Reviews: Hank Roberts, Darius Jones, Gabriel Vicens & more


Featuring a Review of Hank Roberts Everything Is Alive, and Tiny Reviews of Darius Jones Book of Maebul, Gabriel Vicens Point in Time, and more.



Hank Roberts – Everything Is Alive

One of the premier cellists on the jazz scene, Hank Roberts has contributed his increasingly original sound to the albums of a disparate group of artists that span genre categories.  On Everything Is Alive, Roberts takes the lead, offering a series of tunes that hint at folk, Americana, jazz, and classical without every completely shedding its mask.  The result is an album consisting of music that is largely unclassifiable, and best framed in the abstract:  The opening track is an old wooden ship celebrating its final trip by coasting atop huge foaming waves, track “Cayuga” is the uneasy stillness that descends over the plains with the storm’s concluding raindrops, “Easy’s Pocket” is the view of a hiking trail extending far off into the horizon, “Necklace” is moonlight on an empty parking lot, and “JB” is sitting at the edge of that parking lot, cheerfully drinking whiskey from a bottle while watching the moonlight play pantomime with the shadows.

The flow of one composition to the next is no less mercurial than the identity of their sound, and acts more as a procession of scenes than a playlist of tunes.  It takes some effort to adapt to, but worth it when the ear gets in synch with the album’s flow.  That, in addition to Roberts’ talent at illustrating the impressive breadth of voicings the cello can emote, makes for a complex and terrifically enjoyable recording.

Your album personnel:  Hank Roberts (cello, fiddle), Bill Frisell (guitars), Jerome Harris (bass, acoustic guitar), and Kenny Wollesen (drums, percussion).

The musicians aren’t strangers to one another.  They’ve collaborated on numerous occasions with one another, both in studio and live, and in different combinations, so the precision of their creative interactions shouldn’t come as a surprise.  Exploring the discographies of all four will lead to other excellent recordings on which you’ll find some of the same names appearing.

Released on the Winter & Winter label.

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: CD | MP3


Darius Jones – Book of Maebul (Another Kind of Sunrise)

Alto saxophonist Darius Jones consistently brings a Roots of Blues aspect to his jazz, which typically manifests as a spiritual shout to the heavens above.  This recording inches close to an avant-garde sound, which serves more to give a satisfying edge to the soulful side of his jazz, and it’s why even when the music growls and swerves, it maintains, at its heart, an unmistakable warmth.

If Jones isn’t a common name in the jazz landscape, each successive release makes him increasingly difficult to overlook, and if you don’t have a Jones album in your music library, it’s time to rectify that and download now.

Your album personnel:  Darius Jones (alto sax), Matt Mitchell (piano), Trevor Dunn (bass), and Ches Smith (drums).

Released on the AUM Fidelity label.  Jazz from NYC.

Available on eMusic.


Gabriel Vicens – Point in Time

Nifty session date from up-and-coming guitarist Gabriel Vicens.  A nice recording with some very appealing tension and strength.  Meandering melodies, rock influenced rhythms, and a moody yet fierce posture.  Vicens seems to have a sense of where he feet should land on the path when he takes extended solos.  The teamwork between Zayas on piano and Coronel on drums is one of the album’s biggest strengths.

Your album personnel:  Gabriel Vicens (guitar), Jonathan Suazo (alto sax), Eduardo Zayas (piano), Matt Clohesy (bass), Vladimir Coronel (drums), and guests:  Eddie Gomez (bass) and David Sanchez (tenor sax).

The album is Self-Produced.  Jazz from Puerto Rico.

Available on eMusic.


Other Albums of Interest:


Edouard Bineau – Sex Toy

Quintet date from this French pianist.  Sound is very much in the modern Euro-jazz scene, with melodies that tell a story and rhythms sharp enough to turn the pages themselves.  Joined by Daniel Erdmann and Sebastien Texier on saxophones, it’s an intriguing album that shows another facet of the new jazz of today.  Good stuff.

Artist Site Link.  Available on eMusic.


Dayna Stephens – Today Is Tomorrow

Tenor saxophonist Stephens brings together a strong cast that includes Julian Lage on guitar, Michael Rodriguez on trumpet, and Aaron Parks on piano for a nice set of modern straight-ahead jazz.  Plenty of swing, bounce, and sway to satisfy any jazz appetite.

Artist site Link.  Available on eMusic.


Masabumi Kikuchi Trio – Sunrise

Quiet piano trio, sort of typical of the ECM label.  Kikuchi has never really grabbed my ear on piano, but the interplay between drummer Paul Motian and bassist Thomas Morgan absolutely does; it’s the beating heart of the album.

No artist site found.  Available on eMusic.


Eri Yamamoto – The Next Page

Nice piano trio date.  Yamamoto has a delicate, yet evocative touch on the keys, so while it may be more candle than bonfire, you can still feel some heat from a distance.  Trio plays like one, nice brush work by the drummer, nice lyricism by the bassist in the higher registers.  Easy to like.

Artist site Link.  Available on eMusic.



The Hank Roberts review is original to Bird is the Worm.  However, portions of the other reviews were originally used in my Jazz Picks weekly article for eMusic, so here’s some language protecting their rights as the one to hire me to write about new jazz arrivals to their site…

“New Arrivals Jazz Picks“ and “New Arrivals Jazz Picks“, reprints courtesy of, Inc.
© 2012, Inc.

As always, my sincere thanks to eMusic for the gig.  Cheers.