Recommended: Vincent Courtois – “Mediums”

April 29, 2015


Vincent Courtois - "Mediums"The 2012 recording from cellist Vincent Courtois is struck through with vivid imagery.  Joined by frequent collaborators Daniel Erdmann and Robin Fincker, the pairing of their twin tenor saxophones and the cello of Courtois has the heart of a storyteller and the delivery of a filmmaker.  The tale of Mediums is told with a pastiche of visions and ambiance.

The thick bank of harmonies on “Mounting” sets the scene with a stark beauty.  The sprouting lines of melody on title-track “Mediums” is cut through with bisecting lines from cello, crosshatching effusive articulations with a scathing rebuttal.

The dissonant flutter & shriek of “Entresort” is balanced out by the alarming unease of “Une inquiétante disparition (part 1),” which calms itself by whistling a comforting melody, aided further by the soothing whisper of “Regards.”

The dust storm of “Jackson’s Catch” whips the melody about everywhere… an effect not unlike the competing conversations of “Une inquiétante disparition (part 2)” and how the overlapping lines of dialog create a cryptic, foreboding verse.

“Rita and the Mediums” begins disjointedly, but gradually gains momentum and cohesion, rising up like the sun over the horizon.  This is bolstered by “La Femme Sans Corps” with its languid motion and off-the-cuff melodic delivery.  It’s the deep quiet of the dead of night and the disquieting sounds that call out from the darkness.

The three-part “Bengal” suite goes about tangling the melody into a tight ball.  Sometimes, when it reaches a confluence, the song emits the prettiest of sounds.  The sweet sigh of “La Nuit des Monstres” takes that result to a greater extreme.

The album ends with “The Removal,” a tune that bobs peacefully on the surface of the water… its cadence hypnotic, its melody strangely alluring, and its note of finality immensely satisfying and one that aptly encapsulates this enchanting album

Your album personnel:  Vincent Courtois (cello), Daniel Erdmann (tenor sax) and Robin Fincker (tenor sax).

Released in 2012 on La Buissonne.

Listen at Bandcamp.  Explore the artist on Soundcloud.

Music from France.

Available at:  Bandcamp | eMusic | Amazon


Archaic Future Players – “Station Wagon Interior Perspective (A Requiem for John Fahey)”

April 10, 2014


Archaic Future Players - "Station Wagon Interior Perspective"Incorporating the blues and gospel and ragtime that comprise the roots of Jazz music, and then channeling it with a forward-thinking inventiveness, Robert Stillman’s Archaic Future Players offer up with Station Wagon Interior Perspective that potent mix of past and future, synthesized down in the present moment… a sense of timelessness and nostalgia that is as exciting as it is intoxicating.

It’s unsurprising that the ensemble echoes the voices of similarly inclined musicians like Charles Mingus and Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra for their four-movement tribute to deceased folk guitarist John Fahey… a musician who also embraced the roots of the past as he constructed his own inventive expressions.

Your album personnel: Robert Stillman (Fender Rhodes, drums), Jeremy Udden (C-melody saxophone), Kenny Warren (trumpet), Dave Noyes (trombone), and Ben Stapp (tuba).

The album opens with “Part I: Waltz,” a song of heavy notes delivered with a staggering cadence, yet lofted up with a boozy euphoria that lets the music hang in the air, floating weightlessly.  Ben Stapp’s tuba brings a fullness to the tempo, and Jeremy Udden’s c-melody saxophone adds brightness to its edges.

That same cadence continues into “Part II: Blues,” though expressed with a casualness that lends it a lighter gait.  Kenny Warren’s trumpet has a melodic richness thick with feeling, and Stillman’s drums crackle off its surface like sparks from an open wire.

“Part III: Stomp” comes hard out of the gate.  Dave Noyes’s trombone opens the doors for Stillman to glide through with the most beautiful solo on Fender Rhodes.  It’s a stunning moment.  The lightness of Rhodes contrasts dramatically with the heaviness representative of the album up until that moment, and the way it puts this album’s tunefulness into sharp focus is a revelatory moment.  That the ensemble then builds up from this into something bigger and more expansive, the tempo getting chipper and the harmonies warmer, it illustrates this album’s winning attitude.

The four-part movement comes to a close with “Part IV: Funeral March.”  It has the endearingly celebratory tones inherent in the somber New Orleans ritual of taking the recently deceased to their final resting place… and symbolic of this ensemble’s method of honoring the traditions of music while simultaneously expressing itself with its own personality.

