Recommended: Christian McBride Trio – “Live at the Village Vanguard”

October 4, 2015


Christian McBride - "Live at the Village Vanguard"Bassist Christian McBride does everything right every damn time.  I feel like I keep writing the same glowing recommendations of his music each time he comes out with a new album, but I suppose when a musician’s work reaches the level of excellence that McBride’s consistently achieves, it pretty much eclipses the need for anything I might put down in words, anyways.  Live at the Village Vanguard has him teamed up with his trio of drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. and pianist Christian Sands, performing during their annual residency at NYC’s Village Vanguard.  And essential to any live recording, it’ll bring your chair right up close to the stage.

“Cherokee” has been done plenty times before. It’s a song you know and one you’ve heard before, even if you can’t name the composer or the artists who’ve reached your ear with it previously.  And yet McBride’s trio lays it down like he penned it the night before the show and told his trio, hey, let’s see where this takes us.  To embrace a standard and make it sound brand spanking new and exciting, that’s no small thing and it honors the songbook of jazz’s lineage as well as the audience that paid good money to hear the trio perform.  A rendition of trombonist JJ Johnson’s “Interlude” hits the gas pedal as hard as they do on “Cherokee” and is no less thrilling.  They keep up the brisk pace on a rendition of guitarist Wes Montgomery’s “Fried Pies,” but keep to a tighter sphere of influence on the original composition.

McBride works in some gorgeous bass arco on a rendition of “Good Morning Heartache,” a ballad most associated with Billie Holiday.  It’s a beautiful rendition of a beautiful song, and the way the trio gets the blues to hang in the air thick and heavy is a nice reminder that it takes more than just dishing out fireworks on a crack live performance recording.  Further evidence of this is provided by pianist Sands and his composition “Sand Dune,” a song that takes it nice and easy and has an unassuming, casual nature, yet resonates as strongly as any of the up-tempo tunes courtesy of a melody that sparkles like crazy when it sees the first hint of light and keeps on shining when soloists take it into new, exciting directions.  And it’s a similar attitude applied when the trio gets up with gospel on the old-school spiritual “Down By the Riverside.”

These days, it’s not unusual for a track on a new jazz recording to reference a song originating from a Michael Jackson album.  These efforts tend to succeed, which is due as much to the talent pool of the modern jazz scene as it is Jackson’s unlimited talent for revealing the beating heart of a true pop song.  McBride’s trio takes a nice slow spin on Thriller‘s “The Lady In My Life,” which provides a refreshing change in tempo, and also gives the trio the space to really let that melody breathe.  This, however, pales in comparison to the big fun of their rendition of the theme song to the classic 1976 movie “Car Wash.”  The thick groove and wide smile bring down the house and close out this excellent recording.

Your album personnel: Christian McBride (bass), Ulysses Owens Jr. (drums) and Christian Sands (piano).

Released on Mack Avenue Records.

Available at: eMusic | Amazon


Recommended: Sisu Brassland & Lip Service – “Matka”

October 3, 2015


Sisu Brassland Lip Service - "Matka"The charm of Matka is found in its changes.  This is the source of its unfolding beauty and its resiliency to remain interesting from first note to last.  It begins with the Lip Service brass trio of two trumpets & a French horn, then moves into the Sisu Brassland octet of three trumpets, two French horns, two trombones and a tuba before ending with the addition of a drummer-percussionist for added punch.  And there’s an emotional transition that coincides with the personnel changes, too, as the trio’s opening sequence of stately, yet enthusiastic tunes moves into the octet’s seriously contemplative territory via an abundance of thick, warm harmonies to just sink right into, and then drawing to conclusion with a dramatic, celebratory tone when the percussionist adds his voice to the proceedings.

“Let It” and “Glimmerwaltz” sees the trio speaking with big voices while allowing a bit of silence to sink in.  Though cut from the sound of today, the compositions present themselves as pieces that have the formality of age and tradition upon them.  “Folk” accentuates this trait to an even greater degree.

