Jan 31 2016
The word that kept cropping up in the synopses of this week’s This Is Jazz Today column is “personality.” And while I try to avoid repetition whenever possible, in this instance, it didn’t bother me at all. Personality is something I want all recordings to have, and the more unusual and singular it radiates from the music, the more I gravitate toward it. This week there was plenty of that.
Also signifying this week of new jazz recommendations are how many were new to me. It’s yet more proof of the depth of modern jazz’s talent pool as well as confirmation that the search for cool new music is never truly over. Now, with that out off the way…
*** Album of the Week ***
Antoine Pierre – Urbex (Igloo)
Good god, this album is ridiculously fun and just overflowing with imagination and creativity. Drummer Antoine Pierre leads an octet through a series of compositions that are dense with fascinating details yet possess a flowing motion that sometimes mimics the art of dance and sometimes takes to the skies and soars majestically high above. With its electro-acoustic space jazz impressionism, there’s a definitive forward-thinking attitude to this music, but there are times when it echoes the sit-back-in-the-sun joyful nature of classic 70’s soul-funk-jazz recordings. But, really, nothing I’m able say in the short space of these recommendations will fully encapsulate the sprawling personality of this excellent recording.
I plan to write more about this album down the road, but for now, just go scoop this one up.
*** Also Featured This Week ***
Avi Darash – Impermanence (Self-Produced)
Quite a stunning album from pianist Darash, bassist Avri Borochov and drummer Ofri Nehemya. Clearly a devotee of the School of Mehldau, Darash’s deftness in the creation and development of melodies leads to some lovely harmonic possibilities that the trio takes advantage of at every turn. They’re joined by a string quartet on a handful of tunes, and Darash gets them right out front, shining brightly like the glory of the sun. It adds some extra punch to the melodic dramatics, and all of that harmonic warmth is a nice counterbalance to the trio’s crisp atmosphere. I get more addicted to this recording with each subsequent listen.
Wood & Steel Trio – Secret Ingredient (Unit Records)
Seriously intriguing trio session from Roland Neffe on marimba & vibraphone, Christian Kögel on dobro and Marc Muellbauer on double bass. Falls squarely in jazz-folk territory, with each tune utilizing a different ratio of those two elements. Has a certain liveliness-within-the-serenity quality that echoes the music of folk-jazz trailblazers Oregon or, more loosely, the storybook atmosphere of Leo Kottke. Some tunes develop an engaging chatter that’s equally fun from a melodic and rhythmic perspective, while other tunes dive head-first into melodies so damn pretty that they’ll leave you transfixed. The jaw-dropping beauty of “Jackson” is when I officially fell hard for this lovely recording.
Jacob Karlzon – One (Self-Produced)
Pianist Karlzon’s trio sessions are melodically intense, with fierce rhythmic attacks spurring incisive melodies on to greater and greater improvisational journeys. So, it’s both a treat and more than a little illuminating to hear a solo recording that lays those melodies bare and let’s them breathe slowly and stretch out at the pace of sunlight splashing across an empty room. Solemn music for those mornings when you wake early enough to catch the sun rise over a city that still sleeps.
Ed Palermo Big Band – One Child Left Behind (Cuneiform)
There’s two qualities of Ed Palermo Big Band recordings that are sure to appeal to me each time. One, there’s a raw electricity that gives the sense that I’m actually hearing a live performance under the illusion of a digital recorded medium… a palpable sense of in-the-moment creativity. Two, that I’ll get my required quota of sharp wit and intelligence. This latter quality shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Palermo’s big band gravitates toward the music of Frank Zappa… a musician who possessed a staggering amount of wit and intelligence in his own right. Palermo’s crew hits the songbook of a few other artists on their new album (Neil Young, Los Lobos, theme to Scarface), and just like their treatment of Zappa’s music, they give these compositions their own voice and a new personality without forsaking the originals.
Giorgio Pacorig & Zeno De Rossi – Sleep Talking (Artesuono)
A nice contemplative tone from the duo of pianist Pacorig and drummer-percussionist De Rossi. They pace songs with a measure-twice-cut-once approach, and this tends to let subtleties of the music’s personality bubble to the surface. A little prepared piano action on a song like Randy Newman’s “In Germany Before the War” enhances the song’s haunting beauty to a remarkable degree. Little hints of dissonance are communicated with gruffles and growls and flow seamlessly into the album’s deep waters of tranquility. You Bobo Stenson fans out there probably want to spend some time with this one.
Jonathan Orland – Small Talk (Paris Jazz Underground)
Nothing really conventional about many of the compositions that appear on the new one from alto saxophonist Orland, guitarist Nelson Veras, bassist Yoni Zelnik and drummer Donald Kontomanou, but even with all their twists and turns and abrupt changes in flight patterns, the songs go down smooth as if built from their own customized basis of logic. That said, “Played Twice” bops right along and “Adult Games” beats with the heart of a ballad, so it’s not like this album abandons jazz central for entirely new lands of expressionism. Orland’s previous album Homes was nice enough and I enjoyed it fine, but this new recording is a real step up for him. This one has character.
Roxy Coss – Restless Idealism (Origin Arts)
Enjoyable straight-ahead session from tenor saxophonist Coss, guitarist Alex Wintz, pianist Chris Pattishall, bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Willie Jones III. Some of that straight-ahead action, like “Push” and “Tricky,” hearkens back to an old-school swing and bop, and while those tracks are plenty likable, it’s those that reflect a modern post-bop approach that really shine strongest. The undercurrent of intensity on “Perspective” and the appealingly casual melody of “Waiting” are prime examples of the latter category, as well as what cinched this album a slot on today’s column.
Joe Haider Jazz Orchestra – Keep It Dark (Double Moon)
An interesting album that gives the impression of a straight-ahead jazz orchestra recording, but throws in a whole bunch of wrinkles to contradict that impression. Sing-song melodies are carried along on the waves of thick harmonies and the rolling hills of a high-activity rhythm section, but then Haider cuts through the normalcy with streaks of dissonance and strange curls of melodicism. The most effective tool for the differentiation is the inclusion of the Kaleidoscope String Quartet, which adds dimensions to this recording that carry a long way. Good stuff.
Christoph Merki – Psychedelic Mountain Vol.2 (Unit Records)
This is Volume 2 of the two-part Psychedelic Mountain release from saxophonist Christoph Merki. I recently published a write-up of Volume 1, in which I describe the music as “bringing together elements of modern jazz, Eno-esque ambient pop, indie rock and Kraut-rock, it comes together as an ambiguous, but seriously catchy and undeniably potent concoction that goes down way smoother than one would expect from such a muddled list of ingredients.”
The two volumes are peas in the same pod, so go read up on Vol. 1 to learn more about the nifty release and hear music, etc (LINK).
Have a great time digging through the list!
And remember, it’s simple: You like what you like.