Matt Holman – “Sketches”

March 24, 2013


Today’s video is from a performance by the Matt Hollman, featuring Jeremy Udden, performed live at the Doulgass St Music Collective, Brooklyn, NY on June 7th, 2012.

Not the best video in the world, but it features two artists I enjoy listening to, and it’s the first time I’ve heard them perform together, so up it goes on the site.

Your video personnel:  Matt Holman (trumpet), Jeremy Udden (alto sax), Ziv Ravitz (drums), Jarrett Cherner (piano), and Martin Nevin (bass).


Here’s a review I wrote about Matt Holman’s new album, When Flooded.

Here’s a review I wrote about Jeremy Udden’s new album, Folk Art.

Have a great Sunday!

Bird is the Worm Best of 2012: Albums 21-25

December 26, 2012

Today’s post reveals the 21st through the 25th Bird is the Worm albums of the year.


BitW photo (full)For each album considered for inclusion, I was looking for it to hit me right in my heart, provoke a strong emotional reaction. I was also looking for it to engage my brain, provide some intrigue or fascination with the music being presented. Extra points were awarded for doing Something Different or building on a premise that embraced the best qualities of creativity. Strong musicianship alone is not enough. Many solid albums didn’t make the list. It literally pains me when I see some of the albums that weren’t included. But I listen to a lot of music, and one of the rare downsides to encountering so much great Jazz is that some of it won’t receive the recognition it deserves. So there you have it.

There is a link to a more formal review following each entry. The text that accompanies each album isn’t a review so much as reminiscences of aspects of the recording I liked when I first heard it and how I still feel about it now. I wasn’t looking to sum any of them up… that’s what reviews are for. Most reviews are accompanied with embedded audio so you can hear some of the music, as well as personnel and label information, links to artist, label, and retail sites, and anything else that seemed relevant/helpful to me at the time.

Let’s begin…



21. Jeremy Udden – Folk Art

Jeremy Udden - "Folk Art"This is the third Plainville ensemble album saxophonist Udden has recorded, and it continues the trend of deconstructing the sublime beauty of the first and exploring Udden’s singular folk jazz sound. With each subsequent album, Udden has managed to engage my brain at increasing strengths without relinquishing its emotional pull. That’s a pretty deft trick to pull off. It’s also why I continue to express my belief that Udden is onto something here, and that his voice will be an important one on the development of Jazz in years to come.

Released on the Fresh Sound Records label.

A Bird is the Worm review here.



22. Sunny Kim – Painters Eye

Just a beautiful symbiosis between Kim’s vocals and Ben Monder’s guitar. There’s more to the ensemble than just those two, but it’s their interplay that really has caused this album to remain on my radar for so long. Kim’s inspiration for the compositions was an Impressionist painter and poet, and the music has a presence and a motion that suggests both those sources. Haunting music of a hazy nature, songs that are sharp in contrast except when they become like mist. Beautiful stuff, and an album I keep returning to.

Released on the Sunnyside Records label.

A Bird is the Worm review here.



23. Piet Verbist – Zygomatik

pietverbist_zygomatic_dssA high-energy recording that just bounces rambunctiously off the walls. Bassist Verbist and keyboardist Bram Weijters aren’t new to one another, and the synthesis on display backs that up. With some excitable drumming and a crowd of saxophones, this album has a swagger while keeping in party-time mode. An album that understands that laying a groove on thick negates an essential lightness. This has that Friday Night On The Town bombast not unlike Lee Morgan’s The Gigolo. An album that never stops being fun.

Released on the Origin Arts label.

A Bird is the Worm review here.



24. Jean Lapouge – Des Enfants

Lapouge’s trio of guitar, trombone, and vibes is both soothing and eerie. Reminiscent of the Bill Frisell recording Quartet with a bit of 80s ambient prog-rock thrown in for good measure. I am persistently drawn to this little mystery of an album. It sounds so different, yet so simple in its delivery, that while I find it challenging on many levels, nothing about the music presents an obstacle to just sitting back and disengaging. It’s lack of conventionalism only adds to this album’s beauty.

Released on the Musea Records label.

A Bird is the Worm review here.



25. Chambr – Freewheel

I considered leaving this one off the list. A sextet that features all strings except for one member on percussion, this is a group that strays far enough out of Jazz territory for it to be included on a Best of Jazz list. With classical and folk the predominant influences, Freewheel does possess much of the folky romanticism and chamber jazz austerity of older World Jazz groups, notably Oregon, especially their earlier recordings on the Vanguard label, not to mention some chipper gypsy swing that can trace its roots back to Jazz territory. What it all came down to really was that this is music with a soaring beauty that deserves inclusion on a Best Of list, genre slap-fighting be damned.