When the personnel expands into an octet formation, the textures grow substantially thicker, and the emotional tone is one of greater depth.  The introspective “Aluminous” has the weight and wisdom of a very old soul, “Swag” makes its point with some nifty manipulation of cadence and altered motion, and the tiny thrills of “The Wallfaller” is an example where more chefs in the kitchen can be a good thing.

The sense of drama gets seriously jacked up when drums enter the frame on “Dirty.”  Even when they go with the lighter touch of percussion, that rhythmic component adds all kinds of liveliness to the somber brass tones.  This effect is amplified on the very fun “Nostalgalistic,” with its cinematic intro and outro bookending a celebratory shake and bounce.

There’s plenty here to like, and definitely worth checking out.

Your album personnel:  No listing. Unable to determine album personnel.

The album is Self-Produced.

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

Jazz from the San Francisco scene.

Available at:  Bandcamp | eMusic | CDBaby | Amazon


The Wayne Horvitz free download series: “Philip” from Bring Yr Camera

September 30, 2015


Wayne Horvitz - "Bring Yr Camera"Today’s free Wayne Horvitz track comes from his 1988 release Bring Yr Camera, featuring his ensemble The President.  This was one of my early introductions to Horvitz.  My first was another of his The President recordings, the 1992 release Miracle Mile.  And like that one, Bring Yr Camera had Horvitz really accentuating the ambling electronic style that is gradually subsumed by his strange folk-jazz-classical constructions on later recordings.

Bring Yr Camera doesn’t rank very high for me as far as favorite Horvitz recordings, but I tend to look favorably upon the recordings that introduced me to a particular musician, regardless of how I think they stack up against other recordings discovered later.  And besides, I’ve found it interesting to hear the seeds of early recordings that manifest with more substantive effect down the road.  Comparable to later recordings is Horvitz’s talent for allowing beautiful melodies to emerge in abrasive environments.  For me personally, that dichotomy always fed divergent aspects of my personality.  There was the part of me that kept demanding, “Yes, more noise!”  And there was that part of me that just wanted to hear something pretty.  These President recordings always found a way to satisfy both of those needs.  Today’s free track, “Philip,” definitely did, as did the album’s opening track, “Hearts Are Broken.”

The track “Wish the Children Would Come On Home” closes the album out.  It’s also the title of the Horvitz songbook tribute album by The Westerlies, an album which has received several recommendations on this site.  Of interest perhaps to no one, my favorite track on Bring Yr Camera is “Our Hands of Water.”  There are times that Horvitz is able to generate the most introspective moods and it creates a palpable serenity that I find absolutely arresting.  It’s one of those too rare instances when I am able to completely submerge myself in a song.

Bobby Previte - "Claude's Late Morning"There are several Horvitz tracks over the course of his discography that have accomplished that for me.  Bobby Previte, who plays drums on this recording, does something similar on his curious 1988 release Claude’s Late Morning.  This album has a similar sound to Horvitz’s The President recordings, which isn’t terribly surprising considering their collaborative efforts… including Claude’s…, which Horvitz contributes to on organ (and also has contributions from Bill Frisell and Carol Emanuel among others).  But a tune like “First Song for Kate” totally reflects that potent contemplative ambiance Horvitz is able to cast.

Anyways, here’s today’s free track.  You can download from the player or go to the Bandcamp site and take care of business there. An additional bonus of downloading from the Bandcamp site is that Horvitz writes little anecdotes for each of the tracks.

Your album personnel:  Wayne Horvitz (keyboards, harmonica, drum programming), Bobby Previte (drums), Elliott Sharp (guitars), Dave Hofstra (electric bass, tuba), Doug Wieselman (tenor saxophone) and Dave Tronzo (slide guitar, national steel guitar).

Released originally in 1988 on the Elektra label, then, later, digitally on Nonesuch Records.

Available at: Amazon

Explore more of Horvitz’s music on his Bandcamp page.