The album has two bonus tracks: “Epilogue for J.F.” and “NR Rag.”  Both tunes are introspective piano pieces, achieving a meditative dissonance and possessing an identity separate from that of the album’s four-part movement, while doing nothing to clash with the spirit of the album.  This is a smart recording, and the placement of the bonus tracks does nothing to change that.

I’ve been listening to this album for awhile now, and am just getting around to writing something about it.  My enjoyment hasn’t waned a bit, and I’m just as excited to recommend it today as I would have been the first time I discovered this fine recording.

Released on Stillman’s Archaic Future Recordings label.

Available at:  Bandcamp CD/MP3/Vinyl | eMusic | Amazon MP3

Franz von Chossy Quintet – “When the World Comes Home”

February 25, 2014


Franz von Chossy - "When the World Comes Home"I was recently wandering around the Bandcamp site, and I found this little gem of an album.  When the World Comes Home by the Franz von Chossy Quintet is just about the prettiest thing I’ve heard lately, and despite my busy listening schedule, I keep hitting the play button on this beautiful recording.  A contemporary blend of jazz, classical, and folk, strong melodies are stated simply, then lofted up on the shoulders of majestic harmonies and carried away by dynamic rhythms that often border on the breathless.

Opening track “Along the River” offers up harmonies soft and sweet.  “Steps of the Sun” adds a sense of urgency to the affair, with complex rhythmic strata and a lovely melody that flows through its seams.  “The Salt Companion” follows this with a melody that’s freer and allowed to roam, while remaining distinctly within earshot as it twists and turns, a fluid motion, perpetually changing shapes a little at a time.

“Perpetual Lights” plays and tinkers with melody with a pop music sensibility, drawing out exciting nuance without making it any less catchy.  “Human Dark With Sugar” and “Eternal Elephant” present a quieter side to this recording, with the former adopting a sorrowful tone and the latter opening out with a brooding disposition, then ending with a surging intensity.  “Victoria Line” returns with an upbeat tempo and a folk music swing.

The melodic development on title-track “When the World Comes Home” reflects not just this album’s staggering beauty, but the observation that the beauty grows stronger as the album proceeds.  The album ends with the skittering “Dust and Diamonds,” a track that coasts on warm harmonies and a melody that peeks out from within.  The album ends just like it began… with an abounding melodic grandeur and rhythms that crackle with life.

Absolutely thrilled to have stumbled onto this recording, and I’m just as thrilled to be able to share word of it here today.

Your album personnel:  Franz von Chossy (piano), Jeffrey Bruinsma (violin), Alex Simu (clarinet), Jörg Brinkmann (cello), and Yonga Sun (drums).

This album was Self-Produced, and released in 2012.

Jazz from the Amsterdam scene.

Available at: Bandcamp Digital | CDBaby CD&Digital | Amazon: CDMP3

Note:  It appears that the track order on Bandcamp is different than that on other retail outlets.  I left my review in the order of presentation that represented how I heard it (the Bandcamp presentation), because that is how this music was revealed to me.  The alternate track ordering has the title-track as the album’s final song… I have to admit, that song makes for a great album finale.  But either way, you can’t go wrong.  Just a beautiful recording.

Susanne Paul’s Move Quartet – “El Camino”

January 11, 2014


Susanne Paul's Move Quartet - "El Camino"An album that has been absolutely mesmerizing me since I first discovered it this last December is El Camino, by Susanne Paul’s Move Quartet.  It’s a string quartet that creates the most enchanting chamber music.  They seek to bring together elements of classical, jazz, and soundscape.  The heaviest influence on the music is the first of those three, but the other two influences peek out at favorable moments.

An album so beautiful at times, it’s stunning.

Your album personnel:  Susanne Paul (cello and compositions), Ger∂ur Gunnarsdóttir (violin), Ari Poutiainen (viola), and Carlos Bica (double bass).

“Basics of Birds” typifies many of the album pieces… a motion that sounds erratic from one tick of the clock to the next, but over the course of its progression, reveals a graceful fluidity not apparent at first blush.  Sunny harmonies cross overhead from time to time, as hints of a melodic theme trickle up to the surface.

“Panache Bleu” builds up into a lather with some frenetic slashes and groove, then exhales deeply with a lilting wash of harmony in “Choral.”

“Baobab” is a gorgeous display of accentuating melodic beauty by toying with the tempo.  A prancing cadence is set against a crosshatch of melodic fragments and harmonic bursts, creating one of the prettiest and most engaging album tracks.

Scattered throughout the album are a variety of brief interludes, improvisatory moments that communicate as conversational asides… interesting small-talk in between the larger topics at hand.  They’re also pretty damn fun.  “Is it Tango?” slashes and cuts through a tempo inspired by peculiar motions.  “Space Insects” twitters with unseen life.  “Gunslinger” has a twang and thump and something vaguely resembling a cool stroll carried out in slow-motion.

