Jul 19 2015
Well, it appears that the slow days of Summer are about to yield to the next surge of new Jazz releases. So many were the albums worth mentioning this week that I had to break the new This Is Jazz Today column into two parts. And since I found two albums both worthy of the title Album of the Week, it seems most apropos to have a split column. Part I is today, Part II is tomorrow, and a co-Album of the Week will grace the lead of each.
If you have a vacation planned, cancel it. Thinking about buying a new car? Scratch that off the list. Pull together whatever spare cash you can come up with, because the next two days are going to demand everything you’ve got.
And your ears? They’ll never stop thanking you.
*** co-Album of the Week ***
Waxwing – A Bowl of Sixty Taxidermists
Nothing is as it seems and something unfolds from out of everything on this fascinating set from guitarist Tony Wilson, cellist Peggy Lee and multi-reedist Jon Bentley. It’s equal parts chamber music, modern jazz and avant-garde improvisation, and there’s just no telling where the lines of demarcation exist between the influences or where they’ll next make their mark. This is contemplative music even at its most frenetic. This is music that is introspective in spirit and outward bound in action. And it’s music that is sublime in any number of ways.
I’ll be writing more about this album (and their previous one) in the coming weeks, but don’t wait for more words… go buy it now.
Download a free album track at the Songlines site.
*** Also Featured This Week ***
Reuben Bradley – Cthulhu Rising (Rattle)
Intriguing release from drummer Bradley, who works an H.P. Lovecraft theme into his newest. The quality I most appreciate about this recording is that it nicely reflects the spirit of the works of the source author… ancient horrors hiding behind the quaint normalcy of pastoral countrysides… by infusing bits of dissonance and indie-rock fire into what amounts to a relatively straight-ahead sound. In the context of the history of their own separate projects, it was a wise choice to round the trio out with pianist Taylor Eigsti and bassist Matt Penman.
Headless Household – Balladismo (Household Ink)
There’s just no encapsulating the entirety of this quartet’s breadth of expressions. Cross-genre interconnecting lines of sonic languages somehow are molded into a deliriously fun mix of old & new jazz, bluegrass, folk, avant-garde and classical minimalism. At its core, they’re a quartet of keyboardist Dick Dunlap, drummer Tom Lackner, bassist Chris Symer and guitarist Joe Woodard, but the inclusion of a diverse line-up that brings together pedal steel, saxophone, electronics, vocals, violin and trumpet is a good barometer for the creative fearlessness at work here.
K Trio – Vindstig (TryTone)
This quirky piano trio really settles into a new gear on their captivating fourth release, displaying a melodic thoughtfulness and rhythmic patience that really allows their vision to emerge with clarity. The theme of the album is pegged to the many Icelandic words for “wind,” and the music reflects both the comfort and the bite that it can bring depending on the time of day and season. Arresting music in possession of a keen intelligence.
Chris Pitsiokos – Gordian Twine (New Atlantis)
A sense of controlled fury, even when everything sounds as if it’s coming apart at the seams… which is pretty often. Saxophonist Pitsiokos, bassist Max Johnson and drummer Kevin Shea trio up for this live set from Brooklyn’s Firehouse Space. Many pieces moving in many directions sometimes come together for startling acts of simplicity.
Robert Sabin – Humanity Part II (Self-Produced)
On his latest, bassist Sabin weaves a cinematic ambiance into the rich textures and big sound of his large ensemble work. The way in which the ensemble coalesces around a soloist without necessarily snapping into place creates the most wonderful sparks of tension within the warm embrace of cohesion. A serious talent of riches for his line-up, with Matt Holman, John Yao, Ben Stapp, Jesse Lewis and Jason Ribgy among the names familiar to this column.
Oláh Szabolcs Quintet – Gleam (Self-Produced)
An appealing modern jazz set from guitarist Szabolcs. Whether up-tempo or quietly introspective, his quintet (guitar, sax, piano, bass, drums) offers up all kinds of fireplace warmth. Tunes start out with a simple statement of melody, then slowly roll out the complexity all the way to the finish line.
Heads of State – Search for Peace (Smoke Sessions)
Enjoyable new recording from the Smoke Sessions Records label. All old pros, saxophonist Gary Bartz, pianist Larry Willis, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Al Foster take care of business on a number of familiar tunes. They open the set nicely with a rendition of Coltrane’s “Impressions,” but it’s the McCoy Tyner title-track is the diamond that shines brightest on this album.
Albert Van Veenendaal & Rutger Van Otterloo – No Trace (Brokken Records)
Gripping duo set from pianist Van Veenendaal and saxophonist Van Otterloo. The songlist is a mix of active conflict and sublime tranquility. An instance where the clarity of dialog between two musicians is sufficiently great in strength to pull the listener in to become a part of that two-way conversation.
San Francisco Latin Jazz Society – Sonrisa (Ahau)
Nice to see a new recording from the San Francisco Latin Jazz Society, whose mix of Latin Jazz and 1970s psych-jazz fusion is both fun and absorbing. Plenty of grooves and melodic fragments sent coasting on the rhythmic waves. The dynamics of the focused rhythmic passages are just as engaging and the long and winding paths of the improvisations.
Have a great time digging through the list!
And remember, it’s simple: You like what you like.
And be sure to check out Part II of this week’s This Is Jazz Today