Tiny Reviews: Minasi & Berger, Jazz Bigband Graz, & Shims Trio

January 18, 2013

Tiny Reviews, featuring:  Dom Minasi and Karl Berger Synchronicity, Jazz Bigband Graz Urban Folktales, and Shims Trio And Again.


Dom Minasi and Karl Berger – Synchronicity

Dom Minasi, Karl Berger - "Synchronicity"Appealing duo recording from free jazz vets, guitarist Dom Minasi and vibraphonist/pianist Karl Berger.  Minasi’s inquisitiveness seems to match very well with Berger’s free-floating lines, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a “pretty” album, there is a surreal beauty to this music that proves avant-garde and free jazz need not get all up in the listener’s face to get its point across.  And yet another example of how guitar and vibes make the best jazz marriages… warm bright notes that often hang frozen in the air.  Berger has an established history with improvised and outside music, notably his co-founding the Creative Music Studio with Ornette Coleman.  Minasi has put out an array of recordings over the last decade that show his devotion to free improv music, but more importantly, his willingness to present it through as many facets as he can find.

Your album personnel:  Dom Minasi (guitar) and Karl Berger (vibes, piano).

[bandcamp track=1722383047 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=grande]

Released on the Nacht Records label.

You can stream the entire album at the label’s bandcamp page.

There’s a bunch of free tracks from other Minasi albums available from his artist profile at AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artist.

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: MP3


Jazz Bigband Graz – Urban Folktales

jazzbigbandgraz_urbanfolktalesThis recording came out back in August 2012, and now approximately five months later, I’m finding myself increasingly drawn to it.  Some albums have staying power, but Urban Folktales by Jazz Bigband Graz gets incredibly stronger with the passing of time as it reveals all of its dynamic nuances and textures.  The thing to keep in mind as I briefly talk about this album is that it is, truly, first and foremost, a Big Band recording.  Yes, there is a tasteful use of electronic effects and programming, and they do manage to work a theremin, an electric zither, and synthesizers into the action.  But the most prominent characteristics of this recording are the moments of euphoria when saxophones and trombones combine for uplifting passages, and when trumpets and flugelhorns brightly light up the room with a heavenly brilliance, or the intrepid rhythmic adventures that drive some tunes on epic journeys.  Plenty of guests get worked into the fabric of the ensemble for wonderful effect.  “Rêve Africain” is about as beautiful a big band tune as you’ll hear.  Just a thrilling album that will reward listeners who make a sincere effort to spend time with it.

Your album personnel:  Horst-Michael Schaffer (co-director, trumpet, flugelhorn), Heinrich von Kalnein (co-director, soprano & alto saxes, flute), Christoph “Pepe” Auer (alto sax, clarinet), Herbert Berger (tenor sax, alto flute), Martin Harms (baritone sax, bass clarinet, flute), Bernhard Nolf, Andi Pesendorfer, Axel Mayer, David Jarh (trumpet, flugelhorn), Reinhard Summerer, Daniel Riegler (trombone), Wolfgang Tischhart (bass trombone), Uli Rennert (keyboards, synthesizers), Barbara Buchholz (theremin), Mattias Loibner (electric hurdy gurdy), Christof Dienz (electric zither), Henning Sieverts (acoustic bass, cello), Gregor Hilbe (drums, electronics, programming), and guests:  Theo Bleckmann (vocals), Hadja Kouyate (vocals), Gianluca Petrella (trombone), Nguyên Lê (electric guitar), Verneri Pohjola (trumpet), Robert Friedl (alto saxophone), Johannes Enders (tenor saxophone), Klaus Gessing (tenor saxophone), Robert Bachner (trombone), and Philip Yaeger (bass trombone).

Stream two album tracks here, on the label site.

Released on the ACT Music label.

Jazz from the Graz, Austria scene.

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: CD | MP3


Shims Trio – And Again

Shims Trio - "And Again"Fast-paced recording by the Shims Trio.  The starting gun goes off just before the first note, and it’s never heard from again.  Tempos are what drives this album, and each trio member puts in his share of sweat equity to get the job done.  Quirky melodies are easy to find, but tough to tie down.  Most pleasing quality of this recording is that even amidst a sea of apparent randomness, the trio performs as a cohesive unit, bringing a sense of togetherness to chaotic sound.  Not an easy trick to pull off.  Nifty album.

