Recommended: Tineke Postma & Greg Osby – “Sonic Halo”

December 20, 2014


Greg Osby and Tineke Postma - "Sonic Halo"Sonic Halo has a captivating motion.  Tiny bursts of propulsion create a sense of clockwork precision amidst an array of parts moving too quickly to fully absorb in the space of a single moment.  It’s why notes constantly in motion always seem without a home, yet maintain a synchronicity where everything snaps right into place at just the right time.  Saxophonists Greg Osby and Tineke Postma harness the energy of the motion and convert it into an array of shifting tempos and wavering melodies.  However, like any functioning clock, each member of the Osby-Postma quintet are essential to the process, and that it’s so difficult to trace the chain of cause and effect of how a particular tune’s elements are set into motion draws attention to the strength of the quintet’s interplay.  It’s a lot of little things combining to produce something more fascinating and much larger than any one component would have imagined.

The fluttering motion of opening track “Sea Skies” crosses over and recrosses its own path with sudden ascents and descents.  It’s Schrödinger’s cat chasing its own tail while simultaneously chasing after its other possible tail.

The pulsing tempo of “Source Code” is juxtaposed with stream-of-conscious soloing from Osby and Postma and the intriguing moodiness from pianist Matt Mitchell, who creates some contrast with tone and some connections with tempo.  He has a similar effect on the opening of “Where I’m From.”  The quintet takes its foot off the gas pedal for this one and shows that the music’s captivating motion isn’t reliant on high rates of speed.  Bassist Linda Oh‘s tuneful solo is a nice wash of melodicism on a song that generates all kinds of nuanced action through the rhythm.

The urgency of “Nine Times a Night” is belied by the genial warmth from Osby’s and Postma’s saxophones working in concert.  So when “Bottom Forty” staggers disjointedly, the transition from song to song is as engaging as the changes that occur within the song itself.

It’s fascinating to hear Mitchell and Oh in their game of leapfrog, but Dan Weiss‘s genial chatter on drums is the real attraction on “Melo.”  No less endearing is the quintet’s take on “Body and Soul,” the solitary comp that isn’t an Osby or Postma original.

Even when the quintet flirts with a groove, it’s within the environment of rhythmic shadowplay.  Both “Facets” and “Pleasant Affliction” bring a sense of fun to an affair more inclined to serious action than lighthearted playfulness, but they, too, lend to intrigue in the manifestation of changes in motion.

There isn’t a moment on Sonic Halo likely to relinquish its hold on the listener.  Seriously absorbing music.

Your album personnel:  Greg Osby (soprano & alto saxophones), Tineke Postma (soprano & alto saxophones), Matt Mitchell (piano, Rhodes), Dan Weiss (drums) and Linda Oh (bass).

Released on Challenge Records.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon CD/MP3


Recommended: Collocutor – “Instead”

December 19, 2014


Collocutor - "Instead"Instead is the very cool new release by the Tamar Osborn-led ensemble, Collocutor.  The saxophonist finds a magical blend of influences, both regional and inter-period, so the music sounds both old and new and from everywhere.  “Archaic Morning” shows flashes of modal and spiritual jazz influence, but the real competition is whether the thick groove or rich melody is the catchier element of the tune.  Osborn’s flute solo is captivating.

There’s Afro-Jazz influences on “Agama,” with their rich tableau of rhythms and melodic action that effortlessly shifts between dancing and drone.  Simon Finch’s trumpet solo takes the gold on this track.  The polyrhythmic “Elephant Room” is a crosshatch of a pulsing tempo and crackling storm of percussive volatility, which is enhanced by the punctuated shouts and howls from the wind instruments and a back-and-forth shift between catchy grooves and smooth, harmonic glides.

Josephine Davies gets in a solid saxophone solo, but “Gozo” is all about the motion of the rhythm section as an elemental force of nature, recalling the resonance of Pharoah Sanders spiritual jazz classics, Jewels of Thought and Karma.  The album’s title-track opens with a serious looseness of structure and freedom from melody, but the ensemble coalesces at the midway point and the song swings in the opposite direction, displaying a focused, straight-ahead motion and a common perspective… even as they switch things up several more times, ranging from a melodic firestorm to harmonic bliss.

An exciting album with a multifaceted attack and a wildly engaging personality.

