These are videos that I like: Thomas Carbou – “Mademoiselle Elle”

June 29, 2015


Thomas Carbou - "Other Colors of Hekate"Today’s featured video is from Thomas Carbou’s Hekátê Trio, performing the song “Mademoiselle Elle” live at the Montreal Jazz Festival (2014).

For this performance, the trio is joined by saxophonist David Binney, which is not only a treat in itself, but also relevant to Carbou’s latest recording, Other Colors of Hekátê, one of this week’s This Is Jazz Today recommendations.

And though the personnel do change from this performance versus the new release, the overall sound is remarkably consistent, and this’ll give you a pretty decent sense of what you’re getting into.

Read more about the new Carbou album, here (LINK).

Now, here’s that video…

Your video personnel:  Thomas Carbou (8-string guitar), Erik Hove (sax), Evan Tighe (drums) and guest: David Binney (sax).


Worth noting that the other band members have all received nice write-ups on this site (and my Wondering Sound column), so definitely spend some time on Bird is the Worm checking them out.

I hope your week is off to a great start.


This Is Jazz Today: John Hollenbeck, Dave Douglas, Quintet Silsila and more!

June 28, 2015


BitW square avatarThis week yields a real jackpot to fans of jazz vocals.  Plenty of solid options no matter how you like your lyrics delivered.  But, as usual, we here at Bird is the Worm like to show how vast the horizon line is on the modern jazz landscape, so even if vocals aren’t your thing, there’s plenty here to keep your ears busy for yet another week.  We’ve got some old-school jazz and new-school, small ensembles & large, music with electronics and music with strong infusions of folk and rock… and more.

We’ve got something for you.

Let’s begin.

*** Album of the Week ***


John Hollenbeck – Songs We Like A Lot

John Hollenbeck - "Songs We Like a Lot"On any particular recording, there’s a natural inclination to focus on the vocals, which tend to stand front and center.  And on this recording, why not, considering the talented cast of vocalists Kate McGarry & Theo Bleckmann are on board.  But in this instance, it’s the arrangements of these popular songs that deserves the most attention and the resultant, fascinating life that bubbles up from within.  Drummer Hollenbeck’s new installment of pop song renditions hits a new plateau of thoughtfulness, as he exploits insights into what makes the songs tick and transforms them into huge expressions of clockwork intricacies.  He takes inherent possibilities and nurtures them into massive realizations, exploring forms of expression that, perhaps, the original composers never entertained.  Pianist Uri Caine, organist (and on melodica) Gary Versace and the Frankfurt Radio Big Band join Hollenbeck, McGarry and Bleckmann to make this happen.

Released on Sunnyside Records.  Visit the artist site.

More Listening | Buy: BandcampeMusicAmazon


*** Also Featured This Week ***


Dave Douglas – High Risk (Greenleaf Music)

Dave Douglas - "High Risk"Nifty bit of experimentation with acoustic jazz and live electronics from the quartet of trumpeter Dave Douglas, bassist Jonathan Maron, drummer Mark Guiliana and Ghostly International’s Shigeto working the control panel of effects.  Ethereal tranquility share the same space as driven tempos.  Music that can send you off into daydreams or catapult you into a motivated frenzy, depending on what you want to take from it.

Artist site | Listen | Buy: BandcampAmazon


Quintet Silsila – Désert du Thar (Self-Produced)

Quintet Silsila - "Desert du Thar"Strong perspective from this quintet of saxophone, violin, bass, percussion and piano.  The kind of folk-jazz that will appeal most to fans of the Anouar Brahem hall of ECM Records or, really, anyone that enjoys a pretty flowing melody atop talkative rhythms.  It’s an album that drips with serenity, even when its activity level increases to the point that risks shattering the sustained tranquility.

Artist site | Listen | Buy: eMusicAmazon


Kasper Lindberg Kvartett – Important Conference (Self-Produced)

Kasper Lindberg - "Important Conference"An irresistible pull on this session from drummer Lindberg, whose quartet (alto sax, piano, bass, drums) generates an evocative punch from seemingly innocuous expressions.  Most tracks keep to a straight-ahead approach, though some echo the late-bop period of the last century.  When the quartet grows contemplative, their sound really shines strong.

