Jazz New Releases: Week Ending November 08, 2011

Featuring Tiny Review recs of:  Craig Taborn, MSMW, Taylor Ho Bynum, Vazytouille, Jan Kopinski’s Reflektor, The South Trio, Mark Weinstein, Erik Charlston, and Ultra High Flamenco.


The following is kinda copied from the weekly article I write for emusic.com, giving a rundown of mini-reviews of interesting jazz new releases.  Once I get caught up on the older recs, I’ll post them once a week, adding some artwork and extra links and modifying the text a little bit.  When I write the mini-reviews initially, I’m under a serious time constraint, but now I’ve had time to listen more closely to the music and think about it, so some of the reviews will change, but some may not.  They were initially called “Jonah’s Jazz Picks”; the reason why is not a complicated story or a long one, but sufficient banal to just overlook.

This was the third installment of my recs.


Hey again, everybody.  This week’s drop seemed to be dominated by some unusual & intriguing sounding albums in a mix of nice straight-ahead fare.

Let’s begin.


Craig Taborn – Avenging Angel

Craig Taborn – “Avenging Angel”

Fans of the ECM label impatiently awaiting the next drop on emusic can tide themselves over with this solo outing of pianist/composer Craig Taborn.  Known for their tendency to produce introspective piano-led albums, ECM lets Taborn stretch out and build piano lines that challenge and engage; if you need an album to fall asleep to, this ain’t gonna be your best choice.  I don’t know if this album will appeal to Taborn fans, fervent or casual, who have fallen in love with prior albums, but I can’t imagine it will disappoint.  There are some beautiful moments recorded here.  For those who are unfamiliar with Taborn, one of the brightest stars on the jazz scene, it might be a decent idea to start with earlier albums like Light Made Lighter, which features the excellent Gerald Cleaver on drums and Chris Lightcap on bass, or Eldorado Trio, which features Louis Sclavis on sax & clarinet and Tom Rainey on drums.  Both of those trio albums will give the listener all the bite of Taborn’s sound, but in a trio environment that could make for an easier introduction to his music.

Here is a link to emusic, where the album can be purchased.


MSMW – Live: In Case the World Changes Its Mind

MSMW – “Live: In Case the World Changes its Mind”

Jazz jam band Medeski, Martin, and Wood have been collaborating with jazz guitar legend John Scofield, and presented here is a double-disc of a live performances from their 2006 tour.  Replete with their characteristic electric piano grooves, guitar effects, and a command of rhythm that effortlessly shifts between funk, rock, gospel, and jazz, MMW has incorporated Scofield’s science-leaning guitar equations and transmuted them into a strong and seamless element of their crazily infectious tunes.  Part of the joy of the ongoing collaboration between MMW and Scofield, who could be said to represent opposite ends of the what-is-jazz spectrum, is in how enthusiastically they embrace their respective sounds, resulting in a series of albums that sort of makes the whole jazz argument irrelevant.  Nearly two hours of music released on the Indirecto Records label.

Here’s a link to MSMW’s myspace page, where you can stream the album.

Here’s a link to emusic, where the album can be purchased.


Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet – Apparent Distance

Taylor Ho Bynum – “Apparent Distance”

Avant-garde musician Taylor Ho Bynum leads an expanded ensemble in a four-part suite, commissioned through a 2010 New Jazz Works grant from Chamber Music America and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.  With a line-up of Bynum on cornet, Jim Hobbs on alto sax, Bill Lowe on bass trombone; regular collaborator Mary Halvorson adding her unique sound on guitar, Ken Filiano and Tomas Fujiwara rounding out the rhythm section on bass and drums, as typical of Bynum’s work, this is a difficult recording to corral.  It’s easy to say avant-garde and leave it at that, however, the phrase is increasingly used as a substitute for noisy and frenetic.  So, while the maniacal solos typical to Bynum compositions are there, so also is a Pharaoh Sanders world-groove on the second track “Strike”, and on the following track “Source”, Halvorson’s oddly melodic guitar lines tread close to latin and surf territories just before pulling back into the framework of the tune.  This album isn’t going to be for everybody, but between the talent of the personnel, the musicianship evident in the composition, and the vacillation between challenging experimentation and head-bouncing fun, this is the kind of album that a typically adventurous music listener is going to take a chance on… and probably should.  Released on the Firehouse 12 label.

Here’s a link to Bynum’s myspace page, which doesn’t seem to have any music from this album but has a whole lot of music from other albums.

Here’s a link to emusic, where the album can be purchased.


