We got hit with another strong week of new jazz releases. And it’s not just the albums listed in today’s column that provide the measure of the week’s depth, but the quality of those albums that weren’t able to squeeze onto the column. Some good stuff ahead of you today.
A whole bunch of today’s recommendations head out to the fringes of jazz territory, mostly to a place where electronics and effects play a major role in the music. But if that doesn’t float your boat, no worries, because there’s a couple here today that will take you for a ride on the wayback machine, to a time when jazz was easily recognizable and familiar and warm to the touch.
So hey, let’s begin…
*** Pick of the Week ***
Jeremy Udden & Nicolas Moreaux – Belleville Project
Both bassist Nicolas Moreaux and saxophonist Jeremy Udden possess an enormous talent at meshing jazz and folk into dreamy reveries of country roads, forest streams and small town languor. What began as a correspondence between two artists who’d decided they’d found a bird of the same feather in one another eventually became rehearsals, live performances, and culminated in the recording, Belleville Project… named after the French town where the recording happened.
Read more about this album on Bird is the Worm (LINK).
*** This week’s featured albums ***
Einem.Art – Lamara (Double Moon)
Read more about this album on Bird is the Worm (LINK).
Old Time Musketry – Drifter (NCM East)
Sophomore release from the jazz-folk quartet Old Time Musketry a big step up to a new plateau. Strong lyricism delivered more crisply and woven tighter around the rhythms. Mix of accordion, melodica, and woodwinds provides a whole bunch of warm & fuzzy harmonies that you’ll pray never end.
Daniel Herskedal – Slow Eastbound Train (Edition)
So gorgeous, it’s stunning. Tubist (yes, tubist) Herskedal is yet more evidence that the cumbersome tuba can make the most graceful music. His core trio (tuba, piano & percussion) are joined by a chamber string orchestra for some beautifully ambient third-stream and folk-jazz music.
Jeff Cosgrove/Frank Kimbrough/Martin Wind – Conversations With Owls (Self-Produced)
A pleasantly subdued avant-garde session from this drums, piano, bass trio. The strongest moments are when the trio just barely restrains a burst of controlled ferocity. Album includes an inspired take on “My Favorite Things.”
Donny McCaslin – Fast Future (Greenleaf)
Saxophonist McCaslin continues his exploration of a modern electro-acoustic jazz medium, with some mixed results. Huge surges of a Big Sound are sometimes undone with grand theatrics, though often this is eclipsed by a deep vocabulary and the eloquence to wield it. McCaslin is definitely a guy with his own point of view, and it’s pretty exciting to watch him fearlessly pursue it… you gotta respect that.
Bjorn Jansson – Genklang (Reach-Up)
Evocative session from saxophonist Jansson, who adds some bass clarinet in the right spots. Swedish quintet gets in a nice mix of modern jazz, Nordic folk, and all-around moody goodness. Easy to like.
Klabbes Bank – Z (Hoob)
The Klabbes Bank ensemble dive into an electronica-jazz approach only hinted at on previous recordings. Their sharper melodicism is replaced by a fuzzier, more ambient sound. A compelling turn from the talented cast.
BenReddik – Gjemsel (Norcd)
Rather charming music from the Nordic septet BenReddik. Heavy with the brass and woodwinds, and led out by a vocalist, they’ve got a nice easy-going nature to their tunes and keep things light. Curious music that grows more embraceable with time.
Avishai Cohen – From Darkness (Sunnyside)
Jose James – Yesterday I Had The Blues (Blue Note)
Excellent Billy Holiday-tribute from vocalist James, in a quartet with pianist Jason Moran, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Eric Harland. This one takes you back… whether it’s the Nat King Cole-like confident ease or the classic Blue Note Records album cover… it brings the lineage of jazz vocal sessions right into the present day. Unfussy, unshowy, and terribly affecting.
Polar Bear – Same as You (Leaf Label)
Easily the most engaging aspect of Polar Bear’s latest foray to the fringes of jazz is the way they sit, simultaneously, at extremes of electric liveliness and kicked-back serenity. It’s easy enough to focus on just one quality, but not without feeling the touch of the other. Way cool.
David Fettmann Trio – Ruby Project (Double Moon)
Very fun trio session from alto saxophonist Fettmann, organist Guillaume Naud and drummer Jonathan Blake. This straight-ahead session is elevated by the trio’s high-energy enthusiasm and their incisive lyricism, with no skimping on either melody or rhythm. An album with plenty of excitement and a real enjoyable way of talking.
Mark Helias Open Loose – The Signal Maker (Intakt)
Appealing modern set from bassist Helias, saxophonist Tony Malaby and drummer Tom Rainey. Melodies are frayed at the edges, form doesn’t always hold, and rhythmic attacks come from many angles. But at its core, this is whip smart music delivered with an appealing ease.
Hirofumi Asaba – Easy Like (Self-Produced)
Real nifty classic jazz sound for guitarist Asaba’s debut. His quintet swings, light on their feet, melody always in hand. Guitar and vibes make a very nice pairing, provide some nice bounce and warmth.
Arturo Serra – Nebulosa (New Steps)
Have a great time digging through the list!
And remember, it’s simple: You like what you like.