Artist site | Listen | Buy: eMusicAmazon


Mente Clara – Forrozêra (Self-Produced)

Mente Clara - "Forrozera"Sort of a roots & reach mix of influences from this Austin, Texas-based band that finds inspiration in Brazilian music, especially that of Hermeto Pascoal.  This Tex-Braz blend results in a dynamic rhythmic attack that keeps to abiding, easy-to-please grooves.  A fun personality to this electro-acoustic set.

Artist site | Listen | Buy: BandcampeMusicAmazon


Kasperi Sarikoski & Nuance – Essence (Helsinki Jazz Underground)

Kasperi Sarikoski - EssenceA pleasantly cerebral debut from trombonist Sarikoski.  His quintet shifts between expressions of an introspective moodiness to an aromatic lightness.  Acoustic guitar adds an essential texture to the affair, and balances nicely with the more conventional piano, bass and drums rhythm section.

Artist site | Buy: eMusicAmazon


Ran Blake – Ghost Tones: Portraits of George Russell (A-Side Records)

Ran Blake - "Ghost Tones"Intriguing tribute album by pianist Blake for his former colleague at the New England Conservatory, George Russell.  A mix of Russell and Blake originals, solo pieces and ensemble, straight-acoustic and electronic reveries.  I gave it a lengthier write-up not that long ago; read it here (LINK).

Artist site | Listen | Buy: CDBaby | Amazon


Ku-umba Frank Lacy & Mingus Big Band – Mingus Sings (Sunnyside)

Frank Lacy - "Mingus Sings"Pretty cool how Lacy’s vocals suss out the I’ve-been-there blues and soaring aspirations of the music of Charles Mingus.  Lacy also snaps neatly into place with the big band that has Mingus as its namesake, his vocal delivery retaining its curious personality amongst the large ensemble.  Easy to like.

No artist site | Listen | Buy: BandcampeMusicAmazon


Charenee Wade – Offering: The Music of Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson (Motema)

Charenee Wade - "Offering"A really heartfelt take by vocalist Wade on the music of poet-musician collaborators Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson.  Wade brings a soul-on-the-sleeve sincerity to the lyrics, which, really, were emotionally open to begin with.  Nice ensemble & guests working with Wade, though Stefon Harris on vibraphone is a special treat, as is the guest spot by Marcus Miller on bass clarinet.

Artist site | Buy: BandcampeMusicAmazon


Thomas Carbou – Other Colors of Hekátê (Ad Litteram)

Thomas Carbou - "Other Colors of Hekate"A real vibrant personality to this one, typically expressed through a serious knack for tunefulness and a folk music friendliness.  It’s a trio of Carbou with his 8-string guitar, David Binney on alto sax and Jim Black on drums.  Grooves that are as thoughtful as they are fun make this music that’s plenty lively but still great just to kick back to and simply exist.


Powerhouse – In An Ambient Way (Chesky)

Powerhouse - "In An Ambient Way"This rendition of the Miles Davis classic, In a Silent Way, is, on its own two feet, a pretty cool recording.  That it’s a posthumous Bob Belden release gives it meaning more profound than the album’s sum as a collection of notes.  Joining the saxophonist on this recording are trumpeter Wallace Roney, guitarist Oz Noy, bassist Daryl Johns, drummer Lenny White and Kevin Hays on Fender Rhodes.


Rossano Emili – In Limine (Alma Records)

Rossano Emili - "In Limine"Nice expressive tone from bari saxophonist Emili’s sextet, comprised of three saxophonists, a trombonist and drums & bass.  Harmonies are like a hall of mirrors that reflect the melody into curious shapes.  This effect, though, in coordination with some interesting cadences, does nothing to impede a strong lyricism.


Jacopo Mazza – Gravel Path (La Fonderia Musicale)

Jacopo Mazza - "Gravel Path"Nice straight-ahead session from pianist Mazza.  The intertwining patterns between he and guitarist Michele Caiati are a nice draw.  Plenty of good soloing, but it’s how the quartet collaborates as a single rhythm unit that is the album’s calling card.


Book of Sounds – Book of Sounds (ILK Music)

Book of Sounds - "Book of Sounds"Nice inside/out session from this double-saxophone quartet.  Some strong infusions of bop and swing accompanied by saxophone interplay that clearly believes in self-determination over the destiny foretold by its rhythm section.  So, you’re gonna get some edgy action and comforting warmth, both.



