Apr 9 2015
Maybe it’s just by comparison to last week, but this new haul of jazz releases seems a bit of a drop-off. That said, there are some strong albums to be discovered this week. El Negocito Records continues its strong trend of releasing unclassifiable & captivating music. I’ll be writing about several recent releases on that label in the coming days.
There was a meagerly amount of audio available for embedding this week, and that’s a damn shame, too, because I swear, there are a couple albums in today’s list that, had they made a track available to include in the column, I am certain many of you would go running to the nearest retail site. But, hey, about that music.
*** Pick of the Week ***
Julia Hülsmann Quartet – A Clear Midnight
Something of a Kurt Weill theme to this collaboration between pianist Julia Hülsmann and vocalist Theo Bleckmann, but ultimately this is an album that stands firmly on its own two feet and there’s no real need for the listener to be versed in the source material to get full enjoyment out of the blissfully gorgeous album. Every track on this album casts the enchantment of moonlight on a dark eve, and possesses its strangely comforting warmth and its striking tranquility. Hülsmann’s quartet is comprised of trumpeter Tom Arthurs, bassist Marc Muellbauer and drummer Heinich Kobberling, and their presence is that of the enveloping darkness giving even greater brilliance to Bleckmann & Hülsmann’s moonlight. An album for rainy days and quiet nights and a refuge from a hard day or just any time that your life could use a strong infusion of beauty.
Released on ECM Records, where you can stream an album track.
*** This week’s featured albums ***
Linus – Linus+Skarbø/Leroux (El Negocito)
Totally captivating session from the banjo, guitar & bari guitar of Ruben Machtelinckx and the tenor & C-melody saxophone & alto clarinet of Thomas Jillings, joined by the additional guitars of Frederik Leroux and Øyvind Skarbø on drums and Hammond organ. A blend of folk, electronic, jazz and, well, experimental, I suppose. It’s an avant-garde rendition of the theme to Deadwood. Serene as all hell, but lots of quirks and jagged edges to bring out the lively personality.
Lisa Hilton – Horizons (Self-Produced)
Gentle, but evocative straight-ahead session from pianist Hilton. Her quintet (which includes all-stars Sean Jones, JD Allen, Gregg August and Rudy Royston) get every bit of lyricism out of every note. Music that often has a dreamy presence.
Kirk Knuffke – Arms & Hands (Royal Potato Family)
Nifty inside/out session from cornetist Knuffke, drummer Bill Goodwin and bassist Mark Helias. The trio (plus some guests) keep their hyperactivity contained in a relatively small pocket. Spiders do the same thing in tight corners, and like Knuffke’s newest, it results in a web of cool shapes and riveting patterns.
Soundstream Jazz Sextet – The Decade (Self-Produced)
Diego Imbert Quartet – Colors (Self-Produced)
Nice straight-ahead post-bop set from bassist Imbert. While it appears on its face not to be doing anything particularly special, each track emits a nice jolt of personality that engages the ear nicely. The right amount of edge to accompany an effusive bounce.
Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas – Sound Prints: Live at Monterey Jazz Festival (Blue Note)
Recorded live at the Monterey Jazz Festival, this live set absolutely burns with the electricity of Being There. This highly charged atmosphere is equally dependent on the accumulated force of a quintet locked in step and the conversational repartee between the all-star saxophonist Lovano and equally talented trumpeter Douglas. So, yeah, to those “Jazz is dead” proclaimers… here’s your massively beating heart, assholes. P.S. Really nice to see Blue Note Records continue its strong turnaround.
Mathieu Scheuber Group – Aggregato (Unit Records)
Vibrant set from pianist Scheuber, who switches between modern piano jazz, chamber jazz and South American folk. Even at their most sublime, the album tracks have a liveliness that’s tough not to fall for. A gripping melodicism to this one.
Janice Friedman Trio – Live at Kitano (Self-Produced)
Seriously vibrant set from pianist Friedman, bassist Ed Howard and drummer Victor Lewis. The electricity of a live performance really comes through strong on the recorded medium. Rendition of Charles Davis’s “Half and Half,” part simmering intensity, part lively enthusiasm, shows what this album is all about.
Joe Fiedler Trio – I’m In (Self-Produced)
You can always rely on Fiedler to deliver to some straight-forward and heartfelt trombone-led jazz. His, newest, though, goes way further in displaying different aspects of his trio’s personality. Easily his best in recent years.
Filip Augustson – Viva Black (Found You Recordings)
Nifty session from bassist Augustson, violinist Eva Lindal and drummer Christopher Cantillo. Dissonance and atonality are no obstacle for the trio’s unusual but charming melodicism. Curious music that’ll engage the ear and likely elicit a smile or two.
Leïla Olivesi – Utopia (Jazz&People)
Strong lyricism from the quartet of pianist/vocalist Olivesi, guitarist Manu Codjia, saxophonist David Binney, and Yoni Zelnik & Donald Kontomanou on bass & drums. Binney is outstanding on this one, though Codija ain’t far behind. An album with a storyteller’s heart.
Malin Wättring 4&8 – Glöd (Havtorn)
Plenty to like from saxophonist Wättring’s mixed set of quartet and octet. The shift in presence between the two formations is often dramatic. An alluring quality to this music, especially when the clarinets and cello join in and sing.
Jakob Davidsen’s Kammerat Orkester – Og Andre Dyr (ILK Music)
Intriguing chamber jazz session from pianist Davidsen, leading a quintet comprised of piano, clarinet, trombone, cello and tuba. A stark beauty, sometimes bathed in warm harmonies, other times in the restless throes of melodic fragments. Seriously compelling.
Stream album tracks on Ilk Music‘s dedicated site for its White Label Series releases.
Have a great time digging through the list!
And remember, it’s simple: You like what you like.