This Is Jazz Today: Charles Lloyd, Reijseger/Fraanje/Sylla, Tim Berne’s Snakeoil & more!

April 18, 2015


BitW square avatarGood god, this was a strong week of new jazz releases.  As much as I dislike doing the whole co-pick thing, I just had no choice.  Both the Charles Lloyd and Reijseger/Fraanje/Sylla recordings are supremely intense and crafted masterfully.  But don’t stop there.  The four albums on the list that follow immediately after could all just as easily have been named the Pick of the Week.  And then there’s the “rest of the albums,” which, top to bottom, are a formidable group of new music.  I’m just thrilled with the music I’m able to include this week.  I’ll be writing more about many of them in the coming weeks.  Expect to see a slew of stand-alone recommendations that originate from this list.

My advice:  Immediately buy the first six albums on this list, and then pick and choose from the rest, to taste.  You won’t go wrong.  Even if a particular album of those six doesn’t necessarily appeal to you right now, it’s the kind of quality music you want sitting in your library until your tastes and/or your ear comes around and connects with the music’s brilliance.

Okay, enough gushing.

Let’s begin…

*** co-Picks of the Week ***


Charles Lloyd – Wild Man Dance

Charles Lloyd - "Wild Man Dance"Absolutely stunning live performance of a new long-form piece by jazz giant Charles Lloyd.  A compelling moodiness throughout, even when his sextet surges up with huge, expressive emotions.  That sextet is top-notch.  Joining the saxophonist are drummer Gerald Cleaver, pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Joe Sanders, and Sokratis Sinopoulos and Miklos Lucaks on Greek lyra & cymbalom.   There’s a rawness to the lyricism that makes for some seriously thrilling moments, accentuated by the relentless nature of the rhythm unit.  The use of lyra and cimbalom add some texture to a recording that really does just fine in that category with the more traditional jazz instruments.  The electricity of the live performance resonates strongly on the recorded medium, though it isn’t likely to make you not wish to have been there when it all went down.  Just a great recording.

Released on Blue Note Records.  Visit the artist site.

Buy:  Amazon


Reijseger/Fraanje/Sylla – Count Till Zen

Reijseger Fraanje Sylla - "Count Till Zen"The trio of Ernst Reijseger, Harmen Fraanje and Mola Sylla just released a riveting follow-up to their equally stunning 2013 release Down Deep (which was named the Bird is the Worm Best of 2013 #7 album of the year).  The trio of cello/piano/percussion concoct up a magnetic serenity that stands apart from anything else on the scene, though some parallels could be drawn with the equally compelling work of the Codona trio back in the 70s.  I’ll be writing more about this excellent recording in the coming weeks, but, seriously, don’t bother waiting for my words… just go buy this album now.

Released on Winter & Winter.  Visit the artist site.

More Listening | Buy: eMusicAmazon


*** This week’s featured albums ***


Tim Berne’s Snakeoil – You’ve Been Watching Me (ECM)

Tim Berne - "You've Been Watching Me"Alto saxophonist Berne’s previous works typically show flashes of sharp teeth and no hesitation to let ‘em sink in deep.  His newest, however, is far more approachable due to some powerfully melodic passages that envelop this unconventional music.  An absolutely magnetic personality to this one.

Artist site | Buy: Amazon


Mikkel Ploug Trio – At Black Tornado (Whirlwind)

Mikkel Ploug - "At Black Tornado"Guitarist Ploug’s trio session has a talkative style that’s plenty charismatic.  Rich textures and sharp melodicism keep the ear riveted throughout.  Occasional flourishes of folk-rock are a nice touch.

Artist site | Buy:  eMusicAmazon


Respect Sextet – Respect ‘n’ You: Live at Greenwich House Music School (Self-Produced)

Respect Sextet - "Respect 'n' You"Very fun live set from the unconventionally-inclined Respect Sextet.  Most impressive is how they break from an orderly melodic procession into a mass hysteria of competing lines, and yet give the impression that everything is snapping right into place.  With half the outfit taken up by wind instruments, plenty of nice harmonic interludes, but its the way that all members contribute to rhythm-building that defines the album’s intelligence.

