Tiny Reviews: Aruan Ortiz, Joel Remmel Trio, Mary Halvorson, Jure Pukl, & Ehud Ettun

August 3, 2012

Tiny Reviews, featuring Aruan Ortiz Quartet Orbiting, Joel Remmel Trio Lumekristall, Mary Halvorson Quintet Bending Bridges, Jure Pukl Abstract Society, and Ehud Ettun Heading North.



Aruan Ortiz Quartet – Orbiting

Since making the move from Cuba to NYC, this classically trained violinist-pianist has been grabbing ears with his compositional skills, as well as his sound.  Making a statement over the last few months with Afro-Cuban music (for instance, Mark Weinstein’s El Cumbanchero, reviewed HERE), Aruan Ortiz comes back this time with a modern jazz piece.  It’s an album of constant motion, simultaneous soloing, and swarming rhythms.  It’s an excellent album of how Modern Jazz is able to put its stamp on the developmental timestream of the Jazz genre, yet not sacrifice its ties to the past as it carves out its own identity.  Thoughtful music with an edge to it.

Your album personnel:  Aruan Ortiz (piano), Eric McPherson (drums), Rashaan Carter (bass), and David Gilmore (guitar).

Released on the Fresh Sound New Talent label.  Jazz from NYC.

Available on eMusic.


Joel Remmel Trio – Lumekristall

The Joel Remmel Trio are very much a part of the Norwegian jazz sound.  Music that lends to plenty of introspection.  Melodies that drift and rhythms that scatter like dust.  Bass player likes to get plenty of arco action in, which adds some pleasing tension to many of the tunes.  Album closes with the solitary vocal track, a trend which I’m kind of fond of, and works fine here, too.

Your album personnel:  Joel-Rasmus Remmel (piano), Heikko-Joseph Remmel (double bass), and Aleksandra Kremenetski (drums & percussion).

Released on Paw Marks Music label (no website).  Jazz from the Tallinn, Estonia scene.

Available at eMusic.


Mary Halvorson Quintet – Bending Bridges

Guitarist Mary Halvorson doesn’t put out conventional albums.  Often, they’re placed in the jazz genre because of her and her bandmates’ ties to other jazz albums, but most of Halvorson’s music defies categorization anyway.  On this recording, her second with the quintet, she adopts (for much of it) a pleasant front porch ease.  Not to say that this is lazy Sunday music, but it’s much less aggressive than past recordings, and it makes for a strong effort.  The sudden shifts of tempo within the span of a tune can be pretty damn exhilarating, especially when Finlayson’s sax calls out over the top while Halvorson shapes the song with warped curvy notes.

Your album personnel: Mary Halvorson (guitar), Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet), Jon Irabagon (alto sax), John Hébert (bass), and Ches Smith (drums).

Released on the Firehouse 12 Records label.  Jazz from NYC.

Available at eMusic.


Jure Pukl – Abstract Society

This is one where modern jazz composition overlaps what may have once been viewed as avant-garde.  Soprano & tenor sax man Jure Pukl leads a stellar quartet featuring Vijay Iyer on piano, Joe Sanders on bass, and Damon Reid on drums.  Yes, there’s some clash and dissonance on this recording, but there’s elements of swing, and more noticeably, roots the trace back to the blues.  The occasional interludes of serenity are a refreshing wash.  Nothing boring about this album, it engages on many levels.

Released on Storyville Records.  Jazz from the Velenje, Slovenia scene.

Available at eMusic.


Ehud Ettun – Heading North

Bassist Ehud Ettun shows some real promise on his debut album, best illustrated by some of the quieter tunes, like the title-track, which seems to withhold new notes as a way of building anticipation (and it works).  At times, the music comes off as a bit overproduced on the contemporary side.  For instance, the track “Night Portrait” is reminiscent of some of the rock-new age fusion that Andy Summers & Robert Fripp were putting out in the 80s, though it’s worth mentioning that those are still very fun albums to spin.  Overall, the high moments on this album make it worth the purchase, and if you live somewhere that gets lots of rain, maybe even more so.

Your album personnel:  Ehud Ettun (bass), Tal Gur (saxophones), Haruka Yabuno (piano), Nathan Blankett (drums), and Hagai Perets (guitar).

The album is Self-Produced.  Jazz from the Boston, MA scene.

Available at eMusic.



Portions of some of these 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“ 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.

Lars Danielsson – “Liberetto”

July 31, 2012


Bassist Lars Danielsson tightened things up a bit.  Quite a bit, actually.

Previous Danielsson releases played things looser when it came to form.  It’s not so much that the musicians colored outside the lines, it’s that they blurred the definition of the lines to the point where it was difficult to tell when they were outside versus in.  For instance, 2006’s Melange Bleu was a set of ethereal tunes that seemed without beginning and end.  And Danielsson’s 2009 release Tarantella had compositions not quite as heavy on the atmospherics, but the structure of the songs themselves seemed a secondary consideration.

