Tiny Reviews: Iiro Rantala, Francesco Cataldo, Le Cube, Timucin Sahin, Jason Marsalis, & Brad Goode

June 7, 2013

Tiny Reviews edition!

Featured album:  Iiro Rantala My History In Jazz

Plus:  Francesco Cataldo Spaces, Le Cube Frelon Rouge, Timucin Sahin Inherence, Jason Marsalis A World of Mallets, and Brad Goode Chicago Red.



Iiro Rantala – My History In Jazz

Iiro Rantala - "My History In Jazz"The title on this recording isn’t coincidental.  Iiro Rantala is expressing his own personal relationship with Jazz, and like any other relationship in life, it involves elements that don’t necessarily fall under the Jazz umbrella.  That’s why classical compositions by Bach and pop standards like “September Song” are presented along with original pieces and renditions of songs like “Caravan.”

Rantala’s sound doesn’t sacrifice its typical austere grace as it switches up the source material, but there’s a noticeable shift in the overall sound from track to track, duly reflecting the disparate influences on his history in jazz.  Rantala’s takes on Bach’s “Goldberg Variation” possess a distant warmth, whereas the group’s rendition of “Caravan” echoes the original’s boisterousness.  “Eronel” has a friendly piano trio hop and bounce that would fit right into the jazz scene of the sixties, whereas the casual propulsion and lovely melodic drift of “Smoothie” is an outstanding example of how jazz musicians of the new century are putting their stamp on the artform.

Violinist Baldych guests on four of the tracks.  It’s nice to see him getting put to use since signing with the ACT Music label.  He’s a hell of a talent, and fits in just fine with the established pros that comprise the core trio.

Your album personnel:  Iiro Rantala (piano), Lars Danielsson (bass, cello), Morten Lund (drums), and guest:  Adam Baldych (violin).

Released on the ACT Music label.

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: CD | MP3


Other Albums of Note:


Francesco Cataldo – Spaces

Francesco Cataldo - "Spaces"An album with an ethereal presence.  Francesco Cataldo brings a variety of guitars to the table, not to mention a line-up of modern jazz all-stars.  Peaceful music that stays that way, even during those times when the tempo picks up.  Much respect for Binney, who has a distinctive big sound, but finds a way to really fit in well with the predominant serenity of this recording.

Your album personnel:  Francesco Cataldo (guitars), Scott Colley (bass), David Binney (sax), Clarence Penn (drums), Erik Friedlander (cello), and Salvatore Bonafede (piano).

Released on the Alfa Music label.  Available at eMusic.


Le Cube – Frelon Rouge

Le Cube - Frelon RougeSaxophonist Alban Darche‘s trio plays quirky music that sometimes slides into soothing melodic intervals.  Music that uses odd meters to stir up a playful bounce, but when they kick back with a casual swagger, like on the nifty “Cafe du Change,” they shine brightest.  Probably a good choice if you’re just getting into Jazz, and are into rock bands like Morphine.  Very likable.

Your album personnel:  Alban Darche (tenor, alto & soprano saxes), Sebastien Boisseau (bass), and Christophe Lavergne (drums).

Released on the Yolk Records label.  Available at eMusic.


Timucin Sahin – Inherence

Timucin Sahin - InherenceGuitarist Timucin Sahin leads a hyperactive quintet date.  Lots of voices speaking at once and over one another.  Even those times when the tempo decreases, there persists a sense of moving fast.  Jazz as car chase movie scene.  The fingerprints of Alessi’s trumpet stylings are all over this album.

Your album personnel:  Timucin Sahin (guitars), Tyshawn Sorey (drums), Christopher Tordini (bass), Ralph Alessi (trumpet), and John O’Gallagher (alto sax).

Released on the Between The Lines Records label.  Available at eMusic.


Jason Marsalis – A World of Mallets

Jason Marsalis - A World of MalletsOn this nifty recording, in addition to vibes, Jason Marsalis employs a variety of percussion instruments and generates an expanse of sound that ranges from foot-tappingly snappy to exquisitely melodic.  Nothing straight-ahead about this recording, though intriguingly, it interacts with the listener much in that way.  Thus, an album that’s both engaging and highly listenable.  Don’t be surprised if I have more to say about this album before year-end.

Your album personnel:  Jason Marsalis (vibraphone, marimba, glockenspiel, tubular bells, xylophone), Will Goble (bass), David Potter (drums), and Austin Johnson (piano).

