Laszlo Gardony – “Clarity”

July 30, 2013

 

Laszlo Gardony - "Clarity"The best solo performance albums bring an intimacy to the affair that locks the listener in place.  A byproduct of the interaction between musician and instrument is the creation of an inviting environment which draws the listener in, and, ultimately, the two-way interaction of musician-instrument becomes a triangle.

It’s not a question of easy tempos or gentle melodies.  Songs can be upbeat and abrupt and dissonant.  The key is in not breaking the bond between listener and musician, a risk that increases as the voices present on a particular recording decreases.  However, risk aside, the solo performance is an opportunity for the musician to embrace the innate vulnerability that incubates within the solitude of just musician and instrument.  To share that with the listener can have a transformative effect.

On Clarity, the new release by piano veteran Laszlo Gardony, the album isn’t an album.  The speakers become a window that opens upon a small room, empty of everything but Gardony and his piano.  The album transforms the music into a live event, spontaneous and full of life and profound thoughtfulness.

Your album personnel:  Laszlo Gardony (piano).

The album is a series of meditative pieces, and possess an interconnectedness that persists even after the silence drops between one song’s end and the beginning of the next.

Opening track “Settling of a Racing Mind” flirts with a rambunctious attitude, but slips into an introspective reverie that leads into second track “Surface Reflections” without missing a bit.  The tone set is one thick with cerebral weightiness and an accompanying shot to the heart.

“Looking Deeper” takes things from a melancholic depth to a higher elevation… an ambling staggered cadence, notes falling in quick succession, hints of gospel, hints of pop, and all of it thoughtfully expressed.  “Finding Strength” is its more cheerful counterpart.

“Better Place” quickens the pulse and thickens the blues.  Upbeat in that special way that the blues can still be hopeful while conveying a sense of weariness… a smile and a sadness.  “Opened Window (Hopeful Horizon)” and “Tempering” push the envelope of that ratio, whereas subsequent song “Resilient Joy” brings a folk charm to a tune that possesses the exuberant heart of a stride and the soul of a blues.  Album closer “Resolution (Perfect Place)” ends with an equally upbeat tone, but stated with a calm restraint.

And it all sounds like the music was delivered in person, just the musician, the piano, and you.

Released on the Sunnyside Records label.

Jazz from the Boston scene.

Available at Bandcamp.  Available at eMusic.

Available at Amazon: CD | MP3

*****

As I was creating links for this review, I noticed Gardony’s background on this album, located on the About Me page of his site.  It makes for some very insightful reading on his own thoughts about Clarity.  You can read it on his site HERE.



Boyd Lee Dunlop – “The Lake Reflections”

March 10, 2013

 

Stories like this next one serve as essential reminders of why we should never give up hope.  It’s about pianist Boyd Lee Dunlop and his sophomore release The Lake Reflections.

Boyd Lee Dunlop - "The Lake Reflections"

Dreams and good fortune operate under their own capricious rules and, oftentimes, seem to run contradictory to what we each of us may view as pragmatism or common sense.  Sometimes good things happen to us, seemingly, through no fault of our own, lacking any apparent causality, and yet confers the eminent vindication for refusing to quit.

Your album personnel:  Boyd Lee Dunlop (piano).

Boyd Lee Dunlop, all of 85 years old, released his first album in 2011.  Dunlop began playing piano at an early age.  Living in a poor section of Buffalo, NY, he used a junked piano with missing keys that sat out in his family’s back yard.  His brother, Frankie, played drums.  Frankie Dunlop later went on to have a storied career as a musician, playing on classic jazz albums (and personal favorites) like Thelonious Monk’s Criss Cross and Monk’s Dream and Monk’s live Newport recording with Miles Davis, as well as on Charles Mingus’s Tijuana Moods and Sonny Rollins’ Alfie soundtrack.  In the meantime, Boyd Lee stayed in Buffalo, playing the local circuit in between jobs at the steel mills.  The brothers had divergent career arcs.  Boyd’s path is not an uncommon one.

But then it does get a bit unusual.  In his 80′s, Boyd was now living in a Buffalo nursing home and passing his time playing a junked piano with missing keys that sat in the cafeteria… a piano, ironically, that was not too far removed from the piano that he first drew notes from for the first time nearly 70 years earlier.  Photographer Brendan Bannon visited the nursing home regarding an art project.  However, after meeting Boyd and hearing him play, it wasn’t long before Bannon collaborated with others to get Boyd’s music back into the public sphere.  The result was the 2011 release Boyd’s Blues.

