Jazz New Releases: Week Ending Nov 29, 2011 (Pt. 1 of 2)

Tiny Review recs of new Jazz releases, featuring:  Nat Birchall, Søren Kjærgaard & Ben Street & Andrew Cyrille, Mary Halvorson & Jessica Pavone, Will Martina, Paula Shocron, and Rufus Reid.


The recs below were built off the skeleton of the recommendations I make as part of my weekly contribution to the Emusic New Arrivals article.  I do the jazz recs for it.  Emusic lets me copy it onto my blog 30 after it’s posted on their site.  When I post on Bird is the Worm, I add album art, audio (when available), additional links, and if I’ve had the opportunity to give the album additional listens, modify my opinion a bit and tighten up the original language.  So here it goes…

Let’s begin:


Nat Birchall – Sacred Dimension

Nat Birchall and bandmate Matthew Halsall have carved a nifty little corner of jazz out for themselves. They both have their individual sounds and their voices are as fresh as anything on the scene today. They also recall voices of the past, respectively John Coltrane and Miles Davis. On Sacred Dimension, tenor man Birchall keeps with the spiritual themes, straddling the line of avant-garde without ever crossing it, while developing into territory closer resembling that of Alice Coltrane’s Journey In Satchidananda.

Birchall is a jazz vet who only recently began putting out albums under his own name.  His play is confident and strong, as one might expect from a pro who has spent a career honing his talent.  One of the top albums of 2011.  Highly recommended.

Released on the new Gondwana label.  Jazz from the UK scene.

Available on Emusic here.


Søren Kjærgaard, Ben Street & Andrew Cyrille – Femklang

An oddly alluring avant-garde bit of serenity. Femklang is the trio’s third album together, and the familiarity shows in the final result.  Soren Kjaergaard’s classical background in piano is the guiding force throughout the recording, keeping a placid yet bright feel to the music, with drums giant Andrew Cyrille and bassist Ben Street keeping the conversation chipper and engaging.

This is avant-garde jazz that can be appreciated by both fans and non-fans alike.  Accessible without sacrificing any of its heart.  Recommended.

Released on the ILK Music label.  Jazz from the Copenhagen, Denmark scene.

Available on Emusic here.


Mary Halvorson & Jessica Pavone – Departure of Reason

Okay, look, I’m not interested in getting into some territorial pissing contest of what is jazz and what isn’t.  If someone out there wants to shout that this should be categorized under some other genre, fine, whatever.  Departure of Reason isn’t likely to gain Mary Halvorson any more votes for inclusion into the jazz club, even if I bring up Braxton’s name.  That said, Halvorson has impressively developed her sound on guitar into something quite unique, which even her detractors readily admit, and the interplay and rapport she and the wildly talented Jessica Pavone (viola) possess between them is positively addictive.

I admit I’m a sucker for small-ensembles consisting of nothing but strings, and when the musicians heartily embrace the improvised music aesthetic while still yielding a series of ridiculously pretty tunes, I put my money all-in.  I don’t expect everyone will like this, but I do expect that many people who consider their favorite genre something other than jazz will excitedly scoop this album up.  Highly recommended.

Released on the Thirsty Ear label.  Jazz from NYC.

Available on Emusic here.


Will Martina – The Dam Levels

Cellist Will Martina rounds out a trio with the excellent Jason Lindner (piano) and Richie Barshay (drums).  Straight-ahead modern jazz, though Martina’s cello adds a texture to the compositions that resonates brilliantly, even when it keeps to the background.  The trio gets a real lyrical sound, so both the head and the heart are kept nicely occupied throughout.  If you’re looking for a nice spot to introduce yourself to jazz being made in the present tense, this album is one of those.  The tune “C for G” is very cool; Martina’s intense cello solo absolutely fires it up.  Highly recommended.

The album is Self-Produced.  Jazz from the NYC scene, recently removed from Australia’s scene.

NOTE:  I really liked this album when I first heard it, and it’s really grown on me since.  I’m going to take a stab at a more detailed review and publish it either on Bird is the Worm or maybe AllAboutJazz.

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

Available on Emusic here.


Paula Shocron – Gran Ensamble

Argentinean pianist Paula Shocron’s initial foray into her own big band ensemble is a successful one. Another classical trained musician who couldn’t resist the allure of jazz, Paula’s previous output under her own name was solo and trio pieces, and thankfully she brings some of those small-ensemble sensibilities into her big band compositions. There is an intimacy here that sometimes gets lost in the exuberance of a large ensemble performance, and the interplay between small voice and booming creates some fun tension as a listener. Recommended.

Released on the Acqua Records label.  It appears the album can be streamed on their site.

Available on emusic here.


Rufus Reid – Hues of a Different Blue

A hard-swinging set from bass veteran Rufus Reid and his Out Front Trio (Steve Allee on piano and Duduka Da Fonseca on drums). With a series of guest appearances by jazzers from across the spectrum, Reid puts on a deft display of compositional talent. It’s an album of straight-ahead jazz, each song accented towards the talents of the particular musician guesting on that song, but never losing the cohesion of a Reid Out Front recording.

On the Motema label, who can always be counted on for putting out solid tasteful jazz.  Jazz from the New Jersey scene.

Download a free album track from Motema’s bandcamp page, courtesy of the artist and label.

Available on Emusic here.


Part 2 will appear in tomorrow’s post.


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.