Released on the Basin Street Records label.  Available at eMusic.


Brad Goode – Chicago Red

Brad Goode - Chicago RedTrumpeter Brad Goode definitely has his own singular voice on his instrument, and it’s been neat hearing him develop it over time.  He never seems to stop searching for the right equation to fully blossom.  On this recording, he mixes some modern nu-jazz with some traditional music forms, and then rounds out his sextet with a guitarist who doubles on sitar and fills another seat with rik & darbouka.  The album is a bit uneven, though tracks like “St. Louis Blues” and “Chicago Red” serve as evidence of Goode’s talent for making experimentalism sound very cool, and why his music should be heard and followed.

Your album personnel:  Brad Goode (trumpet), Bill Kopper (guitar, sitar), Jeff Jenkins (piano, keyboards), Bijoux Barbosa (electric bass), Paa Kow (drums) and Rony Barrak (darbouka, rik).

Released on the Origin Arts label.  Available at eMusic.



The Iiro Rantala 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,“ and “New Arrivals Jazz Picks“ reprints courtesy of eMusic.com, Inc.
© 2013  eMusic.com, Inc.

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

Kit Downes – “Light From Old Stars”

April 22, 2013


Kit Downes - "Light From Old Stars"There’s no mistaking pianist Kit Downes.  Though he collaborates with a pretty disparate group of fellow musicians on the UK Jazz scene, his distinctive sound comes through every time.  This is true when it’s his own compositions or those of another.  His sound on piano possesses an austere beauty, a quality that remains constant whether the song performed is a tightly structured sculpture or an expression of shattered glass.

In recent years, Downes has recorded with the genre-defying Threads Orchestra, the straight-ahead ensemble lead by George Crowley, the eerie avant-garde Golden Age of Steam ensemble, the rock-jazz fusion outfit Troyka, the post-bop Neon Quartet, and, of course, albums with his own name in the large print, like the excellent Quiet Tiger, which brings back most of the same personnel and sticks to a similar make and model.

His 2013 release Light From Old Stars stakes out its own path, diverging from that of past recordings.  And yet, despite that, eclipsing new paths are familiar sounds, reminiscent of music from before but molded of something new.  This is what happens when a musician finds their voice and goes about the hard work of developing it.

Your album personnel:  Kit Downes (piano, organ), James Allsopp (tenor sax, bass clarinet, clarinet), Lucy Railton (cello), Calum Gourlay (double bass), and James Maddren (drums).

The songs of Light From Old Stars either race about with a crazed kinetic energy or calmly drift in a state of rest.  At both speeds, the blues are an evident source of fuel.

Some tracks expound on the power of repetition at high speeds.  Album opener “Wander and Collossus” is a series of tiny folds repeated with slight permutations, like an origami construction perpetually taking on new, but similar shapes.  “What’s the Rumpus” hits the ground running, notes kicked up like dust as they scamper forward.  And the solo piano interlude of “Falling Dancing,” which darts about like gnats on a hot day, leads into the rollicking “Owls,” a boiling cauldron of activity that switches between avant-garde attitude on cello and a soulful blues on bass clarinet.

And then there are those album tracks that adopt a more casual gait, yet interject flurries of blues notes like a hit-and-run heartbreak.  “Bleydays” is a tipsy kind of blues, more soul than strategy, and harkens back to the free jazz flirtations of Keith Jarrett’s American Quartet of the 70s.  “Outlawed” also comes out nice and casual, but eventually builds up to an exuberance that the song’s peaceable origins can’t contain.

But a few tracks look upon motion as something to be approached with a serene demeanor.  “Jan Johansson” has a lovely melody that drifts like mist over a calm stream of rhythm, and “The Mad Wren” begins with an inviting tranquility, which echoes through the song’s entirety, even as it gradually ramps up the tempo.  Then there’s “Two Ones,” which opens with cello whipping frenzied about before the rest of the quintet steps in and shepherds the tune in a more controlled direction and a calmer tone.

And Kit Downes’ sound is stamped into each tune.

Released on the Basho Records label.

Jazz from the UK scene.

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: CD | MP3

Emilio Teubal – “Música Para un Dragon Dormido”

April 2, 2013


Emilio Teubal - "Musica Para un Dragon Dormido"Música Para un Dragon Dormido, the new release by Emilio Teubal is an album of boundless energy and dynamic rhythmic textures.  And yet, it’s the transcendent melodic warmth he brings to the percussive experience that marks this recording as something very special.  Reminiscent of a similar approach taken by fellow pianist Don Pullen during his later years with the African-Brazilian Connection, Teubal endows each song with a supreme loveliness that stands up to the album’s powerful rhythmic elements.

The result is a thrilling album that sounds so damn Big… a preeminent euphoria even when the musicians express themselves in subtle measured tones.

Your album personnel:  Emilio Teubal (piano, Korg SV-1), Sam Sadigursky (tenor & soprano saxes, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute), Moto Fukushima (6-string electric bass), Erik Friedlander (cello), John Hadfield (percussion), and Satoshi Takeishi (percussion, cajon).

Opening track “Un Simple Objeto” is a series of surging tides, an intermittent pulse that beats out increasing steps upward until, ultimately, launching itself out into space with long slow notes and drafting upon rhythmic currents.  It encapsulates the bigness of sound mentioned before, that such depth and detail could come from just this sextet.

“The Constant Reinventor” begins pensively with piano, the quiet drone of clarinet a match for its expressions of melancholia.  Eventually the chatter grows into something more affable, conjured up by the combo of Takeishi’s chippy percussion and the gurgle-blips of Fukushima’s bass.  But as is so typical of this album, the tide returns to its original state… piano grows pensive once again, this time bolstered by Friedlander’s long resonant cello notes.

“El Tema de Ludmila” begins up-tempo, but with a casual ease.  Sadigursky presents the melody repeatedly, builds up from it while percussion shifts beneath its feet.  Even when sax steps aside for Teubal’s piano section, there remains the sense of piano (and sax) surfing atop the churning waves of percussion.  The easily segmented textures working in cooperation results in a sound larger than its individual parts would normally indicate.  It’s a characteristic of this album that holds throughout.  It also makes this recording something special.

Fourth and fifth track “El Acrobata” and “Un Dragon Dormido” might well be considered the same composition.  It begins with silence, the merest peep from strings, a bit of percussion ideal for haunting, and keys ambling forlornly through space.  Time seems to stand still when cello strikes out on its own and takes center stage.  Suddenly, the music swells, cymbals crashing, sax crying out, keys humming resonantly, intensity rising.  And then, like so often on this recording, the rising intensity diffuses, and the most delicate expressions on sax and cello create a moment of great impact… bringing about a sea change of demeanor, from increasing power to restrained beauty… and the rest of the group falls into place.  Even near the song’s conclusion, when the intensity makes another go at achieving a higher plateau, the seeds planted by Friedlander and Sadigursky earlier on still resonate with a sublime majesty.

“La Espera” begins with a waltz elegance and a lullaby warmth.  Teubal stretches out for a nice section on piano, exceeded only, perhaps, by Fukushima’s lyrical display on bass.  The breakdown of this tune leads perfectly into the theme of subsequent track “Nikko.”  Built around the swirling patterns of repetition typical of Nik Bartsch’s Ronin, “Nikko” incites a resilient pace, speeding right along.  But not unlike the pattern of fast builds and sudden launches into space established in opening track “Un Simple Objeto,” Teubal restricts his use of Bartsch’s constructions to the intervals, allowing space for members of the sextet to stretch out… the repetition acting only as infrastructure.

“La Perla” begins sprightly on its toes.  Up-tempo, yet in possession of a buoyancy that transcends its cadence.

The album ends with “Milonga Para Terminar,” a whiling dervish of percussion, an unstoppable torrent of rhythm.  Led by Hadfield and Takeishi, it’s an odd ending to the album, but apparently a favorite composition of Teubal’s as signifier that, bam, the show is over.

Just an outstanding album.

Released on the Brooklyn Jazz Underground label.

Originally from Argentina, Teubal may now be residing in NYC.  This music is definitely informed by both locations.

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: MP3

Physical CD available at:  CDBaby and at Teubal’s own site.

Tiny Reviews: Jonathan Orland, Jussi Fredriksson, & Peter Knudsen 8

March 21, 2013

Tiny Reviews, featuring:  Jonathan Orland Homes, Jussi Fredriksson Jazz Wars I & II, and Peter Knudsen 8 Sagas of the Present.



