Dec 17 2014
So here we are. As you (hopefully) read in yesterday’s column, my run on eMusic & Wondering Sound is now over. You can read about what’s what, here, w/this LINK. For the time being, as I search for a new home for my weekly jazz recommendations column, I’ll be posting the recs on Bird is the Worm.
I’m dedicating this first column to J. Edward Keyes, my former editor-in-chief at eMusic & Wondering Sound, who gave me a great opportunity and a big platform to advocate for the great jazz on the modern scene. Thanks, man. That was a nice thing you did.
Now, about that music… Yes, the year is winding to a close, and that typically means a slow drip of new releases (aside from the onslaught of holiday theme albums, for the love of god). That said, I’ve found some music for you this week that should make you carefully reconsider whether you really need to be buying all of those gifts for family and friends. We all know the best gift is the gift of music… what would be so wrong with gifting some for yourself? Personally, I can’t come up with a good reason you shouldn’t.
So, on that festive note, let’s begin…
Jason Parker Quartet – Homegrown
Trumpeter Jason Parker really gets this music to resonate. Even though a modern straight-ahead session, the music emits the warmth and late-night sense of mystery reminiscent of a classic Blue Note Records hard bop recording. But this is music of the present, in the sense of feel, sound, and composition. Of the latter element, Parker invited musicians from his Seattle scene to contribute their own compositions for possible inclusion on this recording. It’s the present celebrating the present, and while the reason for the season is the music itself, it’s a valuable measure of the strength of the modern scene. Good stuff. Can’t go wrong by scooping this one up. Pick of the Week.
This album is Self-Produced. Visit the Artist site.
Valia Calda – Valia Calda
Absolutely riveting debut EP from a quintet that blends modern post-bop, Greek traditional, free improv and Balkan music. Rob Milne provides sunlight and shadows on bass clarinet & flute. Trumpeter Sam Warner and guitarist Nikos Ziarkas provide elements of air and earth. Thodoris Ziarkas and Gaspar Sena set the scene and move it at will on bass and drums. Electronics, cretan lute, cretan lyra, and tsambuna fit right in with traditional jazz instruments. The music goes from a late-night jazz club cool to an ambling post-bop to Frisellian eeriness to Mediterranean seaside ease. All kinds of cool, and a very promising start to their recording career.
This album is Self-Produced. Visit the Artist site.
Hang Em High – Beef & Bottle
This album strays far more into Rock territory than it does Jazz, and that probably suits saxophonist Lucien Dubuis just fine. His projects often mix in healthy doses of trip, space and punk rock, creating something of too great a density to even consider swinging. The intrigue, however, is tough to beat. The Hang Em High project also includes drummer/percussionist Alfred Vogel and bassist Bond, who utilizes a 2-string bass on this session much in the same way that Mark Sandman did with Morphine… a rock act that sometimes dipped their toe into modern jazz. Too cool not to get in a mention.
The album is Self-Produced. Visit the Artist site.
Backback – Backback III
Actually, not that far removed from the Hang Em High trio, but where HEH focused more on the cool groove, the Backback trio is more inclined to focus on revealing all the facets of a melodic gem. The trio is comprised of Filip Wauters on electric & baritone guitars (and lap steel), Marc De Maeseneer on baritone & tenor saxophones and Giovanni Barcella on drums. Again, more rock than jazz, but the mix of well-crafted melodies and wild improvisations make it a heady, addictive concoction, and renders genre classification a trivial subject.
Jerry González-Miguel Blanco Big Band – A Tribute to the Fort Apache Band
A lively big band session that pays tribute to the influential 70s outfit, The Fort Apache Band, of which Jerry Gonzalez (and his brother) were instrumental in forming. For the most part, this is a straight-ahead big band set, even though it is replete with the nuances of various Latin Jazz forms and expressions, as well as some shifting between traditional and contemporary sounds. That Gonzales and Miguel Blanco can keep things sounding coherent in the face of the changing details is a solid accomplishment. Some nifty solos, but it’s the rhythmic textures that win the day on this one. Plenty of warmth on this album to help fight off the sharp bite of winter.
Tom Csatari Band – Uncivilized
This album is the bar regular who is the one person you don’t mind grabbing a seat next to yours when all you feel like doing is just nursing your whiskey and keeping to your own thoughts. Guitarist Csatari’s electro-acoustic blend of jazz, folk, chamber, and pop musics has a wonderfully diverse and interesting personality, while also possessing that necessary quality of not coming on too strong with an oppressive display of nuance or hooks so sharp as to cause persistent distraction. The music has a dreamy presence, hangs out there nice and easy, and builds a nice rapport between instrument and ear. Music with a rare kind of charm. The ensemble consists of a string trio, a woodwind quartet, a rhythm quartet and two people on laptops, samples and electronics, and, of course, Csatari’s guitar. Saxophonist Ben Flocks is also a member of this ensemble, and Uncivilized isn’t that far removed from Flock’s excellent 2014 folk-rock debut, Battle Mountain. The electronics and effects are totally unobtrusive and blend in nicely with the woodwinds. When they make their presence known, it would be like early Spiritualized adding twang to their shoegaze rock. I’m pretty well taken with this recording.
