On the air tonight, 6-8pm (EST): ArtXFM Mingle

July 21, 2015


BitW square avatarI’ll be returning as a guest tonight on the Louisville-based ArtXFM show Mingle, hosted by Kevin Coultas.

Tonight I’ll be featuring music from four smaller, but strong labels:  Hubro Music, Songlines Recordings, Traumton and PJCE.

I think I’ll be taking this approach for the next couple of monthly guest appearances.  I’ve already got El Negocito Records lined up for August, and making some plans for some others.

I think it’ll be a helpful discovery method for some of you to explore more music without having to necessarily remember a bunch of artist names.

The show runs from 6-8pm (EST).  If you can’t check it out live, I’ll be posting the audio archive of the show, as well as some micro-reviews of some of the albums featured on the show.



This Is Jazz Today: Wayne Horvitz, Laszlo Gardony, RighteousGIRLS and more!

July 20, 2015


BitW square avatarAnd here’s Part II of this week’s recommendations.  A couple things worth noting:  One, both co-Albums of the Week were released by Songlines Recordings.  It’s a label that has put out some excellent music, but they especially seem to be on a roll lately.  Also, guitarist Tony Wilson has notched Album of the Week two weeks in a row- this week as part of the Waxwing trio and last week with his 6tet recording A Day’s Life.  That’s a hell of an accomplishment.

Today’s batch of recommendations seems either to be a traditional jazz fastball right over the heart of the plate or inventive music that might not even be playing the sport of Jazz.  All of it is seriously good stuff.

Let’s begin.

*** Album of the Week ***


Wayne Horvitz – Some Places Are Forever Afternoon

Wayne Horvitz - "Some Places are Forever Afternoon"The thing about pianist & composer Wayne Horvitz is that even though he has his hands in any number of creatively diverse projects, his particular sound is remarkably singular and distinguishable.  It’s as good a reason as any to explain the admirable synthesis that occurs when he brings his Gravitas Quartet and Sweeter Than The Day ensembles together on his newest album.  Cornetist Ron Miles, bassoonist Sara Schoenbeck, cellist Peggy Lee, guitarist Tim Young, bassist Keith Lowe and drummer Eric Eagle join the piano & keyboards & electronics of Horvitz for a masterpiece of Horvitz’s unique expression of cinematic jazz-chamber-folk… highly lyrical, deeply melodic music that inspires imagery of full-moon nights over dark alleys, warm beams of sunlight cast through the gaping holes of abandoned industrial complexes, and a curious tranquility that radiates a reverential tone and an ambiance tailored for paradise.

We’re about a month away from a series of Wayne Horvitz columns.  Get a head start and pick up this album right now.

Released on Songlines Recordings.

Visit the artist site.  Read more at the artist’s project blog.

Download a free album track at the Songlines site.

More listening | Buy:  BandcampeMusicAmazon


*** Also Featured This Week ***


Laszlo Gardony – Life In Real Time (Sunnyside)

Laszlo Gardony - "Life In Real Time"A real vibrancy to the new one from pianist Gardony, who adds three saxophonists to round out a sextet on this live performance.  The heart of hard bop throughout, with a huge warmth, a big sound, and plenty of bluesy grooves and soulful reveries.  I’m pretty well addicted to this recording, and it’ll definitely put a smile on the faces of old-school fans who feel disconnected from the modern jazz scene.

Artist site | Listen | Buy: eMusicBandcampAmazon


Judith & Dave O’Higgins – The Abstract Truth Big Band (Self-Produced)

Dave O'Higgins - "The Abstract Truth Big Band"Really enjoyable set from Dave & Judith O’Higgins’ big band, putting a nice touch on Jorg Achim Keller’s arrangements of the great Oliver Nelson recording Blues & the Abstract Truth.  Music that sounds like it comes from the era of its source material and full of the life of today.  Reminded of just how evocative the song “Stolen Moments” is as an opening track, and just how strong it resonates for the length of a recording.

Artist site | Listen | Buy: eMusicAmazon


Satoko Fujii Tobira – Yamiyo Ni Karasu (Libra)

Satoko Fujii Tobira - "Yamiyo Ni Karasu"After hearing the massive sounds emanating from pianist Fujii’s latest, it’s difficult to believe that her Tobira consists of just four musicians.  Fujii, bassist Todd Nicholson, drummer/percussionist Takashi Itani and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura create music as a force of will, possessing a nature that is fickle and inclined to change without warning.  From the dissonance, some wonderful moments of quiet, alluring harmony.

