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RECORD REVIEWS

Jazz Journal offers unrivalled coverage of recorded jazz old and new, with more than 20,000 words of expert comment and discography on recent jazz releases in every issue

Complete list of albums reviewed in JJ December 2017 (see below for excerpts):

Abbasi, Rez: Unfiltered Universe (Whirlwind 4713)
Abdul-Malik, Ahmed: Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1248)
Akinmusire, Ambrose: A Rift In Decorum Live At the Village Vanguard (Blue Note, no number)
Battaglia, Stefano: Pelagos (ECM 576 8963)
Beasley, John: Presents MONK'estra Vol. 2 (Mack Avenue 1113)
Bianco, Matt: Gravity (Matt Entertainment Ltd)
Bloom, Jane Ira: Wild Lines: Improvising Emily Dickinson (Outline 143)
Boniface, Tim: The Eight Words (TB 007/WH)
Brown, Ted: Live At Trumpets (Cadence Jazz 1260)
Cappy, Matt: Church And State (Ropeadope 366)
Cascaro, Jeff: Love & Blues In The City (Herzog 901071)
Charles, Ray: Live 1958-60 (Hoo Doo 263581)
Chestnut, Cyrus: There's A Sweet, Sweet Spirit (HighNote 7304)
Chicago/London Underground: A Night Walking Through Mirrors (Cuneiform Rune 428)
Coltrane, John: European Tour 1962 (Le Chant Du Monde 574 2752 61)
Copland, Marc: Nightfall (Inner Voice Jazz 104)
Cunliffe, Bill: Bachanalia (Metre 1009)
Degibri, Eli: Cliff Hangin' (Degibri 1007)
Dreier, Andreas: But Not For Me (Losen 175)
Ellington, Duke/Billy Strayhorn: Jazz Selection No. 2 (Vogue Jazz Club 001)
Entropi: Moment Frozen (Whirlwind 4711)
Feliciati, Lorenzo: Elevator Man (Rare Noise 084)
Ferber, Alan/Big Band: Jigsaw (Sunnyside 1494)
Fitzgerald, Ella: The Legendary Rome Concert (Essential Jazz Classics 55723)
Fitzgerald, Ella: Complete 1950-60 Piano Duets (Essential Jazz Classics 55724)
Free Radicals: Outside The Comfort Zone (Free Rads 017)
Frith, Fred: Storytelling (Intuition 71324)
Garner, Erroll: Vol. 1 (Vogue Jazz Club 007)
Getz, Stan: Stan Getz Quartet (Vogue Jazz Club 002)
Gillespie, Dizzy: The Fabulous Pleyel Jazz Concert Vol. 1 - 1948 (Vogue Jazz Club 009)
Greer, Ronnie: The Jazz Project (ronniegreer.com)
Greer, Ronnie/Band And Friends: A Lifetime With The Blues (ronniegreer.com)
Harrell, Tom: Moving Picture (HighNote 7301)
Harrold, Keyon: The Mugician (Sony Legacy 8985479742)
Hersch, Fred: Open Book (Palmetto 2186)
Hubbard, Freddie: Four Classic Albums (Avid 1244)
Hutcherson, Bobby: Highway One/Conception: The Gift Of Love/Un Poco Loco (Beat Goes On 1290)
Ianniello, Lucia: Live At Acuto Jazz (Slam 585)
Indigo Kid: III: Moment Gone In The Clouds (Babel 16141)
Jerrom, Sarah: The Yeats Project (SJ2016CD)
Johansen, Jonas: Charmcatcher (Hurra 001)
Jones, Paul: Clean (Outside In Music 1705)
Jones, Peter: Under The Setting Sun (Howlin’ Werewolf 003)
Kjekstad, Frode: A Piece Of The Apple (Losen 178)
Knaus, Ulita: Love In This Time (Membran/Must Have Jazz 234374)
Lockrane, Gareth/Big Band, The: Fistfight At The Barndance (Whirlwind 4710)
Luft, Rob: Riser (Edition 1095)
Malija: Instinct (Edition 1096)
Malone, Russell: Time For The Dancers (HighNote 7305)
Millar, Tom/Quartet: Unnatural Events (Spark 004)
Mingus, Charles: Complete Live At The Bohemia 1955 (Essential Jazz Classics 55725)
Morton, Jelly Roll: Piano Solos (Vogue Jazz Club 008)
Norvo, Red/Trio: Men At Work, Vol. 1 (Vogue Jazz Club 010)
Parker, Charlie: Vol.1 (Vogue Jazz Club 005)
Pasin, Chris/And Friends: Baby It's Cold Outside (Planet Arts 301714)
Perko, Jukka: Dizzy (We Jazz Records 01)
Pukl, Jure/& Matija Dedic: Hybrid (Whirlwind 4712)
Rayner, Jay/Quartet, The: A Night Of Food And Agony (Fane Phonics 2)
Rockberger, Oli: Sovereign (Whirlwind 4714)
Sanchez, Maria: Danza Imposible (Fresh Sound FSNT 533)
Saraga, Jonathan: Journey To A New World (Fresh Sound FSNT 535)
Senatore, Pat: Inspirations (Fresh Sound FSR 5057)
Shaw, Woody/Louis Hayes: The Tour Volume Two (HighNote 7308)
Shaw, Woody/New Quartet, The: At Onkel PÖ'S Carnegie Hall Vol.1 (NDR N 77045)
Silver, Horace: Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1260)
Simkins, Geoff: In A Quiet Way (Symbol 20170301)
Sketch: Seconds Count (33Jazz 269)
Solal, Martial/Dave Liebman: Masters In Bordeaux (Sunnyside 1489)
Soskin, Mark: Hearts And Minds (SteepleChase 31834)
Stern, Mike: Trip (Heads Up HUI00010)
Tatum, Art: From Gene Norman's Just Jazz (Vogue Jazz Club 004)
Ulmer, James Blood/With The Thing: Baby Talk (The Thing Records 006)
Vanore, John: Stolen Moments (Acoustical Concepts Inc 53)
Various: Originators Of Modern Jazz (Vogue Jazz Club 006)
Vector Families: For Those About To Jazz/Rock (Sunnyside 1488)
Virelles, David: Gnosis (ECM 576 5115)
Wesseltoft, Bugge: Everybody Loves Angels (ACT 9847)
Willis, Nicole/& UMO Jazz Orchestra: My Name Is Nicole Willis (Persephone 002)
Xaba, Sibusile: Unlearning/Open Letter To Adoniah (Mushroom Hour M3H-ART001.002)