Released on the F-IRE Collective label.

A Bird is the Worm review here.



Tomorrow’s post will reveal the Bird is the Worm numbers 16-20 2012 albums of the year.


Jeremy Udden – “Folk Art”

December 24, 2012


Jeremy Udden - "Folk Art"Working with two ensembles and constructing his album around his “Folk Art Suite,” saxophonist Jeremy Udden offers more of his fascinating blend of folk-jazz on 2012′s Folk Art.  Udden’s Plainville ensemble albums are sublime recordings, sometimes slow and easy, sometimes deconstructed and free, but always the stuff of lazy afternoons spent on back porches.

A creative arc is apparent after three Plainville ensemble albums.  The first of those recordings, the 2009 release titled Plainville, was full of the comfort of warm melodies and a cheerful banter of percussion.  The second album, 2011′s If the Past Seems So Bright, toyed with the melodies a bit, rendering some of them less friendly than its predecessor, and giving a bit of darkness and edge to many of the tunes.  On new album Folk Art, Udden not only continues on the path of disassembling those back porch serene tunes, but also with the configurations of the ensembles that portray them.

It displays yet more facets of Udden’s unequivocally singular and fascinating sound.

Your album personnel:  Jeremy Udden (alto & soprano saxes), Brandon Seabrook (banjo), Jeremy Stratton (bass), Kenny Wolleson (drums) and Eivind Opsvik (bass), Pete Rende (Rhodes, Wurlitzer), Will Graefe (guitar), Nathan Blehar (guitar), RJ Miller (drums).

The album opens with “Prospect Part 1,” a mix of scattered percussion cut through with strings and buoyed with some inquisitive lines from sax.  It’s an eerie sound hinted at in Udden’s previous two recordings, but now he’s putting it right up front.  He’s made a statement that it’s not business as usual.  A track like this was made for Wolleson’s percussion talents, with a similar touch being used on recordings by Bill Frisell and John Zorn… that right mix of the beautiful and the dangerous.

Second track “Train” has Graefe’s guitar plucking its way through a pleasant interlude.  The tune’s gentle beauty is nice as a contrast to the dissonance of the previous tune, and also as a transition into the fuller, freer “Up.”

Third track “Up” continues the seemingly looser construction of tunes.  Percussion and strings spill everywhere, bouncing off one another and crossing lines while sax skitters over the top.  Seabrook has some ferocious moments on banjo, just flying through notes like a bat careening through a swarm of mosquitoes.  It further demonstrates the distances the group stretches out to as they explore Udden’s folk jazz sound.

But the ensemble doesn’t forget to look back over its shoulder at what has come before.  Fourth track “Portland” harks back to the previous two recordings.  Languid sax lines, rustic strings like raindrops, and the gentle steady patter of drums.

“Dress Variation” is a two-and-half minute Blehar solo on a nylon-stringed guitar.  It’s got soul, but it’s also got a dour disposition reminiscent of some of Leo Kottke’s darker tunes.  It plays on the theme of “New Dress” (from If The Past Seems So Bright), while also serving as a wonderful transitional interlude between “Portland” and subsequent track “Alexander Part 2.”  Udden’s fluttering sax lines twist around Stratton’s bass, while Wolleson adds chipper statements on drums.  It’s a construct later revisited on “Our Hero,” but where “Alexander Part 2″ goes out quietly, “Our Hero” brings a simmer to a boil, ending with a wash of sound.

“Bartok” displays the course Udden’s path has taken from the original Plainville.  “Bartok” lays down a choppy cadence that many post-boppers utilize as they straddle the line between straight-ahead and modern avant-garde.  The track sounds like an original model disassembled then reorganized into a new but familiar structure.  It ain’t pretty, but it’s easy to see how it once was.  It’s also a welcome development.  As much as I freely rave of the sublime beauty of Plainville, it’s a healthy sign to see Udden experimenting with the formula in If The Past Seems So Bright and then breaking it down to its elements with Folk Art.  It prevents things from getting stale.  It also adds anticipation for what might come next.

