Dec 23 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 is gonna be the last TIJT column of 2015. The rest of the year is going to be Best of 2015 posts. When we return in 2016, we’ll be writing about brand spankin’ new recordings… stuff that came out late in December or are just hitting the new release bins at the dawn of 2016. So, with all that out of the way…
Sylvain Rifflet – Mechanics (Jazz Village)
A stunning work from multi-reedist Rifflet, who put out an equally imaginative recording last year with a take on the music of avant-garde music Moondog. With his quartet comprised of Benjamin Flament on percussion and processed metals, Philippe Gordiani on guitars and Jocelyn Mienniel on flute and kalimba, they cast a spell of rhythmically hypnotic tunes that let loose one gorgeous melodic fragment after the other. There are tracks that zig zag like crazy in every direction, then interwoven with gentle drones and harmonic washes to bring both clarity to the motion and comfort to the edge. Rifflet’s creative vision just keeps finding new ways to surprise. All kinds of personality to this one. A wonderful recording.
John Hébert – Rambling Confessions (Sunnyside)
“September Song” closes the deal in under two minutes. Drummer Billy Drummond starts in immediately with an infectious chatter on drums, talkative as all hell but with an unimposing delivery that borders on surrsurrant. Jen Shyu’s voice imposes itself on the scene slowly, a murmur trying to break out into a shout. When her words begin to truly emerge, pianist Andy Milne and bassist John Hebert set down the melodic framework using both sunlight and shadows as their building blocks. It’s a song that draws the listener in and then sets about the task of mesmerizing, and it’s an effect carried out on each of the album tracks… all that really changes is the element that sits in ascension above the others as the process of enchantment is carried out. The work of Carmen McRae is the common thread woven through this album, but the result is one that transcends the theme that inspired it in the first place.
Marcello Giannini – Frammenti (Auand)
A real oddball personality to this offering by guitarist Giannini. Basically a trio, but with a number of different guests on violin, cello, soprano sax, Fender Rhodes, vibes, trumpet and a whole bunch of electronic effects thrown in for good measure. Tempos are pretty chatty from first note to last, and Giannini and crew weave melodic fragments into the stream of conversation at regular intervals. Sort of a jazz-rock-electronica fusion. Some moments on this recording are noticeably stronger than others, but when this ensemble’s vision fully coalesces, well, those moments are pretty damn stunning. Nothing ordinary about this one.
Nick Mazzarella Trio – Ultraviolet (International Anthem)
Not sure that enough credit can ever be sufficiently attributed to the Chicago free-improv jazz scene and the way they deftly toe the line between bop-familiar and unstructured freedom. Alto saxophonist Mazzarrella as well as anybody from that scene is able to express his roaming inclinations with a sound that is strangely straight-ahead, making something familiar out of the ingredients of the unexpected. He’s joined on this excellent set by bassist Anton Hatwich and drummer Frank Rosaly. If you’re sitting around and thinking, hey, I’m really jonesing for some serious saxophone action, just go hit the download button on this one and walk away happy.
Slivovitz – All You Can Eat (MoonJune Records)
I tend to shy away from the descriptors used by musicians for their own music, but the septet Slivovitz describes their music as “progressive gypsy electro-ecletic jazz,” and that’s really about as good as anything I could have come up with myself. Comprised of saxophone, guitar, trumpet, violin, harmonica, bass and drums, they spend as much time on All You Can Eat working a folk or rock angle as they do jazz, and that slippery genre action is one of the elements that really brings out the music’s charged personality.
I wrote more about this album on this site. Read it here (LINK).
Tom Hewson Trio – Treehouse (CamJazz)
Something sort of enchanting about this trio session of pianist Hewson, vibraphonist Lewis Wright and bassist Calum Gourlay. Even at its most active, the music retains a starry-night-sky peacefulness to it. The meshing of melodic and rhythmic elements is the primary driver of the music’s lively tranquility. There are times on this recording that the trio comes together harmonically and it is absolutely absorbing.
Dave Baron – Introducing Dave Baron (Outside In Music)
Enjoyable straight-ahead set from bassist Baron. On this, his debut, he brings a nicely staffed quintet of tenor saxophonist Lucas Pino, guitarist Alex Wintz, trumpeter Mat Jodrell and drummer Jimmy Macbride. Aside from solid musicianship and tasteful solos, there’s nothing particularly remarkable for the first half of this recording. But the album ends with the 3-part “Los Pollos Hermanos,” and this is the kind of sign you hope to hear on a debut album… a definitive point-of-view reflecting something imaginative, expressed cohesively. Also, I’m just fond of recordings that end strong.
Lovely Socialite – Toxic Consonance (Self-Produced)
A mixed bag of influences on this cross-genre recording, with a diverse array of instrumentation that includes a trombonist, cellist, vibraphonist, various percussion and rhythm unit instruments, as well as less conventional stringed instruments like the gaohu, pipa and guzheng. Also, a mess load of electronics and effects. It’s also a group that concentrates on building a melodic atmosphere even though they don’t necessarily serve up a traditionally framed melody. Something of a quirky personality to this recording, and I wanted to be sure to slip in a quick mention in the column. Go check it out.
Diego Figueiredo – Broken Bossa (Stunt Records)
Nice solo set from Brazilian guitarist Figueiredo, who finds a nice balance between a contemplative tone and the generation of warmth. He brings in a number of guests for some duo and trio collaborations to round out his solo pieces. Notably, pianist Steen Rasmussen really develops a wonderful rapport with the guitarist, and a cool turn by vocalist Cyrille Aimée brings out another side of the recording. Good stuff.
Arnault Cuisinier – Anima (Melisse)
Likable recording from bassist Cuisinier, who leads a quartet of (frequent fellow collaborator) pianist Guillaume De Chassy, drummer Fabrice Moreau and the soprano sax of Jean-Charles Richard. Not quite straight-ahead… there’s some strong fluctuations into jazz-folk territory… and there are times that the focus on melodic and harmonic development lead into expressions of an unusual beauty. Note: checking out the other recordings with De Chassy’s name stamped on them will lead to some other solid music.
Have a great time digging through the list!
And remember, it’s simple: You like what you like.