Recommended: Duplex – “En” and “Duolia”

September 2, 2015


Duplex is the duo of saxophonist Harald Lassen and bassist Christian Meaas Svendsen.  Their modus operandi is to lay the peacefulness on thick while letting a quirky personality slip out to keep things interesting.  They’ve released a couple albums I’ve mentioned previously both here on Bird is the Worm and also my columns for eMusic’s 17 Dots and Wondering Sound.  Despite my rather busy listening schedule, I still find time to return to their recordings… so I figured I’d give them a brief mention here in a column.

Let’s begin…


Duplex – Duolia

Duplex - "Duolia"Their 2013 release Duolia gets right to the heart of their music.  The environment is one in which serenity should, and often does, thrive, and yet, Duplex create undercurrents of tension and dissonance that resonate quite strongly without shattering the prevailing tranquility that the duo maintain throughout.

Tracks like “Smukt” and “Mantra” emit a shaky peacefulness, often presenting a soothing exterior, but in the case of the former, the suddenness of certain phrasings creates a sense of unease… which in the latter is brought about with sharp rises in volume and volatility.

But essential to the music of Duplex is the way they choose to build that prevailing tranquility.  Tracks like “Siste Reise” and “Veslola” have a solemn presence made for the sunrises of Sunday mornings, for those quiet moments when the whole world enters a collective hush.  Even when the latter track grows slightly agitated, the serenity abides.

The duo slip in some additions to the sax-bass mix from time to time.  For instance, on the captivating “Matona,” m’bira is the perfect match for bass arco, and the occasional vocal chant adds both melodic and rhythmic textures without disrupting the state of equilibrium.  This, too, with the addition of vibraphone on “Wayne.”  Ultimately, these added ingredients simply cause the ripples in the lake to shine beneath the sunlight with an even greater brilliance.


Duplex – Én

Duplex - "En"Duplex’s 2015 release Én doesn’t present a radical change from Duolia, but it does accentuate the solemn qualities of their music over the unsettling undercurrent of tension.  More than before, this is laid-back music for early Sunday mornings.  This shift is bolstered by the addition of guest musicians Emilie Lidhseim on violin and Sverre Kyvik Bauge on cello.

The melody of “Kiirohige” is bathed in lovely, harmonic warmth.  “Lojal” shows that their quirky nature isn’t going away just because the face of their serenity has been altered.  Little melodic bursts blossom from out of the silences, sax and bass trading tiny expressions that eventually merge into a united whole.  “Sentient” is a rare sense of urgency, as the cries of saxophone cut through the steady, ominous pulse from bass.

Where they only flirted with it previously, this time around, the duo show a greater commitment to vocal contributions.  A track like “You Are Enough” goes for the choral harmonies and the bright tones.  When accompanied by the deep hum of saxophone, the play on light and dark has a certain appeal.  Other vocal tracks have an off-the-cuff ease about them, as if sung boozily over the last of the whiskey in the bottom of the glass.  The wavering bass notes of “City Lights” provide a nifty icy chill to accompany the warmth from the vocals.  Overall, it’s a nice thing to experience familiar creative facets but with a change in emphasis… a sense of something old, something new.


Both albums released on NORCD.

Listen to more of Duplex’s music on their Soundcloud page.

Buy Duolia at:  eMusic | Amazon

Buy En at: eMusic | Amazon


This Is Jazz Today: Josh Maxey, Liberty Ellman, Juli Wood Quartet, Baltazanis and Cesar Orozco & Kamarata Jazz

September 1, 2015


BitW square avatarSo, we continue our brisk catch-up of the This Is Jazz Today columns with five more recommendations.  And, yes, we still have a lot of catching up to do.  It’ll be another week or two before we get to our normal weekly column of 15-20 recs.  Until then, we’ll continue running some abbreviated recommendations columns.

Today, we’ve got a nice mix of different jazz sub-genres, with each album situating itself in a different spot.  Some of those spots are closer to jazz center than others, which will give you a nice bit of diversity in your buying choices.  As always, your budget belongs to us.

