The Round-up: There is grace in us all


Here’s some new music I like.  I wanted to give these albums a mention, no matter how brief.  Let’s begin…


Leah Paul – We Will Do The Worrying (Skirl Records)

I first got turned onto the music of flautist Leah Paul back in 2012 with her excellent release Bike Lane.  On a cold winter day, her music sang with a voice of Springtime and it felt like she’d discovered a way to encode sunshine into the DNA of MP3 files.  Her newest release shows her infatuation with string trios (thankfully) hasn’t diminished, but she expands the sonic textures by inviting on board clarinetist Chris Speed, vibraphonist Nick Mancini and vocals from Afton Hefley.  The crisp intonations of vibraphone is particularly resonant with all the thick harmonies blanketing each piece.  And though not wordless, there’s a harmonic quality to the vocals that’s strangely reminiscent of the ambient soundscapes of vocalist Julianna Barwick.  And, seriously, you need to give Bike Lane a listen (check it out on Bandcamp).

Artist site | Listen | Buy:  Bandcamp


Sly5thAve – Composite (Tru Thoughts)

I’m a sucker for ingenious reinterpretations of pop songs, and this new EP from jack-of-all-trades Sylvester Uzoma Onyejiaka II (aka Sly5thAve) is certainly that.  Re-arranging and orchestrating songs by Frank Ocean, Rihanna, Gabriel Garzón-Montano, Lil Wayne and Drake, Onyejiaka II reveals facets and potential in the originals as if documenting a day-by-day recreation of each song’s alternate life in a parallel universe.  His production work in the studio is pretty damn marvelous, but the contributions of the ClubCassa Chamber Orchestra gives the music its heart and soul.  Worth noting that he’s also collaborated on a similar project for Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters work, so if you like this, now you know where your next step should take you.

Artist site | Listen | Buy:  Bandcamp – Amazon


Bruno Heinen & Camerata Alma Viva – Changing of the Seasons (Babel Label)

This isn’t just another reinterpretation of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. It’s a hypothesis on how the original would have sounded were Vivaldi alive & kicking in the modern day.  Bruno Heinen joins up with the Camerata Alma Viva ensemble for the lovely jazz-classical work.  And while it’s a fascinating endeavor when viewed in the context of the original compositions, enjoyment of this recording doesn’t hinge on a familiarity with the album’s inspiration.  There’s a pleasant synthesis between the pianist’s jazz improvisations and the large ensemble’s warm harmonics and melodic acrobatics.  Heinen has a thing for thematic challenges such as these, and one other example, his release Twinkle, Twinkle received a slot on this site’s Best of 2012 list.

Artist site | Listen | Buy: BandcampAmazon


Stuart Popejoy – Pleonid (Leo Records)

It’s seriously fascinating how this recording sounds both completely improvised and mathematically coordinated all at the same time.  It’s not so much a jazz-classical crossover work as music that embodies the spirit of the motivations that drives those forms of expression.  This one-hour continuous work from composer-bassist Stuart Popejoy, violinist Sarah Bernstein, vibraphonist Kenny Wolleson, alto saxophonist Avram Fefer and trombonist Steve Swell never stops surprising, feels nearly endless, then is over far too soon.

Artist site | Listen | Buy:  Bandcamp