May 9 2015
Okay, we’re back! And let’s make up for the time off with an immediate assault on your ears and budget. There weren’t huge numbers this past week in terms of volume, which made it much easier to cultivate a list that hit on all cylinders.
And it does.
The phrase “straight-ahead jazz” comes up a lot in this week’s list, but how that particular approach is ultimately manifested by each of the musicians is what’s gonna keep your ears riveted in place. And then, of course, I picked out a few that goes in every direction but straight ahead.
Enough talking, though. You’ve got time to make up for and music to hear.
*** Pick of the Week ***
Kamasi Washington – The Epic
It’s not an exaggeration when saxophonist & composer Washington uses the word “epic” as the title to his new album. Spanning almost three hours, this vet of the jazz scene (and equally experienced in other crossover genres) manages to frame a vast horizon line of influences and expressions in an amazingly concise vision. His ten piece band is augmented with both an orchestra and a choir, Washington incubates the most delicate strands of lyricism within an environment of Big Sound… allowing melodies to develop and grow and learn to sing and shout with their very own Big Sound voice. In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing more about this album with a stand-alone recommendation, but, really, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be hitting the purchase button on this album right now. The Epic will be getting plenty of year-end Best Of list buzz, and every bit of it will be deserved.
*** This week’s featured albums ***
Alban Darche Hyprcub – Crooked House (Yolk)
The curious music of saxophonist Alban Darche is quite unlike anything else on the scene. His newest finds him joining up with musicians like Sylvain Rifflet, Jozef Dumoulin and Jon Irabagon to fashion tunes thick as smoke and just as likely to curl upwards and drift away. The complex tangles of melodic lines are perpetually fascinating.
Sylvain Charrier Tentet – Viva la Revolucion? (Self-Produced)
Vibraphonist Charrier’s tentet emits all kinds of warmth, regardless of whether they coast peacefully along or hit a gallop right from the first note. This also applies to their tunefulness, which is forged by a strong attention paid to the details of each melody and their embellishments. A nice contemporary sound provides the vehicle to create catchy music that incites motion.
Laurent Coq & Walter Smith III – The Lafayette Suite (Jazz&People)
One of those recordings that brings a full sound, but delivers it with such a light touch that it has more the impact of sunlight warming the skin. It’s straight-ahead jazz done just right and not in a way you’d describe as straight-forward. Your personnel are pianist Coq, saxophonist Smith III, bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Damion Reid.
David Berkman – Old Friends & New Friends (Palmetto)
A pleasant vibrancy to this straight-ahead session from pianist Berkman. A clean precision to the way each melody is cut and a crispness to the rhythmic attack lets each tune resonate with greater strength than a first blush impression might otherwise indicate. Strong strong strong line-up with saxophonists Dayna Stephens, Billy Drewes and Adam Kolker, and the bass and drums duo of Linda Oh and Brian Blade.
Jared Gold – Metropolitan Rhythm (Posi-tone)
Nifty straight-ahead trio session from organist Gold, guitarist Dave Stryker and dummer Kush Abadey. Nothing that blows me away, per se, but if I were in the mood for some organ-guitar trio music, I’d be pretty happy seeing this album within reach. The album’s friendly personality makes it a real easy hang.
Howard Peach – Howard Peach (El Negocito)
Quirky trio set from tenor saxophonist Chris Speed, electric bassist Simon Jermyn and drummer Lander Gyselinck. Melodies take their time to develop and are drawled out more than stated, while the rhythms give the impression of possessing a hidden meaning if translated in morse code. Strange music that never fully reveals itself.
Kevin MacKenzie & Loren Stillman – Revenge of the Hammer Ladies (Self-Produced)
Nice straight-ahead quartet date from alto saxophonist Stillman, guitarist MacKenzie, bassist Dave Ambrosio and drummer Martin France. The quartet seems to delight in nicely constructed conversations. Melodies that know how to fly when needed, rhythms that summon up an amiable chatter.
Hayden Chisholm – Breve (Pirouet)
A sublime trio set from alto saxophonist Hayden Chisholm, pianist John Taylor and bassist Matt Penman. Delightful as a Sunday stroll through the park and just as peaceful. Music for unwinding from the world but nothing that’ll make you sleepy.
Fulvia Sigurta – The Oldest Living Thing (CamJazz)
Peaceful trio set from trumpeter Sigurta, the electric bass of Steve Swallow and Federico Casagrande on acoustic guitar. The ambiance is one that’s typically light and serene, and while the album could use a little boost of substance, sometimes light and serene is all a person needs. Quite pretty at times.
Have a great time digging through the list!
And remember, it’s simple: You like what you like.