Your album personnel:  Nathan Eklund (trumpet), Drew Gress (bass), and Don Peretz (drums, percussion).

[bandcamp track=2137170312 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=grande]

The album is Self-Produced.

You can stream the album, and purchase it, at the artist bandcamp page.

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: MP3



The material is original to Bird is the Worm, but a portion of my Minasi/Berger review was 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,“ reprint courtesy of eMusic.com, Inc.
© 2012  eMusic.com, Inc.

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

Tiny Reviews: Jensen/Anschell/Symer, Steve Davis, Claudio Scolari, Heliocentric Counterblast, & Greg Spero

October 19, 2012

Tiny Reviews, featuring:  Jensen/Anschell/Symer Blueprints, Claudio Scolari Synthesis, Steve Davis Gettin’ It Done, Heliocentric Counterblast A Tribute to Sun Ra, and Greg Spero Acoustic.



Brent Jensen, Bill Anschell, & Chris Symer – Blueprints

It’s nice when an album possesses qualities that are both serene and scattered.  Music like that makes for lazy Sunday afternoons when napping is the furthest thing from ones mind.  The trio of Brent Jensen, Bill Anschell, and Chris Symer hits that sweet spot just right.  With soprano sax, piano, and bass (respectively), they take a peaceful stroll through a set of tunes that sound vaguely deconstructed.  Bits of original melodies peek out from crosscurrents of notes that all sound like original ingredients doctored up in a new, though similar, meal.  The cover of “How Deep the Ocean” flirts with free improvisation performed in a tiny crucible.  Parker’s “Yardbird Suite” goes from swing on the dance floor to bop musings on the staircase.  The trio goes in the opposite direction on Monk’s “Blue Monk,” giving the tune an alluring sway that shifts into a jittery wobble.  It makes for a nice effect.

My only disappointment is that only one of the nine tracks is an original composition.  The delightful symbiosis amongst the trio makes me pine for what might have been had they sunk their teeth into some original melodies.  Based on the results from this recording, there’s no reason to expect it would be anything less than sublime.

Your album personnel:  Brent Jensen (soprano sax), Bill Anschell (piano), and Chris Symer (bass).

Stream a couple album tracks at the artist’s website.

Released on the Origin Arts label.

Jazz from the Seattle, WA scene.

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: CD | MP3


Claudio Scolari – Synthesis

Percussionist and composer Claudio Scolari finds a way to make avant-garde music out of the same ingredients that many ECM artists create atmospheric soundscapes.  The thing of it is, he doesn’t appear satisfied with simply having developed his own uniquely compelling sound.  Whereas others may have simply coasted on the creation of the sound itself and created a series of comparable tunes, on Synthesis, Scolari appears to venture into other music territories.  There’s some riffs on jazz, including one with Latin jazz rhythms, and there’s a few that hit the folk-jazz elements, and then others that earn the avant-garde tag. Richly textured.  Plenty of percussion with some trumpet to soar over the top of it all. Something for those who like Something Different, and a nice release, especially following on the heels of his excellent release Colors of Red Island.

Your album personnel: Claudio Scolari (drums, percussion, synth computer, flute), Daniele Cavalca (drum, vibraphone, piano, melodica, bass), and Simone Scolari (trumpet).

Released on the Principal Records label, which may be Scolari’s own label.

Jazz from the Caltanissetta, Italy scene.

Available at eMusic.


Steve Davis – Gettin’ It Done

Nice hard-bop session from trombonist Steve Davis. Davis was one of the musicians who worked the transition years, when the old-school jazz legends were winding down their careers and a new generation was rising up to continue the Jazz tradition.  Davis, who notably was part of Art Blakey’s crew in the 90s, has amassed an impressive resume in a relatively short time (by jazz career standards). His current release displays a workmanlike effort, as he leads a sextet in a series of hopping tunes.  This is pure jazz, no need to check the fine print.

Your album personnel: Steve Davis (trombone). Josh Bruneau (trumpet, flugelhorn), Mike DiRubbo (alto sax), Larry Willis (piano), Nat Reeves (bass), and Billy Williams (drums).

Released on the Posi-Tone Records label.

Jazz from the Hartford, CT scene.

