The Round-up: Rooted in place, the city grew around us


Here is some very good new music.


Hayden Prosser – Tether (Whirlwind Recordings)

There’s an odd grace to the new one from bassist Hayden Prosser.  Its motion has a strangely regimented feel, as if it were mirroring the patterns of a Scrabble board construction or a high-speed game of Go.  That alone generates some real intrigue, but what nudges Tether up to borderline addictive is how the melodies filter through.  It’s more fluid that one might expect, yet the melodies conform to their environment, so sometimes they get stretched thin on “Overturn” and sometimes they get twisted into alien shapes on “Undo” and sometimes they just scatter in all directions on “Rounds,” and then there’s a track like “All,” where the melody is both flame and melting candle wax at the same time.  Tenor saxophonist Philipp Gropper, pianist Elias Stemeseder and drummer Max Santner join Prosser on this session.  My fascination with this recording continues to grow with each return visit.

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CSPS – On the Face Place (Skydeck Music)

It’s just plain fun following after the melodies on this enjoyable session from the CSPS Ensemble.  This straight-ahead set of tunes has a little bit of old-school influence and a handful more of new school.  There’s an incisive lyricism applied by the wind instruments when they each dig into a solo, but in that way simple words can lead to complex meanings, saxophonists Kiril Kuzmanov and Dave Wilson, and trumpeter Trajče Velkov develop their opening statements into thrilling expressions.  Bassist Kiril Tufekčievski and percussionist Ratko Dautovski maintain a conversational chatter throughout.  Guitarist Bojan Petkov bounces back and forth between both groups, sometimes adding texture to the tempos and sometimes setting off some brilliant melodic fireworks of his own.  The ensemble name comes from the point of origin of the ensemble members: Chicago and Skopje, Probistip, and Stip, Macedonia.  This is one of those recordings that subtly grew on me, and one day it struck me just how much I had been enjoying it all this time.  Go check it out.

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Orbital Quintet – Vol. 1 (Self-Produced)

Sort of a dual personality to this debut from Oakland’s Orbital Quintet.  Half of the album’s tracks work in some bop and swing, sticking to a straight-ahead sound.  The album’s other half is an updated space-jazz fusion, of ambient melodies that melt into a latticework of diffuse tempos.  At no time do these two sounds ever come together, and it doesn’t sound like that option was ever on the table.  The quintet seems quite content presenting two sides to their story, and for me personally, my favorite of the two sounds was whichever one was currently drifting out from my speakers.

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Marcus Elliot Quartet – Sonic Refuge (Self-Produced)

Plenty to like about this collection of live tracks compiled from four years of performing at the Detroit jazz club Cliff Bell’s.  Saxophonist Marcus Elliot, pianist Michael Malis, bassist Ben Rolston and drummer Stephen Boegehold work a nice post-bop vein, dispensing equal amounts of heat, edge and introspection.  While each musician has plenty to say with their respective solos, it’s those moments when the quartet comes together as one and develop an idea where a soloist left off that count as the album’s stronger moments.  And that’s probably as it should be for a group that’s been playing together for as long as they.  Good stuff.

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Ensemble Novo – Look to the Sky (Self-Produced)

Gotta say I found this bossa session pretty charming.  A Philly crew that includes vibraphonist Behn Gillece, guitarist Ryan McNeely, saxophonist Tom Moon, percussionist Jim Hamilton and bassist Mark Przybylowski adopt an easy-going gait for the album’s entirety.  Even a track like “Cravo e Canela,” which shifts into a brisk pace, has a casual demeanor to how it dishes out the rhythm and a pretty melody.  The whole affair sounds like long-time collaborators got together in a home studio and decided just to spend the night having fun playing some bossa and samba, and somebody hit a record button before they got things underway.

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