The final two album tracks are “Jesse,” a growling tune that brings a lovely contrast between an earthy electric guitar and Udden’s fluttering alto sax.  The album finale is “Thomas,” a track that was also featured on If the Past Seems So Bright.  The current rendition falls right in line with the previous one.  It also lines up well the music of the previous two recordings, so that even as Udden stretches further away from his starting point, he hasn’t lost sight from where he first began.  It ties everything together nicely, and promotes a sense of both the new and the familiar.  Just a great way to end this wonderful album.

Released on the Fresh Sounds Records label.

Jazz from the Brooklyn scene.

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: CD | MP3

Deric Dickens – “Speed Date”

August 17, 2012


When Deric Dickens emailed me about Speed Date, I was hooked on the premise alone.  When he began listing off some of his collaborators, I was fully in at that point.

Here’s what I learned about the album before I sat down to listen to it.

  • Dickens wanted to record with some of his New York City musician friends.
  • He wanted the album to be predominately free, but to also base some of the music around Ornette Coleman- and Don Cherry-inspired melodies he’d been writing.
  • He wanted to keep things short.  Nothing over ten minutes, preferably far less.
  • He wanted to impose a restraint.  As a result, it gave the album a great hook (more on that shortly).

This is what I love about the creative process.  Artists who have worked together previously, recognize that they shed in the same peapod, and they decide to record an album that allows complete artistic freedom as long as they abide by a nifty hook/restraint.

Your hook for this album is the stopwatch.  On six of the album’s twenty tracks, a stopwatch was set to expire at just under a minute fifteen seconds, and when that timer went off, that was the end of the tune.  In fact, on title-track “Speed Date,” the timer alarm is audible at the end of the track, something I’m glad Dickens left on the finished recording… it’s just more proof of the good cheer of this album’s origins.  No track is less than a minute twenty in duration, and only one track exceeds five minutes in length (the seven and a half minute tune “Swing It Sista,” with Jeremy Udden).

In many ways, this is a ridiculous challenge set to the musicians.  They’re required to sit down, aware of the time constraint under which they must suss that creativity out, and then they’ve got that stopwatch staring at them.  To my mind, the reasonable reaction to that scenario is to laugh.

Here’s what my assumption was about the music before I sat down to listen to it:

  • This was going to be fun music.  Challenging, probably, but in the spirit of fun.

I was right.

Your album personnel:  Deric Dickens (drums, percussion), with guests:  Jeremy Udden (alto & C-melody sax), Jon Crowley (trumpet), Ben Cohen (tenor sax), Kirk Knuffke (coronet), Jeff Lederer (tenor sax, clarinet), Matt Wilson (drums, wooden flute, Marks Mark Bottle).

All of the tracks are duos between Dickens and a guest musician.  Six guests in all, they each participate on three tracks total, except for Wilson and Knuffke, who participate on four tracks each.  While Speed Date does have a remarkable cohesion considering its sizable guest roster, it’s also noticeable how each guest artist is able to give voice to their specific sound on their respective tracks, and the consistency of that sound across the span of their contributions.

On trumpet, Jon Crowley generates an energetic bounce throughout.  Sometimes it’s a buoyant march, sometimes it’s a sadistic hopscotch, hitting notes that don’t seem to make sense in the moment, but perpetually sounding to land right where they were supposed to (Dickens sounds like he’s played this game before).

On alto and C-melody sax, Jeremy Udden provides his familiar lazy Sunday afternoon sway.  Dickens sounds right at home matching Udden’s easy breeze pace.

Ben Cohen’s first contribution on tenor sax is about as straight-ahead jazz as it gets on this album, but the other two tracks he blows on possess a plaintive lighthouse moan, and Dickens colors it with percussion like the sounds of a pier, as the sea gently laps against it.

Jeff Lederer is tough to nail down.  Whether on tenor sax or clarinet, he is shadowboxing personified.  Sometimes circles Dickens’ rhythms, sometimes he creates squiggly lines that Dickens playfully tries to nail down, and sometimes they trade spastic bursts of sound.

Three of Kirk Knuffke‘s four contributions have plenty of fight to them.  Shooting out sharp notes on cornet, sometimes definitive statements, sometimes inquisitive challenges.  On his fourth and final track, Knuffke sounds to be done with all the provocation, and he and Dickens have an amicable conversation on their instruments.

Drummer Matt Wilson, who aided Dickens in the planning of this album, has four enjoyable tracks, either doubling up on drums or playing a wooden flute, giving an intriguingly rustic haze to Dickens’ free jazz bursts of rhythm.  On “Termites,” the duo utilizes a full bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon.  Once the bottle became less full, Wilson uses it as a wind instrument while Dickens mans the drums.

