Something Different: Roberto Negro – “Loving Suite Pour Birdy So”

April 30, 2014


Roberto Negro - "Loving Suite pour Birdy So"Art can speak to us.  Creativity is a method of communication.  The craft of various arts often has established lexicons, accepted foundations on which creativity can take shape.  It’s exciting and it’s a joy to hear musicians that present a mastery of their particular language by presenting it in a state of perfection.  Also true that it’s exciting and a joy to hear musicians present a mastery of their particular language by skillfully distorting the rules to present new visions of old vocabularies.  And then there are instances, like Roberto Negro‘s Loving Suite Pour Birdy So, where a new language is built from the ground up.  It is a moment of dramatic inspiration and resounding poetry.

Your album personnel: Roberto Negro (piano), Elise Caron (voice, flute), Théo Ceccaldi (violin), Valentin Ceccaldi (cello), Federico Casagrande (guitar), Nicolas Bianco (double bass), and Xavier Machault (lyrics).

Pianist Negro doesn’t subscribe to any one particular school of music on this massively imaginative recording.  He walks a fine line between jazz and classical without ever stepping into the territory of either.  Vocalist Elise Caron imbues the words of Xavier Machault with a liveliness and a resonance that every author wishes for.  Guitarist Federico Casagrande, who has displayed an envious trend at appearing on the most creative projects around, brings a searing heat to the recording, but even those moments when Negro unleashes him on a song, Casagrande delivers his part with a masterful precision that gives a satisfying sense of form and shape to even those moments of unbridled ferocity.

The bass of Nicolas Bianco isn’t one that gets much separation from the rest of the pack, and yet there are times that his contribution can be felt like the disconcerting, profound rumble of the tiniest earthquakes felt just below the surface of things.  The violin and cello of Theo and Valentin Ceccaldi offers up beautiful harmonies of heartbreaking proportions and the most delicate expressions of melodic intent.

The songs each have their individuality, yet are strongly tethered to one another via a shift into a familiar tempo or the referential accents on Caron’s vocal cadence.  Common fragments of melody pop up at delightful moments.  The album builds a familiarity across the breadth of the songlist, and on an album that is so very different in what it is presenting, that is a quality that can’t be esteemed too heavily.

The urgency of “Tout de toi” yields the prettiest wind-downs of intensity with swells of string harmonies, whereas “Champagne,” drenched in a rising tide of strings and percussion, never turns back.  Retaining the stately elegance of classical music, it matches the Velvet Underground’s terrific surge of rock ‘n roll intensity on “Heroin.”  And then there’s “”Comme un livre d’Erri de Luca,” which blends the two of these approaches to intensity, building oh so slowly that it doesn’t even seem like a build until a certain elevation is attained and the rush of perspective is as thrilling as the music itself.

Caron’s vocal delivery has a persistent edginess to it, even as it comforts the ears.  The acrobatics of “Bal(l)ade volée de Birdy So” has her paired with strings, and transitioning from concentric loops of melody to rhythmic lateral scrambling.  “Bicyclette” is her personification of sunlight flitting through the cool shade of wavering leaves.

The refracted melody and hint of dissonance on “M’avez-vous dit vous?” and the odd groove of “Pivoine Shichifukujin” provide horizon lines of perspective to an album that trades in singular visions.  This is further evidenced by “Toi, moi, oie,” which begins as lullaby before waking up to dance as folk song.  There is a sense of dream to this entire recording.

An album of massive imagination, and that it can also be so simple to engage is just more proof of the masterful touch applied to this thrilling album.

Released on La Curieuse.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon MP3

The Something Different review series highlights albums that are unlike anything else, and which embrace the best qualities of creative vision.

Dado Moroni – “Five For John”

April 21, 2014


Dado Moroni - "Five For John"Pianist Dado Moroni casts a wide net on his tribute to John Coltrane.  Five For John not only includes Coltrane compositions like “Naima,” “After the Rain,” and “Mr. PC,” but also tunes that Coltrane famously recorded, like the Soultrane cut “Theme for Ernie” (written by fellow Philadelphian Frank Lacey) and the Gershwin song “But Not For Me” from the Coltrane classic My Favorite Things.  Moroni, however, doesn’t stop there, also including compositions by Coltrane Quartet members McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones (“Contemplation,” “Latino Suite,” and “E.J. Blues”), and then a couple of Moroni originals, illustrating the personal mark left by Coltrane on the Italian pianist.  It’s a holistic methodology for a tribute album, and it works excessively well, both in theory and practice.

Your album personnel:  Dado Moroni (piano), Joe Locke (vibes), Alvin Queen (drums), Marco Panascia (double bass), and guest: Max Ionata (tenor sax).