Examples of the 79 album reviews in this issue (see more reviews as printed; subscribe to see 12 months of the print edition of Jazz Journal
, including over 20,000 words of CD review each issue):


REZ ABBASI
UNFILTERED UNIVERSE
Propensity; Unfiltered Universe; Thoughts; Thin-King; Turn Of Events; Disagree To Agree; Dance Number (52.00)
Rudresh Mahanthappa (as); Vijay Iyer (p); Abbasi (elg); Johannes Weidenmueller (b); Dan Weiss (d); Elizabeth Mikhael (clo) on tracks 2, 5 and 7. Brooklyn, 2-3 February 2016.
Whirlwind 4713
****

Earning considerable kudos by reuniting two of the giants of Asian-American jazz, Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa, Rez Abbasi never seems content to settle for average. Drawing liberally on Indian and European classical music, post-bop and hard rock, the disc has a title that hints at the Karachi-born guitarist’s intentions. Seeking out hidden empathies between seemingly disparate musical raw materials, Abbasi and his like-minded collaborators systematically unpick their hard-wired instincts and create a genre-bending work of uncommon originality.

Although Abbasi turns his back on traditional Indian instruments, the spirit of the great sub-continent is never far away and is most often heard in the music’s joyously unpredictable rhythms. Propensity offers a perfect case in point. Cycling through a range of choppy and vaguely exotic time signatures, Mahanthappa’s full-throttle solo will leave you breathless before he finally gives way to Abbasi’s fleet distortion-soaked glissandi. The title track is one of several to be embellished by Mikhael’s dark cello, and moves at a more sedate pace than the frantic opener; a reflective Iyer fashions a typically powerful and complex statement. Thoughts sees Abbasi experimenting with goofy backwards tape loops, whilst Thin-King provides the disc’s melodic high spot and brings out strong solos from each of the main protagonists. Turn Of Events is a masterclass in tension and release, the decidedly staccato Disagree To Agree skilfully negotiates the angular M-Base lines which are such a familiar part of Mahanthappa’s vocabulary, and Dance Number closes the set with a hard street-savvy groove. More than fulfilling Abbasi’s early potential, Unfiltered Universe is his most personal and authentic statement to date.
Fred Grand