Available at eMusic. Available at Amazon: CD | MP3


Heliocentric Counterblast – A Tribute to Sun Ra

This German octet does a nifty rundown of Sun Ra, capturing Ra’s compositional eccentricities as well as his abundance of joyful music.  Fun album, and glad I ran into it.  I like that I got to type “space-keys” in the personnel section.  No proper website, but here’s a link to their Facebook page.

Your album personnel:  Nikolaus Neuser (trumpet), Kathrin Lemke (alto sax, flute), Dirk Steglich (tenor sax, flute), Andreas Dormann (baritone sax), Gerhard Gschlössl (trombone), Uri Gincel (piano, space-keys), Mike Majkowski (bass), and Philipp Bernhardt (drums).

Released on the Yellowbird Records label.  Jazz from the Berlin scene.

Available at eMusic.


Greg Spero – Acoustic

Spirited recording from the dynamic pianist.  Greg Spero has plenty of flash, but as this album illustrates, he’s got the substance to back it up.  A nice mix of late-night piano jazz, some which could induce listeners to just close their eyes and lean back in their seats, and other tracks which simmer with an R&B groove.

Your album personnel:  Greg Spero (piano), Matt Ulery (bass), and Makaya McCraven (drums).

Released on the BluJazz Productions label.  Jazz from the Chicago scene.

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

Available at eMusic.



The Jensen/Anschell/Symer and Steve Davis reviews are original to Bird is the Worm, but the 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.
© 2012  eMusic.com, Inc.

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

Tiny Reviews: Olivier Bogé, Joe Chambers, Trio Enchant(i)er, & Christian Escoude

October 15, 2012


Tiny Reviews, featuring:  Olivier Bogé Imaginary Traveler, Joe Chambers Joe Chambers Moving Picture Orchestra, Trio Enchant(i)er Les Composantes Invisibles, and Christian Escoude Plays Brassens Au bois de mon coeur.



Olivier Bogé – Imaginary Traveler

Some albums have the subtlest way about drawing listeners in.  There’s no showy solos, the melodies are solid and unfussy, volume is measured out in even quantities, and no one particular track really stands out from the pack, and yet, with no defining hook or catch phrase to reel the ear in, the sound of the album’s last note immediately spurs the decision to start the album over again right from the start.

Saxophonist Olivier Boge has created one of those albums.

Your album personnel:  Olivier Bogé (sax), Pierre Perchaud (guitar), Tony Paeleman (piano, Rhodes), Nicolas Moreaux (bass), and Karl Jannuska (drums).

There is a relaxed ease to this album.  It is unhurried as it makes its point.  Guitar matches well with Fender Rhodes.  Sax blends in and out of the mix with a casual air.  Guitar alternates between sun and shade, and while there’s nothing wrong with the electric guitar sections, it’s when the steel string comes out that the tunes really shine.  Rhodes does a pretty decent facsimile of vibes, sending out bright notes for sax and bass to twirl around.  Drums keep up a pleasant chatter, more tick than thump.

Just an all-around enjoyable album.

Released on the Fresh Sounds New Talent label.

Jazz from the La Garenne Colombes, France scene.

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: CD | MP3


Joe Chambers – Joe Chambers Moving Picture Orchestra

Veteran jazz drummer Joe Chambers just keeps on tickin’.  Decades ago, he was in the thick of the bop and free jazz movements, and today he’s still showing new facets to his playing and compositional talents.  His newest, recorded live at Dizzy’s in NYC, has him leading a big band, and features mostly his own compositions.  No curveballs, this is straight-ahead jazz goodness.  Track “Power to the People” is enchanting as all hell.

Your album personnel:  Joe Chambers (drums, vibes) with the Joe Chambers Moving Pictures OrchestraSharel Cassity, Tim Green (flute, clarinet, sax), Craig Handy (flute, sax), Sam Dillon, Frank Basile (sax), David Weiss , Josh Evans, Greg Gisbert, Frank Greene (trumpet), Conrad Herwig, Max Siegel , James Burton , Steve Davis (trombone), Xavier Davis (piano), Dwayne Burno (bass), Steve Berrios (percussion), and guest: Nicole Guiland (vocals).

Released on the Savant Records label.

Jazz from NYC (though Chambers does make Wilmington, NC his home).