The album ends with the title-track “El Camino,” a song with the elegance of a waltz, the warmth of a lullaby.

Which, now that it’s been written, it occurs to me that’s the statement I could’ve led with this review.  It’s a beautiful recording, of elegance and warmth.

Released on JazzHaus Musik.

Music from the Berlin, Germany scene.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon MP3

It will be of interest to some of this site’s readers to note that the bass player on this recording, Carlos Bica, has put out a series of albums on the Clean Feed Records label.  To anyone remotely familiar with Clean Feed, it won’t be a surprise to learn that those recordings are nothing like El Camino.  It’s intriguing to hear Bica in a different setting.  Here’s a brief synopsis of one such recording.

There Is No Last Page: Revisiting the Best of 2012

January 3, 2014


I listen to a lot of music.  I spend a lot of time listening to it.  But no matter how comprehensive I am, there will always be albums that get past me, either because they flew under my supposed highly-attuned radar or, perhaps, my ears just didn’t get the time they needed to fully grasp the music they had in front of them.

Here are two albums that most assuredly would’ve been included on my Best of 2012 list, had they received full consideration at the time I compiled it.



Anne Paceo – Yokai

Anne Paceo - "Yokai"This was actually one of my eMusic Jazz Picks when it first came out in the latter half of 2012.  I had an email in my inbox from Anne, asking if I’d consider reviewing it for my site.  I remember liking what I heard on my first pass of the recording well enough to include it in my eMusic column, and I was sure interested in hearing it more and, perhaps, writing it up for Bird is the Worm.  For whatever reason, I didn’t attach a follow-up flag to the email, and as a result, it was swallowed up by the deluge of emails that is my inbox.

Well, sometime into 2013, I was searching Soundcloud for an embeddable track that I could use for a review of Pierre Perchaud’s excellent recording Waterfalls (which narrowly missed being included on my Best of 2013 list).  Well, Perchaud also performs on Paceo’s Yokai, and when I saw that as one of the search results, I began thinking, hey, wasn’t that a follow-up thing?  I began streaming Paceo’s album tracks on Soundcloud, and was amazed at how wonderful the music was.  I got ahold of that album, and now, many many months later, I’m still beaming about it.

The is music always in motion.  Graceful, vibrant, and powerful.  Highly melodic, but its all about the infectious cadences inspiring dance, sweeping the listener up in its flow.  It verges on subgenres like a Martina Almgren type of World Jazz, European-style post-bop, and a Brian Blade Fellowship nu-jazz.  But really, this music occupies its own space, having carved out a sonic niche that frees it from categorization, and perhaps its what gives the music such a powerful sense of freedom in its motion.  I really can’t get enough of this recording, and it’s been well over a year since I first laid ears upon it.  Catchy tunes that continue to surprise and delight, and verge, at times, on the breathless.  Had I the opportunity to do it over again, I’d likely have slotted this recording somewhere in the bottom half of the top ten, and no lower than 15 to be sure.  An outstanding album.

Released on Laborie Jazz.

A Bird is the Worm review HERE.



Oskar Schönning – The Violin

Oskar Schonning - "The Violin"I’m still not sure how I never got around to reviewing this album in 2012.  I became aware of it pretty early on, and had plenty of time to cover it and consider it for the Best of 2012 list.  I believe I originally became familiar with the recording via Nils Berg, who plays bass clarinet on this recording, and whose Nils Berg Cinemascope and The Stoner ensembles are pretty damn amazing.  There’s a cool video from the album that I featured in my These Are Videos That I Like Series.

In any event, it wasn’t until I was poking around the internet, and stumbled upon this nifty site called The Afterword, and checked out a very cool Best of 2012 list (covering all genres) by someone with the byline of duco01.  I saw the Schonning recording on that list, and got that sinking feeling any list-compiler gets after discovering an album that, for all intents and purposes, he/she probably should’ve included.  Had I the opportunity to do it over again, I’d likely have slotted this recording somewhere between 25 and 30.

This album cuts between interludes of European folk music and late-period bop.  It’s sort of straight-ahead, except when it’s not.  This isn’t a blend of influences so much as two types of expression spliced together at strategic intervals.  It’s got both a stately beauty and an abundant warmth.  I find myself listening to it when I need something gentle to fill the quiet moments of the day and when I need something lively to perk up the mood.  Just a lovely album.

The album is Self-Produced.

A Bird is the Worm review HERE.