Artist site


RighteousGIRLS – Gathering Blue (New Focus Recordings)

RighteousGIRLS - "Gathering Blue"Strangely compelling debut from pianist Erika Doh and flautist Gina Izzo.  They capture the spirit of the late-60s, when jazz was entering an out period, and compositional seeds and improvisational waves were less inclined to produce form than they were presence.  Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire is both a guest musician on the recording and a contributor of a composition, along with Vijay Iyer, Pascal Le Boeuf, Christian Carey and others.

Artist site | Listen | Buy: eMusicAmazon


Jacques Lesure – Camaraderie (WJ3 Records)

Jacques Lesure - "Camaraderie"Likable straight-ahead set from guitarist Lesure.  Plenty of blues and swing generating anything from a fiery heat to an intimate warmth.  A line-up of pro’s pros with vibraphonist Warren Wolf, pianist Eric Reed, bassist Nat Reeves and drummer Willie Jones III.

Artist site | Listen | Buy: eMusicAmazon


Jeff Kowalkowski – (Trio) (New Atlantis)

Jeff Kowalkowski - (Trio)There’s nothing straight-forward about this avant-garde trio set from pianist Kowalkowski, bassist Harrison Bankhead and drummer Avreeayl Ra, and yet patterns emerge that create not only a sense of expectation but are also positively mesmerizing.  That said, the music’s stop-and-go motion, its clashes and collisions, and its sudden scene changes are far more likely to keep the ear riveted than send the mind drifting deep into thought.  Powerful, driving music that doesn’t try to bully the listener into submission.


Smart Metal Hornets & Dix – Archduke Shuffle (ATS Records)

Smart Metal Hornets and Dix - "Archduke Shuffle"Plenty of thick grooves to carry whimsical melodies along in their embrace on this quartet session consisting of one drummer and three musicians working a small armory of brass and woodwind instruments.  Fat sounds that allow pauses and respites to breathe and gain strength without weakening the flow of the cadence.  Fun music and more than a little catchy.



Have a great time digging through the list!

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



And be sure to check out Part I of this week’s column


This Is Jazz Today: Waxwing, Reuben Bradley, Headless Household and more!

July 19, 2015


BitW square avatarWell, it appears that the slow days of Summer are about to yield to the next surge of new Jazz releases.  So many were the albums worth mentioning this week that I had to break the new This Is Jazz Today column into two parts.  And since I found two albums both worthy of the title Album of the Week, it seems most apropos to have a split column.  Part I is today, Part II is tomorrow, and a co-Album of the Week will grace the lead of each.

If you have a vacation planned, cancel it.  Thinking about buying a new car?  Scratch that off the list.  Pull together whatever spare cash you can come up with, because the next two days are going to demand everything you’ve got.

And your ears?  They’ll never stop thanking you.

Let’s begin.

*** co-Album of the Week ***


Waxwing – A Bowl of Sixty Taxidermists

Waxwing - "A Bowl of Sixty Taxidermists"Nothing is as it seems and something unfolds from out of everything on this fascinating set from guitarist Tony Wilson, cellist Peggy Lee and multi-reedist Jon Bentley.  It’s equal parts chamber music, modern jazz and avant-garde improvisation, and there’s just no telling where the lines of demarcation exist between the influences or where they’ll next make their mark.  This is contemplative music even at its most frenetic.  This is music that is introspective in spirit and outward bound in action.  And it’s music that is sublime in any number of ways.

I’ll be writing more about this album (and their previous one) in the coming weeks, but don’t wait for more words… go buy it now.

Released on Songlines Recordings.  Visit the artist site.

Download a free album track at the Songlines site.

More listening | Buy: eMusicAmazon


*** Also Featured This Week ***


Reuben Bradley – Cthulhu Rising (Rattle)

Reuben Bradley - "Cthulhu Rising"Intriguing release from drummer Bradley, who works an H.P. Lovecraft theme into his newest.  The quality I most appreciate about this recording is that it nicely reflects the spirit of the works of the source author… ancient horrors hiding behind the quaint normalcy of pastoral countrysides… by infusing bits of dissonance and indie-rock fire into what amounts to a relatively straight-ahead sound.  In the context of the history of their own separate projects, it was a wise choice to round the trio out with pianist Taylor Eigsti and bassist Matt Penman.