Jonathan Orland – Homes

Jonathan Orland - "Homes"Here’s one for the straight-ahead jazz fans who like their music to embrace the music of an era past.  On his debut album Homes, saxophonist Jonathan Orland leads a sextet through a series of originals (plus, renditions of Dave Brubeck and Ray Noble compositions) that will delight jazz fans who don’t care for any of the modern funny-business.  Most of the album tracks keep their foot on the gas pedal, though never break the speed limit.  Up-tempo, plenty of bounce and swing, emitting the kind of heat comparable to a toasty fireside seat.  There are two tracks that bring the ballad, and it’s the first of those two, “Chassidot,” that may be the strongest tune on the recording.

George Garzone sits in for three of the album’s eight tracks, and it’s the interaction between his tenor and Orland’s alto on “The Pope and I” that breathes a little welcome fire into the session.

Your album personnel:  Jonathan Orland (alto & soprano sax), Sharik Hasan (piano), Greg Duncan (guitar), Lim Yang (double bass), Jun Young Song (drums), and guest:  George Garzone (tenor sax).

Released on the Bee Jazz label.

Jazz from the Paris scene.

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: MP3


Jussi Fredriksson – Jazz Wars I & II

Jussi Fredriksson - "Jazz Wars I & II"This nifty release has remained on my periphery for many months now.  Jussi Fredricksson‘s two-part Jazz Wars recording is definitely out of the Brian Blade school of nu-jazz.  A mix of modern conventions that adopt post-rock meandering, mainstream jazz brightness, some bop swing, and lots of jazz that focuses more on story telling than story structure.

At the heart of this recording is music of a serene nature.  But what has kept me coming back to this album is that it often presents itself with a heat level that contradicts the serenity it radiates from inside.  For instance, the scorcher “Battle” is nothing that’s ever going to get mistaken for a peaceful ECM label recording, yet it is clearly informed by the same calming presence of album opener “Home.”

Just one of those albums that aspires to do achieve something great, and at times, comes very close to reaching it.  Under-the-radar recording, and one deserving of attention.

Your album personnel:  Jussi Fredriksson (piano, Rhodes, minimoog), Joonatan Rautio (sax), Jukka Eskola (trumpet), Marzi Nyman (guitar), Jori Huhtala (bass), and Jukkis Uotila (drums).

No audio to embed, but Fredriksson streams four album tracks on his site.

Jazz from the Helsinki, Finland scene.

Originally the album was Self-Produced, though it appears it may now be offered on a label called Helsinki Jazz Underground, which may or may not be a Fredriksson project.  It also would explain why the album is no longer available at eMusic, since label switches are one of the biggest reasons for an album to drop of their site.

EDIT:  Available again at eMusic.

Available at Amazon: MP3


Peter Knudsen 8 – Sagas of the Present

Peter Knudsen 8 - "Sagas of the Present"Lively set by pianist Peter Knudsen.  On Sagas of the Present, his compositions allow sufficient room for the voices of many instruments the room to really step up and speak out, while tying them all in together into a seamless whole, thus maintaining an equanimity that prevents the album from becoming just another series of solos and accompaniments.  The album has a refreshing, even flow… a strong current of music that borders, at times, on the thrilling.

That said, it’s when the ensemble slows things down, like on tracks “Aurora Borealis” and “Saga Of The Gingerbread Castle” when they really shine.  Some moments of captivating beauty.

Your album personnel:  Peter Knudsen (piano), Emil Strandberg (trumpet, flugelhorn), Andreas Gidlund (sax, clarinet, flute), Gustav Rådström (sax, clarinet), Thomas Backman (sax, bass clarinet, flute), Lisa Bodelius (trombone), Pär-Ola Landin (bass), Sebastian Voegler (drums), and guest:  Anders Johansson (glockenspiel).

Released on the CamJazz label.

You can stream much of the album on the album page on the CamJazz label site.

Jazz from the Stockholm, Sweden scene.

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: CD | MP3

Tiny Reviews: David Caldwell-Mason, Michael Feinberg, Andrei Pushkarev, Flu(o), Massimorganti Quartet & Parallaxe

March 15, 2013

Tiny Reviews edition!

Featured album: David Caldwell-Mason Cold Snap.

Plus:  Michael Feinberg The Elvin Jones Project, Andrei Pushkarev Bach VibrationsFlu(o) Encore Remuants, Massimorganti Quartet Musiplano, and Parallaxe Der Zweite Raum.