Let’s begin…


Josh Maxey – Celebration of Soul (Miles High Records)

Josh Maxey – "Celebration of Soul"Guitarist Maxey’s music always had an ethereal component to its sound, often bolstered by tempos that came with their own set of wings.  His recent move from NYC to the higher climes of Colorado doesn’t seem to have diminished his capacity for giving the blues an airy, fluid motion… even when the tunes emit the salt of the earth.  Organist Brian Charette, saxophonist Chase Baird, drummer Jeremy Noller (and a number of guests joining in on various guitars) slip in some swing while maintaining Maxey’s signature flow.

Artist site | Listen | Buy: BandcampeMusicAmazon


Liberty Ellman – Radiate (PI Recordings)

Liberty Ellman - "Radiate"A rather quirky personality to each of the tracks on guitarist Ellman’s newest, with many of them presented more as sonic vignettes than actual storylines.  Ultimately, it’s this odd conversation style that serves as the album’s most endearing quality, resulting in dialog that is neither conventional nor dull.  Strong line-up with alto saxophonist Steve Lehman, trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, bassist Stephan Crump, drummer Damion Reid and trombonist Jose Davila (who doubles up on tuba for this session).

Artist site | Buy: Amazon


Juli Wood Quartet – Synkka Metsa (Origin Arts)

Juli Wood – "Synkka Metsa"Wow, what a cool recording.  Based on Finnish folk songs, but delivered with a post-hard bop style that sounds equally solemn and tuneful.  Tenor saxophonist Wood’s quartet flirts with a spiritual jazz sound, but the deep swing of the rhythm section and the earthy blues of Alejandro Urzagaste’s guitar gives it more of a Tristano-style cool jazz sound.  A real magnetic personality to this recording, which should appeal to both old-school and new-school fans alike.

Artist site | Listen | Buy: eMusicAmazon


Baltazanis – End of Seas (Self-Produced)

Baltazanis - "End of Seas"Really nice modern fusion recording from guitarist Costas Baltazanis’s quintet, plus a bunch of guests adding extra percussion, wind instruments and a sole vocal track.  That polished fusion sound benefits greatly from the extra percussion, as well as the keyboard sections adding some cloudiness and opacity to the sharp, clean lines.  Melodies aren’t so much a launching point as they are exposition devices used to set the scene and build a certain ambiance.

Artist site | Listen | Buy: eMusicAmazon


César Orozco & Kamarata Jazz – No Limits for Tumbao (Alfi)

Cesar Orozco - "No Limits for Tumbao"What starts out as a relatively straight-forward Latin Jazz recording slowly reveals a dynamic array of facets… most of them nuanced, but often quite startling… much like watching the slow procession of folds of an origamist at work.  Orozco’s mix of Cuban, Venezuelan and Jazz doesn’t settle in to just one point of view, and the ever-changing panorama is one of the album’s best features.  The piano/keyboards of Orozco, bassist Rodner Padilla, percussionist Francisco Vielma and drummer Euro Zambrano are joined by a solid group of guest musicians, including Paquito D’Rivera, Pedrito Martinez and Yosvany Terry (among others).

Artist site | Buy: Amazon



Have a great time digging through the list!

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



Recommended: Ghost Rhythms – “Madeleine”

August 31, 2015


Ghost Rhythms - "Madeline"Massively fun and ornately detailed, the large ensemble Ghost Rhythms have created an adaptation of the movie score to Vertigo, but told through the eyes of poor, troubled Madeleine.

Opening track “Another Bridge” announces right from the start that neither the sound nor the spirit of the original Vertigo soundtrack is going to guide the unfolding of Ghost Rhythm’s vision.  And why should it, really, as they are choosing to view it through the perspective of a different character, one whose fate is intertwined with that of the John “Scottie” Ferguson, but fated for very different endings.  While tethered to same plot, the options for point of view are limitless.

A track like “Another Bridge” does possess some of the drifting ambiance of the original’s rises and falls of tone.  However, drawing comparisons between the two is, for the most part, a non-starter.  And thankfully so, because Madeline is bursting with personality all its own.  The charge and burn of subsequent track “I Did Not” continues the music’s unique trajectory.  And “Tree Ashes” is both evidence of the ensemble’s tight crafting of melodies and brisk, dynamic tempos to tell Madeleine’s story.