AMBROSE AKINMUSIRE
A RIFT IN DECORUM. LIVE AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD
CD1: Maurice & Michael (sorry i didn’t say hello); Response; Moment in between the rest (to curve an ache) Brooklyn (ODB); A song to exhale (diver song); Purple (Intermezzo); Trumpet Sketch (milky pete); Taymoor’s World (60.43)
CD2: First Page (Shabnam’s poem); H. A. M. S. (in the spirit of honesty) Piano Sketch (Sam intro); Piano Sketch (beyond enclosure); Condor (Harish intro); Condor; Withered; Umteyo (54.57)
Akinmusire (t); Sam Harris (p); Harish Raghavan (b); Justin Brown (d) New York City. No date.
Blue Note, no number
** 

This set was obviously recorded in a club where Coltrane was on more than one occasion, but there’s no point in comparing the results. In the press release Akinmusire makes something of having been “really into exploring extremes” but the music on this set is extreme only by comparison with the haughtily reverential reproductions of Wynton Marsalis and his disciples, and doesn’t have many eye-widening moments.

Instead a different air of reverence prevails. Melodies are scrupulously avoided, and while the same goes for the kind of harmonic sophistication that we can take for granted these days the overall air is enervated, as though the quartet has tried to suck some element of life out of the music with a view to achieving furrowed-brow earnestness. Thus, A song to exhale (diver song) seems longer than it actually is as Akinmusire strives for but doesn’t reach his inner Bill Dixon.

Comparison with Dixon is more relevant, but with Dixon’s music (as indeed with his trumpet playing) there was/is nothing calculated. His art arrived at the point it did because he refined it, whereas these musicians seem to regard putting some distance between themselves and the ever more densely populated post-bop mainstream as an end in itself. Whether this makes for nourishing or rewarding listening is a matter of taste. The title typography, by the way, is as presented.
Nic Jones


JOHN BEASLEY
MONK’ESTRA VOLUME 2

Brake’s Sake; Played Twice; Crepuscule With Nellie; Evidence; Ugly Beauty/Pannonica; I Mean You; Light Blue; Dear Ruby; Criss Cross; Work (58.22)
Bijon Watson, Jamie Hovorka, James Ford, Brian Swartz, Brandyn Philips (t); Francisco Torres, Wendell Kelly, Ryan Dragon, Steve Hughes, Ido Meshulam, Conrad Herwig (tb); Bob Sheppard, Danny Janklow, Tom Luer, Thomas Peterson, Adam Schroeder, Alex Budman (s); Beasley (p, syn, org, arr, cond); Ben Shepherd (b, elb); Terreon Gully, Gene Coye (d); Dontae Winslow (t, rap); Regina Carter (vn); Kamasi Washington (ts); Dianne Reeves (v); Pedrito Martinez (cga, bata). Los Angeles, circa 2017.
Mack Avenue 1125
*****

This is an extraordinary new big band release from Beasley, perhaps even surpassing his Monk’estra Vol. 1 from the later part of 2016, which, had it arrived earlier, would have been a prime contender for my CD of the year last time around. The arrangements are all by Beasley, apart from one contribution by Brian Swartz with his version of I Mean You. The playing is superb, and it once again shows just how contemporary sounding an album can be without original material, but rather a set of imaginative and inspired arrangements.

I was particularly drawn to Terreon Gully’s drumming (he plays on all tracks except Light Blue) which constantly drives the music, but not in a heavy-handed way, adding plenty of detail in the process. The album starts as it means to go on, in a nicely unconventional big band way at times, with Dontae Winslow’s rap on the opener Brake’s Sake, and the inspired use of Regina Carter’s violin on Crepuscule With Nellie. Evidence follows, with its sparsely phrased theme (just try counting those gaps between the hits!), and Straight No Chaser gets quoted by the ensemble in the middle of Ugly Beauty/Pannonica. NB: Ensemble players listed as saxes here are credited en masse as woodwind players on the CD insert.

