Jan 29 2015
So here we are. As you (hopefully) read in a previous column, my run on eMusic & Wondering Sound is now over. You can read about what’s what, here, w/this LINK. For the time being, as I search for a new home for my weekly jazz recommendations column, I’ll be posting the recs on Bird is the Worm.
About those recommendations…
This will likely be the last quiet week before the 2015 new release schedule really gets under way. That said, it was pretty much a coin toss between the top two albums as to which would get the Pick of the Week designation. The winner got extra points for originality. However, I recommend just buying both and living a happy life.
*** The Featured Five ***
Tomoko Omura – Roots
Fascinating new album from violinist Tomoko Omura, who takes well-known traditional Japanese songs and rearranges them for a jazz quintet. Sharp melodies are carried along by flowing tempos. Omura really digs into the development of each tune, but no matter how complex and expansive things may get, she retains those qualities that made the songs memorable in the first place. It’s a hell of an accomplishment. It’s also a seriously exciting album. Omura got a strong cast joining her on Roots, with guitarist Will Graefe, pianist Glenn Zaleski, bassist Noah Garabedian and drummer Colin Stranahan.
Pick of the Week.
Released by Inner Circle Music. Visit the artist site.
Prism Quartet – Heritage/Evolution
This outstanding studio session is the result of the Prism (saxophone) Quartet commissioning new pieces to the preeminent jazz saxophonists on the scene, to be performed live and accompanied by the Quartet. The six saxophonists who were chosen (Steve Lehman, Dave Liebman, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Greg Osby, Tim Ries and Miguel Zenon) each bring their own sound to Heritage/Evolution, but hearing each in the context of a saxophone quartet plus one shapes the performance in ways unexpected and often quite sublime. An album with countless stunning moments.
Giovanni Mirabassi – No Way Out
This is an album that kicks out a tremendous amount of warmth even though the quartet keeps to a candlelight flame. The big reason for this is the interplay between pianist Giovanni Mirabassi and vibraphonist Stefon Harris, which is a delight to hear. However the bass and drums rhythm section of Gianluca Renzi and Lukmil Perez Herrera provide No Way Out an essential quality of liveliness while maintaining a calm state of tempo.
Akku Quintet – Molecules
Nice follow-up to their previous release, Stages of Sleep. The Akku Quintet crafts strong melodic passages and runs them through a series of cinematic changes, building drama and tension with patience and care. Their newest, Molecules, breathes a bit of fire from time to time via electric guitar, and the tempos are a bit more pronounced, but this is still a formidable display of melodic intent and ambient showmanship. Dreamy music, quite beautiful.
This album is Self-Produced. Visit the artist site.
Walking Distance – Neighborhood
Likable session from the Walking Distance quartet. There’s an appealing looseness to the songs of Neighborhood, so that even when the kinetic energy threatens to snap them at the seams, they maintain a cohesiveness that not only gives the ear something to hang on to, but also allows the cross-currents of interplay and dialog to occur without things getting too muddied. Most tracks prefer to keep their foot on the gas pedal, but a piece like “April 10th” shows the quartet knows how to develop a slow burn from a well-made melody.
*** And Five More ***
The Kandinsky Effect – Somnambulist (Cuneiform Records)
Considering how much this saxophone trio flings itself from genre to genre, they sure do possess an admirable cohesion. The right mix of organic and electronic creates an appealing ambiance. Cerebral music that also likes its party time.
Art of Making – Tribute (Edition Niehler Werft)
It’s a strange dance conducted by the trio of clarinet, vibraphone and acoustic bass. They bounce around freely, disjointed and seemingly disconnected from one another, but close proximity gives a sense of synchronicity. Interesting, to be sure.
Gregory Privat & Sonny Troupe – Luminescence (Jazz Family)
Mattia Cigalini & Enrico Zanisi – Right Now (CamJazz)
Life Size – Bright! (Self-Produced)
Young sextet definitely listens to their Brian Blade Fellowship albums. Nice mix of brooding ambiance, wandering melodies and driving tempos. An unfocused creative vision outweighed by some very strong moments throughout.
Have a great time digging through the list!
And remember, it’s simple: You like what you like.