Jun 14 2015
This week’s batch of recommendations ain’t gonna put you to sleep. Most weeks come with a couple selections that provide a strong dose of audio serenity, but, nope, not this time around. Lots of large ensembles dominate this week’s column, and even those smaller combos that get a mention are all kinds of effusive.
I’ve got lots of fun, exciting music to get on your radar today. So, hey…
*** Album of the Week ***
Beats & Pieces Big Band – All In
The newest from Ben Cottrell’s Beats & Pieces Big Band is no less fun and no less cool than their previous outing. They possess a pop music sensibility to match wits with an equally compelling take on the modern big band, and the way the ensemble phases in and out of these complementary forms of existence is what makes this music so damn thrilling. This, and the sense that any restraint displayed by the group is one only barely contained. Bonus points for one of the better jazz arrangements of a David Bowie tune to come out in years.
It’s very likely I’ll be writing more about this album in the coming months, but don’t bother waiting for words… buy this album now.
*** Also Featured This Week ***
Michael Gibbs & the NDR Big Band – Play a Bill Frisell Set List (Cuneiform)
Vibrant big band set from the NDR, featuring guests Bill Frisell (and drummer Jeff Ballard), performing new arrangements of Frisell compositions and favorites courtesy of Michael Gibbs. The strange melodicism of Frisell’s sound is captured nicely by the large ensemble. An emphasis on lyricism over loudness, nuance over bombast.
Doublepulse – Silent Understanding (Laika)
Really expressive modern set from the duo of Boriana Dimitrova on wind instruments and Niels-Henrik Heinsohn on drums (plus a couple guests on more wind instruments and piano). The upbeat tempos have a relentless quality that borders on hypnotic at times, and also provides a clean landing strip for when the duo enters a brief meditative passage. Fun music, full of life.
Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet – Family First (Self-Produced)
Drummer Guiliana’s quartet pairs a pleasantly easy-going lyricism with a driven rhythmic attack on this straight-ahead set. Joined by pianist Shai Maestro, bassist Chris Morrisey and saxophonist Jason Rigby, it’s interesting how the tumultuous passages are tempered with delicate expressionism. One of those recordings that results in catchy music, even if not one of the artist’s original goals.
Stephen Haynes – Pomegranate (New Atlantis)
Cornetist Haynes’ tribute to Bill Dixon is spot-on, both in term of sound and spirit. With a quintet that includes guitarist Joe Morris, tubist Ben Stapp, drummer/percussionist Warren Smith and William Parker on contrabass violin, Haynes offers up music that bounces around with a wild abandon. But like fireflies on a summer eve, the music has a motion that is strangely comforting.
Orchestre National de Jazz de Montreal – Dans la Forêt de ma Mémoire (ATMA Classique)
This excellent live performance recording, originally titled “Femmes de Jazz,” was the introduction of Marianne Trudel’s new works. Also featuring some of Montreal’s top talent (Samuel Blais, Ingrid & Christine Jensen, Andre Leroux), this excellent set just resonates beauty and life. No matter how expansive the orchestra’s sound becomes, it maintains an exquisite, sharp lyricism.
Lama + Joachim Badenhorst – The Elephant’s Journey (Clean Feed)
Excellent new recording from the Lama Trio of trumpeter Susana Santos Silva, bassist Gonçalo Almeida and drummer Greg Smith, with the addition of Joachim Badenhorst’s clarinets adding a very substantial infusion of melodic definition. While the presence of electronics and dissonance is still felt, the music isn’t submerged in these elements as it was on past recordings. This session really allows the space for the tunefulness of their compositions to fully emerge. The results range from startling to fun.
Tore Johansen – Earth Stills (Inner Ear)
An appealing moodiness to the new one by trumpeter Johansen, who keeps it leveled off with a fireside warmth. Strong quartet that includes saxophonist Andy Sheppard, pianist Bugge Wesseltoft, bassist Arild Andersen and drummer Gard Nilssen. The five-part “Earth Stills” bundle is the gem of the session.
John Yao & his 17-Piece Instrument – Flip-Flop (Self-Produced)
Trombonist Yao’s big band recording has plenty of huge sounds and melodic incisiveness, but it’s a nice touch the way he mixes in a couple of “soundscape” pieces… almost as a sonic palate cleanser. Definitely a group that meshed well together, but it’s the soloists that really stand out on this recording. Familiar names to this column in the band, including John O’Gallagher, Jesse Stacken, David Smith, Jon Irabagon and Frank Basile.
Pierre Labbé Sextet – Tromper Eustache (Effendi)
Curious personality to this modern set from saxophonist Labbé. Quirky behavioral traits mark the entirety of the album with sudden changes of pace, melodies that shift course mid-stream, and harmonic devices that create an underlying tension. Rock elements aplenty on this interesting album.
Have a great time digging through the list!
And remember, it’s simple: You like what you like.