Recommended: Linus – “Linus + Skarbø / Leroux”

April 11, 2015


Linus - "Linus, Skarbo, Leroux"Linus+Skarbø/Leroux is a massively captivating session from past Wondering Sound Pick of the Week, guitarist Ruben Machtelinckx, who, along with saxophonist Thomas Jillings, create the duo Linus.  As with other projects, Machtelinckx brings a number of different instruments belonging to the guitar family, and Jillings does the same with the reed instruments.

Joining them for this session are Frederik Leroux and Øyvind Skarbø.  The former’s arsenal matches that of Machtelinckx, while the latter adds a nice dose of percussion and some nifty waves of Hammond organ, which, along with Jillings’ modicum of synthesizer, adds some hazy atmospherics to rustic music.  It’s a blend of folk, electronic, jazz and, well, experimental, I suppose.  It’s serene as all hell, but possesses lots of quirks and jagged edges to bring out a lively personality.

The song “Down” accompanies a brisk cadence with a chipper bounce, and it provides all kinds of handholds for strings and sax to launch bits of melody.  The quartet’s brief flirtation with chaos only brings further attention to the song’s prevailing tranquility.  “Finco” adopts a similar approach, but the tempo is one made for effortlessly coasting across.

“Porch,” on the other hand, has the accidental tempo of sporadic rain tapping against a tin roof.  The sense of melody seems equally random, and that is the song’s strength and its charm.

“Sketch” is the rustle of brittle Autumn leaves, kicked up by a stiff breeze.  “Woodstock” is a ray of sun shining down upon it, warming the surface of everything it touches.

“LaBoeuf” is the most cohesively tuneful song on the album, with a pretty melody to lead the way and a straight-forward rhythm to help shepherd it along.  A little twang and a few growls just draw out a bit more personality from the tune.

There are three faux interludes on the recording.  The first brief piece, “Vaag,” opens the album with a peaceful drone.  “Vlaag” is placed near the middle of the album, and also features a drone, but one that swims in atonality.  The album ends with “Vraag,” a piece situated somewhere in between those two extremes.  It’s a lovely way to round out a terribly lovely album.

Your album personnel:  Ruben Machtelinckx (banjo, guitar, acoustic baritone guitar), Thomas Jillings (tenor & C-melody saxophone, alto clarinet, synthesizers), Frederik Leroux (banjo, guitar, baritone guitar) and Øyvind Skarbø (drums, Hammond organ).

Released on El Negocito Records.

Listen to more of the album on the label’s Bandcamp page.

Music from the Antwerp, Belgium scene.

Explore the artists’ music on their Soundcloud pages.

Available at:  Bandcamp | CDBaby | eMusic | Amazon


Ruben Machtelinckx - "Flock"Be sure to check out Ruben Machtelinckx‘s Flock, which has him presenting a similar sound with a different quartet.  It was my Wondering Sound Pick of the Week when the album was released at the tail end of 2014.  I still think quite highly of it.  Read more at Bird is the Worm (LINK).


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


Steve Treseler Group – “Center Song”

June 17, 2014


Steve Treseler - "Center Song"An absorbing session from multi-reedist Steve Treseler, who applies an impressionist’s touch to this modern straight-ahead set and, as a result, elevates the recording up to something quite special.  Center Song keys in on three basic forms of presentation, then weaves them all together to where cohesion is king and differentiation is as fluid a vision as passing scenery from a train window.

Your album personnel:  Steve Treseler (tenor & alto saxes, clarinet, bass clarinet), Ingrid Jensen (trumpet), Jon Hamar (double bass), Dawn Clement (piano), Chris Spencer (guitar), Dean Schmidt (electric bass), Steve Korn (drums), Meg Risso (cello), and guest: Don Kramlich (piano).

The group of threes can be broken down into general categories.  There are those straight-ahead tracks that swing right along, and then there are others that bring harmonic and rhythmic elements stretching out beyond Jazz borders, flirting with territory defined by chamber and indie-rock.  The third of three are the interludes dispersed throughout the expanse of the album, with most accentuating the chamber music face of this recording… but the way in which they’re presented as little sonic vignettes allows them to exist on their own two feet, and provides them with a life’s purpose that eclipses their role as mere transitions between proper songs.

