I've written so many times about how music can take us away from the madness of everyday life (although there are number of great albums that magnify and help one understand the complexities that surround us). Here are 3 such pleasant and diverse diversions.
Don't fret that the man has gone over to the totally serious side. Check out pieces such as "Paul Platypus", "Nine Piglets", and "Uncle Muskrat" and you may feel that you've fallen into the rabbit hole that so entranced young Alice. The flute and alto sax melody that introduces "...Platypus" is joyful, supported by a very active bass line, raucous guitar and snappy snare. Pianist Jason Yeager joins the group on several tracks including "..Muskrat" where he plays not only the handsome bluesy melody but also supplies a sweet solo. Khaimovich's bass lines are a pleasing counterpoint here as well (this time on acoustic). Britt Milewski's robotic recitation on "Minor Leaguer" tells an odd tale of a baseball player in a used-car limbo while the band swirl beneath him (Bennett plays flute, oboe,and clarinet in the background). There's a "poppy" bounce to "Strange Jim and the Zebra" while "Flow" zips along at a rapid with the leader's piccolo offering a melody with a Celtic tilt.
The only mystery about "The Mystery at Clown Castle" is how one suppresses a smile or stops from tapping his toes or keeps the windows closed while the music is playing. It's all done in fun yet without cynicism. The Daniel Bennett Group hits a sweet spot and does so without hurting any animals - seriously, this is good music.
For more information, go to www.danielbennettgroup.com.
The 74-minute journey runs the gamut of lineups, from McCraven's trio of Hill and Ullery to the quartet of Abrams, Parker, Hill and the drummer plus a number of tracks that feature vibraphonist Justefan. There is more of a sense of organization to the 4 sides of the LP package and the drummer's liner notes are a help in picking out the various group configurations. Yet, because I have the CD, the way I have enjoyed this music is to just sit back and let it flow. The "glue" here is the drummer; he keeps everyone moving. These improvisations blends soul music, African music, hip hop, jazz, and funk throughout the program. And, there's a mesmerizing, trance-like, quality to a number of pieces that is most appealing.
"In the Moment" can be listened closely, can rise and fall in the background, and in large or small chunks. Anyway you approach this music should reward you and it's fun to share the experience with fellow music lovers. It's fun and funky, the essence of collaboration and collegiality.
For more information, go to www.makayamccraven.com.
Click on the link below and enjoy the flow:
In the midst of a busy time, Lage went into the studio with co-producer Matt Munisteri and created his first solo guitar album. "World's Fair" (Modern Lore Records) is an all-acoustic adventure in song with 10 of the 12 pieces being original. Melody is king throughout but what is most impressive is the various moods the young man creates over the course of the program. "Peru" hints at both Lennon/McCartney and Paul Simon using rapid-fire single-note runs to tell its story. The gentle rhythm of "Ryland" opens to reveal a sweet folky melody line. The sweet mood is never interrupted by a showy riff or flashy solo. Chances are good there is a story behind "Missouri" (perhaps the song is dedicated to Missouri native Pat Metheny). Lage discovered the traditional "Red Prairie Dawn" through the work of fiddler Garry Harrison and it's such a delightful romp. The other non-original is the Rodgers/Hart ballad "Where or When" - the melody unfolds slowly but easily and, despite the lack of any solo, draws the listener back again and again.
The album closes with "Lullaby", its wistful melody filled with short but cogent silences, unfolding somewhat like McCartney's "Junk" or a ballad by Kurt Weill. It's a simple but emotionally rich work, one that leaves you feeling full yet waiting for another sweet song.
"World's Fair" is, at times, quiet, contemplative, haunting, and ever-so-gentle. Song is king and, while one can tell that Julian Lage is a fine musician, technique takes a back seat to melody. This is music that sounds good in the morning with the windows wide open and the birds singing their own songs. And, it's just as enjoyable late at night lying down in the dark in search of sense of peace. Great stuff!
