Dec 6 2016
This Is Jazz Today: Tunnel Six, Sloth Racket, Amaro Freitas, Avant-garde Labor Union and Stuart McCallum-Mike Walker
Tunnel Six – journeys, places, stories (Self-Produced)
The newest from the Tunnel Six ensemble falls pretty well in line with what’s come before. The dramatic builds of intensity, the soaring melodicism, the amiable charm of folk music and how it shakes hands firmly with a modern jazz built on a foundation of imagery and mood more than it is blues and swing. Their debut Lake Superior came out swinging with the dramatic surges and thick melodies, and it really didn’t hold back on the moodiness either, and their follow-up Alive kept to the same formula. It was simply more of the good stuff. Now, with their third recording, the same elements are present, but the expressions are delivered with a greater confidence, and no less importantly, with a wide-open lyricism that trades in the focused intensity for a substantive story arc. Either through compositions that are scripted to open things up or (perhaps “and”) the confidence of the musicians to improvise on the seeds of the ideas and bring something unexpected to bloom. Whatever the reason and whatever the intent, there’s a fullness to this music that wasn’t there before. The sound is much the same, but the ability to express it is dramatically changed.
Your album personnel: Chad McCullough (trumpet), Ben Dietschi (saxophones), Brian Seligman (guitar), Andrew Oliver (piano), Jesse Dietschi (bass), Tyson Stubelek (drums) and guests: Casey Nielsen (guitar) and Regina Harris Baiocchi (spoken word poetry).
Sloth Racket – Triptych (Luminous Label)
This music is hyperactive and it doesn’t sit still and it’s a whirlwind display of forms of expression and influence, and all of it comes off as serious and fun, both. But what is easily the best quality of this debut from the quintet Sloth Racket is how they come together at planned landing spots along the way, briefly taking a break from rampant improvisation and chaos. There is a sense that bandleader Cath Roberts didn’t write a composition so much as simply show the band a map and, pointing at various spots, state, “We’re going to visit here and here and here and spend quality time together, but how we spend the time in between those places is entirely up to each individual.” Because even in opening track “Crossed Swords,” the glimpse of the blues and a focused harmonic passage and the causation of a groove all come together far too neatly for it not to have been preordained. The anticipation of that kind of event builds a lovely bit of tension, and in its way, gives the chaos an indirect shape and form in the process. The effect is even more dramatic on the 20-minute finale “Endgame.” Very cool.
Your album personnel: Cath Roberts (baritone sax), Sam Andreae (tenor sax), Anton Hunter (guitar), Seth Bennett (bass) and Johnny Hunter (drums).
Amaro Freitas – Sangue Negro (Tratore)
Pleasant straight-ahead set from pianist Amaro Freitas, bassist Jean Elton and drummer Hugo Medeiros (plus guests). Nice sprightly bounce to the up-tempo pieces, plenty of moodiness to the slower tunes. The trio generates a nice chatter between themselves, and its the rhythmic nuance that carries the conversations into compelling directions. Some Afro-jazz and Latin jazz influences, but the album basically keeps to the center line of jazz territory. Good stuff.
Your album personnel: Amaro Freitas (piano), Jean Elton (bass), Hugo Medeiros (drums) and guests: Eliudo Souza (sax) and Fabinho Costa (trumpet).
Avant-garde Labor Union – Cosmic Tube and Infinite Skin (Miare Music)
Two saxophonists, two drummers and the kind of music that could set the whole world on fire. This quartet from the Mie Prefecture of Japan hits the gas pedal from the first note and rarely lets up. They develop an intriguing drone on “Transgen,” but that’s about as close as they get to slowing things down. This music lacks subtlety, and that’s a big reason for why it’s so damn enjoyable.
Your album personnel: Akano Shibahito, Mano Kazuhiko (saxophones) and Miyazaki Yasunori, Miki Isamu (drums)
Stuart McCallum & Mike Walker – The Space Between (Edition Records)
A duo recording between two guitarists, McCallum and Walker, that highlight their strengths and highlights commonalities in perspective that belie their different sounds. Yes, there’s some indie-rock components here as well as some contemporary jazz fusion… a basic familiarity with each musician will guarantee no surprises there. But their common practice of being melodically focused and immersing themselves in a train of thought and taking the possibilities of those melodies as far as they can go is why this album comes out as gorgeous as it does. The balance between acoustic and electric guitar voices adds a nice bit of texture, as does the addition of a string quartet on half of the tracks. This is the peaceful kind of recording for when the rain is falling outside and the only thing you want to do with your day is sit by the window and watch it come down.
Your album personnel: Stuart McCallum (acoustic guitar), Mike Walker (electric guitar) and guests: Laura Senior, Gemma South (violins), Lucy Nolan (viola) and Peggy Nolan (cello).