Jazz New Arrivals: Week Ending Dec. 20, 2011 (Pt. 1 of 2)

Featuring Tiny Reviews of:  Miguel Zenon, Roberto Negro Trio, Olivier Mugot, and Mike Lorenz.


This is Part One (of two) of my weekly Jazz Picks for eMusic’s new arrivals section for the week ending December 20, 2011.  December is typically not a great month for new releases in any genre, so you’ll notice that the columns are getting a bit sparse.

Let’s begin…


Miguel Zenon – Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook

Turning classic Puerto Rican songs into jazz compositions, apparently, wasn’t enough of a challenge for alto-saxophonist Miguel Zenon, so he adds a ten-piece wind ensemble to the mix. The result is a richly textured series of tunes with a modern approach but steeping in the nostalgic songbooks of Long Ago. Sharp searching sax lines interspersed with lush ballads endow this album with a storybook feel. By the way, the wind ensemble is conducted by the excellent pianist-composer Guillermo Klein (if you’re not familiar with his discography, then get started right here with Filtros, arguably 2008’s album of the year).  Also contributing are regular Zenon collaborators Luis Perdomo on piano, Hans Glawischnig on bass, and Henry Cole on drums.  Highly recommended.

Released on the Marsalis Music label.  Jazz from the NYC scene.

Available at eMusic.

While I’m at it, lemme just quickly rec another fantastic Zenon release from a few years back…

Miguel Zenon – Awake

Altoist Miguel Zenon, known predominately for delving into Puerto Rican songbooks and compositions resulting in some very exciting recordings, threatens to record a straight-ahead affair with the 2008 recording Awake. I said “threatens”. Adding Fender Rhodes and a string ensemble to album tunes keeps things euphorically different, and his playing on alto sax is just phenomenal. A virtuoso display of his lyricism without it coming off as forced. Pushy lead instruments just grate on my nerves; it’s so unnecessary to force an instrument to do the work that it’s absolutely capable of doing on its own. On Awake, Zenon lets his sax sing. Highly recommended.

Released on the Marsalis Music label.  Jazz from the NYC scene.

Available at eMusic.


Roberto Negro Trio – Downtown Sorry

Interesting piano trio album. The Roberto Negro Trio gives the impression on the first track that it’ll be a standard piano-bass-drums recording with some pretty flourishes and a little bit of nuanced melancholia thrown in for good measure. But then his piano runs begin to scatter, the bass and drums follow at a discrete distance, and sax and electronics reveal their face at surprising moments. Each subsequent tune gets a little more interesting than its predecessor. Pretty neat, and recommended.

Your album personnel:  Roberto Negro (piano), Jérôme Arrighi (bass), and Adrien Chennebault (drums).

Released on the Art & Music Diffusion label.  Jazz from the Paris, France scene.

Available at eMusic.


Olivier Mugot – Distance(s)

French guitarist Olivier Mugot has put himself together a nifty avant-garde world jazz album.  With herky-jerky compositions played out on guitar, bandoneon, harmonica, percussion, bass, Distance(s) is faintly reminiscent of old-school ECM without sacrificing any of the album’s sense of Now.  Plenty of cerebral moments to keep the listener engaged.  Mugot’s sound on guitar comes off as effortless, improvisational.  Drums, however, steal the show on several tracks, though the interplay between the two are the high points of the album.  Cool stuff.

Your album personnel: Olivier Mugot (guitar), Benjamin Jouet (drums), Pascal Henner (percussion), Philippe Henner (bass, contrabass), Gwenael Micault (bandoneon), with guests: Francis Lockwood (piano), Sebastien Charlier (harmonica), and Frederic Loiseau (guitar).

The album is Self-Produced.  Jazz from the Soucy, France scene.

Available at eMusic.

Mike Lorenz – Of the Woods

I often like to refer to Brian Blade’s epic Season of Changes as the vanguard example of what nu-jazz has come to be… non-repetitive melodies more akin to storytelling than formulaic poetry and indie rock conventions in a modern jazz framework. But there are others that have adopted that sound, many to impressive effect. Enter guitarist Mike Lorenz with Of the Woods, a nice series of tunes with understated tension built over machine gun rhythms. A quintet of guitar, sax, piano, bass, and drums, it’s a solid effort that’s an enjoyable listen. Definitely worth a look into if you’re into Brian Blade’s thing.

Your album personnel:  Mike Lorenz (guitar), Mike Cemprola (alto sax), Matt Mitchell (piano), Brian Howell (bass), and Matt Scarano (drums).

Album is Self-Produced.  Jazz from the Philadelphia scene.

Stream the entire album on his Bandcamp page.

Available at eMusic.


That’s the end of Part 1 (of 2) of that week’s jazz recs.  Part 2 will appear in tomorrow’s (Saturday’s) article.

Here’s some language to protect emusic’s rights as the one to hire me originally to scour through the jazz new arrivals and write about the ones I like:

“New Arrivals Jazz Picks“, courtesy of eMusic.com, Inc.
© 2011  eMusic.com, Inc.

My thanks to emusic for the freelance writing gig, the opportunity to use it in this blog, and the editorial freedom to help spread the word about cool new jazz being recorded today.