Artist Site | Listen | Buy:  eMusicAmazon


Headless Household – Balladismo (Household Ink)

Headless Household - "Balladismo"There’s just no encapsulating the entirety of this quartet’s breadth of expressions.  Cross-genre interconnecting lines of sonic languages somehow are molded into a deliriously fun mix of old & new jazz, bluegrass, folk, avant-garde and classical minimalism.  At its core, they’re a quartet of keyboardist Dick Dunlap, drummer Tom Lackner, bassist Chris Symer and guitarist Joe Woodard, but the inclusion of a diverse line-up that brings together pedal steel, saxophone, electronics, vocals, violin and trumpet is a good barometer for the creative fearlessness at work here.

Artist Site | Listen | Buy:  eMusicAmazon


K Trio – Vindstig (TryTone)

K Trio - "Vindstig"This quirky piano trio really settles into a new gear on their captivating fourth release, displaying a melodic thoughtfulness and rhythmic patience that really allows their vision to emerge with clarity.  The theme of the album is pegged to the many Icelandic words for “wind,” and the music reflects both the comfort and the bite that it can bring depending on the time of day and season.  Arresting music in possession of a keen intelligence.

Artist Site | Listen | Buy: BandcampeMusicCDBabyAmazon


Chris Pitsiokos – Gordian Twine (New Atlantis)

Chris Pitsiokos - "Gordian Twine"A sense of controlled fury, even when everything sounds as if it’s coming apart at the seams… which is pretty often.  Saxophonist Pitsiokos, bassist Max Johnson and drummer Kevin Shea trio up for this live set from Brooklyn’s Firehouse Space.  Many pieces moving in many directions sometimes come together for startling acts of simplicity.

Artist Site | Listen | Buy: BandcampeMusicAmazon


Robert Sabin – Humanity Part II (Self-Produced)

Robert Sabin - "Humanity Pt 2"On his latest, bassist Sabin weaves a cinematic ambiance into the rich textures and big sound of his large ensemble work.  The way in which the ensemble coalesces around a soloist without necessarily snapping into place creates the most wonderful sparks of tension within the warm embrace of cohesion.  A serious talent of riches for his line-up, with Matt Holman, John Yao, Ben Stapp, Jesse Lewis and Jason Ribgy among the names familiar to this column.

Artist Site | Listen | Buy: eMusicBandcampCDBabyAmazon


Oláh Szabolcs Quintet – Gleam (Self-Produced)

Olah Szabolcs - "Gleam"An appealing modern jazz set from guitarist Szabolcs.  Whether up-tempo or quietly introspective, his quintet (guitar, sax, piano, bass, drums) offers up all kinds of fireplace warmth.  Tunes start out with a simple statement of melody, then slowly roll out the complexity all the way to the finish line.

Artist Site | Listen | Buy: eMusicAmazon


Heads of State – Search for Peace (Smoke Sessions)

Heads of State - "Search for Peace"Enjoyable new recording from the Smoke Sessions Records label.  All old pros, saxophonist Gary Bartz, pianist Larry Willis, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Al Foster take care of business on a number of familiar tunes.  They open the set nicely with a rendition of Coltrane’s “Impressions,” but it’s the McCoy Tyner title-track is the diamond that shines brightest on this album.


Albert Van Veenendaal & Rutger Van Otterloo – No Trace (Brokken Records)

Albert Van Veenendaal, Rutger Van Otterloo - "No Trace"Gripping duo set from pianist Van Veenendaal and saxophonist Van Otterloo.  The songlist is a mix of active conflict and sublime tranquility.  An instance where the clarity of dialog between two musicians is sufficiently great in strength to pull the listener in to become a part of that two-way conversation.


San Francisco Latin Jazz Society – Sonrisa (Ahau)

San Francisco Latin Jazz Society - "Sonrisa"Nice to see a new recording from the San Francisco Latin Jazz Society, whose mix of Latin Jazz and 1970s psych-jazz fusion is both fun and absorbing.  Plenty of grooves and melodic fragments sent coasting on the rhythmic waves.  The dynamics of the focused rhythmic passages are just as engaging and the long and winding paths of the improvisations.


