Dec 14 2015
So, we’re still playing some catch-up here, both from the site downtime and, well, there was a tidal wave of new releases in the last quarter of the year. So, what you’ll get today and next week are some wrap-up columns of notable (and recommended) albums released between October 1st and today. But make no mistake, This Is Jazz Today.
This week, it’s a lot of familiar names offering up new recordings with familiar talents and sound. There’s also a couple new ones to the site, and they have me thrilled to introduce you to them today. So, hey, on that note…
Aaron Irwin Quartet – A Room Forever (Self-Produced)
The only reason I haven’t written a stand-alone recommendation for this recording is because the damn album keeps immersing me in its sound so fully that I forget to write about it. This striking album by clarinetist Irwin captures the ear with its captivating melodies, but the alluring ambiance developed from the melodic introduction is what cinches this as top-shelf music. Irwin captures some of the Bill Frisell magic in how songs possess qualities that are ominous, yet warm & inviting. Irwin and his clarinet are joined be trombonist Matthew McDonald, guitarist Pete McCann and bassist Thomson Kneeland. Because this is a wrap-up column that isn’t really tied to any one particular week, I’m not doing an Album of the Week for this column… but this recording is definitely of that caliber. Irwin bottled up moonlight on this one.
Industrial Revelation – Liberation & the Kingdom of NRI (Self-Produced)
This quartet of drummer D’Vonne Lewis, trumpeter Ahamefule J. Oluo, bassist Evan Flory-Barnes and keyboardist Josh Rawlings make the kind of genre-spanning music that is equally unclassifiable as it is curiously familiar. The key to this album’s success is that the multitude of influences don’t end up tripping over one another. One song rarely sounds like the next, and the common bond they share are catchy melodies, chipper rhythms and an infectious enthusiasm that is pretty difficult not to fall for. Something comparable? How about Fresh Cut Orchestra and their 2015 release From the Vine.
Dave Wilson Quartet – There Was Never (Zoho)
All kinds of vibrancy to this straight-ahead session from the quartet of tenor/soprano saxophonist Wilson, bassist Tony Marino, drummer Alex Ritz, and pianist Bobby Avey, who really shines on this session. Most tracks bop right along, and many of them incorporate different Latin influences (some Afro-Latin, some bossa, some Afro-Cuban). There’s a fun rendition of Grateful Dead’s “Cassidy” and an okay rendition of Beach Boys “God Only Knows” and they take a spin on the Gershwin comp “Summertime,” but the golden stuff of this recording are the Wilson originals. That’s when the music positively sings, just bursting with life. Plenty here to like.
Matt Mitchell – Vista Accumulation (PI Recordings)
The formal alphabet, it could be argued, restricts humanity’s ability to fully interface with reality. The totality of 26 letters imposes a word limitation that can be used to describe the world we live in, further eroded by a natural tendency for personal vocabularies to shrink to familiar and common words, phrases and expressions. As a result, since we aren’t fully able to describe everything we experience, our senses focus only on those stimuli that we are able to absorb via language… at the expense of those stimuli we can’t, which, ultimately, attain a sort of invisibility. Pianist Matt Mitchell’s new release Vista Accumulation sounds like a struggle against those constraints. Blunt, acerbic and harshly spoken, this sprawling work requires some time for acclimation. There are murky influences of jazz, blues and classical all found within, but the quartet of Mitchell, saxophonist Chris Speed, bassist Chris Tordini and drummer Dan Weiss express them along dramatically unconventional lines. And the imagery it evokes, to describe it requires something more than 26 letters.
Dave Douglas Quintet – Brazen Heart (Greenleaf Music)
Another nice set from trumpeter Douglas, whose style is very much in the modern straight-ahead realm, and whose voice on trumpet grows increasingly personal with each subsequent recording. He’s joined by an all-pro line-up of bassist Linda Oh, tenor saxophonist Jon Irabagon, drummer Rudy Royston and pianist Matt Mitchell for a bundle of Douglas originals plus a couple traditionals. About half of the album’s tunes are constructed from ground up like the framework of skyscrapers; the other half nurture the melody to a slow bloom.
Mostly Other People Do the Killing – Mauch Chunk (Hot Cup Records)
The track “Niagra” is the perfect example of MOPDtK’s talent at giving a heartfelt blues the roughest cut of the blade. The quartet has a remarkable ability to warp the shape of a hard bop expression into the kind of top shelf whiskey that goes down anything but smooth yet is terribly intoxicating. Pianist Ron Stabinsky joins the cast for this set of Moppa Elliott originals. Previous fans of the band will undoubtedly be happy with the newest offering, and I’d point to the thrilling chaotic tumble of “Herminie” as the best evidence of that claim.
Charles Rumback – In the New Year (Ears & Eyes Records)
This may be one of the more middle-ground positions drummer Rumback has taken in his well-rounded career. Whether it’s his avant-garde solo recordings, his contributions to the melodically-driven Whirlpool or his collaboration in the ambient-electronica duo Colorlist, Rumback tends to push all-in on the particular project, and modulates his form of expression accordingly. For this session, however, which brings him back together with saxophonist Caroline Davis, guitarist Jeff Parker, bass clarinetist Jason Stein and bassist John Tate, you get a little bit of each of those components, and the resulting imagery is the amorphous reflection of straight-ahead post-bop off the surface of a shimmery pond, where nothing is quite normal and nothing is strangely alien.
Noah Preminger – Pivot: Live at the 55 Bar (Self-Produced)
Blistering live set from tenor saxophonist Preminger. Terrifically reminiscent of that mid-period Coltrane (ie, Live at Newport or classic Impulse Recordings) where hard bop was taking on freer forms of expression without yet shedding the sense of structure. He’s joined by trumpeter Jason Palmer, bassist Kim Cass and drummer Ian Froman. 2015 has been blessed by a number of excellent live performance recordings. This may be the best of the batch.
Carlos Henriquez – The Bronx Pyramid (Blue Engine Records)
Excellent debut as ensemble leader from bassist Henriquez, who doesn’t do anything particularly fancy with this Latin Jazz recording, just throws a four-seam fastball right over the plate. Key is that the rich rhythmic display, in perpetual motion, is never an obstacle to the band patiently laying down some solid melodic formations. It’s, arguably, the Latin Jazz pick of the year.
Read more about the album on Bird is the Worm (LINK).
Kazalpin – Śniežki Schnee (Double Moon)
Intriguing collaboration between the Belarusian folk vocal trio from Akana and the Swiss jazz-folk ensemble Albin Brun Alpin Ensemble. The harmonics are all kinds of cozy warm, and they wrap up melodies that are abundantly friendly and easy to get along with. Plenty of personality to this one, and an album that definitely stands out from the crowd. Fun!
Stream three album tracks at the artist site.
Have a great time digging through the list!
And remember, it’s simple: You like what you like.