David Caldwell-Mason – Cold Snap

David Caldwell-Mason - "Cold Snap"Possessing an intuitive knack at creating strong melodies, pianist David Caldwell-Mason displays that he also knows how to showcase them.  Because there’s more to the melody than just making it memorable.  Equally important are the abstractions and sleights-of-hand, the heady deconstructions and altered restatements of the melody to get it to sit plumb with the other song elements while simultaneously keeping things interesting.  On Cold Snap, Caldwell-Mason nails it.

Your album personnel:  David Caldwell-Mason (piano), Kellen Harrison (bass), and Ari Hoenig (drums).

There is a clear pop music presence to this msuic, and Caldwell-Mason’s unpretentious embrace of that characteristic allows him to mutate it into shapes and sizes that take it a refreshing distance from a product designed for mass consumption, all the while ending up with a recording that might just appeal to the tastes of that same crowd.

The album opens with “Unfold.”  A melody with an appealing staggered gait, it triggers a sense of deja vu, of something memorable dipped in nostalgia of things past.  “Don’t Worry, Mama” is a series of diagonal passes perpetually intersecting… a game of hopscotch where the chalk lines never stay in one place.  The playfulness with the motion around melodies continues on “With Fear and Trembling,” where Caldwell-Mason develops phrasings on piano like mysterious staircases leading upward, then glides down the bannister before beginning the climb all over again.  His rendition of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” is genuine and unironic, which is the reason he’s able to pull it off.  He treats the composition’s melody with care and respect, and then launches off into his own view of the song from there.

It’s an album of moments like these.  Music that remains fun and easy to engage.

This album is Self-Produced.

Jazz from the

Available at Amazon: CD | MP3


Other Albums of Interest:


Michael Feinberg – The Elvin Jones Project

Michael Feinberg - "The Elvin Jones Project"Bassist Michael Feinberg‘s inspiration for this album was the result of his observations of the relationships various Coltrane bassists had with drummer Elvin Jones. For this session, he has drummer-extraordinaire Billy Hart sitting in “Elvin’s chair”… an inspired choice that gives the room some extra space to breathe.  A wonderful album of beautifully textured music, and one hundred percent Jazz, top-shelf vintage.

Your album personnel: Michael Feinberg (bass), Billy Hart (drums), George Garzone (sax), Tim Hagans (trumpet), Leo Genovese (piano), and guest: Alex Wintz (guitar).

Released on the Sunnyside Records label.

Available at eMusic.


Andrei Pushkarev – Bach Vibrations

Andrei Pushkarev - "Bach Vibrations"Solo vibraphone performance of Bach’s “Inventions For Two Voices.” A surprisingly vibrant album, and not unlike how pianist Bill Evans would approach jazz through classical music. Nice.

Your album personnel: Andrei Pushkarev (vibes).

Released on the Gramola Records label.

Available at eMusic.


Flu(o) – Encore Remuants

Flu(o) - "Encore Remuants"Modern jazz-rock fusion, often heavier on the latter of those two elements. Electronic effects, mostly for the sake of textural dissonance. Some interesting moments. I don’t know if Cuong Vu was the father of this type of jazz-rock fusion, but this album sounds as if inspired by him.

Your album personnel: Christian Pruvost (trumpet), Olivier Benoit (guitar), Stefan Orins (piano), Christophe Hache (bass), and Peter Orins (drums)

Released on the Circum-disc label.

Available at eMusic.


Massimorganti Quartet – Musiplano

Massimorganti Quartet - "Musiplano"Trombonist Massimo Morganti leads a peaceable quartet in an exploration of the melodic side of trombone.  A few covers, a few originals.  It’s mostly straight-ahead jazz, though with a modern flair, both in terms of composition and the occasional use of effects.  Very likable.

Your album personnel:  Massimo Morganti (trombone), Angelo Lazzeri (guitar),  Gabriele Pesaresi (bass), and Stefano Paolini (drums).

Released on the Neuklang Records label.  Stream an album track on their soundcloud page.

Available at eMusic.


Parallaxe – Der Zweite Raum

Parallaxe - "Der Zweite Raum"The Parallaxe quartet is very much from the mod Euro-Jazz scene, which means you’ll get some avant-garde-ish stuttering tempos and angular melodies, but somehow they’ll fit in some time to swing and bop, too.  Enjoyable album.

Your album personnel: Daniel Schmitz (trumpet), Oliver Maas (piano), Jan Östreich (bass), and Christian Fischer (drums).

Released on the Gligg Records label.

Available at eMusic.



The David Caldwell-Mason 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,“ and “New Arrivals Jazz Picks“ and “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.