Your album personnel:  Tamar Osborn (baritone & soprano sax, alto flute), Josephine Davies (tenor sax), Simon Finch (trumpet), Marco Piccioni (guitar), Suman Joshi (bass), Maurizio Ravalico (various percussion), Afla Sackey (djembe, Ghanaian shakers).

Released on On the Corner Records.

Jazz from the UK.

Available at:  Bandcamp | eMusic | Amazon Vinyl/MP3


These are videos that I like: BackBack – “Joe”

December 18, 2014


BackBack - "BackBack III"Today’s featured video is from the trio BackBack, one of this week’s This Is Jazz Today recommendations.  The song is “Joe,” from their new release BackBack III.

This exciting jazz-rock trio is comprised of Filip Wauters on electric & baritone guitars (and lap steel), Marc De Maeseneer on baritone & tenor saxophones and Giovanni Barcella on drums.

Fans of rock band Morphine should be paying attention here.


And here’s a LINK to that new releases recommendations column.


This is Jazz Today: Jason Parker Quartet, Valia Calda, Hang Em High and more!

December 17, 2014


BitW square avatarSo here we are.  As you (hopefully) read in yesterday’s column, my run on eMusic & Wondering Sound is now over.  You can read about what’s what, here, w/this LINK.  For the time being, as I search for a new home for my weekly jazz recommendations column, I’ll be posting the recs on Bird is the Worm.

I’m dedicating this first column to J. Edward Keyes, my former editor-in-chief at eMusic & Wondering Sound, who gave me a great opportunity and a big platform to advocate for the great jazz on the modern scene.  Thanks, man.  That was a nice thing you did.

Now, about that music…  Yes, the year is winding to a close, and that typically means a slow drip of new releases (aside from the onslaught of holiday theme albums, for the love of god).  That said, I’ve found some music for you this week that should make you carefully reconsider whether you really need to be buying all of those gifts for family and friends.  We all know the best gift is the gift of music… what would be so wrong with gifting some for yourself?  Personally, I can’t come up with a good reason you shouldn’t.

So, on that festive note, let’s begin…



Jason Parker Quartet – Homegrown

Jason Parker - "Homegrown"Trumpeter Jason Parker really gets this music to resonate.  Even though a modern straight-ahead session, the music emits the warmth and late-night sense of mystery reminiscent of a classic Blue Note Records hard bop recording.  But this is music of the present, in the sense of feel, sound, and composition.  Of the latter element, Parker invited musicians from his Seattle scene to contribute their own compositions for possible inclusion on this recording.  It’s the present celebrating the present, and while the reason for the season is the music itself, it’s a valuable measure of the strength of the modern scene.  Good stuff.  Can’t go wrong by scooping this one up.  Pick of the Week.

This album is Self-Produced.  Visit the Artist site.

Available at:  eMusic | Bandcamp | Amazon


Valia Calda – Valia Calda

Valia Calda - "Valia Calda"Absolutely riveting debut EP from a quintet that blends modern post-bop, Greek traditional, free improv and Balkan music.  Rob Milne provides sunlight and shadows on bass clarinet & flute.  Trumpeter Sam Warner and guitarist Nikos Ziarkas provide elements of air and earth.  Thodoris Ziarkas and Gaspar Sena set the scene and move it at will on bass and drums.  Electronics, cretan lute, cretan lyra, and tsambuna fit right in with traditional jazz instruments.  The music goes from a late-night jazz club cool to an ambling post-bop to Frisellian eeriness to Mediterranean seaside ease.  All kinds of cool, and a very promising start to their recording career.

This album is Self-Produced.  Visit the Artist site.

Available at:  eMusic | Bandcamp | Amazon


Hang Em High – Beef & Bottle

Hang Em High - "Beef and Bottle"This album strays far more into Rock territory than it does Jazz, and that probably suits saxophonist Lucien Dubuis just fine.  His projects often mix in healthy doses of trip, space and punk rock, creating something of too great a density to even consider swinging.  The intrigue, however, is tough to beat.  The Hang Em High project also includes drummer/percussionist Alfred Vogel and bassist Bond, who utilizes a 2-string bass on this session much in the same way that Mark Sandman did with Morphine… a rock act that sometimes dipped their toe into modern jazz.  Too cool not to get in a mention.

The album is Self-Produced.  Visit the Artist site.