Boyd Lee Dunlop - "Boyd's Blues"

With Buffalo musicians Sabu Adeyola on bass and Virgil Day on drums, the recording is a heartwarming set of straight-ahead classic jazz.  Blues with soul, bop with heart, and music that could not be mistaken for anything but Jazz.  The album, and Boyd’s story, got decent press, and was well received.  Dan Barry wrote a nice article for the New York Times and NPR pubbed an article and on-air story on its Weekend Edition feature.  Live performances were lined up.  Everyone likes a story about a huge comeback, and this one was a classic.

Not long after, Boyd suffered a severe heart attack.  And despite hovering close to death, Boyd has turned that setback into yet another chapter in his comeback story.  After a recovery period, Boyd decided the time was ripe for his sophomore release.

Brendan Bannon - Lake Erie 2A solo piano recording, the songs on The Lake Reflections are inspired by photographs Brendan Bannon took of Lake Erie.  The music reflects the crisp serenity of the source material.  There is a stark beauty to this music, a warm stateliness that possesses both elegance and a smile.

And where Boyd’s Blues moved at a brisk stroll, The Lake Reflections has the slow unhurried pace of a body of water on a lazy afternoon.  Reminiscent of the music of fellow pianist Red Garland’s trio sessions, this is peaceful music that can fill a room with its sound, despite its unassuming, wisp-ish presence.

And it’s the music’s unhurried pace that is the album’s real charmer, in that it allows so much room for Dunlop to breathe.  Moments of dramatic expressiveness are able to maintain their composure within the solo context, and changes in tempo or emotional transitions from warmth to iciness have sufficient time to develop within the expanse of time from first note to last.

And that the music moves at a casual pace, with everything that Dunlop has been through and the numerous times he justifiably may have feared that time was running thin, it supremely illustrates the plateau he’s achieved, that he can come out the other side and record an album of meditative reflection that shines so bright in its own time.

Lovely music and a great story behind it.

Self-Produced, and released on Dunlop’s and Bannon’s Mr. B Sharp Records label.

Jazz from the Buffalo, NY scene.

Available at Amazon: CD | MP3

Boyd’s Blues, also available at Amazon: CD | MP3

And here’s the link again to Dunlop’s artist site.

And here’s the link again to Bannon’s artist site.



Tiny Reviews: Jessica Williams, Béla Fleck, Silke Eberhard/Alex Huber, Afrodisax, & Jacques Pirotton

October 26, 2012

Tiny Reviews, featuring:  Jessica Williams Songs of Earth, Béla Fleck Across the Imaginary Divide, Silke Eberhard & Alex Huber Singen Sollst du…, and Afrodisax Ostinati & Other Music For Imaginary Movie, Jacques Pirotton Stringly 612.

*****

 

Jessica Williams – Songs of Earth

Solo piano albums just leave me entranced.  They have the ability to sound as expansive as the sea and just as deep, while also revealing an intimate fragility that can be as endearing as the former quality is awe-inspiring.

Culling recordings from solo performances recorded over a three year stretch at Seattle’s Triple Door, pianist Jessica Williams displays those same characteristics in the mesmerizing Songs of Earth.

Your album personnel:  Jessica Williams (piano).

There is an element of contradictory yet complementary tension, like watching sparklers glisten in the foreground while fireworks explode in the distant night sky.  Right hand concentrates on the shiny action, while left hand focuses on sounds that lean to the dramatic side of things… but the music is quick to remind that every note is potentially flammable.

Some tracks, like “Little Angel,” have a lilting sway, while others like “Poem” have a confident gait and smoldering passion.  Album-opener “Deayrhu” is reminiscent of Origin Arts label-mate John Moulder‘s 2012 live album, which shares the characteristic of unabashed daring of artists pouring themselves into the effort and flirting with moments of pure magic.  There’s an honesty to this music viscerally felt.  It’s not the kind of element that can be adequately described or measured, which, I suppose, is one of those qualities of art that is both the point of creating it and experiencing it.

Released on the Origin Arts label.

Jazz from the Seattle, WA scene.

Download a free album track at AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artist and label.

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: CD | MP3

 

Béla Fleck – Across the Imaginary Divide

In light of the recent trend of unfortunate jazz/non-jazz crossovers, this recording is surprisingly tuneful.  Béla Fleck continues to display new facets to his talent on banjo by meshing with the excellent Marcus Roberts Trio.  Fleck keeps his folkish voice on banjo and the Trio is pure jazz, and yet nobody steps on anybody’s toes,  all playing on the same page.  In addition to creating a wonderful album, they show how musicians from different genres are able to find the soft places in between, those interstices where the genres touch and connections are made.

Your album personnel:  Béla Fleck (banjo), Marcus Roberts (piano), Jason Marsalis (drums), and Rodney Jordan (bass).

Here’s a link to the music project-specific website.

Released on the Rounder Records label.

Available at eMusic.