For more information, go to www.julianlage.com.
Here's a track to play us to a new day:
Sunday, July 26, 2015
Friday, July 24, 2015
After moving to New York City at the turn of the 21st Century, the trumpeter was playing with Cecil Taylor, Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa. He also began to study the music of his ancestral home, specifically Iraqi maqam which is "a set of notes with traditions that define relationships between them, habitual patterns, and their melodic development." (To find out more about the musical form, go to www.maqamworld.com.) To do this studying, he traveled to Iraq and Europe to find the maqam masters. By 2006, ElSaffar had learned to speak Arabic, to sing maqamat, and to play the santur (the Persian hammered dulcimer). ElSaffar is the leader of 5 ensembles including Safaafir (a group dedicated to playing maqamat in original settings) and the Two Rivers Ensemble (a sextet - there is also a "large ensemble" version - that plays music utilizing the modal system unique to maqam with elements of jazz.)
Around the time the 2nd CD was released, ElSaffar received a commission from the Newport Jazz Festival for a new work to be premiered in 2013. The composer spent 8 months living, studying and composing the work in Egypt while keeping a wary eye as the positive outcomes of the Arab Spring of 2011 began to unravel.
here to watch a video about the Newport Festival date) and, earlier this year, the Sextet entered the studio. The resulting album, titled "Crisis" (Pi), is both a continuation of the maqam studies of the group's first 2 recordings and a reflection of the turmoil in Iraq and the Middle East. The blend of traditional Middle Eastern and Black American music is even more seamless than on the earlier albums. The "Crisis Suite" opens with a barrage of drums from Waits that leads to the opening theme of "Introduction - From the Ashes." Everyone drops out save for ElSaffar (santur, vocal) and Abboushi's echoing buzuk. Listen to the flow of the second track ("The Great Dictator"), how the melody moves and the rhythms shift, how the brilliant drum work of Waits keeps the pulse and sets a fire under Mathisen's hard-edged tenor spotlight.
In the midst of the sextet work, ElSaffar plays a mournful trumpet solo. Titled "Taqsim Saba", the composer and performer dubs the work "a lamentation on oppression and destitution" - the music rises up into the horn's higher ranges before coming to its final, hushed, notes. DeRosa opens the following piece "El-Sha'ab (The People)" in his own quiet world before Waits and the rest of the ensemble crash in. There's a funky, Middle-Eastern, vibe here, the declamatory trumpet and saxophone weaving around the buzuq, the drummer pushing very hard while the bass throbs below. ElSaffar steps up and digs into a strong solo, one that echoes his singing voice in places. The addition of Mathisen's soprano sax is a treat.
The final 2 tracks are variations, the first "Aneen (Weeping), Continued" acting as an epilogue and based on a section from the "Two Rivers Suite." That slow meditation fades out and then into the full version of "Love Poem", a tune that is part of the "Crisis Suite" with lyrics from the 13th Century Sufi mystic Ibn Arabi. The earlier reading only employs several lines of the text while the closing track had ElSaffar singing all the lyrics.
Amir ElSaffar is building quite the repertoire for his ensembles, traditional music apart from but also married to contemporary rhythms. His 2013 quintet recording "Alchemy" featured his trumpet and Mathisen's tenor sax in the company of drummer Dan Weiss, bassist Francois Moutin and the impressive young pianist John Escreet. While several of the pieces on that critically acclaimed CD are based on Middle Eastern modes, there's more of an American jazz feel overall. With his return to the Sextet, "Crisis" reflects the trumpeter/composer's journey into a world that harbors danger and extracts sadness from those attempting to survive the purging of a people's history by forces out to remake the countries of the conflict-ravaged area. Those of us who are far away from the reach of militant strikes and endless suffering ave this this music, music that serves to tell an important story and still sound innovative while also preserving ancient customs. "Crisis" is brilliant and important music for the 21st Century.
For more information, go to www.amirelsaffar.com. Take note, this band will play a week of live dates that includes 2 nights in Chicago and one each in Northampton, MA, New Haven CT (Firehouse 12!!) and Toronto Canada. See this music live, it's so important.
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
For more information, go to uncertaintymusic.com.
Nu Soil Ship is the name of Palmer's large ensemble but there is no information about the group he's bringing to Old Lyme save the names of saxophonists Bruce Williams and Ronald Sutton, Jr. No matter who's in the band, the music should be energizing and challenging. Palmer and Nu Soil Ship hit the stage at 8:30 p.m.
The door opens at 7:30 p.m. and the Jimmy Greene Quartet hits the stage at 8:30. For reservations and more, call 860-434-0886 or go to thesidedoorjazz.com. To learn more about the saxophonist, go to www.jimmygreene.com.
For the Hartford date, which begins at 6 p.m. with trumpeter Ricky Alfonso's group, Finlayson's quintet includes Miles Okazaki (guitar), Matt Mitchell (piano), John Hébert (bass), and Craig Weinrib (drums). It's quite a band and they should be firing on all cylinders.
For more information about the series, parking and rain location, go to hartfordmondaynightjazz.com. And, if you can't get to the Park, you can listen to the entire shore on WWUH-91.3 FM or online at www.wwuh.org.
Recording # 18 is here and it's his first on a European label. "Blue Dialect" arrives on Clean Feed based in Lisbon, Portugal. Pavone, who turns 75 in November of this year, wrote all of the pieces save for one group improvisation and is in the impressive company of pianist Matt Mitchell (Tim Berne's Snakeoil) and drummer Tyshawn Sorey (Paradoxical Frog, Steve Lehman). As to be expected from a Pavone program, the pieces are composed to features the interactions of the trio and build upon the impressive melodies. There's a mighty undertow of "swing" on "Two One" (listen to how Sorey converses with his cohorts from the drum chair) while "Xapo" has an intensity fired again by the propulsive drumming and the powerful countermelodies from the bass. "Silver Print" may remind some of the Duke Ellington/Max Roach/ Charles Mingus 1962 "Money Jungle" especially in how the rhythm section creates the tension that is released when the pianist moves into a higher gear.
I do love the energy of these performances, the tension and release, the leaps of faith each musician takes because of their relationship to each other and the music. "Blue Dialect" doesn't reinvent the piano trio as much as the 3 musicians shun the conventional approaches, eschew cliches, and has a relentless forward motion. Kudos to leader Mario Pavone, Matt Mitchell and Tyshawn Sorey for this splendid music.
For more information, go to www.mariopavone.com (although it needs a bit of an update).
Here's the group in action courtesy of Scott Friedlander:
The music and performances on "Open Road" refers back to the Prestige, Blue Note and Impulse sessions of the late 1950s through the mid-1960s. And the musicians do so without sounding deferential or imitative. For his 15th date as a leader, Walt Weiskopf gives listeners a welcome rush of fresh musical air to breathe deeply and savor.
To find out more about the saxophonist, go to www.waltweiskopf.com. For more information and a slew of sound clips, go to www.posi-tone.com/openroad/openroad.html.
Sunday, July 19, 2015
Ms. Wade, a native of Brooklyn, NY, was a first runner-up in the 2010 Thelonious Monk Competition. She's been singing most of her life, inspired at the age of 12 by hearing Sarah Vaughan sing and going on to be a participant in Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead program. She has since performed off-Broadway in the show "Cafe Society" and has worked with many artists, including the Eyal Viner Big Band. All that won't necessarily prepare you for her powerful performance on "Offering" save to understand that she is as fearless an artist as Ms. Carter. With an ensemble that includes Brandon McCune (piano), Dave Stryker (guitar), Lonnie Plaxico (bass) and Alvester Garnett (drums) plus a major contribution from vibraphonist Stefan Harris, MS. Wade makes this music her own. The way she attacks the lyrics and melody on "Home Is Where The Hatred" is brilliant, her arrangement giving the musicians their wings while she relates the tale of abuse and addiction. Garnett and Plaxico lay down some serious funk on "Ain't No Such Thing As a Superman", echoed in the "wah-wah" guitar and forceful chords from the pianist. The vocalist is right up in the mix, admonishing her audience to stand up on its own and not wait for a super-hero to change the world. The gentle sway of the musicians lead the way into "Song of the Wind" while Harris wraps his handsome lines around both the words and McCune's excellent accompaniment.