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: CD | MP3


Trio Enchant(i)er – Les Composantes Invisibles

Guitar, drums, and alto/soprano sax trio. Sorta avant-garde, sorta modern jazz, sorta post-rock. Three young musicians experimenting with sound and their own voices in music.  It’s a fun listen, and a promising start.

Your album personnel: Gregory Sallet (saxophones), Olivier Jambois (guitar), and Kevin Lucchetti (drums).

Stream a couple album tracks at the artist site.

Released on the Naive label.  Jazz from the Grenoble, France scene.

Available at eMusic.


Christian Escoude – Plays Brassens Au bois de mon coeur

French guitar veteran Christian Escoude offers up a beautiful series of tunes, heavy on the strings, but including a sublime contribution on clarinet.  Hot jazz for sitting in the shade down by the waterside.

Your album personnel:  Christian Escoude (guitar), Fiona Monbet (violin), Andre Villeger (clarinet), Jean Baptiste Laya (electric guitar), Pierre Boussaguet (acoustic bass), Anne Paceo (drums), Bireli Lagrene (acoustic guitar), Swan Berger (acoustic guitar), and Valerie Duchateau (classical guitar).

Stream an album track on the Sunnyside Records blog.

Released on Sunnyside Records label.

Available at eMusic.



The Olivier Boge and Joe Chambers reviews are 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: Rino Abore Quartet, Simcock/Garland/Sirkis, Tomer Bar Trio, Trio Sued, & Benjamin Faugloire Project

October 9, 2012

Tiny Reviews, featuring:  Rino Arbore Quartet Suggestions From Space, Simcock, Garland & Sirkis Lighthouse, Tomer Bar Trio Local Groove, Trio Sued Space, and Benjamin Faugloire Project Diving.



Rino Arbore Quartet – Suggestions From Space

Fascinating quartet that evokes images of early-period Bill Frisell and later-period ECM chamber jazz.  Quite beautiful when it drifts on a melody, engaging when it gets more of a mind to deconstruct.  Guitar adds a sense of mystery, trumpet a weightlessness of being.  Drums work best when a soft hush.  Arco action by the bass substantially elevates the quality of the music, though, admittedly, I’m an easy sucker for anytime the bassist gets the bow out.  While those tunes which tackle dissonance and cut weird angles add needed diversity to the album’s overall sound, it’s the quiet late-night tunes that are the album’s points of strength.  Good stuff, and the kind of album that might’ve (undeservedly) slipped under the radar.

Your album personnel:  Rino Arbore (guitar), Roy Nikolaisen (trumpet & flugelhorn), Giorgio Vendola (double bass), and Gianlivio Liberti (drums).

(Note: slight pause of silence before and after embedded audio.)

Released on the No Flight Records label.  Jazz from the Bari, Italy scene.

Available at eMusic.


Simcock, Garland & Sirkis – Lighthouse

The Lighthouse Trio reunite for a set of lyricism and bounce.  Performing of a balancing act between jazz complexity and pop simplicity, the trio creates an album that is very listenable while remaining quite at home on the ACT Music label, which typically doesn’t release music that puts one foot in front of the other.

Your album personnel:  Gwilym Simcock (piano), Tim Garland (reeds), and Asaf Sirkis (drums & percussion).

Available at eMusic.


Tomer Bar Trio – Local Groove

Nice straight-forward piano trio album.  Light on its feet, with a pleasant bounce.  Pianist Tomer Bar has a light touch on keys, matched well against some animated drumming.  Some tracks come of as a bit scattered, though that’s not always a bad thing when it transitions to a subsequent, softer tune.  Some vocals, which have a pleasant ease to them.

Your album personnel:  Tomer Bar (piano), Uri Kutner (bass), and Ofri Nehemya (drums).

Released on the Spectra Jazz Records label.  Jazz from the Tel Aviv, Israel scene.

Available at eMusic.


Trio Sued – Space

Intriguing album.  Flurries of notes, interspersing moments of silence infrequently, but in just the right spots.  For everything going on here, this still comes off as an introspective recording.  It’s like a fairy tale about a lonely math equation.

Your album personnel:  Heinrich Werkl (bass), Primus Sitter (guitar), and Michael Erian (sax).

Stream an album track at Werkl’s artist site.

Released on the Extraplatte label.  Jazz from the Wein, Austria scene.

Available at eMusic.


