Feb 28 2016
This site has earned its reputation for featuring under-the-radar albums from the new Jazz releases bin, but I’m not sure we’ve published a This Is Jazz Today column that was dominated by as many truly obscure acts. This is a good thing, and goes to show that there are always new, exciting albums to discover in the passage of a single week.
And we can be just as thankful that all of this music we’re bringing to light today spans a vast horizon of different sounds and approaches and expressions, displaying both the depth of the modern scene but also providing a little something for every type of music fan, no matter what your preferences were coming in. And those preferences, they’re likely to be altered a bit by today’s selections. So, on that note…
*** Album of the Week ***
Fred Frith & Darren Johnston – Everybody’s Somebody’s Nobody (Clean Feed)
A very cool duo collaboration between guitarist Frith and trumpeter Johnston. Switching between moments of sharp dissonance and those of sublime beauty, the duo sculpts misshapen curiosities and endows them with some seriously arresting features. Frith’s guitar, one moment, could be kicking out streaks of flame and then without warning suddenly adopt the most personable twang. Johnston, for his part, shows no inhibition to similar transitions in tone and temperament, and just because he’s contemplative and serene one moment, don’t be surprised when suddenly his trumpet takes on a playful bounce or a furious shout. Look, this is avant-garde, free improv, and I’m not gonna pretend that this kind of thing is up most of your alleys… but Everybody’s Somebody’s Nobody is one of those instances where you want to invest some time in exploring this area of the jazz landscape. Frith and Johnston achieve a seamless line of communication to marvel at, and it reaches a plateau where you don’t necessarily have to understand the language they’re speaking to allow yourself to become happily immersed in it. Yes, a track like “Scribble” is a series of acerbic passages… aggressive, not pretty. But this same method of communication also yields a Miles Davis In a Silent Way tranquility on the track “Standard Candles.” So, spend some time with this one, because there’s a reason it’s been named Album of the Week and it might very well be one of those exceptions to your rule.
*** Also Featured This Week ***
Jérémy Lirola – Uptown Desire (La Buissonne)
A strange and curious recording from the quartet of bassist Jérémy Lirola, pianist Jozef Dumoulin (who doubles up on Fender Rhodes and electronics), alto saxophonist Denis Guivarc’h and drummer Nicolas Larmignat. Sometimes it’s a serenade by moonlight, sometimes it’s a modern funk-jazz, sometimes it’s a disassembled avant-garde, but often it brings these and any number of other odd forms of expressions into the fold all at once. There’s a sense of tunes not quite snapping into place, and it’s those inexact points of contact and out-of-synch fusion that makes the album so compelling. Because, strangely, it all works out in the end… a sort of disjointed cooperative. There are some jaw-dropping moments when streaks of melody break through the clouds of dissonance and conflict. This is just one of many reasons to scoop up this compelling album.
Pippi Dimonte 5tet – Hieronymus (FonoFabrique)
A very cool personality all throughout this session. This quintet of Pippi Dimonte (double bass), Marco Vecchio (alto & soprano sax), Simone Salvini (trumpet), Alessandro De Lorenzi (guitar) and Nicola Benetti (drums) switches between expressions of classic bop, modern post-bop, Latin, and jazz-funk, and despite flitting around the various jazz sub-genres, it ends up creating a cohesive album that shines pretty brightly no matter what the influence of the moment is. While the modern post-bop tunes are arguably the most compelling, it’s those that dive into thick grooves that will elicit the most smiles. A fun album, and perhaps this week’s wild card.
PJ5 – Trees (Gaya Music)
Kind of a quirky personality to this one. The quintet of guitarist Paul Jarret, tenor saxophonist Maxence Ravelomanantsoa, trombonist Léo Pellet, bassist Alexandre Perrot and drummer Ariel Tessier (plus a bunch of guests on additional wind instruments) adopt an indie-pop modern jazz blend, with a greater weight to the former over the latter. What results are some very tuneful moments broken up by fun little changes in cadence and direction. Nice mix of contemplative passages and spikes of hyperactive cheerfulness. There are several moments on this recording where I just stop what I’m doing and sit there transfixed by the music.
Rudd/Saft/Dunn/Pandi – Strength & Power (RareNoise)
A striking and wildly expressive session from the quartet of trombonist Roswell Rudd, pianist Jamie Saft, bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Balazs Pandi. On trombone, Rudd throws punches crisply, taking the shortest distance to the chin, but when he suddenly unleashes the most gentle melodic yawn, the whole sonic universe suddenly swivels to an entirely new perspective. This is a hard-charging album, but the quartet switches things up between dense walls of dissonance and strategically placed openings to let the conversation hang in the air briefly before getting batted across the room for yet another quick pursuit. Pandi and Dunn generate an impressive thunderstorm that, at times, left me awestruck, and it’s the way that Saft often dances between their raindrops with some elegant piano lines that really drew me in. But when you boil it all down, it’s the wild show of personality that represents the album’s winning trait.
No artist site | Buy: Amazon
Mosaico Collective – Entreacte (WhatAbout Music)
Nifty straight-ahead session from the trio of pianist Matias Muñoz, bassist Jorge da Roca, drummer Joao Veira, though expanded greatly with the addition of cellist Mariano Camarasa, guitarist Dani Perez, saxophonist Pintxo Villar and trumpeter Pol Padrós. Nice ebb and flow to patiently exhaled melodies and wildly expressive solos. There’s a couple vocal tracks that break up the album’s continuity a bit, but those are just small speed bumps for an album that offers up all kinds of get-up-and-go music to lift you outta the malaise of a nine-to-five day. Worth noting that several of the guest musicians have made their mark on this column with other projects, too, so if you like what you hear on this one, you have some names to keep exploring.