In addition to Moroni’s novel approach to music tribute, his other inspired decision is the inclusion of vibraphonist Joe Locke in the classic quartet format representative of Coltrane’s output.  The other members of the quartet do an excellent job of capturing the spirit of Coltrane’s music without ever resorting to simple mimicry and sacrificing their own sound.  Moroni mirrors some of the surging intensity emblematic of both Coltrane’s sax and (Coltrane Quartet member) McCoy Tyner’s piano contributions, and Alvin Queen summons forth plenty of the power and fury of Elvin Jones, his Coltrane Quartet counterpart.  Bassist Panascia has a fluency with his instrument that allows him to say plenty when an opening presents itself, no different than the way in which Coltrane would allow his own bassist Jimmy Garrison time to speak his mind with a solo.

But it’s the aspects sussed out by Locke on vibes that is most revelatory on this recording.  Much in the way that Eric Dolphy’s bass clarinet evoked a resonant spirituality from Coltrane’s music, Locke is equally resonant with Moroni’s quartet, but evincing a change with icy bright notes accentuating the melody while at the same time shading the edges of the tempo.  In many ways, even though Moroni is the session leader, and Max Ionata sits in for a handful of tracks on tenor sax, it’s Locke that is shaping the songs into their eminent form.  Whether a thrilling solo, like on the McCoy Tyner composition “Contemplation” or setting the table for nifty solos by saxophonist Ionata and Panascia on “Naima,” it’s Locke’s vibes directing events, presenting a novel expression of Coltrane’s music while simultaneously honoring the original’s sound.

The two Moroni originals “Sister Something” and “Mr. Fournier” crackle with electricity, and show that Moroni is more than just a casual fan of Coltrane.  His brief reference to A Love Supreme as “Naima” draws to close is yet another bit of evidence to the conscientious approach Moroni took to the project.

Just a real enjoyable album, and something a little different when it comes to Coltrane tribute albums.

Released on Via Veneto Jazz.

Jazz from Italy.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon MP3

The Safety Net: Julian Joseph – “The Language of Truth”

March 15, 2014


Julian Joseph - "The Language of Truth"Back in the day, when I was in the thick of my immersion of the jazz of the 1950s and 60s, I occasionally came up for air long enough to grab something from the modern day.  One such album I still listen to frequently.  The Language of Truth, the debut album by pianist Julian Joseph, had a tone and fluency that I found quite appealing, and which sounded very different than the bop that typically dominated my listening schedule.  The album had a melancholy, meditative quality, which it maintained even when notes poured down in a tumult of activity, and this was something that connected me.  It still does.

Your album personnel:  Julian Joseph (piano, keyboards), Jean Toussaint (tenor & soprano sax), Alec Dankworth (bass), Mark Mondesir (drums), and guests: Sharon Musgrave (vocals) and Dee Lewis (vocals).

The opening track “Miss Simmons,” a solo Joseph piece, has a lively demeanor, yet emits an introspective calm from its center.  It’s also ample evidence of the conversational tone this album adopts throughout, an easy lyricism that finds the right words at the right time, yet never feels compelled to try to impress with excessive verbosity.

“The Language of Truth” has a prowling cadence and a sax that yawns out notes with languorous delight, before building up with a bubbling personality.  It gives hints of the purposeful treatment applied to the tempos, of strategically altering their trajectory in a way that results in a corresponding change in how melodies are shaped and how harmony reflects off its surface.

Most of the album tracks keep to the quieter side of things, but a few, like “Don’t Chisel the Shisel,” “The High Priestess,” and “Tyrannosaurus Rex,” each display frenetic tendencies… flurries of piano notes, drums and cymbals a torrent of percussion, charging at full speed to where feet no longer seem to touch ground.  And though drummer Mondesir is relentless on these tracks, the way in which he synchs up with Joseph and directs the shifting tempos shows that his contribution is more than just a display of force.

“The Wash House” is upbeat also, but again, it possesses a quiet disposition that keeps things peaceful, accentuated by Joseph’s little bursts of melody shadowed by Dankworth’s bass.  The jaunty “Brothers of the Bottom Row” keeps a light spring to its step, a catchy cadence easy to follow along with.

“Art of the Calm” features the quiet saxophone sighs from Toussaint, his tone matched by Joseph’s patient expressions on piano.  It has a presence that instills a hush over a room, enveloping everything.

There are two vocal tracks on the album.  Sharon Musgrave’s smoky delivery nails the bleak mood of Curtis Mayfield’s “The Other Side of Town.”  Joseph has a nice solo turn, but it’s Toussaint’s accompaniment on soprano sax, coming in at perfect moments to accentuate the blues in Musgrave’s voice that is the song’s highlight.  The second of the two features Dee Lewis’s vocals on “The Magical One,” and spotlights the shifting tempos that occur throughout this album, regardless of whether the rhythm section’s foot is heavy on the gas pedal or just cruising slowly along.

