Jun 28 2015
This week yields a real jackpot to fans of jazz vocals. Plenty of solid options no matter how you like your lyrics delivered. But, as usual, we here at Bird is the Worm like to show how vast the horizon line is on the modern jazz landscape, so even if vocals aren’t your thing, there’s plenty here to keep your ears busy for yet another week. We’ve got some old-school jazz and new-school, small ensembles & large, music with electronics and music with strong infusions of folk and rock… and more.
We’ve got something for you.
*** Album of the Week ***
John Hollenbeck – Songs We Like A Lot
On any particular recording, there’s a natural inclination to focus on the vocals, which tend to stand front and center. And on this recording, why not, considering the talented cast of vocalists Kate McGarry & Theo Bleckmann are on board. But in this instance, it’s the arrangements of these popular songs that deserves the most attention and the resultant, fascinating life that bubbles up from within. Drummer Hollenbeck’s new installment of pop song renditions hits a new plateau of thoughtfulness, as he exploits insights into what makes the songs tick and transforms them into huge expressions of clockwork intricacies. He takes inherent possibilities and nurtures them into massive realizations, exploring forms of expression that, perhaps, the original composers never entertained. Pianist Uri Caine, organist (and on melodica) Gary Versace and the Frankfurt Radio Big Band join Hollenbeck, McGarry and Bleckmann to make this happen.
*** Also Featured This Week ***
Dave Douglas – High Risk (Greenleaf Music)
Nifty bit of experimentation with acoustic jazz and live electronics from the quartet of trumpeter Dave Douglas, bassist Jonathan Maron, drummer Mark Guiliana and Ghostly International’s Shigeto working the control panel of effects. Ethereal tranquility share the same space as driven tempos. Music that can send you off into daydreams or catapult you into a motivated frenzy, depending on what you want to take from it.
Quintet Silsila – Désert du Thar (Self-Produced)
Strong perspective from this quintet of saxophone, violin, bass, percussion and piano. The kind of folk-jazz that will appeal most to fans of the Anouar Brahem hall of ECM Records or, really, anyone that enjoys a pretty flowing melody atop talkative rhythms. It’s an album that drips with serenity, even when its activity level increases to the point that risks shattering the sustained tranquility.
Kasper Lindberg Kvartett – Important Conference (Self-Produced)
An irresistible pull on this session from drummer Lindberg, whose quartet (alto sax, piano, bass, drums) generates an evocative punch from seemingly innocuous expressions. Most tracks keep to a straight-ahead approach, though some echo the late-bop period of the last century. When the quartet grows contemplative, their sound really shines strong.
Mente Clara – Forrozêra (Self-Produced)
Sort of a roots & reach mix of influences from this Austin, Texas-based band that finds inspiration in Brazilian music, especially that of Hermeto Pascoal. This Tex-Braz blend results in a dynamic rhythmic attack that keeps to abiding, easy-to-please grooves. A fun personality to this electro-acoustic set.
Kasperi Sarikoski & Nuance – Essence (Helsinki Jazz Underground)
A pleasantly cerebral debut from trombonist Sarikoski. His quintet shifts between expressions of an introspective moodiness to an aromatic lightness. Acoustic guitar adds an essential texture to the affair, and balances nicely with the more conventional piano, bass and drums rhythm section.
Ran Blake – Ghost Tones: Portraits of George Russell (A-Side Records)
Intriguing tribute album by pianist Blake for his former colleague at the New England Conservatory, George Russell. A mix of Russell and Blake originals, solo pieces and ensemble, straight-acoustic and electronic reveries. I gave it a lengthier write-up not that long ago; read it here (LINK).
Ku-umba Frank Lacy & Mingus Big Band – Mingus Sings (Sunnyside)
Pretty cool how Lacy’s vocals suss out the I’ve-been-there blues and soaring aspirations of the music of Charles Mingus. Lacy also snaps neatly into place with the big band that has Mingus as its namesake, his vocal delivery retaining its curious personality amongst the large ensemble. Easy to like.
Charenee Wade – Offering: The Music of Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson (Motema)
A really heartfelt take by vocalist Wade on the music of poet-musician collaborators Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson. Wade brings a soul-on-the-sleeve sincerity to the lyrics, which, really, were emotionally open to begin with. Nice ensemble & guests working with Wade, though Stefon Harris on vibraphone is a special treat, as is the guest spot by Marcus Miller on bass clarinet.
Thomas Carbou – Other Colors of Hekátê (Ad Litteram)
A real vibrant personality to this one, typically expressed through a serious knack for tunefulness and a folk music friendliness. It’s a trio of Carbou with his 8-string guitar, David Binney on alto sax and Jim Black on drums. Grooves that are as thoughtful as they are fun make this music that’s plenty lively but still great just to kick back to and simply exist.
Powerhouse – In An Ambient Way (Chesky)
This rendition of the Miles Davis classic, In a Silent Way, is, on its own two feet, a pretty cool recording. That it’s a posthumous Bob Belden release gives it meaning more profound than the album’s sum as a collection of notes. Joining the saxophonist on this recording are trumpeter Wallace Roney, guitarist Oz Noy, bassist Daryl Johns, drummer Lenny White and Kevin Hays on Fender Rhodes.
Rossano Emili – In Limine (Alma Records)
Nice expressive tone from bari saxophonist Emili’s sextet, comprised of three saxophonists, a trombonist and drums & bass. Harmonies are like a hall of mirrors that reflect the melody into curious shapes. This effect, though, in coordination with some interesting cadences, does nothing to impede a strong lyricism.
Jacopo Mazza – Gravel Path (La Fonderia Musicale)
Nice straight-ahead session from pianist Mazza. The intertwining patterns between he and guitarist Michele Caiati are a nice draw. Plenty of good soloing, but it’s how the quartet collaborates as a single rhythm unit that is the album’s calling card.
Book of Sounds – Book of Sounds (ILK Music)
Nice inside/out session from this double-saxophone quartet. Some strong infusions of bop and swing accompanied by saxophone interplay that clearly believes in self-determination over the destiny foretold by its rhythm section. So, you’re gonna get some edgy action and comforting warmth, both.
Have a great time digging through the list!
And remember, it’s simple: You like what you like.