Recommended: Valentina Fortunati Trio – “Tatogamono”

October 25, 2014


Valentina Fortunati - "Tatogamono"I’m enjoying the lovely new recording by the Valentina Fortunati TrioTatogamono keeps to a relaxed demeanor, a lazy Sunday attitude that is happy sitting in the shade and watching the world go by.  The trio is comprised of Fortunati’s steel-stringed acoustic guitar, the saxophones of Sigi Beare, and Matteo Scarpettini on marimba.  There’s a bit of Mediterranean jazz influence evident on some of the tunes, but just a bit, as if peeking out from under the covers, but it situates this album as something that might get released on the Italian label, Dodicilune.

Opening track “Dusan Lullaby” immediately presents the album’s game plan… pretty, unfussy melodies that can carry a tune all by themselves.  The rhythmic dynamic between strings, marimba and sax create seams within the songs to foster both nuance and diversity, while also providing an avenue for contrast with the simple melodies.  This effect is further enhanced by the addition of tabla, gusli (a Russian derivative of the Greek lyre) and various other percussion instruments.

And it’s not all just laid-back tunes.  “Sole I” gets a little heated.  The tempo scoots along at a brisk pace and flute skips along its surface.  Second part “Sole II” returns to a life in the slow lane, though sax and guitar are more expressive with the extra time they have at their disposal.  Similarly, sax takes the lead on “Equivoci,” and the music is no less languorous as a result of a bigger sound out front.

A nice easy-to-like recording, good for those times when you require a strong dose of calming music that also makes subtle, cerebral connections to engage the brain a bit.

Your album personnel:  Valentina Fortunati (acoustic guitar), Sigi Beare (alto & tenor saxes, flute, gusli), and Matteo Scarpettini (marimba, tabla, percussion).

The album is Self-Produced.

Jazz from the Livorno, Italy scene.

Available at:  eMusic | CDBaby | Amazon MP3


These are videos that I like: Wayne Horvitz & the Royal Room Collective Music Ensemble – “Sweeter than the Day”

October 24, 2014


Wayne Horvitz - "At the Reception"Today’s featured video is from the Royal Room Collective Music Ensemble, led by composer Wayne Horvitz, performing his song “Sweeter than the Day.”  It’s taken from a March 18th, 2013 show at Seattle’s Royal Room.

Horvitz and his Royal Room Collective Music Ensemble have a new release out, titled At the Reception.  Mentioned in my most recent Wondering Sound Jazz Picks column, I’ll also be writing something up for it here on this site, too, in the near future.

In the meantime, here’s the kind of thing you can expect…


Have a great start to your weekend!


Recommended: Bernhard Meyer, Claudio Puntin & Julius Heise – “Patch of Light”

October 23, 2014


Bernhard Meyer, Claudio Puntin, Julius Heise - "Patch of Light"An absorbing session from the trio of bassist Bernhard Meyer, clarinetist Claudio Puntin and vibraphonist Julius HeisePatch of Light is an album that stays on the quiet side of town, even when the motion grows volatile… which happens quiet a bit, actually.  The hyperactive ascents and falls of “Cryptic” is simply a different type of relentlessness than the cheery, tuneful “Happy Tree.”  “Glow” plows straight ahead, quick on its feet, light on it toes.

But then there are sublime tunes like “Esper Flower,” which swims in the deep end of the melody.  “Beam” marries itself to a pretty melody and crafts a pretty song around it.  “Rostrot” barely rises above a whisper.

And, of course, there are a few tunes that straddle the divide between those two categories.  A switch to marimba on “Apparent Motion” gives the song an earthy tone, contrasting with those that take to the air.  “Apparent Motion” also goes nuts, following an alluring confluence of tempos between a slowly drifting clarinet juxtaposed against an up-tempo marimba.  There’s also the moody “Saturnine,” with its ethereal presence shattered by the undercurrent of tension breaking through to the surface.  “Falls & Fears,” the album’s pièce de résistance, is a gripping cascade of tones and tempos, evoking a strong emotional pull regardless of whether it’s a frantic rhythmic charge or a susurrant hush of harmonies.

One of those recordings that pulls you into its world and doesn’t let go.

Your album personnel:  Bernhard Meyer (bass), Claudio Puntin (clarinet, bass clarinet), and Julius Heise (vibes, marimba, percussion).

Released on JazzHausMusik.

