Dec 7 2017
Here is some very good new music.
Geof Bradfield – Birdhoused (Cellar Live)
That this live set at Chicago’s Green Mill could be considered straight-ahead by today’s standard illustrates just how much things have changed since the bop era, and, tangentially, how much things still sound like they ever did. The post-bop delivered at this 2017 show has a greater willingness to stomp than to swing, and a predisposition to giving its melodies some edge and sharp angles than an effortless flow. It was like that, too, decades ago when musicians began to search for the next stage of evolution after hard bop. This music sounds like it could be just at home in 1967 as it does 2017… the same as it ever was. And like many of those inside-out musicians from back in the day, tenor saxophonist Geof Bradfield keeps roots tethered to the blues, even if he’s so disposed to warp them beyond recognition at times. There’s always a sense of his music being part of something greater and more lasting than the date on a particular recording session. 2013’s Melba and 2015’s Our Roots established this characteristic. His newest, Birdhoused, is just part of the evidence trail. Representing Chicago strong with trumpeter Marquis Hill, alto saxophonist Nick Mazzarella, trombonist Joel Adams, bassist Clark Sommers and drummer Dana Hall.
Guilhem Flouzat Trio – A Thing Called Joe (Sunnyside Records)
There’s a very laid-back feel to this set, and it comes off as seriously old-school, like those wonderful Red Garland Trio recordings on the Prestige label, where the fading electricity of Saturday night bleeds into the peacefulness of Sunday morning, and things are both lively and tranquil at the same time. It makes sense, too, because the trio of drummer Guilhem Flouzat, bassist Desmond White and pianist Sullivan Fortner play it straight on old tunes from Monk, Byard, Arlen, Zawinul and others. Old-school feel on old-school tunes, and it’s Sunday morning whenever this album plays.
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Erika Stucky – Papito (Traumton)
If the challenge were to create an album that possessed a Tom Waits holiday ambiance, Papito might just win the prize. Vocalist Erika Stucky has a delivery that sounds half don’t-give-a-shit boozy and half soul-laid-bare. Sometimes her backing strings lay it on nice and thick, and sometimes there’s some odd effects and haunting accompaniment. In addition to some original compositions, there’s renditions of pieces by Cole Porter, Randy Newman, Billie Holiday and Stephen Sondheim. Something about the whole production gives the sense of singing holiday songs in a tavern, near the fireplace, and maybe improvising most of the lyrics because the originals just won’t do. It’s cheerful and depressing and pretty damn intriguing.
Bryant/Fabian/Marsalis – Do For You? (CAP Music)
This is music you want playing when you’re sitting alone at the neighborhood dive, elbows on the bar, whiskey glass in your hands. The blues have a starring role on this trio set from saxophonist Lance Bryant, bassist Christian Fabian and drummer Jason Marsalis, and when the music swings to and fro or bops right along, it’s with a bit of the heaviness of knowing what the world is all about. When Bryant adds some vocals, it’s a straight-forward delivery of those same facts imparted by the music on its lonesome. You want this music playing, because you already got the blues in your heart, and the whiskey just won’t kill it, so it’s nice to hear some music that lets you know it’s not just you, you’re not all alone in feeling that weight, and that somebody out there is making music for just those moments for people just like you.
Ghost Train Orchestra – Book of Rhapsodies Vol. 2 (Accurate Records)
Ghost Train Orchestra does their own thing. The source of inspiration may change a bit, but mostly it’s re-imagined music from the Roaring Twenties and straight through the Depression Era. That’s their thing. The newest thing is Volume 2 of their Book of Rhapsodies, and for this one, they re-imagine the works of 1930’s ensembles who were dabbling in the Third Stream classical-jazz fusion thing. This is what GTO does, and they do it really really well. They make it pretty damn enjoyable, even if it’s not necessarily your thing. Each one of these albums, I’ve gone into it with a poor attitude of, well, I’ll give it a listen even though I know what I’m getting into and it’s not something I’m much into. But it isn’t long after I’ve hit the play button that I find myself really into it, and then it becomes my thing. Especially their third album Hot Town. It really grew on me the more times I popped it into the stereo, and with each subsequent iteration, my motivation to give it another listen increased, and sometimes I found myself raving about it on social media. So, that’s the thing with this ensemble. Go give their new album a listen.