Apr 18 2015
Good god, this was a strong week of new jazz releases. As much as I dislike doing the whole co-pick thing, I just had no choice. Both the Charles Lloyd and Reijseger/Fraanje/Sylla recordings are supremely intense and crafted masterfully. But don’t stop there. The four albums on the list that follow immediately after could all just as easily have been named the Pick of the Week. And then there’s the “rest of the albums,” which, top to bottom, are a formidable group of new music. I’m just thrilled with the music I’m able to include this week. I’ll be writing more about many of them in the coming weeks. Expect to see a slew of stand-alone recommendations that originate from this list.
My advice: Immediately buy the first six albums on this list, and then pick and choose from the rest, to taste. You won’t go wrong. Even if a particular album of those six doesn’t necessarily appeal to you right now, it’s the kind of quality music you want sitting in your library until your tastes and/or your ear comes around and connects with the music’s brilliance.
Okay, enough gushing.
*** co-Picks of the Week ***
Charles Lloyd – Wild Man Dance
Absolutely stunning live performance of a new long-form piece by jazz giant Charles Lloyd. A compelling moodiness throughout, even when his sextet surges up with huge, expressive emotions. That sextet is top-notch. Joining the saxophonist are drummer Gerald Cleaver, pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Joe Sanders, and Sokratis Sinopoulos and Miklos Lucaks on Greek lyra & cymbalom. There’s a rawness to the lyricism that makes for some seriously thrilling moments, accentuated by the relentless nature of the rhythm unit. The use of lyra and cimbalom add some texture to a recording that really does just fine in that category with the more traditional jazz instruments. The electricity of the live performance resonates strongly on the recorded medium, though it isn’t likely to make you not wish to have been there when it all went down. Just a great recording.
Reijseger/Fraanje/Sylla – Count Till Zen
The trio of Ernst Reijseger, Harmen Fraanje and Mola Sylla just released a riveting follow-up to their equally stunning 2013 release Down Deep (which was named the Bird is the Worm Best of 2013 #7 album of the year). The trio of cello/piano/percussion concoct up a magnetic serenity that stands apart from anything else on the scene, though some parallels could be drawn with the equally compelling work of the Codona trio back in the 70s. I’ll be writing more about this excellent recording in the coming weeks, but, seriously, don’t bother waiting for my words… just go buy this album now.
*** This week’s featured albums ***
Tim Berne’s Snakeoil – You’ve Been Watching Me (ECM)
Alto saxophonist Berne’s previous works typically show flashes of sharp teeth and no hesitation to let ’em sink in deep. His newest, however, is far more approachable due to some powerfully melodic passages that envelop this unconventional music. An absolutely magnetic personality to this one.
Mikkel Ploug Trio – At Black Tornado (Whirlwind)
Guitarist Ploug’s trio session has a talkative style that’s plenty charismatic. Rich textures and sharp melodicism keep the ear riveted throughout. Occasional flourishes of folk-rock are a nice touch.
Respect Sextet – Respect ‘n’ You: Live at Greenwich House Music School (Self-Produced)
Very fun live set from the unconventionally-inclined Respect Sextet. Most impressive is how they break from an orderly melodic procession into a mass hysteria of competing lines, and yet give the impression that everything is snapping right into place. With half the outfit taken up by wind instruments, plenty of nice harmonic interludes, but its the way that all members contribute to rhythm-building that defines the album’s intelligence.
Pedro Giraudo Big Band – Cuentos (Zoho)
Excellent big band session from bassist Giraudo, whose deft hand at directing the large ensemble results in lovely music with a most appealing flow. The emotional impact of these pieces is considerable. Just a hell of an album.
MIT Wind Ensemble & MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble – Infinite Winds (Sunnyside)
Modern jazz all-stars Guillermo Klein, Don Byron, Bill McHenry, Chick Corea and Evan Ziporyn are all featured on this solid large ensemble/jazz orchestra outing. Huge, sprawling sounds share the same patch of land as the most delicate interludes. When the MIT ensemble gets a head of steam going, things really get exciting.
Petros Klampanis – Minor Dispute (Inner Circle Music)
Interesting contemporary jazz strings project from bassist Klampanis. An intriguing core quartet (which includes pianist Jean-Michel Pilc, guitarist Gilad Hekselman and drummer John Hadfield) is buffeted upwards with a complement of strings. Has an evocative mix of soaring harmonies & up-tempo motion reminiscent of some of McCoy Tyner’s underrated 1980s experiments with strings & orchestra.
Stockton Helbing – Patina (Armored Records)
Enjoyable straight-ahead set from drummer Helbing. Earlier in his career, he put out some of the better modern-style contemporary jazz, giving the fusion sheen an appealing sense of propulsion. Now, his last two albums have shown a hard bop heat and groove that is easy to get hooked on.
Pulcinella – L’empereur (Les Productions du Vendredi)
Whimsical and upbeat quartet of accordion, sax, bass & drums. Folk-jazz that has an infectious pop music delivery along with some rock ‘n roll edge. The harmonic action between accordion and sax provides plenty warmth as well as some essential contrast with the hard-charging rhythm section.
The Ghost Notes – Secret Of A Memory (Hitchtone)
Likable quintet focusing on Gypsy jazz and Django Reinhardt comps. An alluring serenity to some tunes that balances nicely with the up-tempo burners. If you’re looking to add a hot jazz recording to your library, this is an interesting option.
Harold Mabern – Afro Blue (Smoke Sessions)
Veteran pianist Mabern is back with another excellent Smoke Sessions release, this time with a focus on vocalists, which is a first for the label. Top-shelf straight-ahead bop, vibrant and full of life. Gregory Porter and Norah Jones both take nifty turns at the mic.
Eric Vloeimans’ Oliver’s Cinema – Act 2 (Self-Produced)
The follow-up of Vloeiman’s Oliver’s Cinema is just as captivating as their self-titled release. The trio of trumpet, accordion and cello is a strange kind of folk-jazz, working a cinematic angle at all times. A quirky kind of tranquility.
Raffaello Pareti – Il Mondo che Verra (Artesuono)
Delightful quartet session from bassist Pareti. Reeds & trombone combo lead to plenty of lyricism, heart and soul. A couple moments that miss their target, but overall, just a real enjoyable recording that clearly places high value on a melodic life.
Carlos Averhoff Jr. – iRESI (Inner Circle Music)
Nice contrast of surging locomotion and light-on-its-feet lyricism to tenor saxophonist Averhoff’s quintet set. Straight-forward bop expressed in a variety of ways, while keeping a strong cohesion to the album overall. Strong line-up with alto saxophonist Greg Osby, pianist Aruan Ortiz, drummer Francisco Mela and bassist John Lockwood.
Rob Reich – Shadowbox (BAG Production)
Fascinating mix of folk and jazz, rarely expressed twice with the same ratio. Joining accordionist Reich is an eclectic line-up of guitarist Ila Cantor, clarinetist Ben Goldberg, bassist Todd Sickafoose and drummer Eric Garland. Has some beautiful melodic passages that cut right to the bone.
Have a great time digging through the list!
And remember, it’s simple: You like what you like.