Jazz from the Berlin scene.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon MP3


My new eMusic Jazz Picks are up at Wondering Sound

October 22, 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:

Equilibrium - "Liquid Light"Bernhard Meyer, Claudio Puntin, Julius Heise - "Patch of Light"Collocutor - "Instead" Wayne Horvitz - "At the Reception"





… and a whole bunch of other great options.  Some fantastic new releases this week.  Take out a loan if you have to, because you’re going to want to scoop pretty much the whole lot of them up.


Recommended: The Cellar & Point – “Ambit”

October 21, 2014


Cellar and Point - "Ambit"Ambit is one of those albums that takes a pastiche approach to various genres, picking and choosing influences with an artisanal expertise and offering up a concoction that sounds a little like everything and a little like nothing at all.  The threat to this approach is a material insubstantiality, where the music is defined by its indefinable qualities and falls from memory the moment the album ends.  The inoculation to that risk is a nicely crafted melody.  The chamber-rock-jazz-indie-ambient-etc outfit The Cellar and Point are swimming in nicely crafted melodies.

The heart of the ensemble is guitarist Christopher Botta and drummer Joe Branciforte, who in his role as producer for his own projects and those of other modern, inventive acts like Ben Monder, Vijay Iyer and Nels Cline has become one of those multi-instrumentalist jack-of-all-trades that can add small doses of ingredients to completely fill a recording out.  Both he and Botta account for all the compositions, except the two classical music compositions, György Ligeti’s “étude xv” and Anton Webern’s “fünf canons i, op.16,” which, considering the ensemble members’ participation in a number of modern classical and experimental music projects, new takes on Ligeti and Webern fall right into their wheelhouse.

But inventiveness and new takes on old music and new takes on new music are all just contextual facts when compared against the album’s greatest strength… those crisp, well-crafted melodies.

“0852” sings its melody in a series of different registers and speeds.  It’s an up-tempo piece that sends love letters to the school of minimalism with its use of repetition, but the song’s hyperactive imagination just won’t let it stick to a single thought long enough to become a proper member of the class.  The melody is a simple one, skeletal even, but the way the group switches up its voicing makes all the difference in providing it some character.

“Arc” has a melody with more depth, but the real joy is the way the group keeps leading out with it, throwing the melody out ahead at intervals that give the impression of chasing after stones skipped across the surface of a pond.  It’s a fluid motion that fluctuates speeds with an unerring grace.

“Tabletop (a)” brings a rougher edge and a heavier touch.  Electric guitar comes on strong.  “Tabletop (b)” shows its romantic side, mirroring the melody of “(a),” but offering it up far less brusquely than its predecessor.

“Ruminant” harkens back to a Bill Frisell Ghost Town eeriness and folksy charm by conjuring up a melody that shimmers in the midst of a brooding song.  And on the other side of town, “Purple Octagon” has a nice jaunty bounce to go with a pop music melody… crafted simply, stated simply and friendly as hell.

“White cylinder (b)” is up-tempo and a rare time when group interplay is exchanged for a series of solos.  Vibes are the stand-out, dancing between the raindrops of the ensemble’s staggered groove.  Its predecessor, “”White cylinder (a),” sticks to the company line of ensemble play, with the interactions of banjo and viola with other ensemble members being the highlight of this number.  Both parts are up-tempo, with choppy rhythms not unlike the album’s opening statement.

Some tracks serve up the melodies only as fragments.  These also tend to be the tracks whose structure is diffuse and formless, differentiating themselves from tracks with a clearer definition.  “Fünf canons i, op.16″ is characterized by its lumbering motion and brief spurts of restlessness, whereas “étude xv” is a lesson in the virtue of patience.  And then there’s title-track “Ambit,” which closes the show with a more heartfelt expression of the minimalistic traits that the ensemble merely flirted with on the album’s opening track.

An intriguing, smart album that has moments of stunning beauty.

Your album personnel:  Christopher Botta (acoustic guitar, banjo, loops), Joe Branciforte (drums, moog bass, piano, Fender Rhodes, melodica, wurlitzer), Terrance McManus (electric guitar), Christopher Otto (violin, viola), Kevin McFarland (cello), Joe Bergen (vibes), Rufus Philpot (bass), and guests: James Ilgenfritz (contrabass), Mariel Roberts (cello) and Greg Chudzik (contrabass).

Released on Cuneiform Records.

Music from NYC.

Available at:  eMusic | Bandcamp | Amazon CD/MP3