A few tracks, like “Carlotta Valdes” and “Aleph,” see the ensemble working with sprawling, expansive changes of scenery and emotional tone over the length of a single track, but for the most part, much of this music’s spirit is embodied by the four-part “Apparition,” interspersed throughout the album.  These four tracks have a strong presence, each in their own way, from the ethereal “Part 1” to the quirky tunefulness of “Part 4,” but all are rooted in a cinematic ambiance that is all kinds of magnetic.  It is more than just setting a mood or tone… these tracks perform a storytelling function via a sonic form of exposition, of world building and creation of a setting that gives context for the interpretive compositions that spring from these loci.

At use are influences of folk music, modern jazz and a slight nod to pop music and ambient minimalism.  But the mix of ingredients comes out full-bodied, a singular blend of one music perspective, and the individual characteristics only peek out here and there.  The ensemble speaks with one voice and one voice alone.

All of this leads to some stunning moments of beauty.  This, however, isn’t an obstacle for the display of a sense of humor and fun on this seriously compelling album.  Madeleine is one of the best things to be released in the first half of 2015.

Your album personnel:  Guillaume Aventurin (guitar), Sarah Baroux (voice), Maxime Berton (soprano sax, flute, bass clarinet), Julien Bigorgne (flute), Julien Blanchard (contrabass), Sonia Bricout (voice), Alexis Collin (accordion), Xavier Gélard (drums, guitar, voice), Grégory Kosovski (bass), Morgan Lowenstein (percussion), Nadia Mejri-Chappelle (cello), Camille Petit (keyboards, voice), Régis Pons (trumpet), David Rousselet (tenor sax), Maxime Thiébaut (soprano, alto & baritone saxes) and Virginie Boulignat (violin).

Listen to more of the album on the artist’s Bandcamp page.

This album is Self-Produced.

Jazz from the Paris, France scene.

Available at:  Bandcamp | eMusic | Amazon


This Is Jazz Today: Logan Strosahl Team, Shai Maestro Trio, Armel Dupas, Painting and Piotr Budniak

August 30, 2015


BitW square avatarWe’ve got five more recommendations for you as we get caught back up with our This Is Jazz Today columns.  And we still have a lot of catching up to do.  And you, well, you have too much unused space on your computers and phones and CD shelves.  Let’s fill that stuff up.

And, as always, your budget belongs to us.  Now, it’s time to begin the search again for your new favorite album.  We’ve got a nice, diverse array of new music for you today, accentuating the wide horizon line that marks the modern jazz landscape.

Let’s begin…


Logan Strosahl Team – Up We Go (Sunnyside)

Logan Strosahl - "Up We Go"There’s something supremely intoxicating about the way Strosahl’s septet plays these intricately constructed compositions with the joyful exuberance of a Mardi Gras second line.  The mix of complex intelligence and a wide, warm smile connects with both head and heart, and serious tunes can be embraced for either their cerebral facets or just out of sheer fun.  Four of the seven slots are filled by wind instruments, which leads to some harmonic thrills, but even better is the way it manifests within the playful tempos.

Artist site | Listen | Buy: BandcampeMusicAmazon


Shai Maestro Trio – Untold Stories (Motema)

Shai Maestro - "Untold Stories"A magnetic personality to this trio set from pianist Maestro, bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Ziv Ravitz.  Draped in gorgeous imagery, songs either chatter engagingly or coo softly and sweet.  Something innately introspective about all of the album’s tunes, even those that bounce about with the liveliest disposition.

Download a free album track, courtesy of the artist (LINK).

Artist site | Listen | Buy: Amazon


Armel Dupas – Upriver (Jazz Village)

Armel Dupas - "Upriver"Neat solo recording from pianist Dupas, who shows that contemplative music need not be crushed by the weight of its heavy thoughts.  Little bursts of activity via technique, prepared piano and electronic effects keep things interesting and dismantles any risk of this settling into nothing more than dinner music.  The peaceful tones are enhanced by a guest spot with a vocalist and saxophonist on a tune that drips with love song heartbreak.

