In many ways, the album is a continuation of 2014's "Peace" (Sunnyside) in that it is produced by Matt Pierson, features the same musicians (pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist Larry Grenadier, guitarist Julian Lage, and drummer Eric Harland), recorded (mostly) in the same studio in Rhineback, NY, and the material leans heavily in the direction of ballads. This time, however, the songs are composed by Stephens contemporaries with the exception of Billy Strayhorn's "Isfahan."
There are moments throughout the album that are reminiscent of the recent work by Charles Lloyd (the gentleness of the tenor playing) yet Stephens is certainly his own person. On Pat Metheny's Impressionistic ballad "We Had a Sister", he utilizes the EWI for the melody and solo before Mehldaus splendid solo. The Wind Synthesizer often sounds harsh but here paints a lovely and emotional portrait. The use of baritone saxophone on "Isfahan" is inspired. With only guitar and bass as support, Stephens gives the Strayhorn ballad from Ellington's "Far East Suite" a jaunty but not overdone feel. There is a pleasing "Americana" feel to Lage's "Woodside Waltz" (Mehldau plays "tack" piano) and the leader plays a sweet solo. Electronics play an important part on the last track, two different songs titled "Clouds" (the first from Massimo Biolcati, the second from Louis Cole) - the synthesizer dances alongside Harland's excellent drum work as the tenor sax plays the melodies. As the piece moves forward into the section composed by Cole, the tenor pairs with the EWI to play the plaintive melody. It's an effective and gentle way to close out the program.
|Piotr Wyleżoł image|
For more information, go to daynastephens.net.
Here's the opening track:
Yes, "Nerve Dance" by The Michaël Attias Quartet may only appeal to listeners who enjoy contemporary jazz but, to give this music any one label, does it a disservice. Exploratory music is better, played by an ensemble who challenge each other and themselves to avoid cliches, to play honestly and in the moment. The band did a short tour around the release of the CD and, hopefully, you can get to hear them live. In the meantime, this album is mighty impressive.
For more information, go to www.michaelattias.com.
link to find out more.
"Sounds From the Deep Field" has many glorious moments for listeners to bathe in. Whether it's Fabian Almazan's powerful piano playing, Chris Dingman's supportive, melodic, trance-like vibraphone, Jesse Lewis's arching guitar lines, Camila Meza's earthy yet dignified vocals, the strong support and drive of drummer Joe Nero, plus the leader's foundational work (listen to how his high notes still manage to underpin "Tiny Skull Sized Kingdom"), this music captures one's imagination. Would it work so well without the beautiful artwork, the views of the heavens taken by NASA's Hubble Telescope team, or the words of Carl Sagan? They certainly help but it's Bryan Copeland's vision for this music that leads the way and it's an entrancing way to follow.
For more information, go to bryanandtheaardvarks.com.
Join the band and Ms. Meza on a track from the recording: