Tiny Reviews: Russafa Ensemble, Lionel Belmondo, Espen Rud, GoGo Penguin, Neon Quartet, & Traeben

It’s Friday, so that means…  Tiny Reviews edition!

Featured album:  Russafa Ensemble & Albert Sanz Russafa Ensemble.

Plus:  Lionel Belmondo Trio European Standards, Espen Rud Lovsamleren, GoGo Penguin Fanfares, Neon Quartet Subjekt, and Traeben Push.



Russafa Ensemble & Albert Sanz – Russafa Ensemble

Russafa Ensemble - "Russafa Ensemble"Formed at the Cafe Mercedes Jazz in Valencia, Spain, the Russafa Ensemble performed and then, eventually, recorded a self-titled album of their music… in the place where it all began.  Teaming up with pianist-composer Albert Sanz, they offer up an album that has all the rousing electricity of a live performance and the celebratory energy of a large ensemble recording.

Your album personnel:  Albert Sanz (piano, compositions), Pau Moltó (French horn), Sergio García (trumpet), Vicent Pérez (trombone), Víctor Giménez (alto sax), Borja Baixauli (tenor sax), Jesús Díez (tuba), Alessandro Cesarini (bass), Miguel Asensio (drums), and guests:  Toni Belenguer (trombone) and Carlos Martin (cajon).

Things start out at a thrilling dash with “Entre el 7/4″… the kind of album opener where the musicians just launch themselves into space and it’s a thin line between flying and falling… breathless.

Some tracks like “Jus d’orange” and “Paisatge del Seu Cor” see them taking their foot off the gas pedal a bit, getting into a nice groove, and maintaining it even when the natural exuberance of the large ensemble threatens to take over.  Horns bound over the top of a wealth of harmonies while piano climbs and rappels over percussive landscapes.

Some tracks just don’t fit any general category, and just add to the breathtaking array of dimensions on display here.  “Gnawans” begins with sax laying out over the top of piping high-pitched counterpoint.  This leads into a hypnotic overlay of strings, beneath which percussion gurgles just below the surface.

But most tracks are full of energy, matching the pace of the album opener.  That includes the big finale of “Riffin / La Senyoriro,” a celebratory tune with an abounding energy and chipper attitude.

Released in late October 2012, I never really got the opportunity to fully take this recording in.  However, now with time to give it plenty of listens, it’s very likely it will end up on my Best of 2012 supplemental list at some point.  That it’s even garnering consideration for inclusion should give you an idea of how good this album is, if the review hasn’t already.

Released on the Comboi Records label.

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon:


Other Albums of Note:


Lionel Belmondo Trio – European Standards

Lionel Belmondo - "European Standards"Saxophone trio release by reedman Lionel Belmondo (who also plays flute on this recording).  Expect thoughtful expressions from Belmondo, who doesn’t get out of sorts even when he jacks up the voltage a notch or two.  Solid music that bops and swings and sways.  For a different view of Belmondo, I highly recommend his album Hymne au Soleil, a sublime recording that pairs him with orchestral accompaniment, and a likely target of a Safety Net review in the near future.

Your album personnel:  Lionel Belmondo (tenor sax, flute), Sylvain Romano (bass), and Laurent Robin (drums).

Released on the Discograph label.

Available at eMusic.


Espen Rud – Lovsamleren

Espen Rud - "Lovsamleren"Nifty new release by drummer Espen Rud, who has a knack for adding a variety of elements to an album without it ever sounding fussy or complicated, and presenting music that maintains a calm demeanor.  Some tracks come with a gentle swing, others a hazy melody.  Modern jazz that gives a little pop music flavor to its melodies.  Opening track “Isle of Youth” is just wonderful… tendrils of saxophone notes drift upward, dancing in the light of vibes’ flickering warmth.

Your album personnel:  Espen Rud (drums), Terje Gewelt (bass), Jari Bakken (guitar), Rob Waring (vibes), Nils Jansen (alto sax, flute), John Paul Inderberg (soprano & baritone sax), and guest:  Lars Klevstrand (voice).

Released on the Curling Legs label.

Available at eMusic.


GoGo Penguin – Fanfares

Go Go Penguin - "Fanfares"Debut release by piano trio GoGo Penguin, which whips a disparate array of influences into a pop song confection.  Part of the new generation of UK jazz musicians.  Similar to the infectious sound to the Neil Cowley Trio, though where Cowley grooves, Go Go Penguin skitters.  A very likable recording, and one that should easily cross genre lines.  Notable that this is the first release by the fledgling Gondwana label that doesn’t feature Matthew Halsall or Nat Birchall.  A promising sign of things to come.

Your album personnel:  Chris Illingworth (piano), Grant Russell (bass), and Rob Turner (drums).

Released on the Gondwana Records label.

Available at eMusic.


Neon Quartet – Subjekt

Neon Quartet - "Subjekt"Neon Quartet is comprised of UK jazz musicians who have their hands on a variety of projects, and names that you’ll recognize from other reviews on this site. Full on modern jazz. Perpetually shifting sounds like the changing of contexts within dreams. Some tracks quite outstanding, like the hypnotic “Springs and Neaps.”

Your album personnel: Stan Sulzmann (sax), Kit Downes (piano), Jim Hart (vibes), and Tim Giles (drums).

Released on the Edition Records label.

Available at eMusic.


Traeben – Push

Traeben - "Push"Though their roots are in Scandinavian territory, Traeben offer the brand of modern jazz this quartet plays is more akin to the Pacific Northwest region of the USA.  Strong melodies that don’t resolve so much as just drift away, rhythm sections that remain amicable, even under duress, and an inherent moodiness even though perpetually standing in sunshine.  Easy to like.

Your album personnel:  Jens Larsen (guitar), Søren Ballegaard (tenor sax), Olaf Meijer (bass), and Haye Jellema (drums).

Released on the Jarr Records label.

Available at eMusic.



The Russafa Ensemble review is original to Bird is the Worm, but portions of the other reviews were originally used in my Jazz Picks weekly article for eMusic, so here’s some language protecting their rights to that reprinted material as the one to hire me to write about new jazz arrivals to their site…

“New Arrivals Jazz Picks,“ and “New Arrivals Jazz Picks“ and “New Arrivals Jazz Picks” reprints courtesy of eMusic.com, Inc.
© 2012  eMusic.com, Inc.

As always, my sincere thanks to eMusic for the gig.  Cheers.