Taken as a whole, the album is to appreciated as much as a creative experiment as a music listening experience.  For musicians to embrace a fun, exciting challenge, and then endow the music with those same qualities, that’s the kind of thing we should want from our artists… to take chances, to produce creative pieces of quality, and for it spring from some kind of emotional basis that elevates the piece from simple craft to inspirational art.

This one came from a place of good humor.  Speed Date communicates that loud and clear.

Released in 2011 on Mole-Tree Music, which appears to be Dickens’ own label.

Jazz from NYC.

There’s a nice interview of Deric Dickens by jazz interviewer extraordinaire Jason Crane on Crane’s site, The Jazz Session.

You can stream the album, and purchase it, on Dickens’ Bandcamp page.  There’s also a link on the Bandcamp page to purchase the physical CD, too.

Available at Amazon: MP3

Tiny Reviews: Erik Deutsch, Tore Johansen, & Marc Bernstein

April 6, 2012

Tiny Reviews, featuring:  Erik Deutsch Demonio Teclado, Tore Johansen Double Rainbow, and Marc Bernstein Good People Music.

Three Tiny Reviews of three very different albums, all with something strong to hear.

Let’s begin…


Erik Deutsch – Demonio Teclado

Interesting new release from keyboardist Erik Deutsch. Very much in the neo-soul jazz family, though Deutsch’s sound has always had a healthy infusion of pop, even as part of the very cool but under-the-radar Colorado country-jazz ensemble County Road X.  On this album, Deutsch lets the electric keyboards sing with plenty of compositions just ready to groove with anyone who’ll listen.  Inclusion of steel guitar is a very nice touch on “Ms. Pelican” and ends the album with resounding proof that Deutsch deserves plenty of attention.

Your album personnel:  Erik Deutsch (keys), Tony Mason (drums), Glenn Taylor (steel guitar), Brandon Seabrook (guitar), Jon Gray (trumpet), Ben Rubin, Jeff Hill (bass), and guest: Jens (tambourine; one track).

Plenty to like here for everyone, jazz and non-jazz fans alike.  Those who still put Beck’s Odelay into the stereo on a regular basis might like what’s going on here, as would people who are into Ray Charles electric period.  Just a real fun album that’s easy to bop along to.

Released on the Hammer & String label, which is Deutsch’s thing.  Jazz from the Brooklyn scene.

Available at eMusic.


Tore Johansen – Double Rainbow

Nice release from trumpeter Tore Johansen. Very much in the style of Nordic jazz; atmospheric, relaxed, rainy-day jazz. Nice balance to the production; instruments each have their equal say, much to the benefit of the listener. Drummer Jon Christensen, who has played on some of the ECM label’s seminal modern albums, absolutely shines here; even when his playing gets more pronounced, he never surrenders his innate elegance.

Your album personnel:  Tore Johansen (trumpet), Vigleik Storaas (piano), Jo Skaansar (bass), and Jon Christensen (drums).

Released on the Inner Ear label.  Jazz from the Trondheim, Norway scene.

Available on eMusic.


Marc Bernstein – Good People Music

Intriguing release by multi-reedist Marc Bernstein, and featuring drummer extraordinaire Billy Hart. A quintet rounded out with drums, piano, and bass.  Compositions with an inquisitive nature that gets the musicians in a searching frame of mind.  Cool, evocative music… the kind of jazz that, when played, can make the mundane seem special just by way of it being the soundtrack to that particular moment.  Highly Recommended.

Your album personnel:  Marc Bernstein (saxophones & bass clarinet, Billy Hart (drums), Jacob Anderskov (piano), and Jonas Westergaard (bass).

NOTE:  The above section is what I wrote for my eMusic Jazz Picks article, but over the last month, this album has become increasingly addictive, so I’ll be looking to write a full length review soon, to be pubbed either on AllAboutJazz or Bird is the Worm.

Released on the Blackout Music label.  Jazz from the Denmark scene.

Available at eMusic.


That’s it for today’s article, and the first of two parts of the Tiny Reviews from this batch of new arrivals.

Here’s some language to protect emusic’s rights as the one to hire me originally to scour through the jazz new arrivals and write about the ones I like:

New Arrivals Jazz Picks“, courtesy of, Inc.
© 2012, Inc.

My thanks to emusic for the freelance writing gig, the opportunity to use it in this blog, and the editorial freedom to help spread the word about cool new jazz being recorded today.