Available at: eMusic | Bandcamp | CDBaby | Amazon


Backback – Backback III

BackBack - "BackBack III"Actually, not that far removed from the Hang Em High trio, but where HEH focused more on the cool groove, the Backback trio is more inclined to focus on revealing all the facets of a melodic gem.  The trio is comprised of Filip Wauters on electric & baritone guitars (and lap steel), Marc De Maeseneer on baritone & tenor saxophones and Giovanni Barcella on drums.  Again, more rock than jazz, but the mix of well-crafted melodies and wild improvisations make it a heady, addictive concoction, and renders genre classification a trivial subject.

Released on El Negocito Records.  Visit the Artist site.

Available at:  eMusic | CDBaby | Amazon


Jerry González-Miguel Blanco Big BandA Tribute to the Fort Apache Band

Gonzalez-Blanco - "Tribute to Ft Apache Band"A lively big band session that pays tribute to the influential 70s outfit, The Fort Apache Band, of which Jerry Gonzalez (and his brother) were instrumental in forming.  For the most part, this is a straight-ahead big band set, even though it is replete with the nuances of various Latin Jazz forms and expressions, as well as some shifting between traditional and contemporary sounds.  That Gonzales and Miguel Blanco can keep things sounding coherent in the face of the changing details is a solid accomplishment.  Some nifty solos, but it’s the rhythmic textures that win the day on this one.  Plenty of warmth on this album to help fight off the sharp bite of winter.

Released on Youkali Music.  Visit the Artist site.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon


Tom Csatari Band – Uncivilized

Tom Csatari - "Uncivilized"This album is the bar regular who is the one person you don’t mind grabbing a seat next to yours when all you feel like doing is just nursing your whiskey and keeping to your own thoughts.  Guitarist Csatari’s electro-acoustic blend of jazz, folk, chamber, and pop musics has a wonderfully diverse and interesting personality, while also possessing that necessary quality of not coming on too strong with an oppressive display of nuance or hooks so sharp as to cause persistent distraction.  The music has a dreamy presence, hangs out there nice and easy, and builds a nice rapport between instrument and ear.  Music with a rare kind of charm.  The ensemble consists of a string trio, a woodwind quartet, a rhythm quartet and two people on laptops, samples and electronics, and, of course, Csatari’s guitar.  Saxophonist Ben Flocks is also a member of this ensemble, and Uncivilized isn’t that far removed from Flock’s excellent 2014 folk-rock debut, Battle Mountain.  The electronics and effects are totally unobtrusive and blend in nicely with the woodwinds.  When they make their presence known, it would be like early Spiritualized adding twang to their shoegaze rock.  I’m pretty well taken with this recording.

Released on Tiny Montgomery.  Visit the Artist site.

Available at:  Bandcamp


Jack Mouse & Scott Robinson – Snakeheads & Ladybugs

Mouse, Robinson - "Snakeheads and Ladybugs"Excellent duo collaboration between drummer Mouse and saxophonist Robinson.  Sometimes the conversation consists of bursts of acerbic phrases while other times it’s a free flow of strong imagery.  Either way, the dialog is vivid and engaging and freely improvised.  Robinson adds to the mix a c-melody sax, a cornet and a e-flat clarinet.

Released on Tall Grass Records.  Visit the Artist site.

Available at:  eMusic | CDBaby | Amazon


Emanuele Maniscalco – Copenhagen Season

Three improvisations between the duo of pianist Emanuele Maniscalco and bassist Thomas Morgan.  There wasn’t a plan to record anything, but when the two sat down for an impromptu session, after about ten minutes, Emanuele decided to get the tape player going.  This was back in 2012, and though some tracks have been floating around the internet (see the embedded Soundcloud player just below), this is the first time somebody has sat down with this material and mastered it and given it the treatment it deserves.  These are careful conversations that delight in the tiny collisions of peaceful notes and the celebration of those times they enter a sublime unison.

Released on ILK Music.  Visit the Artist site.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon


Dominic Egli’s Plurism – Fufu Tryout

Dominic Egli's Plurism - "Fufu Tryout"Nice modern set from drummer Egli, who veers occasionally into Afro-Jazz territory, though more often than not, sticks to a European jazz sound throughout.  But the back and forth, regardless of the ratios of influences, provides some necessary differentiation to make it stand out from the crowd.  Punctuated rhythms and angular melodies don’t prevent the music from maintaining an appealing flow.  Joining Egli are trumpeter Feya Faku, saxophonist Donat Fisch and bassist Raffaele Bossard.