Just in the same way it got things started, the album ends with a Joseph piano solo.  “Ode to the Time Our Memories Forgot” brings the affair full circle, ending with a contemplative piece that behaves as a resolution to the album’s opening sentences of “Miss Simmons.”

An album I’ve been an enthusiastic fan of for coming up on twenty years.

Released in 1991 on Atlantic Jazz.

Jazz from the UK scene.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon CD | Amazon MP3


The Safety Net, a Bird is the Worm series that highlights outstanding older albums that may have flown under the radar when first released and deserve to be revisited.

Kit Downes & Lucy Rialton – “Tricko Tareco”

March 1, 2014


As it turns out, Kit Downes wanted to play the cello.

It’s our good fortune that he was frustrated in those attempts and turned to piano, because as any regular reader of this site would know, Downes is one of the more exciting musicians on the UK scene today.  He’s been a member of outfits like Golden Age of Steam, Troyka, Threads Orchestra, Empirical, and his own trio and quintet ensembles.  On his most recent Quintet recording, Light From Old Stars (review HERE), he brings cellist Lucy Railton into the fold.

But this wasn’t his first collaboration with Railton.  During a residency at the Huddersfield University back in 2012, Downes and Railton, with the help of Alex Killpartrick, recorded an EP of material under the project header of Tricko Tareco.  A mix of minimalist jazz, classical leanings, and ambient soundscapes, it’s the kind of peaceful music that incites daydream fogs even as it twitters with life.

Downes never stopped writing for this project, and now in 2014, the duo are back recording music, with the intention of releasing an album later this year, which will be entitled Trickotareco.  Here’s “Alliri,” an advance song from that album…

That original EP of music recorded in 2012 was released by Impossible Ark Records, and combined with an EP of material from the Impermanence Trio (pianist Matthew Bourne, drummer Tim Giles, and bassist Riann Vosloo), and you can purchase it on the Impossible Ark’s Bandcamp page.  The first embedded player in this column is from that recording.

Franz von Chossy Quintet – “When the World Comes Home”

February 25, 2014


Franz von Chossy - "When the World Comes Home"I was recently wandering around the Bandcamp site, and I found this little gem of an album.  When the World Comes Home by the Franz von Chossy Quintet is just about the prettiest thing I’ve heard lately, and despite my busy listening schedule, I keep hitting the play button on this beautiful recording.  A contemporary blend of jazz, classical, and folk, strong melodies are stated simply, then lofted up on the shoulders of majestic harmonies and carried away by dynamic rhythms that often border on the breathless.

Opening track “Along the River” offers up harmonies soft and sweet.  “Steps of the Sun” adds a sense of urgency to the affair, with complex rhythmic strata and a lovely melody that flows through its seams.  “The Salt Companion” follows this with a melody that’s freer and allowed to roam, while remaining distinctly within earshot as it twists and turns, a fluid motion, perpetually changing shapes a little at a time.

“Perpetual Lights” plays and tinkers with melody with a pop music sensibility, drawing out exciting nuance without making it any less catchy.  “Human Dark With Sugar” and “Eternal Elephant” present a quieter side to this recording, with the former adopting a sorrowful tone and the latter opening out with a brooding disposition, then ending with a surging intensity.  “Victoria Line” returns with an upbeat tempo and a folk music swing.

The melodic development on title-track “When the World Comes Home” reflects not just this album’s staggering beauty, but the observation that the beauty grows stronger as the album proceeds.  The album ends with the skittering “Dust and Diamonds,” a track that coasts on warm harmonies and a melody that peeks out from within.  The album ends just like it began… with an abounding melodic grandeur and rhythms that crackle with life.

Absolutely thrilled to have stumbled onto this recording, and I’m just as thrilled to be able to share word of it here today.

Your album personnel:  Franz von Chossy (piano), Jeffrey Bruinsma (violin), Alex Simu (clarinet), Jörg Brinkmann (cello), and Yonga Sun (drums).

This album was Self-Produced, and released in 2012.

Jazz from the Amsterdam scene.

Available at: Bandcamp Digital | CDBaby CD&Digital | Amazon: CDMP3

Note:  It appears that the track order on Bandcamp is different than that on other retail outlets.  I left my review in the order of presentation that represented how I heard it (the Bandcamp presentation), because that is how this music was revealed to me.  The alternate track ordering has the title-track as the album’s final song… I have to admit, that song makes for a great album finale.  But either way, you can’t go wrong.  Just a beautiful recording.