Vazytouille – Vazytouille

Vazytouille – “Vazytouille”

Intriguing big band album from French music collective Zoone Libre.  This fourteen piece orchestra takes a modern approach to the big band medium without sacrificing any of the euphoric bombast inherent in its roots.  There is almost a musical de rigueur among modern big bands that they must come to the table adorned with rock sensibilities.  And while that approach has yielded some amazing results, there is plenty of territory still to explore in the big band compositions of the past.  Vazytouille adopts both attacks.  There are obvious indie rock strolls that yield some addictive juxtapositions of blue melodies and bouncy rhythms, as well as some guitar work with plenty of sharp rock ‘n roll teeth.  But it’s when the ensemble deconstructs conventional pieces and reassembles them into a new sound that still speaks of the past where they are most successful.  Fans of Darcy James Argue’s big band-rock fusion will surely enjoy this, as should, say, fans of classic pop-infused big band compositions of Phil Kelly.  And the thought I can’t shake off (and likely will later regret adding) is that fans of electro-pop ensemble Stereolab (and its line of descendants) might find this a nice spot to venture into jazz territory.

Here’s a link to emusic, where the album can get purchased.


Jan Kopinski’s Reflektor – Mirrors

Jan Kopinski – “Mirrors”

Blending jazz with Polish folk music, on Mirrors, Kopinski has developed a sound that is uniquely his own.  Founder of 1980’s experimental improv-funk ensemble Pinski Zoo and a veteran of multimedia projects and movie soundtracks, Kopinski’s compositions are full of imagery and bare emotion, but intuitively leaves it up to the listener to determine exactly how it manifests.  Tenor & alto sax, viola, bass, piano, drums, and vocals.  Haunting melodies cutting through an ambient hush, austere sax darting over earthy rhythm sections, vocals melting icy piano chords, each tune is a scene and the album is a book, and its one that you should get on your shelf.  Highly recommended.  Released on the 33 Jazz label.

Here’s a link to Jan’s artist site, where you can stream some of the album.

You can download a free track from the album at AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artist.

Here’s a link to emusic, where the album can be purchased.


The South Trio – Elegy For A Raver

South Trio – “Elegy for a Raver”

Worthy of mention, even if it arguably leaves a trail of breadcrumbs too long to find its way back to the land of jazz.  The South Trio takes a recipe for jazz, but when the timer dings and the album is removed from the oven, it appears the trio has baked something closer to indie stadium rock.  Heavy on the electronic effects and the beats, this trio blasts its way through a series of tunes that are amazingly catchy despite the music’s indelicate approach.  The second half of the album shakes off much of the dissonance prevalent earlier on the album, and leaves the anthems behind for more accessible indie-inspired jazz tunes, similar to that of jazz bass wunderkind Ben Allison.  Elegy is another one of those albums that  transcends the question of what is jazz and makes a musical statement of originality far more important than under which genre its filed on the shelf.  Released on the Shift Records label.

ELEGY FOR A RAVER by thesouthtrio

Here’s a link to emusic for my extended review of the album.

Here’s a link to emusic, where the album can be purchased.


Mark Weinstein – El Cumbanchero

Mark Weinstein – “El Cumbanchero”

Latin jazz innovator Mark Weinstein has a new album out, and just in time for those of us who live in places who see snow and single digit temperatures on the horizon.  Adopting compositions of Aruan Ortiz as his own family, Mark gives us an album of tunes as warm as any fireplace.  Giving a modern jazz flute twist to the traditional Cuban form of Charanga, Mark displays both his respect and love for the music.  While I can certainly rave about experimental music that engages me cerebrally and compels me to sit up and take notice, but I am equally adoring of a jazz album that lovingly presents a series of seemingly uncomplicated tunes which I can sit back and simply luxuriate in.  El Cumbanchero is one of the latter, and I am thankful for it.  Released on the Jazzheads label.

Here’s a link to Mark’s blog, which is pretty neat.

Here’s a link to Mark’s myspace page, where you can stream the album.

Here’s a free track from the album at AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artist.

Here’s a link to emusic, where the album can be purchased.


Erik Charlston – Essentially Hermeto

Erik Charlston – “Essentially Hermeto”

A strong Brazilian jazz album put out by Erik Charlston, a talented vibes and marimba player.  Charlston gives the jazz treatment to compositions of Brazilian composer Hermeto Pascal, and creates a series of terribly infectious tunes that grabbed me on the first listen.  Listening again to it a little over a month later, my enthusiasm hasn’t waned.  Perhaps coloring my opinion a bit is that I am positively addicted to the sound of vibes when the weather turns cold (as it is here), and their bright warm sound is so wonderfully contradictory to the brisk chill outside my windows.  Plus, it’s just a really good album.  Another excellent release by the Sunnyside label.

Here’s a link to Erik’s artist site.

A free track from the album is available on AllAboutJazz, courtesy of Erik & Sunnyside.

Here’s a link to emusic, where the album can be purchased.


Also, let’s quickly mention…

Ultra High Flamenco – “Bipolar”

Ultra High Flamenco – Bipolar

This likable flamenco album on which the ensemble lets their classical and jazz backgrounds bleed into their love of flamenco is all high-energy and pretty neat, to boot.  Violin, guitar, double bass, and percussion should take care of your flamenco fix.

Here’s a link to UHF’s artist site, where the album can be streamed.

Here’s a link to emusic, where the album can be purchased.


I’m gonna call that a wrap for this week.  As always, too many albums to mention, so little time and space.

See you next week.



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.