Released on Unit Records.  Visit the Artist site.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon


Napoleonirosati – Aeroplanino di Carta

A charming set of tunes from the vocals-piano duo of Paola Rosai and Francesco Napoleoni.  They hit the right notes of subtlety and drama at the right times.  They round out a quartet with the bass and drums of Dario Piccioni and Maruo Salvatore.  The quartet plays it straight, doesn’t try to shatter any boundaries or stake out new ground, and that’s okay, especially when the goal seems to be making friendly music like this.

This album is Self-Produced.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon


Koi Trio – Light Blue

Koi Trio - "Light Blue"Personable album of Monk covers.  Nothing breathtaking or inventive, but it’s charming and genuine and they voice it with their own personal sound rather than just parrot the originals.  Besides, the compositions of Thelonious Monk are always cool to hear through the voices of others, regardless of how it all shakes out.  This one shook out pretty good.  The trio is drummer Matthias Akeo Nowak, saxophonist Sebastien Gille and pianist Rainer Böhm.

Released on Float Music.  Visit the Artist Site.

Available at:  eMusic | CDBaby | Amazon


Mark Simon Quintet – Inkling

Mark Simon - "Inkling"Nice straight-ahead session from pianist Simon, who keeps things lively with sunny melodies and brisk tempos.  Most tracks bop right on along, light on their feet, and the jaunty locomotion attained by the quintet is the real highlight here.  Some nice solos, especially from pianist Simon.  There are two tracks where Simon switches over to keyboards, which is unfortunate in terms of album cohesion.  Same can be said about one contemporary track that gets a bit syrupy.  But overall, a delightful recording.

Released on PJCE Records.

Available at:  eMusic | Bandcamp | CDBaby | Amazon


In Focus Trio – Plays Jan Johansson “Jazz in Swedish” Live

Pleasant piano trio session that performs a live take of famed Swedish composer & pianist Jan Johansson‘s Jazz in Swedish recording.  It’s Ola Melander on piano, Hannes Wall on bass and Christoffer Dahl on drums.  Nice intimate recording.  Good music for a peaceful Sunday morning with the snow falling outside and nowhere to go.

The album is Self-Produced.  Visit the Artist site.

Available at:  eMusic


And let’s wrap up today’s column with something from the archives…

Luther Thomas – In Denmark

Luther Thomas - "In Denmark"A member of St. Louis’s Black Artists Group back in the day, saxophonist Luther Thomas made his mark via free jazz and funk.  Lately, his music has seen a resurgence, keyed in part by Atavistic’s excellent Unheard Music Series.  This compilation of archival footage covers the period of time after Thomas had relocated to Denmark in 1998 and up through his passing in 2009.  This release brings together a number of sessions, of both solo work and ensemble play, with musicians like drummer Kresten Osgood and bassist Nils Bo Davidsen (among others).  This album is released by ILK Music, who has been issuing similarly themed albums from American jazz musicians who relocated to the Denmark region.  They’re all pretty interesting.

Released on ILK Music.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon



Have a great time digging through the list!


Drifting, presently: The weekly recommendation column

December 16, 2014


BitW square avatarSo, I’ve got some bad news about my weekly Wondering Sound Jazz Picks column.

But first, did I ever write about how I got that gig?

I’ve put fragments of the story out there before.  Some of this you’ll have heard previously, but never, perhaps, with all the dots connected.

The “New Releases Only” discussion thread on the AllAboutJazz forum is one of the best things ever.  One day, a user who goes by the nick of Robmid decided to start a thread that focused on the jazz of today.  As many of you know, jazz listeners tend to get caught in the music of the past.  This is often purposeful.  And why not?  I mean, shit, there’s some amazing jazz created in the last century… some of the best ever.  It’s the kind of stuff that got me hooked on the genre… Monk and Coltrane and Miles and McCoy and Dexter and Mingus… all familiar names with hundreds of albums to their names to dig through.  And that’s just a tiny fraction of all the great music from back in the day.

But Bill Frisell was another musician who got me into jazz.  He was a modern voice making modern music.  I was only beginning to dig into the jazz of today when Robmid began that thread.  It was a simple thing:  Talk about the new releases that are floats your boat.  Not music from the past getting reissued or archival footage of old concerts from old musicians… hell, not even modern jazz that was released a couple years ago.  TODAY.  What’s happening today?!

Well, the more I discovered, the more it incited me to discover even more.  It seemed like there was no trail that didn’t lead to excellent new releases.  I spent a lot of time on the internet tracking leads down and just wandering the halls to see what I might stumble upon.