The joy that rises from the words and music of "I Think I'll Call It Morning" also reflects who Gil Scott-Heron was as an artist and poet. It's the final track on the CD and echoes the positive "vibes" of the title and opening track where the artist sings "We have something to offer you/We have new love to offer you/And music to offer you/And spirits to offer you/And new love and music to offer you."
Charenée Wade states in the liner notes of "Offering" "The songs I chose to include on this recording I feel speak to truths that still need to be heard." She, along with the great ensemble alongside her, prove once again that music not only has the power to tell stories but also to lead the way to positive change in society. Gil Scott-Heron influenced and continues to influence artists with his songs with messages harsh and damning as well as uplifting and encouraging. Ms. Wade's album is powerful and real, full of truth, music that should be heard throughout the land and the world.
To find out more, go to www.chareneewade.com.
Here's the title track courtesy of Motema Music:
Thursday, July 16, 2015
Earlier in 2015, the Matthew Shipp Trio issued "To Duke" (Rogue Art), a collection of 11 tracks, 6 of which were composed by Edward Kennedy Ellington by himself and in collaboration with Billy Strayhorn or Barney Bigard. Shipp composed the remaining 5 tracks. Overall, the recording may remind some listeners of the 1962 Ellington - Max Roach - Charles Mingus recording "Money Jungle" in that the high-powered rhythm section really pushes the pianists to higher levels of intensity. In the case of Shipp, he has no problem being pushed or pushing back. His composition "Sparks" is high-energy all the way as is the raucous reading of "Take The A Train", a piece that, at times, sounds like trains moving out of Grand Central Station. The powerful give-and-take of the rhythm section drives "Satin Doll", pushing Shipp to deconstruct the melody and build his solo off the rhythm (there are several moments in the piano solo where the band locks into a groove that resembles Terry Riley's "In C"). "Mood Indigo" starts slowly, the recognizable melody rising over the elemental brush work of Dickey and the counterpoint of Bisio. The pianist caresses the melody and one can hear the influence of James P Johnson on the composers (Ellington and Bigard). Another Ellington piece from the early 1930s, "Solitude", is deconstructed by the Trio but Shipp never loses sight of the melody. Pay attention to Bisio's bass lines; his "free" association creates a tension that is never really released.
For more information, go to www.matthewshipp.com.
"Falling Up" features a rousing tenor sax melody reminiscent of Sam Rivers and Anthony Braxton's work with Dave Holland and Barry Altschul on the bassist's brilliant "Conference of the Birds".The push-pull of the bass and drums with the tenor is delightful and rousing. Later in the program, "Six Days, 5 Nights", a lovely ballad featuring Bishop on flute makes another connection with Sam Rivers as well as with Henry Threadgill in Air. Aficionados of the music of Messrs. Rivers and Threadgill will enjoy the conversational quality of "Now What?" and be mesmerized by the funky backbeat plus impressionistic soprano saxophone work on "There Are Many Monkeys."
"De Profundis" is thoughtful music that also has power and, if you can pardon the pun, depths worth exploring. Andrew Bishop, Gerald Cleaver, and Tim Flood work and play so well together, one is easily seduced by their performances. Freedom and foundation, inspiration and vision, you'll find all that and more in this excellent recording.
For more information, go to www.andrewbishop.net.
Enjoy this cut from the album:
Sunday, July 12, 2015
But, if you head to the CT shoreline, there is usually a breeze coming off of Long Island Sound plus, every weekend, The Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme is home for the coolest sounds around.
The doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the band hits the stage at 8:30. To learn more about the talented Mr. Charles, go to www.etiennecharles.com.
Ms. Figarova has issued 12 CDs as a leader with a new one coming at the end of the summer. She's bringing her rhythm section of Jason Brown (drums) and Jeroen Vierdag (bass) - if he can't make the date, Hartford native Luques Curtis often takes his place. Besides Mr. Platteau, the front line often includes saxophonist Mark Mommaas and trumpeter Ernie Hammes. Her music has its roots in the Blue Note sounds of the 1960s but also has quite a lyrical side. She has a lovely touch on the keyboard and writes smart arrangements for the reeds and brass. To find out more, go to www.aminafigarova.com.
The Sextet starts playing at 8:30 p.m. For more information, go to www.aminafigarova.com.
Here's the title track of her latest CD, "Twelve":
Nick Sanders Trio - Mr. Sanders (piano, organ), Henry Frazer (bass) and Connor Baker (drums). Joining the alto saxophonist on the front line is Sam Decker (tenor saxophone), Andrew McGovern (trumpet) and Michael Sachs (clarinets). Strosahl freely admits one of his major influences is British composer Henry Purcell (1659-1695) and the listener can hear that influence on pieces such as "The Leaves Be Green", "M.M: Ground" and "DK's Jungle Jewel" - hear it in the intertwining melody lines and the harmonies but also pay attention to how the composer "plays" with the material. The "...Jungle Jewel" moves in and out of a formal setting; while several instruments play the melody, others move away from the center (listen for the "laughing" alto saxophone). The following track, "DK's Jungle Nights", also has a formal melody but the harmonies have moved into the 20th Century. The title track features sprightly brush work from Baker, an agile bass solo, and a rollicking bebop melody line. The alto sax rises out of the rhythm section with a raspy edge. The contrapuntal reeds and brass frame the solo before falling into and out of a pleasing "riffing" section. With a bow towards "free" improv and a touch of Charles Ives-like dissonance, the piece romps then glides towards the finish line.
The closing track is the only non-original and it's the chestnut "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes." The rhythm section and the leader takes turns playing it straight and going off on madcap tangents (the other horns st this one out). The piano solo is low-key but, when the alto sax returns, the 4 musicians take it out with gusto.
"Up Go We" is not very long but is packed with delightful music, intelligent arrangements and excellent material. Logan Strosahl has organized an impressive Team and created a most auspicious debut, one that leaves the listener wanting more.
To find out more about the saxophonist/composer/arranger, go to loganstrosahl.com.
Here's a track for your listening pleasure:
Friday, July 10, 2015
His second release for Whirlwind is titled "Spirit House"; the music features trumpeter Vu, Paul Hanson (acoustic and electric bassoon) plus the special rhythm section of Kermit Driscoll (acoustic and electric basses) and Brian Blade (drums, vocals). The album opens with "An Elephant In Igor's Yard", a noisy blend of bassoon, Vu's articulated trumpet lines and Harrison's hard-edged sound. The work of the rhythm section stands out, with Driscoll's melodic electric bass lines flying around over the propulsive drums. There's a sense of hope and wistfulness heard on the ballad "Johnny Broken Wing" -after the long solo looped guitar intro with its hint at the melody, the bass and drum move in and the handsome melody takes center stage. The solemn trumpet-bassoon opening of "Some Thoughts on Kenny Kirkland", the pianist who passed in 1998, leads to Blade's vocal telling the composer's story of hearing Kirkland playing a solo on the radio. Harrison's solo wails and cries over the overdubbed brass and bassoon. The other vocal track, "Look At Where You Are", features Harrison taking the lead and Blade supplying the harmony on lyric that celebrate a life now passed. The long notes of the trumpet in the middle lead back to the vocal that now shares the sonic space with the moaning bassoon and harsh trumpet washes.