Artist site | Listen | Buy: BandcampeMusicAmazon


Pedro Giraudo Big Band – Cuentos (Zoho)

Pedro Giraudo - "Cuentos"Excellent big band session from bassist Giraudo, whose deft hand at directing the large ensemble results in lovely music with a most appealing flow.  The emotional impact of these pieces is considerable.  Just a hell of an album.

Artist site | Buy:  eMusicAmazon


MIT Wind Ensemble & MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble – Infinite Winds (Sunnyside)

MIT Wind Ensemble - "Infinite Winds"Modern jazz all-stars Guillermo Klein, Don Byron, Bill McHenry, Chick Corea and Evan Ziporyn are all featured on this solid large ensemble/jazz orchestra outing.  Huge, sprawling sounds share the same patch of land as the most delicate interludes.  When the MIT ensemble gets a head of steam going, things really get exciting.

Artist site | Listen | Buy: BandcampeMusicAmazon


Petros Klampanis – Minor Dispute (Inner Circle Music)

Petros Klampanis - "Minor Dispute"Interesting contemporary jazz strings project from bassist Klampanis.  An intriguing core quartet (which includes pianist Jean-Michel Pilc, guitarist Gilad Hekselman and drummer John Hadfield) is buffeted upwards with a complement of strings.  Has an evocative mix of soaring harmonies & up-tempo motion reminiscent of some of McCoy Tyner’s underrated 1980s experiments with strings & orchestra.

Artist site | Listen | Buy:  Amazon


Stockton Helbing – Patina (Armored Records)

Stockton Helbing - "Patina"Enjoyable straight-ahead set from drummer Helbing.  Earlier in his career, he put out some of the better modern-style contemporary jazz, giving the fusion sheen an appealing sense of propulsion.  Now, his last two albums have shown a hard bop heat and groove that is easy to get hooked on.

Artist site | Buy:  eMusicAmazon


Pulcinella – L’empereur (Les Productions du Vendredi)

Pulcinella - "L'empereur"Whimsical and upbeat quartet of accordion, sax, bass & drums.  Folk-jazz that has an infectious pop music delivery along with some rock ‘n roll edge.  The harmonic action between accordion and sax provides plenty warmth as well as some essential contrast with the hard-charging rhythm section.

Artist site | Buy: eMusicAmazon


The Ghost Notes – Secret Of A Memory (Hitchtone)

Ghost Notes - "Secrets of a Memory"Likable quintet focusing on Gypsy jazz and Django Reinhardt comps.  An alluring serenity to some tunes that balances nicely with the up-tempo burners.  If you’re looking to add a hot jazz recording to your library, this is an interesting option.

Artist site | Buy:  eMusicAmazon


Harold Mabern – Afro Blue (Smoke Sessions)

Harold Mabern - "Afro Blue"Veteran pianist Mabern is back with another excellent Smoke Sessions release, this time with a focus on vocalists, which is a first for the label.  Top-shelf straight-ahead bop, vibrant and full of life.  Gregory Porter and Norah Jones both take nifty turns at the mic.

Artist site | Buy:  eMusicAmazon


Eric Vloeimans’ Oliver’s Cinema – Act 2 (Self-Produced)

Oliver's Cinema - "Act 2"The follow-up of Vloeiman’s Oliver’s Cinema is just as captivating as their self-titled release.  The trio of trumpet, accordion and cello is a strange kind of folk-jazz, working a cinematic angle at all times.  A quirky kind of tranquility.

Artist site | Buy:  eMusicAmazon


Raffaello Pareti – Il Mondo che Verra (Artesuono)

Raffaello Pareti - "Il Mondo che Verra"Delightful quartet session from bassist Pareti.  Reeds & trombone combo lead to plenty of lyricism, heart and soul.  A couple moments that miss their target, but overall, just a real enjoyable recording that clearly places high value on a melodic life.

Artist site | Buy:  eMusicAmazon


Carlos Averhoff Jr. – iRESI (Inner Circle Music)

Carlos Averhoff - "iRESI"Nice contrast of surging locomotion and light-on-its-feet lyricism to tenor saxophonist Averhoff’s quintet set.  Straight-forward bop expressed in a variety of ways, while keeping a strong cohesion to the album overall.  Strong line-up with alto saxophonist Greg Osby, pianist Aruan Ortiz, drummer Francisco Mela and bassist John Lockwood.