This kind of approach to music can have all kinds of crazily attractive possibilities (in the instance of these Danielsson albums, a sense of dreams escaped from the Sandman, and hiding as songs), but the downside often is that the lack of form and structure makes for poorly retained memories of the music, and that the ethereal substance loses some of the visceral impact with the passing of time.

On Liberetto, the lines are thick, and all that color they hold within, it makes for songs bursting from the seams with personality.

Your album personnel:  Lars Danielsson (bass, cello, Wurlitzer piano on one track), Tigran Hamasyan (piano, vocals on one track), John Parricelli (guitar), Arve Henriksen (trumpet), and Magnus Öström (drums, percussion).

It would be difficult not to begin this review with mention of the change in personnel from Danielsson’s last albums for this one, especially the addition of former E.S.T. drummer Magnus Ostrom. It seems more than a coincidence that the cohesive song structure and expert use of dramatic ebb and flow of tension that was such an essential part of the E.S.T. equation is not employed on this Danielsson album.

The most positive change in approach for this album is reflected in the melodies.

There are tunes like “Hymnen,” album opener “Yerevan”, and album closer “Blå Ängar,” which come closest to past Danielsson efforts, with Henriksen’s trumpet setting a lullaby tone, then standing aside for Danielsson to lead the way to dreamland.  But even these stay on the reservation, never straying too far from the melody or the abiding reach for cohesion.

But many of the album’s tunes are typified by tracks like “Orange Market” and “Driven to Daylight” and title track “Liberetto”… tight melodies, folk music textures, and bursts of tension that bring the song to a boil.

“Svensk Lat” is a song split in two.  It begins as Folk, with Danielsson’s cello slicing wide arcs of hazy sound while Tigran diffuses piano phrases like architecture upon the song’s facade.  But then at the half-way mark, the song shifts dramatically into ferocity and drive more emblematic of Ostrom’s E.S.T. style of music.  That the before and after pictures are so unlike presents no obstacle, because even here, the melodies of each half tie out even if their delivery is so dramatically different.  The intriguing aspect about this tune is that the two primary characteristics of this album (folk and E.S.T.-catchy) are displayed, the former in the first half, the latter in the second, and yet even separated out like this, the song works, seamless in its transition between the two parts.  And the starkness of their differences makes their compatibility as cohabitants of every other tune that much more impressive.

It’s a beautiful album, one that is finely textured, while also such an easily embraceable recording.  At the time of this review (late July), I’ve got it slotted in the Top Ten of my Best of 2012 (thus far) list.  It deserves to be there.

Released on the ACT Music label.

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: CD | MP3

Indigo Kid – “Indigo Kid”

July 26, 2012


Every time I hear the first notes from Indigo Kid’s self-titled album, I want to get in the car and go driving, and I want it to be raining as I drive past city streets and out into the countryside.

Two feet in the modern jazz world, this is an album that unabashedly utilizes melodic excursions and rock rhythms to get its point across.  The meandering route the album’s tunes take to traverse the path from first note to last give a storybook feel to many tunes.  The album is laid back, moments of ambient reveries broken by relaxed conversation, on a calm and reclusive day.

Your album personnel:  Dan Messore (guitar), Iain Ballamy (tenor saxophone), Tim Harries (bass), and Gethin Jones (drums).

Dan Messore’s guitar approach falls squarely in the Kurt Rosenwinkel camp (for those unfamiliar with Rosenwinkel, please see the first sentence of paragraph two of this review to see how he’s made his mark in Jazz).  Messore creates an introverted dynamic, but one where the listener is invited into the guitarist’s head… rendering the connection no so much one of solitary absorption as just an unconventional invitation to visit.

Iain Bellamy is on sax, he of Loose Tubes fame, and currently a member of Food, an ambient jazz group that out-ECM’d ECM before eventually being signed to same label.  Bellamy brings a serenity to most music he’s involved with, but here his contribution gives more a sense of searching outward, his notes asking questions and postulating theories on what’s been learned.  If Messore’s guitar is the falling rain, then Bellamy’s sax is distant lightning… quiet, but with a presence impossible to ignore.

If you’ve fallen asleep near a gurgling stream, then you have a decent idea of what bassist Tim Harries’ contribution to the album is.  It’s a series of blips and drips, pops and whirls, and though there appears to be no pattern to it, all the notes just seem to make sense when they hit.  Harries’ bass isn’t an accompanying instrument as much as it is a prominent part of the landscape.

Gethin Jones is my kind of drummer.  The rhythms aren’t laid down, but stitched together into sheets of percussion that get spread out over lengths of the song.  It has an immersive effect, which when combined with his unobtrusive style, blends seamlessly with the rest of the quartet.

The album compares favorably to Brian Blade‘s Perceptual (an album which, not coincidentally I’m sure, featured guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel).  Though it lacks textures of Perceptual‘s varied instruments, the overall mysteriously ambient tone make them a reasonable match.