Available at: Bandcamp
Jack Mouse & Scott Robinson – Snakeheads & Ladybugs
Excellent duo collaboration between drummer Mouse and saxophonist Robinson. Sometimes the conversation consists of bursts of acerbic phrases while other times it’s a free flow of strong imagery. Either way, the dialog is vivid and engaging and freely improvised. Robinson adds to the mix a c-melody sax, a cornet and a e-flat clarinet.
Released on Tall Grass Records. Visit the Artist site.
Emanuele Maniscalco – Copenhagen Season
Three improvisations between the duo of pianist Emanuele Maniscalco and bassist Thomas Morgan. There wasn’t a plan to record anything, but when the two sat down for an impromptu session, after about ten minutes, Emanuele decided to get the tape player going. This was back in 2012, and though some tracks have been floating around the internet (see the embedded Soundcloud player just below), this is the first time somebody has sat down with this material and mastered it and given it the treatment it deserves. These are careful conversations that delight in the tiny collisions of peaceful notes and the celebration of those times they enter a sublime unison.
Dominic Egli’s Plurism – Fufu Tryout
Nice modern set from drummer Egli, who veers occasionally into Afro-Jazz territory, though more often than not, sticks to a European jazz sound throughout. But the back and forth, regardless of the ratios of influences, provides some necessary differentiation to make it stand out from the crowd. Punctuated rhythms and angular melodies don’t prevent the music from maintaining an appealing flow. Joining Egli are trumpeter Feya Faku, saxophonist Donat Fisch and bassist Raffaele Bossard.
Released on Unit Records. Visit the Artist site.
Napoleonirosati – Aeroplanino di Carta
A charming set of tunes from the vocals-piano duo of Paola Rosai and Francesco Napoleoni. They hit the right notes of subtlety and drama at the right times. They round out a quartet with the bass and drums of Dario Piccioni and Maruo Salvatore. The quartet plays it straight, doesn’t try to shatter any boundaries or stake out new ground, and that’s okay, especially when the goal seems to be making friendly music like this.
This album is Self-Produced.
Koi Trio – Light Blue
Personable album of Monk covers. Nothing breathtaking or inventive, but it’s charming and genuine and they voice it with their own personal sound rather than just parrot the originals. Besides, the compositions of Thelonious Monk are always cool to hear through the voices of others, regardless of how it all shakes out. This one shook out pretty good. The trio is drummer Matthias Akeo Nowak, saxophonist Sebastien Gille and pianist Rainer Böhm.
Mark Simon Quintet – Inkling
Nice straight-ahead session from pianist Simon, who keeps things lively with sunny melodies and brisk tempos. Most tracks bop right on along, light on their feet, and the jaunty locomotion attained by the quintet is the real highlight here. Some nice solos, especially from pianist Simon. There are two tracks where Simon switches over to keyboards, which is unfortunate in terms of album cohesion. Same can be said about one contemporary track that gets a bit syrupy. But overall, a delightful recording.
Released on PJCE Records.
In Focus Trio – Plays Jan Johansson “Jazz in Swedish” Live
Pleasant piano trio session that performs a live take of famed Swedish composer & pianist Jan Johansson‘s Jazz in Swedish recording. It’s Ola Melander on piano, Hannes Wall on bass and Christoffer Dahl on drums. Nice intimate recording. Good music for a peaceful Sunday morning with the snow falling outside and nowhere to go.
The album is Self-Produced. Visit the Artist site.
Available at: eMusic
And let’s wrap up today’s column with something from the archives…
Luther Thomas – In Denmark
A member of St. Louis’s Black Artists Group back in the day, saxophonist Luther Thomas made his mark via free jazz and funk. Lately, his music has seen a resurgence, keyed in part by Atavistic’s excellent Unheard Music Series. This compilation of archival footage covers the period of time after Thomas had relocated to Denmark in 1998 and up through his passing in 2009. This release brings together a number of sessions, of both solo work and ensemble play, with musicians like drummer Kresten Osgood and bassist Nils Bo Davidsen (among others). This album is released by ILK Music, who has been issuing similarly themed albums from American jazz musicians who relocated to the Denmark region. They’re all pretty interesting.
Released on ILK Music.
Have a great time digging through the list!