May 16 2015
I’m really thrilled with this week’s selections. It seemed like the best of this batch of new releases each situate themselves to a separate niche on the jazz landscape, thus providing a good encapsulation of the (near about) entire horizon line, but also, from a more practical perspective, there’ll be something really good for everyone, regardless of your particular tastes in jazz. Not to mention, a nice opportunity for people to explore other sounds that they might not otherwise typically dig into. And speaking of exploring music, it’s my joy to just discover (while editing the column) that all but two albums had embeddable audio available. So, hey, with all that listening ahead of you…
*** Album of the Week ***
Underpool Collective – Underpool 4
The newest from the Underpool studio & label might just be their best-to-date. Bringing together various artists from the Barcelona scene for a short-term collaboration, it provides an outlet for the musicians to contribute compositions to the session while learning to adapt to and improvise on the compositions of their ensemble mates. For the newest, it’s a quintet of trumpeter Àlvar Monfort, tenor saxophonist Lucas Martínez, guitarist Jordi Matas, keyboardist Abel Boquera and drummer Pep Mula, and a range of expressions from electro-acoustic groove to straight-ahead post-bop to a shimmery Brian Blade Fellowship nu-jazz. Anchored to strong melodies and driven along by conversant rhythms, the quintet offers up a supremely enjoyable recording. I’ll be writing more about this album (and this label) in the near future, but for now, just go buy this recording.
*** Also Featured This Week ***
Partikel – String Theory (Whirlwind)
Gorgeous session from the trio of saxophonist Duncan Eagles, bassist Max Luthert and drummer Eric Ford, this time with a string quartet in tow. It’s an inspired decision, as the trio’s typical wild expressiveness is both enhanced and tempered by the lovely harmonies and frenetic accompaniment of strings. Melodies strung out long like a river, and all the tranquility and turmoil that come along with it.
Maniscalco/Bigoni/Solborg – Maniscalo/Bigoni/Solborg (ILK Music)
Intensely contemplative trio set from guitarist Solborg, pianist Maniscalco and Bigoni on tenor sax & clarinet. Introspective from first note to last, but always with uneasy thoughts and barely restrained eruptions of emotion. Like how a peaceful sky of thick grey clouds always has the ominous threat of lightning & thunder hanging over it.
Kvar – Kvar (Tratore)
Wow, seriously pretty quartet session that finds the sweet spot between contemporary jazz, Brazilian folk and Latin fusion. Mix of acoustic & electric guitars fits like a glove with piano’s melodies, and the bass and percussion wrap up this gift in a tight bow. Overflowing with lyricism and you’ll still want more.
Hugo Carvalhais – Grand Valis (Clean Feed)
Bassist Carvalhais really has a way of creating music of a strange beauty. Never pretty, per se, but the way in which he crafts aggressive, acerbic, chaotic music with the gentlest touch makes everything okay and the music surprisingly easy to embrace. A quartet of bass, violin, organ and electronics & effects casts an awfully powerful spell of enchantment.
Collectief Explosief – Collectief Explosief (Self-Produced)
Engrossing debut that snaps together traditional vocal jazz, rockabilly swing, vintage lounge and indie-pop music. The tunes pop with life andhumor while maintaining a cool blue stroll. Some tracks really take off during the solos, and it’s those moments that really cinched the album for me.
Andrew Bishop – De Profundis (Self-Produced)
A steady propulsion to this trio set from multi-reedist Bishop, drummer Gerald Cleaver and bassist Tim Flood. The occasional times when they lay off the gas pedal, the presence of the song is thick & hazy with the aftereffects of the motion. The impression given is that the flow of the conversations is directed at the listener rather than to their opposite trio members.
Makross – Kapitel två – Vilken lycka (Havtorn)
A sense of something old, something new with this quartet of two saxophones, bass and drums… which, actually, is pretty consistent with some of the excellent music coming out of the Swedish scene. Melodies expressed languidly as if without a care in the world and tempos that nail the path into place. Personable with just the right amount of edge.
Ghost Train Orchestra – Hot Town (Accurate Records)
Infectiously cheerful new release from trumpeter Brian Carpenter’s large ensemble. A strong cast that includes Rob Garcia, Curtis Hasselbring & Colin Stetson give plenty of new life life to Carpenter’s arrangements of hot jazz compositions from Roaring Twenties Chicago and Harlem. The de facto triangulation of tuba, viola and banjo create appealing contrasts of tone as accompaniment to an otherwise straight-ahead sound.
Ben Parrish – Song of the Forest ((R)evolve Music)
Likable debut from guitarist Parrish. Straight-ahead jazz that sometimes takes a route that leads to some old-school bop and swing and sometimes takes a route that leads to some dreamy melodicism and the modern post-bop/indie-rock school of fusion. The shifts back and forth between contemplative and hopping ties the album up nicely and makes it a solid listen.
The Printmakers – Westerly (Basho)
Really enjoyable vocal jazz set from a sextet featuring pianist Nikki Iles, vocalist Norma Winstone and multi-reedist Mark Lockheart. Straight-ahead, yes, but then again, bassist Steve Watts contributes a banjo to the session and Iles’s accordion isn’t exactly a traditional element. Nice bit of chaotic interplay on “O,” but the breathtaking beauty of the title-track is a clear image of what this album is all about.
NDR Bigband – Tall Tales of Jasper County: The Double Doubles Suite (Inarhyme)
For an ensemble as large as the NDR, they sure do know how to carry a tune lightly and deliver it with ease. Their newest album builds on their strengths of storyteller lyricism, warm blankets of harmonies and a cohesive perspective that allows all the beauty to filter through no matter how relaxed or intense the music gets. Enjoyable from start to finish.
Christophe Schweizer’s Young Rich and Famous – Grand Grace (Between the Lines)
Like a pleasant song heard through multiple car windows in stop-and-go traffic, the music of trombonist Schweizer has a strange tunefulness to accompany its abrupt motions. Staggered tempos warp melodic fragments in mid-air. An appealing sound to this quartet of trombone, alto sax, bass and drums.
Have a great time digging through the list!
And remember, it’s simple: You like what you like.