I started keeping lists.  It was a way to stay organized and a way to remind myself those names to further check out later.  I shared the names on those lists, both on the AAJ forum and also the eMusic (dot com) and eMusers (dot org) forums.  AAJ asked me to put those lists to work and become their Download of the Day editor.  I did that for a year.  I also kept sharing news of the music I was discovering on the various forums.

One day, on the eMusic forum, the user AMCLARK2 suggested in a discussion thread that eMusic should hire me to write a weekly recommendations column.  I was supremely flattered to see that others were cosigning his proposal.  Much to surprise, I received an email from Joe Edward Keyes, eMusic’s (and later, Wondering Sound’s) editor-in-chief.  He wanted to hire me to write a weekly jazz recommendations column.  This became the Jazz Picks column.

It’s been a great experience.  I’ve been able to share news of so much great new jazz, much of it quite obscure.  Joe was great.  He left me to my own devices.  Never once in the 3+ years that I wrote that weekly column did Joe ever demand that I write (or not write) about a particular album.  There was no editorial or commercial pressure whatsoever.  This was a good thing, especially taken in the light that many of the musicians I wrote about weren’t well known outside of their immediate family and tight fan base.

Back near the start of 2014, the eMusic editorial function was spun off to create Wondering Sound.  It’s where my Jazz Picks column currently resides.

Unfortunately, that is over.

As you may have heard, Wondering Sound is scaling back… way back.  A result of that action is my weekly jazz recommendations column will no longer be appearing on their site.

I can’t emphasize often enough how appreciative I am that J. Edward Keyes gave me a regular gig these last three years.  Both the platform, first on eMusic and then on Wondering Sound, was a great opportunity to spread the news far and wide of all this excellent music that deserved time in a big spotlight.  The fact that it was a regularly paying gig is no less important, because my budget never could’ve afforded the massive amount of time and effort it takes to compile that weekly column (to my own satisfaction) without that income.  I can’t believe it lasted for three years.  It seems like longer.  And now, looking back on it, it feels like just yesterday.  Joe, my sincere thanks and appreciation.  It was a huge statement for you to dedicate budget to a weekly column about modern jazz.  There are a lot of musicians who benefited from the spotlight you provided me to shine on their excellent music.  Thank you.

So, about that column…

The good news is that, for the time being, I’ll be hosting the Jazz Picks column, here, on Bird is the Worm.  I’ll be posting one tomorrow, in fact.  Not sure I’ll be calling Jazz Picks anymore, but whatever, y’know.  If you have ideas (polite ones) for what I should call the recommendations, please feel free to leave a comment.  I’ll be running the weekly column on BitW through the end of January.  During that time, I’ll be looking for a new home for the column.  If you’re a reputable publication and would be interested in hiring me to write a weekly recommendations column, please contact me at my site email (see bottom of About Me page).  I can be hired at reasonable rates, and I’ll be bringing a proven, established following.  I’ve got traffic stats and social media numbers to back it up.

During that same span of time, I’ll be investigating the possibility of running a crowd-funding project by way of creating a subscription service for the recommendations… a weekly newsletter, ‘zine, something.  It would be an expanded version of the current column and the preference would be to make it dirt cheap (no more than a dollar a month, preferably less) so that more people sign up at a cheaper price and, individually nobody is spending any serious cash for my column that could, instead, be used to purchase music.  Considering the value my recommendations column currently brings, plus the added features I’m envisioning, one dollar a month doesn’t seem like an offensive sum to request, y’know?

And we’ll pretty much have to see how all that goes before I start making other plans.  Much of this is new to me.  I know I’ve been at this for three years, but most of that time has been spent on what I do best- listening to everything that comes through the new releases listings and trusting my ear to pick out the music that has something to say.  Pitching articles, creating ‘zines, crowdfunding, networking… I’ll be taking my first steps on that.  It should be fun.  Painful at times, I’m sure, but fun.

Regardless of what I ultimately decided about my weekly recommendations column, Bird is the Worm will continue on as normal.  I’m not going anywhere.  It’s just a question of how I’m able to allocate my time.

Okay.  That’s it.  Next post will be tomorrow’s Jazz Picks column (or whatever I decide to call it).  Things will be a bit different and it’ll have a new home, but I’ll still be finding music that might just be your new favorite album.  Let’s begin…