Artist site | Buy: eMusicCDBabyAmazon


Rob Reich – Shadowbox (BAG Production)

Rob Reich - "Shadowbox"Fascinating mix of folk and jazz, rarely expressed twice with the same ratio.  Joining accordionist Reich is an eclectic line-up of guitarist Ila Cantor, clarinetist Ben Goldberg, bassist Todd Sickafoose and drummer Eric Garland.  Has some beautiful melodic passages that cut right to the bone.

Artist site | Buy:  eMusicAmazon



Have a great time digging through the list!

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



These are videos that I like: Wesseltoft Schwarz Berglund – “Movement Seventeen”

April 17, 2015


Wesseltoft Schwarz Berglund - "Trialogue"Today’s featured video is an animated short that uses the song “Movement Seventeen” from the album Trialogue, by the trio Wesseltoft Schwarz Berglund.

Trialogue was recently recommended on this site.  Read more by following this LINK.

The video is created by Casper Heijkenskjold.

In the meantime, here’s that cool video…


Have a great start to your weekend!


Recommended: Josh Nelson – “Exploring Mars”

April 16, 2015


Josh Nelson - "Exploring Mars"Exploring Mars is pianist Josh Nelson’s ode to the Red Planet, inspired by science, stories and space travel.  Opening track “Bradbury’s Spirit,” gets right to the heart of the matter.  Gentle but urgent guitar and brushwork is set to a reading from Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, reflecting the undercurrent of tension and fear united with the free-spirited adventurism of space exploration.  That Nelson marries fictional text with instrumentals mirroring the abstract, but very real big-picture emotions associated with the subject of space and space travel is an impressive feat.  It’s also a method that he uses to great effect throughout this excellent recording.

There’s a giddy anticipation to “Sojourner,” an emotion that surrounds every aspect of the satellite’s life.  Isn’t that what the engineer who built Sojourner must have felt during its construction?  And what about those at NASA control as it launched up and out of Earth’s orbit, the joy and awe they must have felt?  And those of us who sit at our computer screens and pour over the photos sendt back to Earth… is it not the same for us, too?

Nelson utilizes a deft mix of solo, small & large ensemble, instrumental and vocal pieces.  Solo guitar, piano, and drums & cymbals interludes create varying degrees of ambiance, from unsettled to serene, of glittering stars and red shifting sands.

The love song “How You Loved Me On Mars” is the reminder of the humanity that guides us no matter how far out we venture into space.  This is further accented by Nelson shifting between the spacey sound of electric keyboards and the organic soul of piano.

Considering the subject of space travel is the theme of the recording, it’s especially refreshing to see Nelson use restraint and subtlety as his tools rather than a more cliched approach of grand, melodramatic statements.  The fleet-of-foot “Opportunity” digs into a thick groove, but keeps its motion wound up in a tight focus so that it doesn’t begin to flail wildly and uninhibited.  Closing track “Spirit” is a reprise of the opener, and its catchy skipping cadence is delightfully nuanced.

And then there’s the simple piano & vocals of “How You Loved Me On Mars,” which keeps to the size of a candle flame but resonates as strongly as it would on the darkest of starless nights.  And the solo piano piece “Mars, the Bringer Of War” expresses both joyful and ominous tones in a way that gives the sense of one long continuous breath.

It’s an album with a huge thematic scope and a quirk personality.  Those are two qualities that don’t often work so well together, and rarely does their combination result in a piece as exhilarating as Exploring Mars.  Count it amongst the best released thus far in 2015.

Your album personnel:  Josh Nelson (piano, trumpet, Nord Electro 3), John Daversa (trumpet, EVI), Larry Koonse (guitar), Dave Robaire (bass), Dan Schnelle (drums), Alan Ferber (trombone), Brian Walsh (bass clarinet) and guests: Kathleen Grace (vocals) and Larry Goldings (B3 organ).

Released on Origin Records.

Explore more of Nelson’s music on his Soundcloud page.

Jazz from the Long Beach, California scene.