Artist site | Listen | Buy:  Amazon


Painting – Gravity (Rufftone)

Painting - "Gravity"Interesting duo collaboration between pianist Emanuel Ruffler and drummer Kassa Overall.  They develop a huge electric charge over the course of their conversations, and much of it is attributable to the appealing friction resulting from their contrasting yet complementary approaches to cadence.  The repeated act of taking seemingly incompatible passages and snapping them clean into place has a very strong appeal.

Artist site | Listen | Buy: BandcampAmazon


Piotr Budniak Essential Group – Simple Stories About Hope and Worries (Soliton)

Piotr Budniak - "Simple Stories"Some nice promise displayed on the debut album from drummer Budniak.  His sextet keeps two feet in modern straight-ahead territory, with simple melodies leading to complex development, and rhythmic propulsion fueled typically by methods other than bop or swing.  A personable recording with some strong moments, especially when the melody is rolled out slow.

Artist site | Listen | Buy: eMusicAmazon



Have a great time digging through the list!

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



Recommended: Yves Rousseau 4tet – “Akasha”

August 29, 2015


Yves Rousseau - "Akasha"Chamber music, jazz and folk are the three faces presented by the Yves Rousseau 4tet on Akasha, the bassist’s newest.  But these faces are merely masks, the removal of one revealing the next in an unending stream of change to where all three influences ultimately flow into one confluence of imagery.  The sensation is one where solid ground is felt shifting calmly underfoot, and where grace abides where uncertainty might otherwise rule.  It’s where challenging music becomes as welcoming as a morning sunrise.

The album opens with the 3-part “L’eau” suite, immediately displaying the quartet’s approach of shifting the melody’s focus from one of firm pronouncement to one of elusive intent.  Melodies possess a vague familiarity and the distinct tunefulness of enduring folk songs.  But just when their presence seems to have fully defined the composition’s parameters, the quartet transforms the melodies into launching points for improvisation and unforeseen developments.  These transitions are surely crafty, but it’s their emotional punch that is their most arresting quality.

The 2-part “Le Feu” walks into the room with a boisterous, pop tune persona that bounces happily for the length of its two-minute opening salvo.  The composition’s lengthier second part sees the quartet gliding into an extended chamber jazz expression.  A saxophone solo dances gracefully on the head of a pin while violin bathes the tune in warm harmonic washes and the rhythm section bops along with determination and zeal.

But it’s the 2-part “L’air” that distinguishes itself as the gem of the recording.  Within the span of sixteen minutes, the quartet makes its strongest pronouncements of the chamber, jazz and folk music ingredients that inform this recording.  Vivid harmonic passages are the glue between strong melodic surges and punctuated rhythms.  But most essential to the affair is the way in which “L’air” enmeshes the varied influences into a singular form of expression.  It’s remarkable how the quartet is able to seamlessly incorporate the details and nuance of the disparate elements at the same time drawing with thicker lines and broader strokes.

That said, while the quartet earns the higher marks for level of technical difficulty, it’s the staggering beauty of the 2-part “L’air,” over and above the high standard set by the gorgeous tracks preceding it, that makes it such a compelling listen.  That it also so happens to end the affair… finishing a very strong album with its strongest moments… is about as satisfying a conclusion as one could hope for.

There are two stand-alone tracks interspersed amongst the 2- and 3-part suites.  “La Terre” is an extended sigh, a brief handful of minutes within that blissful state of peace between dwindling wakefulness and deep sleep.  “Ether” exists in that same place, but instead of restful sleep, it embodies the unpredictable nature of fitful dreams.  In addition to being lovely tunes, they also serve as handy interludes between the longer-form pieces.

An album with vast strength and presence to complement its stunning beauty.

Your album personnel:  Yves Rousseau (double bass), Régis Huby (violins), Jean-Marc Larché (alto & soprano saxes) and Christophe Marguet (drums).

Listen to more of the album at the artist site.

Released on Abalone Productions.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon