May 21 2018
Here is some very good new music.
Zion80 – Warriors (Chant Records)
There’s a joyfulness to this music that leaves its mark. Zion80 grooves heavy and hard, but there’s never a time the music doesn’t stay light on its feet. It’s easy to see why Jon Madof‘s dectet was such a nice fit in John Zorn’s Book of Angels series… the ensemble can work subtle shifts between influences without causing even a ripple of disturbance in the rhythmic chatter. The melodies of Warriors are like beaming smiles, full of warmth and friendliness. Mysticism is a pretty big deal in the modern Zorn songbook, but it’s something that Zion80 clearly had in their back pocket before those sessions began. There’s a spirituality that bleeds out of tunes designed for letting loose on the weekend, and that Zion80 doesn’t appear to view that as a contradiction is likely the reason for the music’s success and why it comes off as so damn genuine. Ensemble members saxophonist Jessica Lurie and pianist Brian Marsella are just two of the names familiar to this site. Music from NYC.
Tim Daisy’s Fulcrum Ensemble – Animation (Relay Recordings)
It can’t be easy navigating a path that attempts to be wide open and modern and free while also drawing thick lines tracing back to jazz in its early stages of life. This inside-out recording from Tim Daisy’s Fulcrum Ensemble is wild and effusive, and sometimes it echoes the swinging affairs from New Orleans past and sometimes it explodes in an avant-garde fury reminiscent of New York City loft scene of the seventies. But in every instance, there’s a strong presence of the modern day, that the form of expression is always focused through the lens of musicians who know exactly where their feet stand and that they breathe the air of today. But aside from matters of influence and style, what matters most is that this music is supremely fun. Its unpredictability is manifest even when the sound is something intimately familiar. Clarinetist James Falzone, trombonist Steve Swell, cornetist Josh Berman, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and saxophonist Dave Rempis all leave their mark on this excellent recording. It’s always difficult for me to get to all of the music out there and still meet my submission deadlines, and that’s the only reason this wasn’t one of my Best of Bandcamp Jazz recommendations when this album was released. Don’t be surprised if it makes an appearance in a later column. Music from Chicago.
Menagerie – The Arrow of Time (Freestyle Records)
Menagerie‘s updated soul jazz is like the first day of Spring after a long winter. The music’s melodic warmth and cheerful grooves are a signal to emerge from a state of hibernation and set to motion. Lance Ferguson‘s ensemble steps up with a big sound, but its presence is laid-back casual. That seeming contradiction between potential force and resultant calm creates its own form of tension, and thus a special kind of beauty… like when storm clouds gather overhead, but it never rains and a streak of sunlight is allowed to shine through unimpeded. Fallon Williams adds a nice spoken word touch on the opening track. If you liked their 2012 release They Shall Inherit, their newest will also float your boat. Music from Melbourne, Australia.
MABUTA – Welcome To This World (Self-Produced)
This debut from MABUTA is a nice example of how doing something a little bit different doesn’t necessarily have to be an obstacle to creating supremely embraceable music. The sextet’s mix of South African jazz and contemporary electronic music is all kinds of friendly and forges a strong connection, even as it simultaneously creates an environment that sparks an introspective reaction. The core group of bassist Shane Cooper, guitarist Reza Khota, pianist Bokani Dyer, tenor saxophonist Sisonke Xonti, drummer Marlon Witbooi and trumpeter Robin Fassie-Kock get some solid assistance from an array of guest musicians… notably saxophonists Shabaka Hutchings (who has got to have a ton of frequent flier miles for all the guest spots he’s been up for lately) and Buddy Wells (who lights the album up on his guest spot). Also in a guest role, Tlale Makhene demonstrates that percussion is another form of electricity. Music from Cape Town, South Africa.
Yves Arques & Miguel Crozzoli – Drops of Sun (Nendo Dango Records)
The tension ranges from simmering to explosive on this duo outing from pianist Yves Arques and saxophonist Miguel Crozzoli. Passages of silence are just as fearful as the unleashing of sonic fury… and just as enchanting. Arques adds some melodic textures, either by preparing his piano or keeping a bit of odd percussion nearby. There are moments of extreme focus when the music becomes an immersive experience. Music from Paris & Buenos Aires.