Have a great time digging through the list!

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



 And be sure to check out Part II of this week’s This Is Jazz Today



Recommended: Tore Brunborg – “Slow Snow”

July 16, 2015


Tore Brunborg - "Slow Snow"The most arresting quality of Slow Snow is the way in which the quartet of saxophonist Tore Brunborg subtly modulates the cadence as an undercurrent to deeply melodic excursions.  Up-tempo, contemplative, slow & cool strolls… Brunborg’s quartet scrunches those distances down to a matter of inches, and the subtlety of those transitions allows dramatic changes to occur with a remarkable, appealing ease.

The absorbing, introspective “Shelter” and “Lost and Found” with the occasional sun rays that burst through the moody grey skies doesn’t seem at all out place rubbing elbows with the simple groove, the electric crunch, and heartfelt blues of “Tune In.”

“Tree Strong, Tall Swaying, Swinging, Sighing” works an easy groove as a tool for melodic emphasis.  It’s an approach that works with even greater effect on the simmering intensity of “Wherever You Go.”  “Liquefied” dials it down and turns around and dials it right back up again.  Conversely, “History” occupies a small space in which to mesmerize through the use of flowing motion and thoughtful melodicism.

A little overdubbing allows Brunborg to match up his sax and piano expressions on the same composition.  This and the mix of acoustic and electronic elements provides some space & soil duality.  It’s the kind of thing that allows a slow build of anticipation to develop, as well as a slow reveal of new tonal facets with each subsequent listen.

The melodies of Slow Snow will demand the spotlight’s attention, but it beguiles through its motion.

Your album personnel:  Tore Brunborg (tenor sax, piano), Eivind Aarset (guitar, electronics), Steinar Raknes (double bass) and Per Oddvar Johansen (drums, electronics).

Released on ACT Music.

Listen to album tracks on the artist site.

Buy:  eMusic | Amazon


Recommended: Catfish – “Restraint”

July 15, 2015


Catfish - "Restraint"The winning quality of Restraint is its sense of permanence, of possessing the kind of expressions that remain lodged in the memory to where the album’s concluding note signals not an end, only the beginning of anticipation for when it’s time to press play all over again.  And during that interval, the music lingers.

The ensemble Catfish blends modern jazz, contemporary classical and indie pop… an approach that is becoming more and more prevalent on the modern jazz landscape.  It’s a nice trend and it leads to some very pretty and very compelling moments… but the results don’t always stick around for very long.  The music of Restraint, at times, is quite ephemeral, but the building crescendos and the proud, bold pronouncements of melody at a song’s peak, definitively stated and repeated with patience and certainty, this leaves its imprint on the ear.  This is music with staying power.

A device the ensemble utilizes with unqualified success is by leading in with eddies and pools of improvisation, providing just the barest sense of shape and form before the melody suddenly shines through, loud, clear and full of warmth and thick lines easy to wrap up and embrace.  “||Addiction||” does this swimmingly, as does “The Lovers of Roissy.”  The equation is flipped on its head with “The Sea Makes the Rules,” but its effect is no less profound.

Sometimes the transitions from vague formlessness to huge presence happen within the duration of a song and sometimes Catfish effects the change in song bundles of two.  “Wistaria Dr. 4AM” is all nervous energy and leads sweetly into the gracefully flowing melody of “Some Things Are Worth Fighting For.”  And “Arch Cape” is a warm infusion of thick harmonies and a melody that stretches out for miles, which makes the scattered pieces of the subsequent “{{Mothh}}” that much more striking upon its arrival.

It’s an absolutely gorgeous album that offers up some stunning moments.

Your album personnel:  Joe Cunningham (tenor sax, percussion, piano, Rhodes, organ), Dan Duval (guitar, piano), Ken Ollis (drums) and guests: Lee Elderton (soprano sax, clarinet), Kyleen King (viola), Patty King (violin), Jeff Baxter (piano), Ben Kates (alto sax), Jon Shaw (bass) and Reed Wallsmith (alto sax).

Released on PJCE.

Listen to more of the album at the label’s Bandcamp page.

Music from the Portland, Oregon scene.

Available at: Bandcamp | eMusic | Amazon