Sunday, December 30, 2012

Music, Good Music

Australian-born trumpeter/composer Nadje Noordhuis relocated to the US in 2003 to complete her Masters Degree and study with modern trumpet legend Laurie Frink.  She has since gone on to take part in the 2007 Thelonious Monk Competition, a week-long residency with Dave Douglas and to perform with DIVA Jazz Orchestra and Darcy James Argue's Secret Society.

Now, Little Mystery Records has issued her self-titled debut CD. Featuring Sara Caswell (violin), Geoff Keezer (piano), Obed Calvaire (drums), Joe Martin (bass) plus James Shipp (percussion) and Rupert Boyd (classical guitar), the scope of this music might remind listeners of works by Maria Schneider, especially in the way Ms. Noordhuis uses the rhythm section to create the counterpoint to the soloists and the melody (the CD's opening track, "Water Crossing" is an excellent example.)  Shipp's percussion and Boyd's elegant rhythm guitar support the violin and trumpet on "Le Hameau Omi" - Keezer's subtle piano lines, here combined with the guitar, gives the music buoyancy.

Calvaire and Martin lock in to create a strong groove on "Le Fin", a pleasing blend of jazz and funk with a strong trumpet spotlight and impressive piano solo. Keezer also shines on the fiery "Mayfair", a piece that has Celtic influences in its rapid-fire melody line.  Calvaire and Shipp combine to create a percussion whirlwind the impressive piano solo.

What stands out most (for me) in Nadje Noordhuis's debut are the melody and harmony lines she creates for her ensemble and how the musicians create such impressionistic worlds from those musical blueprints. Compositions such as "Magnolia" and "Waltz For Winter" are emotionally rich, the former with the blend of violin and flugelhorn leading the way (don't ignore the super rhythm section) while the latter builds off of Keezer's rich piano lines (his solo is stunning.)

The highest compliment one gave give is to write that the music on this lovely recording from Nadje Noordhuis resonates long after the final notes fade away.  For more information, go to

Click on the link below to hear "Mayfair" from Ms. Noordhuis's CD:

Although "Continuous Beat", the new ENJA CD from guitarist/composer Rez Abbasi is billed as a "Trio" recording, it opens and closes with 2 solo pieces.  The opener, "Intro", does exactly what one might expect, setting the tone for the program while the closer, an acoustic reading of "The Star-Spangled Banner", is more of a surprise than an epilogue of the CD.

In between, the work of Abbasi, bassist John Hebert and drummer Satoshi Takeishi is fascinating, a 3-way conversation that is creative music at its best.  The drummer both powers and continuously colors the music while Hebert, a bassist cut from the Dave Holland mode, is supportive as well as melodic.  Melody and interplay are important throughout - Takeishi's strong drum intro to the Trio's reading of Gary Peacock's "Major Major" sets the stage for an exploration that shimmers; Hebert's handsome counterpoint to Abbasi's excellent solo stands out but, then again, so does the drummer's insistent forward motion.  Abbasi's impressionistic re-arrangement of Thelonious Monk's "Off Minor" opens with each member of the trio scampering about. Even after the guitarist introduces the familiar melody, the rhythm section continue to play with the tempo and Abbasi builds his solo off their interplay. Abbasi's other "cover" tune comes from pianist Keith Jarrett.  "The Cure", originally recorded by Jarrett's Trio for a 1990 ECM CD of the same name, has a sweet groove (Takeishi makes "funk" fun). "Rivalry", a composition from the guitarist, has a "heavier" and steadier tempo, Takeishi's drums leading the way yet again.  Yet, the rhythm section beneath the soaring guitar solo, moves in and out until the drum solo slows the piece down until a reworking of the opening theme.

Throughout "Continuous Beat", Rez Abbasi's guitar work impresses with its creativity, his horn-like tone, the sustain of his notes, and solos that stand out more for their melodic content than for any technical prowess.  Hebert and Takeishi are the perfect foils, pushing, prodding and supporting the guitarist, giving the music a sense of vitality from the Trio's first note to its last.  This is Rez Abbasi's 9th CD as a leader; he continues to show growth as a composer, guitarist and as an improviser.  For more information, go to

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