Bartosz Dworak Quartet – Polished (Hevhetia)
Easy to like sophomore recording from violinist Bartosz Dworak. He and his quartet (drummer Szymon Madej, pianist Piotr Matusik and bassist Jakub Dworak) run through a set of originals that highlight the violin’s ability to set off an array of fireworks dramatics while still treating each melody like delicate china. The quartet finds a nice meeting point between modern jazz, Polish folk and pop music. Some of the more intense moments are to be found in those passages when piano and violin transition between solos… the shifts in emotional tone are seriously riveting. I can’t say with authority whether this is a thing or not, but this site has highlighted a number of Polish violinists who’ve made a successful home in modern jazz. I mention this just in case this album floats your boat and you’re looking for more (begin with Adam Baldych).
Rhythm Future Quartet – Travels (Self-Produced)
Naming themselves after a Django Reinhardt song is a pretty good indication that the quartet of violinist Jason Anick, guitarist Olli Soikkeli, guitarist Max O’Rourke and bassist Greg Loughman are gonna dive head first into a Gypsy Jazz repertoire. On their sophomore release, though, they’re working in a bunch of original compositions. It’s the kind of thing that tends to breathe fresh air into the life of a particular form of expression since, inevitably, the kind of present day music the modern musicians surround themselves with is going to influence the music… no matter how much they may strive for a traditional sound. That happens here for sure, because even though many of the tracks echo the music of the past, a song like title-track “Travels” breaks from form, and the result is a gorgeous sigh of melody over and over and over. There’s also a rendition of the Beatles’ “Come Together,” which has its moments, but something about it tells me that it works even better in a live setting. Plenty here to enjoy.
Camila Meza – Traces (Sunnyside)
There’s an appealing pop music delivery to vocalist-guitarist Meza’s newest. When the music veers into Latin Jazz territory, the album really shines bright and exudes all kinds of personality. On the other hand, Meza does justice to the Jon Brion tune “Little Person,” giving it a nice undercurrent of frailty. Sachal Vasadani guests on one track, and his deep vocals match very nicely with Meza’s lighter tones. Jody Redhage’s cello adds a similar, equally essential contrast, too. A very strong cast on this album with pianist Shai Maestro, bassist Matt Penman, drummer Kendrick Scott and percussionist Bashiri Johnson. Worth throwing out there that Meza also does some nice work with trombonist Ryan Keberle… something to keep a look out for.
Leon Røsten Trio – Interpretations (Self-Produced)
This enjoyable recording from pianist Røsten reels you in with thoughtful melodies and solos that really take their time to breathe. Even the up-tempo passages take a pleasantly methodical approach to playing out, and often are tied back into that original melodic statement at any number of points of intersection. Joining the pianist are soprano saxophonist Seb Silas, cellist Andrea Rocha, bassist Leo Geller and drummer Ollie Futcher. The tone is mostly a contemplative one, but they occasionally break out of their reveries with some easy-to-like pop influenced tunes. Good stuff.
*** Other Albums of Note ***
Thomas Lüthi’s Biwak – Springfall (Unit Records)
Solid choice for someone looking for some tenor saxophone action. This nifty trio session of saxophonist Luthi, bassist Arne Huber and drummer Claudio Strüby displays strong lyricism regardless of whether the tenor is flashing its teeth or showing its potential for a delicate nature. Bass and drums each get their voices heard, but this is definitely one for when you want tenor sax to sit in the spotlight.
Renee Rosnes – Written in the Rocks (Smoke Sessions)
Terrific session from pianist Rosnes, vibraphonist Steve Nelson, saxophonist Steve Wilson (who doubles up nicely on flute), bassist Peter Washington and drummer Bill Stewart. Yet another Smoke Sessions release that just resonates like sunlight on the water’s surface, and yet more proof that straight-ahead jazz is just as exciting as those forms that reach out for the fringes. Starts out with a bang on “The KT Boundary” and doesn’t let up.
David Haney – Stix and Stones (Slam Productions)
An interesting session from pianist Haney, in a serious of duo collaborations with drummers Han Bennink, Bernard Purdie, Giovanni Barcello, Jimmy Bennington and Marvin “Bugalu” Smith. Tunes work a range between (relatively) straight-ahead and out to the fringes of the avant-garde. It’s pretty easy to get a feel for the conversations occurring, and that lends the music some intimacy.
No artist site | Sorry, no audio | Buy: eMusic – Amazon
Herlin Riley – New Direction (Mack Avenue)
Drummer Riley definitely plants his feet squarely in the territory of the old-school, but just like so many of those classic Blue Note recordings, it sounds as fresh and vibrant as if it just came out of the recording studio yesterday. The drummer is joined by trumpeter Bruce Harris, saxophonist Godwin Louis, pianist Emmet Cohen, bassist Russell Hall, plus guests Pedrito Martínez and Mark Whitfield on, respectively, percussion and guitar. Some swing, some Afro-Cuban, but mostly that classic hard bop sound that can light up the room.
Have a great time digging through the list!
And remember, it’s simple: You like what you like.