 

Silke Eberhard & Alex Huber – Singen Sollst du…

Very likable free jazz duo recording with alto saxophonist Silke Eberhard and percussionist Alex Huber.  Plenty of screeching and skronking, drums like raindrops in a hurricane, and moments that smolder brightly just before the explosion.  Transitions between the quiet and the noise most appealing aspect of this album.

Your album personnel:  Alex Huber (drums) and Silke Eberhard (alto sax).

Released on the NotTwo Records label.

Jazz from the Berlin scene.

Available at eMusic.

 

Afrodisax – Ostinati & Other Music For Imaginary Movies

The Afrodisax octet is straight-ahead music with one foot in the jazz of the past and one of the present.  Music layered in with thick brushstrokes, melodies capable of taking flight, and a nice mix of tempos.  Group play and solos equally solid.  Song “Ostinato II” is enchanting.

Your album personnel:  Marc Mangen (piano), Laurent Barbier (alto & sopranino saxes, flute), Toine Thys (tenor & soprano saxes, clarinet), Tom Van Dyck (baritone sax), Michel Paré (trumpet, bugle), Frederik Heirman (trombone), Hendrik Vanattenhoven (contrabass), and Renaud Person (drums).

Stream three album tracks on the “Music” tab on the artist site.

Released on the Mons Records label.

Jazz from the Biel, Switzerland scene.

Available at eMusic.

 

Jacques Pirotton – Stringly 612

Veteran guitarist Jacques Pirotton brings the 12-string along with the 6-string.  The album leans more toward folk than jazz, and is more likely to appeal to fans of Leo Kottke than Django Reinhardt, but the recording is too pretty not to get in a quick mention.

Your album personnel:  Jacques Pirotton (acoustic 6- & 12-string guitars), Stephan Pougin (drums, percussion), Boris Schmidt (acoustic bass), and guests:  Phillipe Thuriot (accordion) and Steve Houbin (sax).

Released on the Home Records label.

Available at eMusic.

 

*****

The Jessica Williams review is original to Bird is the Worm, but portions of the other reviews were originally used in my Jazz Picks weekly article for eMusic, so here’s some language protecting their rights to that reprinted material as the one to hire me to write about new jazz arrivals to their site…

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

As always, my sincere thanks to eMusic for the gig.  Cheers.



Tiny Reviews: Luis Gonzalez Sextet, Dudley Owens/Aaron Wright Band, Tillman Herpisbohm, Larry Willis, & Cello4qt

September 5, 2012

Tiny Reviews, featuring Luis Gonzalez Sextet New York City SuiteDudley Owens/Aaron Wright Band People CallingTilman Herpichbohm Jilman ZilmanLarry Willis This Time the Dream’s On Me, and Cello4qt Suite Para Cello y 3djazz (Claude Bolling).

*****

 

Luis Gonzalez Sextet – New York City Suite

The inspiration for this album springs from Luis Gonzalez‘s time spent in New York City, so it makes sense that a city as diverse as NYC would result in an album that hits on many of Jazz’s varied sub-genres. There’s some modern straight-ahead piano jazz here, and a bit of free jazz, some chamber jazz, some swing and some bop.  And rather than function as a compilation of different sounding tunes, Gonzalez finds a way to get them to mesh in one big melting pot of an album.  A very happy surprise to run into this fine recording.  Highly recommended.

Your album personnel: Luis Gonzalez (piano), Joan Sola-Morales (bass), Cesar Martinez (drums), David Morata (violin), Dolors Vidal (cello), and Gerard Sibila (clarinets).

Released on the PSM Music label.  Jazz from the Sant Feliu de Guixols, Spain scene.

You can stream, and purchase, the album on the artist’s Bandcamp page.

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: MP3

 

Dudley Owens/Aaron Wright Band – People Calling

An album firmly entrenched in the bop tradition, though it shifts around a bit between be-, hard, and post bop idioms.  Some have the fluttering-light hard swing of earlier forms, others with the soulful groove of a mid-sixties hard bop recordings, and others break into the spiritual and freer elements that were to come later.  It was the band’s intention to have this music recall some of the jazz associated with the protest movements of the past, and at times, the music presents an ominous yet hopeful tone that reflects the quintet’s goals.  But intentions aside, this is just a solid album that is gonna appeal to both old-schoolers and new-schoolers alike.

Your album personnel:  Dudley Owens (tenor & soprano sax), Willerm Delisfort (piano), Aaron Immanuel Wright (bass), Clif Wallace (drums), and guest:  Justin Stanton (trumpet).

Released on the Origin/OA2 Records label.

Download a free album track at AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artists and label.

