Tiny Reviews – Recapping the Best of 2011 (Part 2)

Tiny Reviews recapping the Best of 2011, featuring:  Ocean Sounds Quartet, Jeremy Udden, Mik Keusen’s Blau, Andy Sugg, and Tyler Gilmore’s 9th & Lincoln Big Band.


Let’s continue with some of the albums that I think are highlights of 2011.  There’s gonna be five in this post and those going forward.  I know previously I said I’d do seven at a time, but five is feeling like a more manageable number per post, plus it may help with the load times on my screen to spread out the posts (and their accompanying embedded audio players) a bit more sparingly.

Let’s begin.


Ocean Sounds Quartet – Live at the Ship’s Company Theatre

I’m always curious about the relationship a band name and sound has with its surroundings, whether one influenced the other.  For instance, it’s easy to imagine sitting on the waterfront on a cool evening as the fiery yet introspective music of the Ocean Sounds Quartet drifts through the moonlight.

Trumpeter Paul Tynan brings together a quartet featuring Fred Kennedy (drums), Al Sutherland (guitar), and Dan Sutherland (bass) for a series of serene tunes just perfect for a night of sitting back and spending the night listening to great music.  The quartet refers to its music as a fusion of Maritime Celtic-Folk and Modern Jazz, and even if you’re not sure exactly what that implies, what to take away from that description is that here is an album that kind of sounds straight-forward, but outside elements are added to the compositions to render it a little bit different, a little strange, and very intriguing.  It’s not an uncommon story for excellent modern jazz albums to fly under the radar, but it never fails to surprise me every time it happens; Live at the Ship’s Company Theatre is yet another one of those excellent albums that deserves way more time in the spotlight than it received.

Apparently it’s become a tradition for this quartet to play a show at Ship’s Company Theatre on the Fundy coast of Nova Scotia.  Let’s hope their recording schedule also makes plenty of frequent returns.  Released on the solid Armored Records label, an hour of modern jazz.  Jazz from the Nova Scotia (Canada) scene.

There is one song on Paul’s site here to stream from the album.

Download a free album track from AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artists.

Available on Amazon: MP3


Jeremy Udden – If the Past Seems So Bright

On his last album Plainville, Jeremy Udden presented a unique sound of folk jazz that I haven’t heard anything like before.  Mixing his Paul Desmond-like alto sax with banjo and an otherwise jazz ensemble, he created a series of languid back porch tunes of sublime peacefulness.  On his newest release, Udden is still making back porch tunes, but maybe now the neighbors are considering calling the cops to get him to turn the noise down a bit.  Adding some edge to the tunes, Udden shows he’s not satisfied with just making more of the good stuff, willing to risk a bit in order to build on past successes in search of something more.  Success is what he got.

Your album personnel:  Jeremy Udden (alto & soprano saxophone, clarinet), Pete Rende (Fender Rhodes, pump organ, Prophet, Wurlitzer), Brandon Seabrook (banjo, guitar, 12-string guitar), Eivind Opsvik (acoustic bass), RJ Miller (drums), and guests:  Nathan Blehar (nylon-string guitar, voice and guitar), Will Graefe (steel-string acoustic guitar), and Justin Keller (voice).

If it was a stretch to call Plainville a “jazz” album, then elasticity will be a greater concern, because If the Past… really seems like it removed its second foot from beneath the jazz tent.  Not sure that it really matters, other than I’m including it in a recap of the best jazz albums of the year.  But I’m willing to stretch the definition of the word ‘jazz’ if the result is to include a wonderful album like this.  Released on the Sunnyside Records label, who had one of the strongest set of releases in 2011.

Download a free album track from AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artist and label.

Available at Amazon: CD | MP3


Mik Keusen’s Blau – Nalu

Reviewers using the word ‘cinematic’ to describe music has crossed over into the cliche, but there is still a time and a place for that word and, besides, sometimes cliches charm me into using them.  For me, when I call something cinematic, it’s because the music has connected with me cerebrally in a way that I uncontrollably daydream a series of images straight through the music, images which linger even after the album has ended.  Mik Keusen’s Blau‘s excellent album Nalu does exactly that to me.

Employing a barrage of piano lines that effectively imitates falling rain, both in torrents over city streets or lightly on rooftops and tree cover, Keusen has recorded a beautiful album of elemental ambiance.  Joining him in his quartet are Sha on bass clarinet and alto saxophone, Anna Trauffer on double bass and Fredrik Gille on percussion.

Fans of Nik Bartsch’s Ronin will be right at home with this album, where Bartch’s piano is like falling snow to Keusen’s rain.  I’m sure ECM label junkies will get hooked on Nalu, too.  Quite frankly, not sure why Manfred Eicher hasn’t scooped this quartet up yet.  Released on the Tonus Music Records label, approximately 50 minutes of piano quartet jazz with strong Norweigan jazz influences

Download a free album track at AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artist.

Stream the entire album on Keusen’s bandcamp page.

Available at Amazon: MP3


Andy Sugg – The John Coltrane Project: Andy Sugg Plays Trane

Andy Sugg achieves a multifaceted sound here, sorta like Andy Sugg covering Alice Coltrane covering John Coltrane. This is more than Andy taking ownership of the song; it’s a bit as if he’s also tipping his cap to the lineage of musicians who have given their take of John Coltrane.  I don’t usually care for tribute/cover albums, but Sugg’s Coltrane Project is a refreshing interpretation, and the inclusion of guitar is a very nice touch.  Really surprised that this album didn’t catch on more with listeners, but if Andy continues putting out albums like this, the spotlight will get trained on him soon enough.  He kills on Greensleeves, which I absolutely love hearing new takes on.  Jazz from the Melbourne, Australia scene.  Released on the Downstream Music label.

Your album personnel:  Andy Sugg (saxophones), Daniel Gassin (keyboard), Tom Barton (voice), Ben Robertson (bass), Nadje Noordhuis (trumpet), Natalia Mann (harp), Stephen Magnusson (guitar), and James McLean (drums).

A free album track is available at the AllAboutJazz site, courtesy of the artist.

Available at Amazon: CD | MP3


Tyler Gilmore’s 9th & Lincoln – Static Line

Big Band conductor Tyler Gilmore brings together some of Denver’s top jazzers, including trumpeters Cuong Vu and Brad Goode and Greg Harris‘s vibes, to create a recording of expansive sound and epic big sky sonics.
Replete with swirling melodies and electronic effects, Gilmore finds a way bring lush ambient harmonies into the mix without sacrificing the lighthearted joy so typical of a big band album.

Vu’s presence on the album is felt considerably, as Static Line has plenty of the fuzzy dissonance typical of many of Vu’s projects, but whether this is Gilmore’s thing, too, or he’s got the bandleader savvy to learn how to roll with the punches and incorporate outside influences into his own vision, the end result is a terribly intriguing album that fits well with both the quieter moments and those times when an infusion of jazz energy is called for.

A very exciting development on the modern big band front, as well as getting to see some of Denver’s talent. Released on the new Dazzle Recordings label (it’s a jazz club, too). Just under an hour of modern big band jazz.

You can stream the entire album on Gilmore’s bandcamp page.

A free album track is available at AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artist.

Available on Amazon: MP3