Benjamin Faugloire Project – Diving

Moody piano trio that gets pretty evocative when it broods.  Two feet full in the modern piano trio school.  Nice follow-up to their 2008 release Premiere Nouvelle, which I still listen to from time to time.  One of those artists who doesn’t get named in the same breath as an E.S.T. or Jacob Karlzon (and that may be appropriate), but Faugloire’s outfit should definitely be part of the discussion when talking about the better modern piano trio jazz recordings.

Your album personnel:  Benjamin Faugloire (piano), Jerome Mouriez (drums), and Denis Frangulian (bass).

Released on the 3/6 Productions label.  Jazz from the Paris, France scene.

Available at eMusic.



Portions of these 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.

Jean Lapouge – “Des Enfants”

October 8, 2012


The music of Jean Lapouge is quite unlike anything else around.  His trio of guitar, vibes, and trombone is an unusual combination in and of itself, but it’s the music where the differentiation really sets in.  Lapouge’s trio creates animated, charming tunes that are heartwarmingly strange.

And on the heels of his 2011 release Temporare, he’s recorded some of the most pleasantly compelling music of the last two years.

Your album personnel:  Jean Lapouge (guitar, guitar synthesizer), Christiane Bopp (trombone), and Christian Paboeuf (vibes, oboe, bass flute).

Lapouge was influenced early in his guitar studies by both John McLaughlin’s work on Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew and the emergence of prog-rock pioneers Soft Machine.  Later, in the 1980s, he helped found the Noetra Collective, a group that mixed jazz, rock, and chamber music.  In many ways, that same mix informs his music of today.

This music is a mix of curious bursts of restrained dissonance and thick brush strokes of lullaby serenity.  Trombone is hands-on with the melodies… long sonorous notes, syrupy and inviting.  Guitar adds color, often gives some sharp twang to cut away at trombone’s syrupy thickness.  Vibes deliver more of a percussive element, though with its inherently bright and shiny notes, vibes often act like fireflies in the dark forest.  Oboe and bass flute make a guest appearance, adding flavor to an already unconventional profile.

The album opens with “Des Enfants,” and a beautiful statement of melody by trombone, and ends with guitar and vibes skittering around a restatement of the melody that is just too damn nifty.

Second track “13 Etrange” gets closer to the prog influence.  Odd pulsing tempos, shiny effects, and deconstructed melodies.  I also find it reminiscent of the Andy Summers – Robert Fripp duo album I Advance Masked.

“Two Days Before” is a jaunty tune of vibes and trombone playing leapfrog and guitar skips circles around them, and ends with rapid-punch combos from trombone.

Fourth track “Les Americains” rises up and down in a series of steps, sometimes clattering to the floor, sometimes taking launching up into the clouds.  Poboeuf brings out the oboe, and its sharp calls matched the pretty sparkle of Lapouge’s guitar brings together two opposing sounds in one majestic rippling current.

“Demain il Fera Beau” has the comfort of immersion in a cocoon of darkness, and the uncertainty of feeling ones way through it without falling.  It’s album tunes like these that evoke echoes of Bill Frisell’s equally curious album Quartet, which also featured guitar and trombone, with trumpet and violin and tuba as the collaborators.

Sixth track “Les Soldats” is a slight return to the melody of “Les Americains,” mirroring the pace and change in altitudes, but where the previous track focused more on the rhythmic aspect of the composition, this one explores the tune’s atmospheric possibilities.

The album ends with “Sombre, a muted piece that lets silence fill in the blanks with an appealing density,” giving it a sense of clouds thick with rain.  Trombone emits bursts of whimsical phrases, repeating a motif while vibes and guitar hold hands and offer complementary notes that hang frozen in the air as trombone rises and falls with just a little bit of abandon.  It ends with the same enchanting beauty with which it began.

This music was actually recorded between 2005 and 2007, not long before the Temporare session.  For various reasons, Lapouge didn’t release it until this year.  Thankfully, he did, and thankfully, it still sounds fresh and mysterious and sublime.  Currently working with a trio of guitar, cello, and drums, Lapouge is looking to have a new release out with the new trio before long.

Released on the Musea Records label.

Jazz from the Sarrazac, France scene.

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

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: MP3

A Tiny Review of Lapouge’s last album Temporare can be read on this site HERE.