The Round-up: It wasn’t real, not even in my imagination


Here is some very good new music.


Atomic – Pet Variations (Odin Records)

While the tag Nordic Jazz is most commonly associated with a jazz expressionism where tranquility is the key to everything, it certainly isn’t a full encapsulation of the full breadth of sound from that part of the world.  For quite a many years now, the trio Atomic has been a counterbalance of chaos and liveliness.  Their newest doesn’t stray far from that approach.  Pet Variations is a covers album, and it scoops up in its embrace a scattered set of influences, from Paul Bley to Brian Wilson, from Alexander von Schlippenbach to Jan Garbarek… and all of it in possession of the edgy melodicism and volatility Atomic wields with so little difficulty.  Even a rendition of Olivier Messiaen work simmers with an unmistakable tension.  Music from Oslo, Norway.

Artist site | Listen | Buy:  BandcampAmazon


Jay Thomas & Mike Van Bebber Quintet – The Promise (CUG Records)

Real nice hard bop session.  Plenty of energy, the kind of bop locomotion that generates an embracing warmth while simultaneously lighting a fire under everything.  It offers up some covers of standards and tunes by George Coleman and Lennie Tristano, but the real gems of this recording are the original compositions by pianist Yuki Hirate.  Hirate builds plenty of beauty into the framework of the composition, but also leaves space for the quintet to develop things according to their own perspective.  A fun recording, and in the context of a modern jazz scene where the sound is more diverse and divergent than at any other time in its history, it’s nice to encounter a straight-ahead session that is both familiar and exciting.  Music from Seattle, Washington.

Artist site | Listen | Buy:  Bandcamp


Unbound Worlds – Chengdu Dream (Self-Produced)

I can’t say enough about this delightful recording from the ensemble Unbound Worlds.  This intriguing crosshatch of eastern and western musics originates from a 2018 performance at the He Duoling museum in Chengdu, China, where musicians from San Francisco and Chengdu collaborate on jazz, rock and folk songs native to China, jazz works by Ornette Coleman and John Abercrombie, and original works tethered to those influences in some shape and form.  The recording features Baima Wang on erhu, Lin Shi on vocals and keyboards, Shuxen Meng on pipa, Marc Schmitz on guitar and vocals, and Dave Mihaly on drums.  For many of you, this music will be unconventional listening for what you’re typically exposed to… and, yet, the melodies are so inviting and the rhythmic dialog so riveting, Chengdu Dream is an open door held open wide for the listener to walk on through and enjoy.  Music from San Francisco, California and Chengdu, China.

Artist site | Listen | Buy:  Bandcamp


Hafdís Bjarnadóttir & Passepartout Duo – A Northern Year (Self-Produced)

The music matches the inspiration on the latest from composer Hafdís Bjarnadóttir.  The motion of A Northern Year is like the sun slowly arcing across the sky, methodical in its progress, awesome in its presence, while the album’s imagery and tone mirrors the changing seasons from solstice to solstice.  Performed by the Passepartout Duo of drummer-percussionist Christopher Salvito and pianist-keyboardist Nicoletta Favari, this music can come off as serene or heavy, depending on the season of the composition and the scene out your own window.  Just a two-part suite EP, but plenty engrossing for its brief duration.  Music from Reykjavik, Iceland.

Artist site | Listen | Buy:  Bandcamp

Cool album art by Anastasia Savinova.  I really adore her architecture-collage series Genius Loci.


Ultraïa Octet – Ultraïa Octet (Self-Produced)

I normally don’t include older albums in this column, but not long ago the 2008 self-titled debut from the Ultraïa Octet was uploaded to Bandcamp, and I’ve been pretty well addicted to it ever since.  Heavy on the wind instruments, this ensemble generates plenty of warmth on the harmonic side of things, and with accordion, euphonium, cello and tuba in the mix, the octet seamlessly transitions between influences of chamber and folk at will.  A seriously beautiful and absorbing album.  Music from Amiens, France.

Artist site | Listen | Buy:  Bandcamp