Have a great time digging through the list!

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



Recommended: Ran Blake – “Ghost Tones: Portraits of George Russell”

June 23, 2015


Ran Blake - "Ghost Tones"Ran Blake utilizes a skewed paradigm for his tribute album in honor of the music of George Russell.  On Ghost Tones, the pianist emphasizes the spirit of the Russell’s music more than the compositions themselves, sometimes even to the point where the renditions of some Russell compositions sound more reminiscent of their counterparts than the song being performed at the time.  It’s a holistic approach to an artist’s body of work, and it gets to where an admirable irrelevance is achieved as to whether a particular album track happens to be a George Russell composition or a Ran Blake original.

Case in point:  The Russell composition “Living Time” sees Blake in septet formation and charging ahead as the embodiment of tunefulness through sheer force of will, and yet the song structure and the impressionist flair during the solos kicks out a hazy picture that contrasts beautifully with the tempo’s clear focus.  “Biography,” on the other hand, a Blake original, flirts with an edge of space/cusp of nightmare quality that emanates from certain Russell recordings.  Both songs, in their way, honor both the music and the spirit of the tribute’s subject.

Other standout tracks:

“Alice Norbury” has all the shiny ingredients for a comforting soundscape, but Blake fashions the song into dangerous shards and offers, instead, an icy edge.

The cadence of “Jack’s Blues” tries to reflect an optimistic outlook, but the melodic incursions reveal a profound sadness simmering beneath the surface of things.

Violin and pedal steel get into the mix for the “Ballad of Hix Blewitt,” and it becomes a question of how much beauty of listener’s heart can hold before it breaks in two.

The shift between solo pieces and those with accompaniment flows nicely from track to track, providing welcome variation in tone and temper over the course of the recording.

Really just a fascinating album, possessing an impressive mix of intelligence and emotional punch.

Your album personnel:  Ran Blake (acoustic piano, Casio Priva PX-310 electric piano), Peter Kenagy (trumpet), Aaron Hartley (trombone), Doug Pet (tenor sax), Eric Lane (piano, Nord Electro, Fender Rhodes), Jason Yeager (piano), Ryan Dugre (guitar), Dave Fabris (pedal steel guitar), Rachel Massey (violin), Brad Barrett (acoustic & electric basses), David Flaherty (drums, timpani), Charles Burchell (drums, timpani, vibraphone) and Luke Moldof (electronics).

Released on A-Side Records.

Visit the artist site.

Listen to another album track on Soundcloud.

Available at:  CDBaby | Amazon


This Is Jazz Today (Part II): Robert Glasper, Chris Dingman, Terell Stafford and more!

June 20, 2015


BitW square avatarAs promised on Thursday, here’s Part II of this week’s This Is Jazz Today recommendations column.  You can find Part I, which includes the Album of the Week, here-> LINK

It was a great week of new music, too much to contain in a solitary column, and plenty to keep you busy until I return with another batch of recommendations.

Sorry about your budget, but you need this music.

Let’s begin…


Robert Glasper – Covered (Blue Note)

Robert Glasper - "Covered"A return to the trio format for pianist Glasper, seeing him rejoined with bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Damion Reid.  Performing straight takes on the songs of others (including the requisite Radiohead tune), this live performance is a nice reminder at how expressive Glasper can be when subtlety and nuance are the main ingredients.  The Great American Songbook is an eternal source of material for a reason, but, damn, it’s nice to hear someone looking at the music of today and performing jazz renditions of music by the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Musiq Soulchild, Bilal, John Legend and (since it’s kind of a Glasper trademark at this point) Radiohead.

Artist Site | Buy: Amazon


Chris Dingman – The Subliminal and the Sublime (Inner Arts)

Chris Dingman - "The Subliminal and the Sublime"It’s some serious tranquility from vibraphonist Dingman’s new, five-part suite, as his sextet attempts to capture the spirit of the environment of Dingman’s wilderness travels.  Even the occasional shows of aggression are unthreatening and do nothing to shatter the peace.  Joining the vibraphonist are alto saxophonist Loren Stillman, pianist Fabian Almazan, guitarist Ryan Ferreira, bassist Linda Oh and drummer Justin Brown.