Much of this music is reflective with long melodies and thoughtful solos. "Sacred Love" moves quickly forward on the driving drums but the melody is slow and measured. Vu's solo, at the beginning, interacts with Harrison's guitar squalls before he moves on his own. The guitar sound may remind one of Pete Cosey on Miles Davis's "On The Corner." Hanson's bassoon work runs the gamut, from hard-bop to classical to blues inflections. He also creates interesting settings with his electronics. How he weaves around the trumpet, guitar, bass and drums on the title track and rides atop Driscoll's active acoustic bass lines on "Old Friends", sounding like a baritone saxophone. That latter track also includes a very funky drum solo before returning to the somber melody.
"Spirit House" was recorded in 2013 after the Quintet had toured the West Coast. The music is, at turns, solemn, playful, wistful, impressionistic but never boring. Joel Harrison never lets technique get in the way of melody, even when the music takes a turn for the noisy (the close of the trumpet and bassoon solos on "Left Hook", for instance). Give a close listen and you will be pleased, even moved.
For more information, go to joelharrison.com.
Here's the opening track:
here). I noted that he's mostly known as an electric guitarist and he returns to an electrified mode for his new release knows as "Lowburn" (digital only, link below). The 2 tracks - "Basic Fundamentals" and "Making Friends Wherever We Go" - features the guitarist with the rhythm section of Jon Bafus (drums) and Steuart Liebig (electric bass) recorded live, the first track in March of this year while the latter was recorded last November. The Trio entered the venue, plugged in, tuned up, and just played. The results are raucous, hard-edged, rhythmically adventurous, and challenging for a casual listener. However, if you turn it the music up loud and let it roar, you cannot help but be impressed with the musicians' energy (Bafus rarely lightens up...well, maybe for a minute or 2 on "Basic Fundamentals").
"Lowburn" fires on all cylinders for the better part of 65 minutes. One hears allusions to Ornette Coleman's electric music, James "Blood" Ulmer as well, along with the more rock stylings of Hüsker Dü and other punk-rock bands, even a hint of the Nels Cline Singers. This is fearless music that bows to few conventions. It is, at times, exhausting for my aging ears but ultimately exhilarating.
To find out more and to purchase a digital download, go to rosshammond.bandcamp.com.
Bill Frisell first met in Gibbs in 1975 in the guitarist's first year at Berklee (the arranger was artist-in-residence). When Frisell moved to Belgium in 1978, he subbed for Gibb's guitarist on a tour of the U.K. and met the bassist Eberhard Weber. The two musicians hit it off and Frisell made his first ECM recordings as a member of Weber's band.
There's a touch of dissonance at the opening of Evans' "Las Vegas Tango" but one can hear the classic Miles Davis sound in the arrangement plus strong solos from pianist Vladyslav Sendecki, trombonist Klaus Heidenreich and Frisell (who really rises above the ensemble.) The guitarist unleashes his "loops" on the second half of his compositional medley "On The Lookout/Far Away." Gibbs captures Frisell's playful side on "Freddy's Step" the short track that closes the CD. He opens the piece for alto saxophonists Fiete Felsch, Lutz Büchner, and Peter Bolte to get short solos (4 bars at most). It's a treat, one that the audience at Überjazz Festival in Hamburg, Germany, really enjoys. Felsch returns on "Monica Jane" to produce a bluesy yet vibrant solo on one of Frisell's languid ballads, given a nice bit of swagger in the brass section.
Michael Gibbs and Bill Frisell back together, albeit for the first time since the late 1970s. Along with Jeff Ballard and the NDR Big Band, they produce a lot of pleasing sounds. Most of the uptempo piece are playful, the arrangements frame and support the pieces well, and Frisell's guitar work, while a bit tamped down at times, still shines on the majority of tracks.
For more information, go to cuneiformrecords.com/bandshtml/gibbs.html.
Here's a taste of the collaboration: