Dec 1 2015
Even though I’ve been at this awhile now, it never fails to amaze me each time I put up a ten spot of new recommendations and witness just how diverse are the array of sounds represented. Seriously, even though all these recordings get filed in the jazz category, that’s gonna be about as helpful guiding you to predict what the next series of notes will be like as, well… okay, I couldn’t finish that off, and I’m really ready to schedule this column, and the only person who comes here to read my stand-up routine (aka the introductory paragraph) is me, and if I’m not feeling it, well then, I should’ve stopped typing long ago and simply said…
*** This Week’s Feature Album ***
Julian Argüelles – Tetra (Whirlwind)
What a powerful statement made by the quartet of saxophonist Julian Argüelles, pianist Kit Downes, bassist Sam Lasserson and drummer James Maddren. It’s one passage after the other of intense lyricism, with scenes shifting between a smoky film-noir, a statuesque austerity bordering on formal dance, the rapid-fire pulsing of musicians pushing all-in on the bet that their rhythmic attack is the strongest hand at the table, rambling solos that stretch and contract the distance between melodicism and a sense of humor, or the bop and catch fire of modern straight-ahead. The thing of it is, even though each chapter stands out with its own distinct personality, there’s no doubting that it all comes from the same story bound up by the same front and back covers. So much to like here.
*** Also Featured This Week ***
Pin Addix – The Chamber Momentum (Unit Records)
All kinds of personality to this sextet of flugelhorn and synth man Sebastian Piskorz, trombonist Nils Marquardt, bassist Felix Jacobi, drummer Christian Hiltawsky, and Florian Bensch & Florian Bergmann adding other wind instruments like bass clarinet, clarinet, flute, bassoon, and all the crew adding additional sweat equity on a variety of percussion instruments. This album as much as any I’ve written about epitomizes the indie-jazz ethos… jazz centered around improvisation over swing, a belief that a gorgeous melody can overcome any challenge, and a greater weight placed on soundscape building via alternate genre influences than a reliance on typical jazz structure and form. Songs are both painfully catchy and ephemerally elusive. A sense of serious fun to everything… a real intelligence to the music, but never lets the conversation get so heavy as to kill the fun and lightness.
Guilhem Flouzat – Portraits (Sunnyside)
Top-shelf straight-ahead modern release from drummer Flouzat, who brings it with an all-star cast that includes Laurent Coq, Ben Wendel, Anna Webber, Becca Stevens, Desmond White, Jay Rattman and Can Olgun. These are songs that don’t come off as showy or shoot off a bunch of fireworks, but instead radiate a powerful strength from within… the kind of thing that happens when lyricism is shaped within a tight storytelling focus. Even at its most creatively untamed, this album exudes the sense of, here, these are the perfect words spoken at the perfect time and we used only as many as we absolutely needed and not one word more. Also, Becca Stevens returns at that crazy-evocative plateau she reached on John Ellis’s MOBRO. Just go buy this thing; no way you’re gonna be disappointed.
Matthew Halsall & the Gondwana Orchestra – Into Forever (Gondwana)
The newest from trumpeter Halsall continues his transformation from a throwback sound of late night club modal jazz to an updated spiritual jazz with orchestration. And as far as the destination point of that creative arc goes, this is easily his best offering to date. The strings melt right into the flow of the jazz grooves, the emotional tones run deep and wide, and the vocal contributions hold hands tightly with piano and harp but don’t get all needy so that it can’t release the grip and let each go off on some long-distance solos. Nice to see that Halsall continues to incorporate the alluring koto into his pieces. It’s also nice to hear Halsall section off some time for himself to deliver his typically breathtaking solos.
Ike Sturm + Evergreen – Shelter of Trees (Self-Produced)
Just a seriously pretty album from bassist Ike Sturm, who succinctly brings together the themes of nature’s beauty and love for his father in this collection of songs that bring sacred music and jazz together in the same embrace. Each song brings a dramatic touch, usually built from the ground up, and often with some cross-currents of motion, like the swirling tides of “Turning Point” or the simple tool of a simple groove on title-track “Shelter of Trees.” A strong cast of vibraphonist Chris Dingman, alto saxophonist Loren Stillman, pianist Fabian Almazan, drummer Jared Schonig, guitarist Jesse Lewis and the trio of vocalists Misty Ann Sturm, Chanda Rule and Melissa Stylianou. Each song behaves as an illustration of the ambient moonlight-sunshine warmth framework that define this recording. Songs switch between contemplative and ebullient tones, and the shades of change during the transitions are just as compelling as each extreme.
Møster! – When You Cut Into the Present (Hubro)
A nifty new release from saxophonist Kjetil Møster, whose main ingredients are gasoline and a flame, and if you stare into the fire long enough, flickering signs of late-Coltrane free jazz, blues rock, Nordic folk, krautrock and Motown R&B can be seen within. His newest recording really shines a light on how thin the line can be drawn between demented and genius, maniacal and calculatedly proficient. This quartet of sax, guitar, bass and drums hits the gas pedal from the first note and never lets up. That’s normal for a Møster project. What’s new on his latest are the number of detours they take through a rapidly changing landscape of sound and influence, and how vividly they are presented. I was always sort of ambivalent to his projects, but the last handful of recordings have really started to get me addicted to this guy’s music.
Ben Paterson – For Once In My Life (Origin)
It’s all well and good for an artist’s music to echo the music of the past and honor the jazz lineage, but, really, when it’s all boiled down to the essential, what really counts is for the artist to exist on that lineage. Hammond B3 organist Ben Paterson’s straight-ahead trio session with guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer George Fludas transports the listener back to the 1950s, sounding brand spankin’ new and fresh out of the oven as it did back in the day… and yet, this music’s warmth and energy instantly place it as coming from nowhere but the present day. Some originals, some standards, some pop music covers (Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon), and all of it so damn good.
Kenny Wheeler and John Taylor – On the Way to Two (CamJazz)
Recorded back in 2005, but now released, posthumously, for the first time, this set of duets between jazz giants puts a fine point on just how great the loss to jazz these musicians’ passing was. Sublime, perhaps an overused word to describe music, fits just fine in this instance. The trumpeter and pianist illustrate how the application of heat and the generation of volatility is no obstacle to instilling a sense of tranquility over the proceedings. And while I don’t typically feature music that was recorded far from the present day, this album, and a song like “Close to Mars,” pretty much compels me to include this in today’s column.
Felipe Viegas – Encontro (Self-Produced)
A pleasant recording from pianist Viegas, rounding out a quartet with saxophone, bass and drums. Primary elements of contemporary jazz and Brazilian jazz make it easy on the ears. A nice album for kicking back with a good book. Nothing groundbreaking or edgy here. I found it likable enough to give it a quick mention.
Suárez/Socolsky/Suárez – Portugal (Blue Art Records)
An enjoyable session from the trio of trumpeter Mariano Suarez, pianist Paul Socolsky and bassist Fermin Suarez. There’s a thoughtfulness to the music’s delivery and songs are related with a storyteller’s heart… a combination that is just a little bit compelling. Both serenity and dissonance find a home in this trio’s debut, which is an impressive task when taking into account the trio’s patience in expressing themselves. Good stuff.
Have a great time digging through the list!
And remember, it’s simple: You like what you like.