Available on eMusic.  Available at Amazon: CD | MP3

 

Tilman Herpichbohm – Jilman Zilman

Even with two alto saxes taking up spots on this interesting quartet date, it’s actually relatively straight-ahead, at times sounding more traditional than modern.  Plenty of quirky moments that keep things fun, and plenty of tuneful moments that keep things, well, also, fun.  Worth noting that Herpichbohm and Bossert also appear on Rebecca Trescher‘s Sud, an album that gets a mention in my Best of 2012 (thus far) list.  Between that album and this one, that’s a hell of a lot of solid jazz.

Your album personnel: Tilman Herpichböhm (drums, percussion), Julian Bossert (alto sax), Johannes Ludwig (alto sax), and Peter Christof (bass).

Download a free album track at AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artist and label.

Artist site Link.  Released on the Edition Metropol Musik label.

Available on eMusic.

 

Larry Willis – This Time the Dream’s On Me

A  jazz vet who shows no inclination to stop making beautiful music in the current day.  This, a solo piano set, drifts nice and easy on the water’s surface.  Pianist and piano, long-time friends, working as one.  Fans of Larry Willis have reason to celebrate.

Your album personnel:  Larry Willis (piano).

Released on the Highnote Records label.

Available on eMusic.

 

Cello4qt – Suite Para Cello y 3djazz (Claude Bolling)

Cello-led quartet date, and not some chamber-jazz routine either.  This is a stab at jazz with cello leading the charge, and it’s pretty successful, too.  I’m a sucker for cello, anyways, but this is a pretty album that has some bounce to it, as well.

Your album personnel:  César Jiménez (cello), Juan Ramón Veredas (piano), Juan Baca (bajo), and José Luís Gómez (batería)

Released on the Karonte Cambayá label.

Available on eMusic.

 

*****

The Luis Gonzalez New York City Suite review and the Dudley Owens/Aaron Wright Band People Calling review are original to Bird is the Worm.  However, portions of the other reviews were originally used in my Jazz Picks weekly article for eMusic, so here’s some language protecting their rights as the one to hire me to write about new jazz arrivals to their site…

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

As always, my sincere thanks to eMusic for the gig.  Cheers.



Lynne Arriale – “Solo”

April 30, 2012

 

My review of Lynne Arriale’s Solo was originally published at AllAboutJazz.  You can read the review HERE, at AllAboutJazz).

*****

 

Following up on her strong quartet album Convergence, pianist Lynne Arriale returns with a solo recording—a risky venture for any artist.  In an ensemble setting, a musician has collaborators with whom to work and exchange ideas before the record button is punched, and more importantly, while the session is on the move.  In ensemble play, a musician’s unformed ideas or sound can be made whole by the other musicians in the ensemble; this is a big reason why group improvisation is such a glorious thing in jazz, that the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts.  Everyone brings something to the moment and it all fits together.  However, in a solo project, the musician is completely alone, his/her artistry naked.  There is no one to talk to but the listeners themselves. Solo albums are revealing moments, and it is because of that that, when they succeed, they elicit such an emotionally profound reaction.

Which brings us to Arriale’s Solo.

Your album personnel:  Lynne Arriale (piano).

The opening notes of Solo are symbolic in the ways that count most. “La Noche” begins with discordant notes in descent, a sense of dramatically falling down a flight of stairs.  Arriale, however, never loses her balance, never hits ground. Instead, she exudes a grace and control that epitomizes her sound throughout.  Can one even fall if they breathe elegance with each step and note?  Is it falling or simply flight?  Arriale gives no insight into these questions, but provides the thrilling sensation of both.

Much like a brief glimpse, the subtlest touch can convey substantive and heavy emotions, as does Arriale with her expressions on piano.  Solo is never fussy, never overbearing.  On “Dove,” a tune of sublime beauty, Arriale gets everything it is possible to get out of each note without meticulously wringing them dry or ponderously studying them from every angle.  Arriale has attained such a level of mastery in her approach that all she requires is a brief moment of polish before she moves on.  It would be easy to describe it as effortless, but accuracy would be better honored by supposing that hard work and deliberation has resulted in a near subconscious fluidity of motion and thought.  Said differently, Arriale knows what notes she’s looking for and can find them right quick.

Solo is a mix of originals and covers.  Two of the selections come from Thelonious Monk.  On “Evidence,” Arriale presents the composition as she sees it, no more, no less.  While she passes on attempting a groundbreaking turn on Monk’s version, she also avoids doing a by-the-numbers rendition.  As such, like the other selections, the tune settles naturally into the flow of the album.  The album flow, from first note to last, remains undisturbed, with Arriale alone at the center of it all.

It’s all about the elegance.

Released on the Motema Records label.

Jazz from NYC.

Download a free album track at AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artist and label.

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: CD | MP3