Indigo Kid is an album that has really grown on me.  I recall the first time I heard it, and how even as the album progressed my opinion of it changed from a first impression of ordinary music to something far more impressive.  Now, I’m pretty much addicted to.  I fear what will happening to my listening habits as Autumn falls over the countryside and the gloomy loveliness of Fall in the Countryside is my view as I listen to this album.

Jazz from the UK scene.

Released on the Babel Label.

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

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: CD | MP3

Colin Vallon – “Rruga”

April 30, 2012

My review of Colin Vallon‘s Rruga has been pubbed over at Music is Good.  After the lead-in paragraph, you can follow the link to read the read of the article at MiG.


The ECM catalog is filled with piano trio albums of austerity and minimalism.  For a piano trio to approach an album with a Doing More With Less minimalism is a daring venture, because the high risk is a drowsy album that ends up sounding flimsy and thin or, worse perhaps, lounge music for the late night dinner set.  It’s not an easy thing to do, the peaceful piano trio recording.

The choice of notes has to be impeccable, since there ain’t gonna be as many to offer the listener.  Honor has to be paid to the silence, and used as effectively as the sound made from the black and whites.  Bass and drums have to be more than just tools of accompaniment, but in the framework of the quiet piano trio, they need to be sure to only use their Inside Voices.  And then there’s the compositions themselves… (read the rest of the article, HERE, at Music is Good).

Your album personnel:  Colin Vallon (piano), Patrice Moret (double bass), and Samuel Rohrer (drums).

Released on the ECM Records label in 2011, and one of the year’s best.

Jazz from the Bern, Switzerland scene.

Tiny Reviews: Erik Deutsch, Tore Johansen, & Marc Bernstein

April 6, 2012

Tiny Reviews, featuring:  Erik Deutsch Demonio Teclado, Tore Johansen Double Rainbow, and Marc Bernstein Good People Music.

Three Tiny Reviews of three very different albums, all with something strong to hear.

Let’s begin…


Erik Deutsch – Demonio Teclado

Interesting new release from keyboardist Erik Deutsch. Very much in the neo-soul jazz family, though Deutsch’s sound has always had a healthy infusion of pop, even as part of the very cool but under-the-radar Colorado country-jazz ensemble County Road X.  On this album, Deutsch lets the electric keyboards sing with plenty of compositions just ready to groove with anyone who’ll listen.  Inclusion of steel guitar is a very nice touch on “Ms. Pelican” and ends the album with resounding proof that Deutsch deserves plenty of attention.

Your album personnel:  Erik Deutsch (keys), Tony Mason (drums), Glenn Taylor (steel guitar), Brandon Seabrook (guitar), Jon Gray (trumpet), Ben Rubin, Jeff Hill (bass), and guest: Jens (tambourine; one track).

Plenty to like here for everyone, jazz and non-jazz fans alike.  Those who still put Beck’s Odelay into the stereo on a regular basis might like what’s going on here, as would people who are into Ray Charles electric period.  Just a real fun album that’s easy to bop along to.

Released on the Hammer & String label, which is Deutsch’s thing.  Jazz from the Brooklyn scene.

Available at eMusic.


Tore Johansen – Double Rainbow

Nice release from trumpeter Tore Johansen. Very much in the style of Nordic jazz; atmospheric, relaxed, rainy-day jazz. Nice balance to the production; instruments each have their equal say, much to the benefit of the listener. Drummer Jon Christensen, who has played on some of the ECM label’s seminal modern albums, absolutely shines here; even when his playing gets more pronounced, he never surrenders his innate elegance.

Your album personnel:  Tore Johansen (trumpet), Vigleik Storaas (piano), Jo Skaansar (bass), and Jon Christensen (drums).

Released on the Inner Ear label.  Jazz from the Trondheim, Norway scene.

Available on eMusic.


Marc Bernstein – Good People Music

Intriguing release by multi-reedist Marc Bernstein, and featuring drummer extraordinaire Billy Hart. A quintet rounded out with drums, piano, and bass.  Compositions with an inquisitive nature that gets the musicians in a searching frame of mind.  Cool, evocative music… the kind of jazz that, when played, can make the mundane seem special just by way of it being the soundtrack to that particular moment.  Highly Recommended.

Your album personnel:  Marc Bernstein (saxophones & bass clarinet, Billy Hart (drums), Jacob Anderskov (piano), and Jonas Westergaard (bass).

NOTE:  The above section is what I wrote for my eMusic Jazz Picks article, but over the last month, this album has become increasingly addictive, so I’ll be looking to write a full length review soon, to be pubbed either on AllAboutJazz or Bird is the Worm.

Released on the Blackout Music label.  Jazz from the Denmark scene.

Available at eMusic.


That’s it for today’s article, and the first of two parts of the Tiny Reviews from this batch of new arrivals.

Here’s some language to protect emusic’s rights as the one to hire me originally to scour through the jazz new arrivals and write about the ones I like:

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

My thanks to emusic for the freelance writing gig, the opportunity to use it in this blog, and the editorial freedom to help spread the word about cool new jazz being recorded today.