Three different trios, three varied approaches, and all three fascinating to explore!
The trio has taken the name "Artifacts". Their new album, "...and then there's this" (Astral Spirits) features seven works by the band members plus one each by Muhal Richard Abrams and Roscoe Mitchell. The music is, by turns, funky, earthy, improvisational, quiet, devotional, and emotionally rich. Drummer Reed's "Pleasure Palace" opens the program on a dancing beat and raucous cello before Ms. Mitchell's tears her way through the melody. "A. F. (dedicated to Alvin Fielder)" is a group piece built off the distorted flute sounds, the rhythm from the cowbell, and the hard-edge cello lines. The track and several others should remind the listener of the 1970s ensemble Air (Henry Threadgill, bassist Fred Hopkins, and drummer Steve McCall). Ms. Reid shines on Ms. Mitchell's "Blessed", showing the influence of Abdul Wadud on her bluesy pizzicato lines.
The program closes with the "get down funky" rhythms of Roscoe Mitchell's "No Side Effects" – while Mr. Reed keeps the song the grooving, Ms. Mitchell and Ms. Reid dance around each other. Te music gets pretty "sweaty" in just 2:27. "...and then there's this" is a delight from start to finish. In just 39 minutes, Artifacts trio will make smile many times, maybe even get up and dance as well. Kudos to Nicole Mitchell, Tomeka Reid, and Mike Reed for creating one of the finest albums of the past several years!
To hear more and purchase the album, go to https://astralartifacts.bandcamp.com/album/and-then-theres-this.
Here's the opening track:
Here's a link to a live date from earlier in 2021:
In 2017, Loueke went into the studio under the auspices of Newville Records to record an album of standards with bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland. Released in 2018 as vinyl-only, the recording (with three extra tracks) has now been issued on CD and as a download by Sounderscore. The label, owned by bassist (and Gilfema member) Massimo Biolcati, hired David Darlington to do the mixing and mastering; the sound quality is suberb! The 11-song program features two tunes each by John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk as well as pieces by Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Henry Mancini, Hoagy Carmichael, Richard Rodgers, Bernice Peterke ("Close Your Eyes"), and Johnny Green ("Body and Soul"). At times, the music sounds like a tribute to Jim Hall but the unpredictability of many of the arrangements plus the freewheeling rhythm section puts the album in a class by itself.
Come to "Close Your Eyes" for the strong guitar work of Lionel Loueke but chances are very good you'll really get into the inventive and fun playing of Reuben Rogers and Eric Harland. O, what sounds await the eager listener –– dig in, dive in, and enjoy!
Alto saxophonist and composer Aakash Mittal, born in Texas to a New Delhi native father and Nebraska-born mother, is a busy writer, educator, traveler, and musician. His journeys has taken him throughout the United States, India, Mexico, and elsewhere. Mittal has won many commissions as well as fellowships, recorded with Amir elSaffar, Dennis Gonzalez, and Ravish Momin plus he has self-released four recordings as a leader. He leads various groups including a Quartet and now the Awaz Trio. The latter ensemble includes Miles Okazaki (guitars) and Rajna Swaminathan (mrudangam and kinjara).
For more information, go to www.lionelloueke.com. To purchase the album, go to https://lionelloueke.bandcamp.com/album/close-your-eyes.
Go ahead, dig you some T. Monk:
|Photo: Matt Marantz
That trio has just issued its debut album. "Nocturne" (self-released); the program includes the five-part title track, a three-part "Street Music", and an "Opening". The 82-second "Opening" starts with a lecturer speaking about oral tradition then Ms. Swaminathan enters; the warbling alto sax line and expressive guitar play a short melody that leads directly into "Nocturne I" –– the music for the album is based on Mittal's journey to Kolkata, India, to study Hindustani evening and night ragas. One can hear the influence of raga music in Mittal's linear phrasing while both guitar and murdangam (often spelled "mridangam") add the rhythmic base. After that short piece fades (2:34), a field recording begins with hand-held percussion dancing through the speakers; the musicians do a short interpretation before the street musicians reenter.
For more information and to check out his previous work (an earlier version of Awaz Trio featured Rez Abbasi on electric guitar), go to www.aakashmittal.com. To hear more and to purchase the album, go to https://aakashmittal.bandcamp.com/.
Here's "Nocturne I":