May 31 2015
This Is Jazz Today: The Bad Plus & Joshua Redman, Rob Mazurek Exploding Star Orchestra, Joe Locke and more!
Perusing the albums that made the list, the distinctive quality of this batch of recommendations is that they are all quite distinct from one another. No real trend to this collection of new releases, so there should be something for everybody… from those who prefer an experimental approach to those who like their modern jazz to include healthy servings of other genres to those who want their jazz straight-ahead, like a fastball right over the heart of the plate.
*** Album of the Week ***
The Bad Plus & Joshua Redman – The Bad Plus & Joshua Redman
For so many of their performances, the melody on any particular The Bad Plus song seems cut from the force of their rhythmic attack. It’s often recognizable and often catchy. It also comes off as an Impressionist rendition of what the melody should be as seen at the fuzzy edges of slashing lines of motion. The addition of saxophonist Joshua Redman, however, has a transformative effect. There is a slow & casual ease to the music, and those melodies are crafted with a keen precision rather than shaped by the force of motion. And the rhythm, it coalesces all around it.
Released on Nonesuch Records.
*** Also Featured This Week ***
Rob Mazurek Exploding Star Orchestra – Galactic Parables: Volume 1 (Cuneiform)
There is an epic nature to the perpetually modulating shape and formlessness of Mazurek’s new Exploding Star Orchestra project. Backed by a strong cast of past collaborators, the music shifts between states of unfettered chaos, focused ferocity and uneasy, melodic calms. Comprised of two separate live performances, it’s an electrically-charged atmosphere generated from unbounded creativity and experimentalism.
Kris Davis Infrasound – Save Your Breath (Clean Feed)
Though the imagery generated by the newest from pianist Davis is one of choppy waves battering everything in its path, the real source of fascination is the motion of currents that serve as its foundation. This octet comprised of drummer Jim Black, organist Gary Versace, guitarist Nate Radley and a quartet of bass clarinetists has a strangehold on the beauty found in chaos and complexity, and it’s why the contemplative moments resonate as strongly as they do.
Joe Locke – Love is a Pendulum (Motema)
Solid new recording from vibraphonist Locke, backed by his working quartet of pianist Robert Rodriguez, drummer Terreon Gully, bassist Ricardo Rodriguez, as well as a number of guest artists, including saxophonist Donny McCaslin and Victor Provost on steel pan. Most appealing about the album is the way in which Locke brings together the various sounds from his varied projects, and shows how they all spring from the same creative source. Up-tempo pieces crackle like live-wires, but it’s the tracks that reveal a contemplative side where the album really shines.
Download a free album track, courtesy of the label (LINK).
Karl Ivar Refseth Trio – Praying (Traumton)
A solemn Sunday morning tone to everything. The trio of vibraphonist Refseth, alto saxophonist Christian Weidner and double bassist Matthias Pichler weave together wavering melodic fragments and wispy low drones. A picture of beauty at the edges of serenity.
Download a free album track, courtesy of the label (LINK).
Marilyn Crispell & Gerry Hemingway – Table of Changes (Intakt)
It’s remarkable how (relatively) embraceable this album is considering all of its quirky personality traits and erratic conversation skills. Of course, pianist Crispell and drummer/percussionist Hemingway are well at home with these kinds of linguistic rules of engagement… and with each other. When Hemingway enters on vibraphone, the sparks traded with those of piano are like bright stars shining out from within a hazy nebula.
Zach Brock – Serendipity (Criss Cross)
On his newest, violinist Brock continues to develop his method of converging a singular voice and a straight-ahead sound. Joined by bassist Matt Penman, drummer Obed Calvaire and pianist Aaron Goldberg, they hit upon some standards from the GAS, from jazz ancestry (Bird and Jean-Luc Ponty) and some originals, and by identifying the common thread that runs through them all, wraps the album up in a nice cohesive bundle. Lively music that shows flashes of sublime introspection.
Benny Green – Live in Santa Cruz! (Sunnyside)
Recorded live at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center, pianist Green, bassist David Wong and drummer Kenny Washington provide a strong jolt of electricity in this straight-ahead set. Plenty of excitement when the trio hits the gas pedal, plenty of expressiveness when they slow it down and get that feeling. Pretty easy to fall for this one.
Joshua Breakstone – 2nd Avenue: Return of the Cello-Quartet (Capri)
Friendly straight-ahead set from guitarist Breakstone’s quartet. Mike Richmond’s cello rounds that quartet out, but at no time does the album shift into chamber jazz territory. Some bop, some swing, some covers of Konitz, Gordon, Adderley, Clark & Mercer, and plenty of blues and genial warmth.
Crab is Crap – Miradouro (Playdate Records)
Interesting set of improvised music from the drummer duo of Øyvind Hegg-Lunde and Øyvind Skarbø, who are joined on this date by Supersilent’s Ståle Storløkken on Hammond organ, Rhodes and electronics. Music that is rolled out patiently, even at its most intense. Nice balance between ethereal drone and a talkative chatter.
Kenny Barron & Mark Sherman – Interplay (Chesky)
Relaxed session from pianist Barron and vibraphonist Sherman, whose casual ease allows both contemplative and cheerful tones to commingle effortlessly. Along with your basic standards, a couple interesting choices of Mingus and Dexter Gordon comps. However, it’s the Barron and Sherman originals that resonate strongest on this recording.
Have a great time digging through the list!
And remember, it’s simple: You like what you like.