Jan 22 2016
Welcome to 2016!
Today’s column features albums just hitting the new release bins. Well, mostly. The next few columns will still get peppered with some cool stuff that came out after my cut-off for the Best Of list (Nov. 1st), but I’m probably the only one who will notice or even care. And in presence of this self-awareness, it has got to have you wondering why I even brought it up in the first place. That’s a pretty good question.
Okay, now that I got my stand-up bit out of the way, it’s time for the music.
Jeremy Carlstedt – Stars Are Far (Self-Produced)
Definitely an album that owns its volatile nature. A quartet of drummer Carlstedt, saxophonist Brian Settles, guitarist Tim Motzer and bassist Eric Wheeler, they unleash a firestorm with little provocation or warning. That alone is worth the price of admission, but it’s when they slow things down and almost drawl the melody out slowly that the album’s winning side reveals itself. And the thing of it is, when they do let up off the gas pedal, you can tell that their talents with a melody aren’t just a symptom of heavy voltage at high speeds. Jazz, rock, blues… it’s all there in the mix, and all of it is pretty damn thrilling on this nifty recording. Each listen, this album keeps getting better.
Göran Strandberg & Sebastian Voegler – Going Places (Residual Sounds)
A really absorbing duo collaboration between pianist Strandberg and percussionist Voegler. Most of these tunes are relatively unassuming, which is a nice quality to possess considering just how lively and nuanced the conversations between the two musicians play out. Some tracks are as easy-going as an afternoon stroll by the lakeshore, but more still behave like chatterboxes, with plenty to say and any number of ways to say it. They add some found sounds into the mix now and then, each time with taste and wisdom. A nice example of this would be the strangely heartbreaking “Children.” Easy to like.
Cleverhorse – 50:fifty (Jazzhead)
Okay, this is pretty cool. Cleverhorse is a quintet of of Robbie Melville on guitar & banjo, Gideon Brazil on tenor sax, Luke Hodgson on bass & guitar, Duke Mcdonald on drums & percussion and Monty Mackenzie on alto sax. They commingle a number of different genres, mostly centered around the pop category, into a sound not quite so easy to categorize and strangely tuneful, almost alluring, really. The short interludes they sprinkle throughout the recording have plenty of personality on their own, but in the flow of the album from first note to last, they really shine brightly. It’s the harmonic approaches that define this recording, and how they provide some lift and bounce to the melodic and rhythmic elements. Neat stuff. Probably more appropriate to call this modern instrumental than capital-J Jazz, but, y’know, whatever.
Stian Omenås – Klangkammer 2 (NORCD)
Kind of a boozy presence to this odd recording from the quartet of trumpeter Omenås, vibraphonist Rob Waring, double bassist Mats Eilertsen and drummer Erik Nylander. They all add contributions on percussion, and perhaps that’s why even the gaps of silence come off sounding punctuated and sudden. Melodies are dissected, flipped around, turned inside out and rearranged before they see the light of day, and the rhythmic elements seem constructed from their unused parts. It’s a quiet sort of dissonance to this one, and it’s why a peacefully contemplative track like “Klanghymne en” resonates so vividly.
Rusconi + Fred Frith – Live in Europe (Qilin Records)
All kinds of personality to this compilation of live performances from the Rusconi trio and guitarist Fred Frith over the course of two years. The dramatic shifts between contemplative reveries and fiery conflagrations qualifies as the album’s winning characteristic, though a close second is the way the quartet sometimes lands on a catchy pop music plot of turf. The bonus track with Norma Winstone sitting in for a rendition of “Here Comes the Flood” is absolutely stunning, especially in the context of her sublime touch in comparison with the intensity that preceded it. Cool music, cool album.
Naima – Bye (Cuneiform)
A curious recording, but easily embraceable. The trio of Enrique Ruiz on piano and synths, Luis Torregrosa on drums, and Rafael Ramos Sania on double bass clearly takes to the qualities of good pop music, but at the same time seem more than a little preoccupied with developing ambiance, even at the expense of the structure that pop music calls for. The result is an intriguing mix of tunes, where some proceed conventionally and lead out with a clear melody and then there are those tracks that gradually develop atmospheric tension and only then do they let the strands of melodic themes fully emerge. Sometimes just seriously catchy, other times a fully immersive experience.
Emil de Waal – Old News (DME)
This project is not unlike some of drummer de Waal’s other recent projects that featured Elith “Nulle” Nykjær. This expanded Danish outfit bathes in warm light and sweet melodies and is about the closest you’ll ever get to a fireplace comfort without using wood and a match. On this newest project, however, de Waal infuses intervals of electronics and drone amongst the old-school sounds of Sidney Bechet and Bessie Smith. It’s a wonderful mix of old and new, and each compelling in their own way. Some familiar names to this column featured on the album, including Peter Rosendal, Jacob Anderskov and Gustaf Ljunggren. A wonderful recording. The embedded audio below provides an example of each of this album’s past & present sounds.
Dorantes & Renaud Garcia-Fons – Paseo a Dos (E-Motive Records)
A beautiful recording by bassist Renaud Garcia-Fons and pianist David Dorantes. Plenty focus on a Mediterranean influence, and the infusion of Flamenco is a refreshing surprise from a piano-double bass duo collaboration. Strong lyricism evident right from the first notes. A sense of drama is built through the melodies, though it’s the understated rhythmic component that resonates with greater strength during these moments. Some arresting passages throughout this recording. Grabbed my ear right from the start.
Have a great time digging through the list!
And remember, it’s simple: You like what you like.