Available at:  eMusicAmazon


Recommended: Fabled – “Fabled EP”

April 15, 2015


Fabled - "Fabled EP"I’ve been enjoying Fabled, the self-titled debut of the quintet Fabled.  They’re armed with an engaging storyteller attitude that accentuates the beauty found in how one note transitions to the next, how one passage builds up from another, and the way in which many streams of lyricism unite in a single-flowing confluence of imagery.

The easy point of comparison to their style of music would be the Brian Blade Fellowship.  Fabled has a flair for evocative moodiness that doesn’t lose its contemplative nature even when they jack up the heat.  However, a more accurate line to draw would be to that of multi-reedist Steven Lugerner, especially his early works, like 2011’s Narratives.  Fabled, like Lugerner, focuses on the melodic components as a playwright would the dialog, emphasizing meaning as much as the delivery, both phonetically and rhythmically… this, in turn, maps out a path for the rhythm unit to exploit for its own development.

Their debut EP has four tracks running approximately 23 minutes in duration.  It’s a nifty introduction, and holds all kinds of promise for what comes next.

Your album personnel:  Sam Rapley (sax, clarinet), Alex Munk (guitar), Matt Robinson (piano), Conor Chaplin (bass) and Will Glaser (drum).

Listen to more of the album on the artist’s Bandcamp page. Also, explore their music on Soundcloud.

The album is Self-Produced.

Jazz from the London scene.

Available at:  Bandcamp | eMusic | CDBaby | Amazon


NarrativesI mention Steven Lugerner’s Narratives.  You should definitely check that album out.  It was one of the best things to come out in 2011.  You can read about his music on Bird is the Worm (LINK).


Recommended: Wesseltoft Schwarz Berglund – “Trialogue”

April 14, 2015


Wesseltoft Schwarz Berglund - "Trialogue"The most compelling characteristic of Trialogue, the trio effort of pianist Bugge Wesseltoft, bassist Dan Berglund and computer whiz Henrik Schwarz, is the way in which the prevalent elements of melodic contemplation and rhythmic ebullience feed off one another.  There is a back and forth between the two elements that never allows them to unite at any one moment, and the resulting conflict between the two creates all kinds of tension and imagery to keep the ear riveted.

“Valiant” is the first to delve into those qualities.  The quavering bass arco opening is swept up by the occasional melodic flourishes of piano.  When the tempo finally unfolds, it possesses a slow, almost ponderous gait that does as much to accentuate the atmospherics as it does the shape of the song.

The jaunty cadence of “Headbanger Polka” is instilled with the melody’s sense of urgency, and conversely, the melody adopts a bit of the rhythm’s joyful bounce.  Similarly, “Take a Quick Break” is a matter of shared propulsion.

“Movement 11″ continues the symbiosis of urgent melodies and cheerful tempos, but given new life with huge washes of harmony from guest bass trombonist James Kent and a string trio from the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg.  Its counterpart, “Movement Seventeen,” swings in the opposite direction, with tranquility and a coasting tempo ruling the day.

However, the roots of this collaboration extend further back to Wesseltoft’s and Shwartz’s exploration of the places where a Nordic-style jazz serenity come together with highly-charged electronic music.  And so while the album’s final two songs give the impression of a movie that goes in an entirely new and unexpected direction for its conclusion, it’s really not that huge of a surprise.

The first of the album’s final two songs is the electric groove & effects of “This Is My Day.”  It continues the album trend of toying with tempo and slippery cadences, and its use of voice sampling and a near-contemporary jazz sheen present a song that is nothing like anything that preceded it.  The album concludes with a similar approach but a different sound with an intriguing electro-acoustic take on Monk’s “Round Midnight.”  It makes for a more satisfying diversion than “This Is My Day,” which really puts a dent in the album’s cohesion.  Even the album’s opening track, “Interlude,” with its electric fuzziness and hazy atmospherics keeps beneath the album’s enfolding canopy.

But this is a small criticism of an album that provides all types of reasons to dive right in and enjoy.

Your album personnel:  Bugge Wesseltoft (grand piano, rhodes, synthesizers, percussion), Dan Berglund (double bass), Henrik Schwarz (computer, percussion) and guests:  James Kent (bass trombone), Damien Pardeon (violin), Jean-Marc Apap (viola) and Laurence Vautrin (cello).

Released in 2014 by Jazzland Recordings.

Music from Oslo, Norway.

Available at:  Amazon