Of the first category, “Kary’s Trance” is a joyful bop tune spurred on by the shuffle and step of rhythm section bassist Hamar and drummer Korn, and features some nice soloing over the top from Treseler, Jensen, and Kramlich on tenor sax, trumpet, and piano.  “Cold Hammered” has a similar demeanor, but digs in deeper with a bit of a groove.

Of the second category, “11,000 Miles,” with its dramatic builds and surges and its strong melody that goes off wandering in all kinds of directions, is reminiscent of other bands from the Pacific Northwest scene such as the Tunnel Six ensemble, or a bit more distantly, the Brian Blade Fellowship… elements of indie-rock and contemporary folk that, applied in the right amounts and the right spots, create a cinematic wash of evocative imagery.

Title-track “Center Song” is another piece cut from that mold.  Jensen’s trumpet has a soaring propulsion while still keeping close to the ensemble… an effect that’s even more arresting when she suddenly falls in lock step with the steady pulse of the rhythm section.  The solos are all well and good, but it’s the way in which Treseler and Jensen intertwine their lines of communication that makes for the most thrilling part of the dialog.  “Painted Trail” is one of those epic tunes that never seems to end, a succession of solos gliding effortlessly across a sweeping harmonic expanse.  “At Home” is its opposite, bundling its expressions in tight and succinct, while emitting the cheerful tranquility of looking back on good times.

Of those intervals, “Inner Sounds Part 2” crafts pretty lines of melody atop a pulsing beat, whereas “Ultra Tempo (for George Garzone)” is a sudden downpour that whips about violently before disappearing just as quickly.  “Abyss” is the strange quiet that follows that storm.  The brief harmonic sigh of “Chorale” is an alluring intro to the straight-ahead “Cold Hammered,” an effect matched in how the unattached missive of “Interlude” leads into the cover of pop song “Days Were Golden.”

And it’s with that cover of the hit song by fellow Seattle residents Sunny Day Real Estate that Treseler closes out the album.  With its languid sway and brief surges of intensity, there’s a satisfying compactness to this song, ending an album that is typified by stunning changes in shape and form.

A seriously captivating album.

Released, officially, on CMA Records, but this was a Kickstarter thing, so it’s more likely this ablum is Self-Produced.  Creative Music Adventures (CMA) appears to be a music school for children that Treseler is involved with.  Here’s a LINK to learn more about the organization.  Getting kids involved with music is an exceedingly worthwhile pursuit.

Jazz from the Seattle, WA scene.

Available at:  CDBaby | Amazon: CDMP3

Or purchase directly from the artist via Pay Pal.

Rasmus Nyvall Kvintett – “Bangård”

March 11, 2014


Rasmus Nyvall Kvintett - "Bangard"There’s a very personable quality to the quirkiness of Bangård, the new release by the Rasmus Nyvall Kvintett.  Consisting of two ensembles, a quintet and quartet, the music shifts between soulful music with spasmodic tendencies and a chamber music beauty that induces contemplative reveries.

The quintet features the vocals of Linda Bergström and straddles a peaceful Nordic folk-jazz approach, though with improvisatory bursts to shake the music free of any impending sleepiness.  Bergström sings in her native Swedish tongue, providing a sense of intimacy via the sense that these are the true words, the undiluted message of the lyricist, and the substance of that meaning outweighs the ability to understand the actual lyrics.  Nyvall sticks to tenor sax when with the quintet, a flighty presence that hops about at a moment’s notice.

With the quartet, however, Nyvall is on clarinet, and considering this formation is strictly wind instruments, it’s understandable that his demeanor has a more defined grace than when with the quintet, where he’s called upon to provide creative outbursts in wide open spaces.  The wind quartet is a moody soul, but from it shines a melodic light full of hope and happiness.

The four wind quartet contributions are spread throughout the album, constructing the album in a way that provides some of the reassuring certainty of artistic structure, while also allowing for plenty of space in between for improvisatory jumps and leaps of faith.

A likable album, one that hasn’t yet really gotten its claws in me, per se, yet I find myself compelled to return to it each day.  I’ve always taken that for a good sign, and it pretty much guarantees a write-up on this site.

