Good god, this was an excellent week of new jazz releases. There were any number of albums that could’ve been slotted as the Pick of the Week. Just as telling, however, are the number of quality albums that didn’t get included on today’s list… albums that I’ll likely try to squeeze in either next week or in short stand-alone reviews.
It’s weeks like this that make all the hard work digging through the new release listings so worthwhile… so much music that’s so uplifting, each in their own way.
If you had a budget, just surrender it right now. Take out a loan if you have to. You need to have this music.
*** Pick of the Week ***
Oded Lev-Ari – Threading
On a week of many excellent new releases, the debut by pianist & composer Lev-Ari stands out from the crowd. With his blend of jazz and classical, this large ensemble set of chamber jazz pieces hits any number of sweet spots. He offers up ballads that sway with a sound of jazz from long long ago, extended pieces cut through with contemporary classical streaks and jazz improvisation, ebullient up-tempo pieces that sing the blues and moody, contemplative pieces that occupy a place all to themselves. I’ll be writing much more about this excellent album in the very near future, but I don’t suggest waiting… just go buy this album right now.
*** This week’s featured albums ***
Tore Brunborg – Slow Snow (ACT Music)
A highly expressive, deeply melodic set from saxophonist/pianist Brunborg. Two feet in modern territory with compositions that stray into indie-rock and the tasteful use of electronics (courtesy of both guitarist Eivind Aarset and drummer Per Oddvar Johansen). Fans of the Esbjorn Svensson Trio should definitely scoop this one up.
Bruno Raberg Quartet – Hot Box (Self-Produced)
Nifty modern straight-ahead session from bassist Bruno Raberg. Compositions have plenty of drive, but the casual, almost off-the-cuff delivery is plenty appealing. Mixing in some oddball pieces gives the more conventional tunes even greater definition.
Samuel Blaser – Spring Rain (Whirlwind)
Solid quartet session from trombonist Blaser, drummer Gerald Cleaver, pianist Russ Lossing and bassist Drew Gress. Whether it’s modern post-bop, avant-garde free improv or chamber music, Blaser always brings an unconventional voice to the affair. This is the kind of thing that leads to revealing, inspired moments… like on his newest recording.
John Raymond – Foreign Territory (Fresh Sound New Talent)
Solid straight-ahead recording from trumpeter Raymond, backed with an excellent line-up of pianist Dan Tepfer, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Billy Hart. Plenty enjoyable when the quartet picks up the pace and increases the flame, but the album really shines when they imitate the grace of flickering candlelight. Give a listen to “Chant” to get a sense of the album’s heartbeat.
Kevin Hays – New Day (Sunnyside)
Seriously personable release from vocalist-pianist Hays. A real folksy charm to this electro-acoustic soul jazz session. Melodies as welcoming as the morning sun, rhythms with a most delightful conversational delivery, and the kind of friendly music that broach serious subjects and still make everything okay.
Manuel Valera Trio – Live at Firehouse 12 (Self-Produced)
Wonderful live set from the trio of pianist Valera, bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer EJ Strickland. Plenty evocative, with an inherent moodiness in each piece counterbalanced nicely by a lively rhythmic approach. Sounds like one of those performances where everything comes together at exactly the right moment.
Keith Kelly Ask Not – A Grand Apparatus, Discarded (Edgetone)
Saxophonist Kelly leads a quartet through a high voltage set of jazz-rock fusion. Nifty how an undercurrent of melodicism rises to the surface before again submerging below the crazed intensity. A sharp intelligence to this furious music.
ZetZum Zorglub – ZetZum Zorglub (PG Sounds)
Guitarist Buster Jensen’s mix of post-rock, Nordic Jazz and ambient minimalism is pretty damn captivating. Electric distortion is balanced by contemplative piano phrasings, warm infusions of saxophone harmonies, and a careful attention to how one moment flows into the next. A strange beauty to this one.
Jakob Kühnemann Quartett – Contrejour (Unit Records)
A nice easy-going lyricism to bassist Kuhnemann’s quartet session. Music stays light on its feet, sometimes flirts with simply drifting away like a dream. The subtleties and nuance resonate strongly, and shifts this music away from getting to be simply another straight-forward session.
Antonio Sanchez – Three Times Three (CamJazz)
Wow, outstanding set from drummer Sanchez, who offers up three tunes each with three different trios. With Brad Meldau & Matt Brewer, it’s deep melodicism. With John Scofield & Christian McBride, it’s sharp precision. And with Joe Lovano & John Patitucci, it’s effusive blues. Go buy this right now.
Martin Auer Quintett – Our Kind Of… (Laika)
Trumpeter Auer’s quintet gives an intriguing take on the compositions of Kind of Blue. Nothing straight-forward about the music, as the modern European sound gives a dreamy effect to familiar tunes. Delightful how the melody sometimes pokes out its head and reveals itself.
Jean Kapsa, Antoine Reininger & Maxime Fleau – La Ligne de Kármán (Mélisse)
Modern piano trio session that swims in the deep end of the melodies. A sense of constant forward motion helps stretch the melodic development out to soaring heights and lets their final notes linger. Piano, bass and drums all have plenty to contribute to the conversation.
Julian Arguelles – Let It Be Told (Basho)
Saxophonist Arguelles’s arrangements of South African music is effusive and warm, and cheery melodies ride the whitecaps of rolling rhythms. The Frankfurt Radio Big Band provides a fat sound that could fill any room, but when they grow contemplative, like on the Mongezi Feza composition “You Ain’t Gonna Know Me (Cos’ You Think You Know Me), the music resonates with a remarkable strength. A likable recording that grows more likable with familiarity.
Nicole – Raizes/Roots (Soundbrush)
A bubbling personality to this recording that snaps together Judaic songs and Brazilian music. Vocalist Nicole lends a casual ease to the tunes that’s rather charming. The chatter from guitars, accordion and percussion is all kinds of friendly.
Triologos – Tracce di Canti (SLAM Productions)
Interesting avant-garde session from this trio of saxophone, percussion and double bass. Melodies are often frayed and warped and run from the sunlight, while the rhythms play a game of hopscotch that abides by its own rules of physics. Strange music.
Have a great time digging through the list!
And remember, it’s simple: You like what you like.