The Round-up: When words fail, the heart beats stronger


Here is some very good new music.


Ben Allison – Layers of the City (Sonic Camera Records)

The newest from bassist Ben Allison dials things back a bit, but that seems the natural outcome of streamlining an approach that’s bolstered the electronic and rock infrastructure of past recordings.  For instance, the title-track’s edginess is a prominent feature, but how Allison’s group swiftly unrolls its tight melody embodies the song’s most striking quality.  It’s a revealing moment in that it shows Allison hasn’t so much sought out a balance between divergent elements as he’s found a way for them to coexist with a measured peacefulness.  Beneficially, it allows the more extreme qualities to stand out, side by side, one not dulling the sensation of the others, even as they work together to forge a middle-ground.  “The Detective’s Wife” takes a stroll through some old-school territory, but the electronic squiggles of “Get Me Offa This Thing” is a final reminder that there’s nothing straight-forward about this album.  And, thankfully, that’s a quality typical to Allison’s work.  Allison’s Think Free ensemble is an all-star cast featuring trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, guitarist Steve Cardenas, pianist Frank Kimbrough and drummer Allan Mednard.

Artist site | Listen | Buy:  Amazon


New Simplicity Trio – Common Spaces (Babel Label)

After a number of thematically intriguing concept albums, it’s nice to hear pianist Bruno Heinen just play some tunes.  Along with bassist Henrik Jensen and drummer Antonio Fusco, the New Simplicity Trio digs into a well-crafted melody and then takes it for a ride.  The strongest tracks are those where they give it some gas and let the motion drive the melody while the melody drives the song.  That said, the lilting beauty of “Across the Pond” and how, at times, it just floats in space could easily become a listener’s favorite.  And then there’s a groovy rendition of Mingus’s “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” and that’s worth the price of admission alone.  This album is all kinds of friendly.

Artist site | Listen | Buy:  BandcampAmazon


Sexmob – Cultural Capital (Rex Records)

It’s pretty damn refreshing to hear the Sexmob quartet focus on original compositions for a change.  Inventive renditions of popular songs is something they’ve been at for near about twenty years, and while it’s been the source of all kinds of fun, their latest album of original pieces is the equivalent of a team of chefs highlighting the wonders of their favorite ingredients rather than focus on the totality of the recipe.  It’s why the heart of Steven Bernstein‘s slide trumpet beats just a little bit stronger, and why the soul of Briggan Krauss‘s saxophones burns off just a little bit more sin, and why the bass and drums of Tony Scherr and Kenny Wollesen often strikes a rhythm that resonates with the hum of the earth.  There’s a pervasive sense throughout Cultural Capital that it encapsulates the scope of everything they’ve done since they played their very first notes.  That’s pretty cool.  And after twenty years, it’s a nice gift to their fans.

Artist site | Listen | Buy:  Amazon


Stefan Schultze Large Ensemble – Ted the Bellhop (WhyPlayJazz)

This is big band played in the beer hall.  This is whip smart jazz rolled out as boozy fun.  Stefan Schultze‘s 18-piece ensemble is about as unconventional as a big band gets, and yet their personable enthusiasm and magnetic charm and a willingness to dive into a blues at will create an environment that makes this music completely embraceable.  Included among the ensemble’s personnel is saxophonist Charlotte Greve, who has been mentioned frequently on this site and anywhere else I’ve laid my pen.

Artist site | Listen | Buy:  Bandcamp – Amazon


Darren Johnston & Tim Daisy – Crossing Belmont (Relay Recordings)

There’s a raw artistry in play on this duo session from trumpeter Darren Johnston and drummer Tim Daisy.  The sense isn’t so much of a conversation, but instead the narrative of two complementary topics overlapped atop one another and resulting in an entirely new subject.  Recorded live at Chicago’s re-booted Hungry Brain, the duo displays an endless supply of energy and a willingness to try to burn it all off.  The thrill of all that intensity, however, is nicely balanced by a rich lyricism, and so the meaning is just as engaging as how the message gets delivered.  And besides, it just sounds like they were both especially in sync on this day, and locked into their own flight patterns and the trajectory of their counterpart.

Artist site | Listen | Buy:  Bandcamp