Your album personnel:  The Quintet: Rasmus Nyvall (tenor sax), Linda Bergström (vocals), Fanny Gunnarsson (piano), Mattias Hjorth (double bass), and Kristoffer Rostedt (drums).

Your album personnel:  The Quartet: Rasmus Nyvall (clarinet), Ellen Pettersson (trumpet), Cecilia Sandgren (French horn), and Daniel Cederskär (bass clarinet).

Released on Havtorn Records.

Jazz from the Malmö, Sweden scene.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon MP3

The Resonance Ensemble – “Head Above Water, Feet Out Of The Fire”

February 21, 2014


Resonance Ensemble - "Head Above Water"A thrilling large ensemble work that features the compositions of Ken Vandermark, and performed by an all-star cast of musicians.  Head Above Water, Feet Out of the Fire is comprised of a studio recording and a live performance.  The latter is a live recording from a 2012 performance in Hasselt, Belgium, and consisted of compositions that the ensemble had been working on during the tour and felt so successful, they wanted to get the music down on record.  The studio album was recorded in Chicago in 2012, and was to coincide with the Chicago Jazz Festival debut of new compositions.

This is music that’s got determination and drive, punctuates its solos with gusto, and casts out harmonic waves intended to sweep up listeners and take them away… and, thankfully, never forgets to deliver the goods with a conversational tone that is as intellectually gripping as the music is emotionally intense.

Your album personnel:  Ken Vandermark (baritone sax, Bb clarinet), Mikolaj Trzaska (alto sax, bass clarinet), Waclaw Zimpel (Bb & alto clarinets), Tim Daisy (drums), Mark Tokar (acoustic bass), Michael Zerang (drums), Steve Swell (trombone), Magnus Broo (trumpet), Dave Rempis (alto & tenor saxes), Per-Åke Holmlander (tuba), and Devin Hoff (bass VI).

“Creative Reconstruction Company (For Muhal Richard Abrams)” is a wild horse, alternating between an hypnotic cadence of hooves pounding earth at a gallop and the sudden rearing back and explosion of force upward, shouting up to the sky with all the fury gained from forward motion.

The uneasy drone of “Elegy for Two Rooms (For Fred Anderson and Von Freeman)” is both soothing and ominous, whereas “Type A (For Michael Orlove)” has a boisterous personality and a chipper attitude, ending sentences with wide beaming smiles.  Even, later, when the song breaks down into dissonance, that initial friendliness still comes through.

“Fsa Color (For Thomas Bernhard)” is a series of somersaults, a spinning motion that trumpet solos atop like walking a barrel.  Momentarily, the ensemble takes it down a gear, and settles into a pacified little stroll that builds up to a hike through the storm.

“Lipstick in Hi-Fi (For Jean-Luc Godard)” begins with a ramshackle swing, a motion that sways with a grim velocity.  Drums and tuba break from out of the crowd, run the table with a compelling point of contrast to the ensemble’s Big Sound.  The moans and howls of the middle section are an interlude to the slight reprise of the opening statement, but run down with the cadence of a stampede… furious, yet strangely ordered.

“The Other Shore (For Robert Irwin)” begins as a dust devil of reeds, shifts into a whirlwind, and ends as a focused jet stream of rhythmic propulsion.

The album ends with the perpetual costume change of “Watch Repair (For Michael Haneke),” a tune that reveals new dimensions with passion, while nonchalantly discarding over its shoulder that which is no more.

Tuneful music, thrilling music, and so very fun.

Released on the NotTwo Records label.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon CD | Amazon MP3

However, if you want the CD, it’s cheaper at the Catalytic Sound site… which is a collective of like-minded musicians that joined together to sell their music.  Vandermark is a member of that collective, and it’s always best to buy directly from the artist whenever possible.


For the most part, this review is original to Bird is the Worm, but I sorta fell in love with a couple of the sentences that I originally used in my Jazz Picks weekly article for eMusic when I first talked about this album, and I wanted to use it here unaltered.  So, while I’m not even sure I need to do this, out of respect to eMusic, here’s some language protecting their rights to the reprinted material as the one to hire me to write about new jazz arrivals to their site…

New Arrivals Jazz Picks,“ reprints courtesy of, Inc.
© 2014, Inc.

My sincere thanks to eMusic for the gig.