May 9 2016
*** Album of the Week ***
Ryan Keberle Catharsis – Azul Infinito
It’s truly remarkable how catchy this music is considering how often Keberle and crew are willing to shrug off its structure to go wandering off in a new direction or simply explode in euphoric bursts of wild expressiveness that seem detached from the tight melodic seed that set the whole thing in motion. This approach isn’t particular new for the trombonist, but what does register as a recent turn of events is the easy confidence in which its delivered. Each track sounds to have achieved the fullness envisioned when the quintet first set out, even as changes occur in the spur of the moment. And this applies even in the context of the strong South American music influence that hangs over this straight-ahead modern jazz session. Everything in its right place, and arriving exactly right on time. Along with trombonist Keberle, that Catharsis crew consists of vocalist Camila Meza, trumpeter Mike Rodriguez, bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Eric Doob.
Released on Greenleaf Music.
*** Also Featured This Week ***
The Heliocentrics – From the Deep (Now Again Records)
Hard not to become transfixed by the roiling soup of influences mixed by the London-based collective The Heliocentrics. Jazz, psychedelia, rock, funk, soul and any number of other forms of expressions rise up to the surface, pop off a few expressions, then submerge to be replaced by something new yet again. I wrote previously about their collaboration with Mario Van Peebles, and this newest offering compares quite favorably. Drummer Malcom Catto, bassist Jake Ferguson, percussionist Jack Yglesias, keyboardist Oliver Parfitt, guitarist Adrian Owusu and Tom Hodges working the electronics and effects are the core of the outfit. This is highly addictive yet seriously unconventional music, and it possesses a magnetism not dissimilar to how rockers The Brian Jonestown Massacre ropes ’em in. This might not be your cup of tea (bowl of soup), but you owe it to yourself to check it out first.
Five In Orbit – Tribulus Terrestris (Fresh Sound New Talent Records)
An intriguing album from trombonist Ramon Fossati, alto saxophonist Olivier Brandily, pianist Laurent Bronner, bassist Nicolas Rageau and drummer Luc Isenmann. It hovers at the edges of straight-ahead while never quite putting both feet into avant-garde, and that vagueness of direction creates a wonderful bit of tension and some lyrical opportunities that the quintet takes advantage of repeatedly. Add to that some prepared piano, some unconventional percussion and some found sounds, and now it’s not just smart music but also undeniably fun. Good stuff.
Jeff Williams – Outlier (Whirlwind Recordings)
It’s the way the emotional tones and varying tempos of each song feed off one another that reflects the winning side of the latest from drummer Jeff Williams. Opening out with several boisterous tracks, when the quintet shifts into ballad mode on “Meeting a Stranger,” much of the previous electricity still crackles with life along the edges of the gently swaying tune. And even between up-tempo tunes, the inter-relationships between the swirling motion of title-track “Outlier” and the laterally-inclined “The Interloper” keep the ear stimulated and on its toes just trying to keep up with the current while framing it in the context of the former. And then there’s a track like “Dream Visitor” that switches things up mid-stream over and over. Joining Williams is a strong cast of tenor saxophonist Josh Arcoleo, guitarist Phil Robson, keyboardist Kit Downes and bassist Sam Lasserson. The whole band just sounds like they’re having a blast, and it comes out in the music.
Joo Kraus, Omar Sosa, Gustavo Ovalles – JOG Trio (Self-Produced)
Kind of a mixed bag on this newest from pianist Omar Sosa, who rejoins two long-time collaborators in trumpeter Joo Kraus and percussionist Gustavo Ovalles. Perhaps it’s appropriate that this charming album is a mixed bag, since Sosa’s career hardly can be encapsulated by the naming of just one or two jazz sub-genres. This one has some Latin and Afro-Latin Jazz influences, some old-school fusion, some vague World Jazz, some straight-ahead and some pop and spoken word action to boot. Some tracks are stronger than others, but even the weaker links on this recording fall into place and make sense in the stream of ideas rolled out by the trio. The quality that defines the album’s winning attitude? The laid-back quality that gives the impression of melodies hummed and whistled under the breath… an undercurrent of magnetic tunefulness no matter what form each song ultimately takes.
Living Bridge – Living Bridge (Ears & Eyes Records)
There’s a congenial warmth to this recording that’s pretty easy to fall for. There’s nothing particularly monumental or groundbreaking about this recording. It’s just your basic modern straight-ahead session, but each time the album walked through the door, its easy-going nature, its fluid lyricism and that abundant warmth made it a welcome visitor on each pass. That’s no small thing, and it’s a nice reminder how walking a well-traveled path is no obstacle to creating something enjoyable that sounds fresh and new in the bright light of today. Your Living Bridge quartet is comprised of tenor saxophonist Artie Black, guitarist Jeff Swanson, bassist John Sims and drummer Marcus Evans.
Steve Kuhn Trio – At This Time… (Sunnyside Records)
So if you’re sitting there thinking, damn, I’m in the mood for some straight-ahead jazz piano, then this is where you stop and hit the download button. Veteran pianist Kuhn is the epitome of how a lifetime of practicing the standards while simultaneously following original paths of creativity end in a place where a singular voice emanates from compositions new and old. On his newest, it’s a mix of up-tempo scooters and solemn Sunday morning drifters, each complementing the strengths of the others. Al Cohn’s “Ah Moore” really gets the album under way with a match of a light heart and a quick step, but it’s the powerful rendition of Gil Fuller’s “I Waited for You” that provides the album’s high point while closing the affair out. Kuhn walks with fellow jazz giants on this session with bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Joey Baron.
Jon Davis – Changes Over time (Posi-Tone Records)
The trio of pianist Jon Davis, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Jochen Rueckart do a nice job of showing how the concept of straight-ahead piano trio jazz has changed over time, while also keeping in close orbit around a concrete sound that rings true to their own vision. The album’s strongest tracks are those that speak to the past, emanating that cheerful yet bluesy feel of old-school Red Garland trio sessions. Those tracks that situate themselves in the modern day make a nice showing, too, though, especially how the flow of the lyricism is accentuated. There’s a couple renditions of pop tunes that really don’t do anything to improve the album, but nothing about them prevents this from being a thoroughly enjoyable piano trio session. Easy to like.
Open Source Trio – Altitude (Self-Produced)
A piano trio session typical to the modern set, where melodies are kept simple and their development is easy to follow, the rhythms are pretty much there to escort those melodies along to their planned destination, and the form of expression often gets plenty shiny and pretty. But there’s a place for shiny and pretty, and I like featuring a modern piano session that falls into this category from time to time. This one, from the trio of pianist Momchil Atanasoff, bassist Rayleymon Janga and drummer Juri Schewe fits that bill. Plenty of liveliness to this music, but never to the point where it would be considered something other than rainy day music. Sort of a tepid recommendation, I know, but I found this album pleasant enough to give it a quick mention.
Okay, let’s wrap up today’s column with an album that maybe, I dunno, probably shouldn’t be included in a column with a jazz theme, but I stumbled upon the recording and I really like it. So…
Jakob Pek – Emptiness Smiles (Full Spectrum Records)
There’s an abiding sense of meticulously planned precision on the newest from multi-instrumentalist Pek, but the patiently developed expressions have a looseness about them that speaks more to the fully improvised nature of its construction. Pulled together from hours of improvised sessions, this fascinating recording is powerfully meditative, even when it threads the needle on the placement of dissonance within the confines of serenity. File this one under ‘experimental,’ but be sure to file it in your digital library, too.
Have a great time digging through the list!
And remember, it’s simple: You like what you like.