP and some singles in the time since, The Brandee Younger 4tet: Live at the Breeding Ground qualifies as her debut behind the steering wheel.

And really, why shouldn’t she be confident?  Aside from the obvious talent, harp really isn’t an unheard of thing in Jazz.  Back in the day, Dorothy Ashby showed the world that harp could breathe bop air via some nifty collaborations with the great Frank Wess.  Alice Coltrane obliterated a number of doors by serving as a driving force in husband John’s later, heavy free period, and then on her own with some outstanding spiritual jazz sessions in the late 60s and into the subsequent decade.  In the modern era, there’s Carol Robbins carving out territory in the straight-ahead sphere and Iro Haarla creating all kinds of beautiful serenity on the Nordic jazz subset of the modern landscape.

And, thankfully, Younger seems intent on claiming her own patch of Jazz.  Even as she includes compositions by her harpist forbears, Ashby and Coltrane, both the bop and the spirit are clearly focused through Younger’s perspective, looking ahead as she honors the past.

Not for nothing, this album is very cool.

Your album personnel:  Brandee Younger (harp), Stacy Dillard (soprano sax), Chelsea Baratz (tenor sax), Dezron Douglas (electric & acoustic basses), and E.J. Strickland (drums).

The album is Self-Produced.

Jazz from NYC.

Available at:  eMusic | Bandcamp | CDBaby | Amazon MP3


Das Blaue Pony – “Zweigedanken”

August 18, 2014


Das Blaue Pony - "Zweigedanken"An album I’ve been particularly enjoying lately is Zweigedanken, the debut album by Das Blaue Pony.  A quartet led out by two saxophones, they display an appealing restraint that leads to a nice contrast between the weight and heat inherent in the lead instruments and the soft warmth generated by their expressions.

This especially comes into play on a track like “Abschied (im Guten),” where saxophonist Johannes Moritz switches over to bass clarinet, providing a resonant hum as a balance to the spry flightiness of Sebastien Wehle‘s soprano sax.  And the contrast between tenor and soprano saxophones is no less potent.  On “Der Schwarze Peter,” the woodwind sighs float harmoniously across the room, while the rhythmic diversions of drummer Phillip Scholz accentuate their fluttering beauty by sometimes matching their cadence and sometimes counteracting their weightlessness.

Das Blaue Pony doesn’t offer up strong melodies so much as great opening lines to chapters.  Songs like “Sturmvogel” and “Der Rückzug der Eisbären” treat their melodies more as concepts than concrete statements, and it’s a big reason why this music maintains a beautiful drifting ambiance despite an instrumental array that could lead to the sharp angles and distinct lines of a hard sonic geometry.  The latter of those two tracks has bassist Robert Lucaciu providing one of several rhythmic volleys he scatters throughout the recording.  These flurries are typically brief with an economy of lyricism, and it’s the way in which they insinuate themselves seamlessly into the flow of an otherwise fluid conversation that makes them so damn compelling.  Scholz performs a similar feat on drums at various intervals, and the way in which both wind instruments play off the percussion leads to some tiny thrills.

There’s no lack of heat on this recording, but it’s dispensed in small doses.  Most tracks fall in line with “Eintagfliege,” which has the quartet rearing back their heads for a brief shout to the skies.  This is typically preceded by a slow build up from a mild serenity and a subsequent descent back down to it just as the song reaches its conclusion.  This pattern, thankfully, isn’t without deviation.  Tracks like “Der Schwarze Peter,” “Schwalbentiefflug,” and album-closer “Das traurige Pony” keep to the quiet end of the spectrum, letting peace reign, and allowing that wonderful contrast of heavy and lightness envelop the song.

A very enjoyable recording, and one that keeps getting better to my ears.

Your album personnel:  Johannes Moritz (tenor sax, bass clarinet), Sebastian Wehle (tenor & soprano saxophones), Robert Lucaciu (double bass), and Philipp Scholz (drums, percussion, glockenspiel).

Released on Unit Records.

Jazz from the Leipzig, Germany scene.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon MP3


Das Blaue Pony – “Eintagfliege”

August 17, 2014


Today’s featured video is from the quartet Das Blaue Pony, performing the song “Eintagfliege” from their new album Zweigedanken.

It will be reviewed tomorrow, Monday 8/18/14, here, on Bird is the Worm.  Here’s a taste of what’s to come…

Your video personnel:  Johannes Moritz (tenor sax), Sebastian Wehle (soprano saxophone), Robert Lucaciu (double bass), and Philipp Scholz (drums, percussion, glockenspiel).


Have a great Sunday!