Artist Site | Listen | Buy: BandcampAmazon


Terell Stafford – Brotherlee Love (Capri)

Terell Stafford - "Brotherlee Love"Excellent set from trumpeter Stafford, holding in has hands the Lee Morgan songbook like it was made in heaven.  This old-school bop session has all the vibrancy and life of the source material and just as tuneful.  Stafford’s quintet is rounded out by saxophonist Tim Warfield, pianist Bruce Barth, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Dana Hall.

Artist site | Buy: eMusicAmazon


Brian Landrus – The Deep Below (Palmetto/BlueLand)

Brian Landrus - "The Deep Below"Much more self-contained and unassuming than his previous release, the large ensemble work, Mirage.  On his newest, Landrus (and his bari & bass saxes, bass clarinet, and bass flute) works out of a trio formation with veterans, bassist Lonnie Plaxico and drummer Billy Hart.  It’s as if Landrus’s goal for this recording was to suss out the ballad that lies somewhere in the heart of every song, no matter how upbeat or effusive it may have been written.

Artist Site | Listen | Buy: eMusicAmazon


Michael Oien – And Now (Fresh Sound New Talent)

Michael Oien - "And Now"It’s the gradual shifts within and between songs from rich to sparse textures that highlight bassist Oien’s debut.  This quality is most striking on the moodier sections when Matthew Stevens enters on acoustic guitar and provides a sharp lightbeam as counterweight to the thicker clouds generated by Oien, alto saxophonist Nick Videen, pianist Jamie Reynolds an drummer Eric Doob.  The 3-part “Dreamer” suite is where to measure this album’s heartbeat.

Artist Site | Buy: Amazon


Kari Ikonen Trio – Beauteous Tales and Offbeat Stories (Ozella)

Kari Ikonen - "Beauteous Tales and Offbeat Stories"Pianist Ikonen’s new trio session lays down all kinds of imagery with an obtuse form of expressionism.  He dangles the semblance of a melody out front like a lure, and then keeps it just out of reach as his trio develops it far and wide.  Plenty of exciting scene changes to accompany the serene vistas.

Artist Site | Listen | Buy: eMusicAmazon


Francesco Chiapperini Extemporary Vision Ensemble – Our Redemption (Rudi)

Francesco Chiapperini - "Our Redemption"Awfully thrilling free jazz session from saxophonist Chiapperini and his nonet.  Equally dispersed between saxes, strings and percussion, the lynchpin of the music is the way all the frenetically moving parts suddenly congeal around a melodic fragment… before breaking off again and heading off in random directions.  A sense of something old (1970s avant-garde experiments) and something new to this one.

Artist Site | Buy: eMusicAmazon


Maria Schneider Orchestra – The Thompson Fields (ArtistShare)

Maria Schneider - "The Thompson Fields"Every statement is a grand one, sometimes voiced with a sonic boom and other times majestically soaring on thick harmonic drafts.  After some time away, composer/arranger/bandleader Schneider has her orchestra (featuring crack artists familiar to readers of this column like Ryan Keberle, Lage Lund, Frank Kimbrough, Donny McCaslin, Gary Versace and more) back and operating like they’d never left the bandstand.  An expansive sound possessing a sightline that just seems to go on forever.


Jongens Quartet – Industri (Demajors)

Jongens Quartet - "Industri"Likable set from this young piano/guitar/bass/drums quartet.  Most tracks situate in the modern camp, thick with melodies and rhythms that drive the quartet more than shepherd it along, but they’re also not afraid to toss a straight-ahead bop tune into the mix.  Nice to get a view upon the Jakarta, Indonesia scene.



Have a great time digging through the list!

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



Part I of this week’s column posted on Thursday!



These are videos that I like: Ghost Rhythms – “Tree Ashes”

June 19, 2015


Ghost Rhythms - "Madeline"Today’s featured video is a live performance from one of my favorite albums appearing on this week’s This Is Jazz Today column… Madeleine, the new album from Ghost Rhythms.  The song “Tree Ashes” is a composition that eventually made it onto their new album, which is themed as an alternate soundtrack to the movie Vertigo.

The video was taken at a March 2013 performance at L’Entrepot and credited to Mario Fiappo.

Read more about that album (LINK).

And here’s that video…


Have a great start to your weekend!