And be sure to read more about the music of Wayne Horvitz on this site.


Recommended: Llop – “Lampke”

September 29, 2015


Llop - "Lampke"Not dissimilar to Steven Lugerner’s Gravitations series recently covered on this site, the trio Llop is an interesting mix of improvisation and studio manipulation.  It begins by recording saxophonist Erik Bogaerts and guitarist Benjamin Sauzereau in action and working off the cuff.  Then, happy with what he’s recorded, drummer Jens Bouttery gets down to business in the studio and shapes his vision of the recorded material through the lens of electronics and effects while adding his own drums and percussion to the mix.  The result is Lampke.

A metamorphosis occurs, of old country folk songs transforming into modern pop with heavy indie sensibilities.  It’s an elusive change, and it rarely keeps the same face for very long before the next transformation, but there always exists a common thread of simple tunefulness and an agreeable randomness of expression.

“Happii” is pretty straight-forward, but there are moments when the song seems to spill out from the walls of its structure.  “Nacht” disdains the thought of structure, yet congeals into shapes that provide both direction and definition.  And “Hevii” works both angles, giving the impression of a dancer attempting to work out the timing and steps to an Ornette Coleman performance.

Some songs are just as they seem.  “Ner6ens” is a moody ballad cut right from the Nordic Jazz mold.  “Rijksregisternummer” is the disjointed strangeness of a Tom Waits tune minus the heartbreaking melody.  And “Kitt” is rainy day music through and through.

But all of Lampke is a little bit different, no matter how familiar it may come to seem.

Your album personnel:  Erik Bogaerts (saxophone), Benjamin Sauzereau (guitar) and Jens Bouttery (drums, electronics).

Released on El Negocito Records.

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

Music from the Ghent, Belgium scene.

Available at:  Bandcamp | CDBaby | Amazon


Recommended: Partikel – “String Theory”

September 28, 2015


Partikel - "String Theory"Partikel, a trio of saxophonist Duncan Eagles, bassist Max Luthert and drummer Eric Ford, add a string quartet for their newest release, and it’s an inspired decision.  Their previous release, Cohesion, was a nice enough straight-ahead modern set, but String Theory is definitely a step up.  Most notable is how the trio’s typical wild expressiveness is both enhanced and tempered by the lovely harmonies and frenetic accompaniment of strings.  Melodies are strung out long like a river, and riding along in its current is all of the tranquility and turmoil that result from this pairing.

No better evidence of this result exists than in the three-part suite “Clash of the Clans.”  The bursts of dissonance lock into step with gently lilting passages, and side-by-side expressions of chaos and tranquility come off as a perfect match.

And even on a more conventional composition like “Shimmer,” the trio’s effortless shaping of a tuneful song has no difficulty assimilating the string quartet into the mix.  This is an important quality of this album… that there are times when the strings are a separate element that demand a separate treatment from the normal flow of a saxophone trio, but there are also tracks when everybody is a member of the same crowd, where it’s a septet and not a sax trio plus string quartet.  That shifting of attention creates a compelling sense of contrast and confluence, and it never lets the ear get complacent with any kind of assurance as to where the next song will land.  And when they’re able to accomplish that feat within the span of a single tune, as they do on the ten-minute-long “The Buffalo,” the positive effects resonate with even greater strength.

That said, more often than not, the album flows with a transition similar to the thick straight-ahead jazz of “Bartering with Bob” to the jazz-classical string quartet prominence of “The River” and then back to the jazz ballad flirtation of “Wray Common.”  It’s an example of this album’s strength and all the reason you need to go scoop this solid recording up.

Your album personnel:  Duncan Eagles (tenor & soprano saxes), Max Luthert (bass), Eric Ford (drums, percussion), Benet McLean (violin), David Le Page (violin), Carmen Flores (viola) and Matthew Sharp (cello).

Released on Whirlwind Recordings.

Jazz from the London scene.

Available at:  Bandcamp | eMusic | Amazon