Beasley’s role here as a pianist/keyboard player is less minimal than on Vol. 1, including a fine piano solo introduction to Dear Ruby sung by Dianne Reeves, but like Vol.1 this album has a strong funky tinge, mixed with swing sections that really do swing hard. As much as anyone could possibly know, if he were around now, surely Monk would dig this album.
Dave Jones


ELLA FITZGERALD
COMPLETE 1950-60 PIANO DUETS

CD1: [Ella Sings Gershwin] (1) Looking For A Boy; My One And Only; How Long Has This Been Going On?; I’ve Got A Crush On You; But Not For Me; Soon; Someone To Watch Over Me; Maybe. [Songs In A Mellow Mood] I’m Glad There Is You; Baby, What Else Can I Do; What Is There To Say?; Makin’ Whoopee!; Until The Real Thing Comes Along; People Will Say We’re In Love; Please Be Kind; Imagination; My Heart Belongs To Daddy; You Leave Me Breathless; Nice Work If You Can Get It; Stardust (64.30)
CD2: [Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Songbook] (2) Miss Otis Regrets; (3) [Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Duke Ellington Songbook] Lush Life; [Let No Man Write My Epitaph] (4) My Melancholy Baby; Angel Eyes; Black Coffee; I Hadn’t Anyone Till You; I Cried For You; Misty; Who’s Sorry Now?; I Can’t Give You Anything But Love; I’m Getting Sentimental Over You; Then You’ve Never Been Blue; September Song; Reach For Tomorrow; One For My
Baby [bonus tracks] (5) Wait Till You See Her; Solitude; Azure; In A Sentimental Mood (58.46)

Fitzgerald (v) on all tracks with:
(1) Ellis Larkins (p). New York, 11 September 1950 (tracks 1-4); 12 September 1950 (tracks 5-8); 29 March 1954 (tracks 9-14) & 30 March 1954 (tracks 15-20.
(2) Paul Smith (p). Los Angeles, 7 February 1956.
(3) Oscar Peterson (p). Los Angeles, 17 October 1957.
(4) Smith (p). Hollywood, 14 April & 19 April 1960.
(5) Barney Kessel (g). Los Angeles, 29 August & 4 September 1956.
Essential Jazz Classics 55724
*****
   
THE LEGENDARY ROME CONCERT
(1) [The Legendary Rome Concert] Italian announcement by Norman Granz; St. Louis Blues; These Foolish Things; Just Squeeze Me; Angel Eyes; That Old Black Magic; Just One Of Those Things; I Loves You Porgy; It’s All Right With Me; I Can’t Give You Anything But Love; Norman Granz Announcement; When You’re Smiling; A Foggy Day; Midnight Sun; The Lady Is A Tramp; Sophisticated Lady; Caravan; Stompin’ At The Savoy; (2) [bonus tracks] Just One Of Those Things; Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me; Solitude; Roll 'Em Pete; Easy To Love; Air Mail Special (78.41)
Fitzgerald (v) on all tracks with:
(1) Lou Levy (p); Max Bennett (b); Gus Johnson (d). On Stompin’ At The Savoy add Herb Ellis (g); Oscar Peterson (p) replaces Levy; Ray Brown (b) replaces Bennett. Teatro Sistina, Rome, 25 April 1958.
(2) Oscar Peterson (p); Ellis (g); Brown (b); Jo Jones (d). Civic Auditorium, Seattle, 11 October 1956.
Essential Jazz Classics 55723
*****
    
The two 10” Decca LP albums that Ella made with Ellis Larkins are among her finest and “purest” recordings. Ella Sings Gershwin was her first venture into the songbook form that would increase under her later association with Norman Granz. Here she sings without artifice, her diction is impeccable and her rhythmic suppleness is evident on every track. In Ellis Larkins, she found the perfect accompanist. A self-effacing but highly creative pianist, he provided her with elegant and minimalist frameworks for her performances. Once heard, Someone To Watch Over Me, My One And Only and How Long Has This Been Going On are unlikely to be forgotten. Four years later, Milt
Gabler invited her to choose the tracks for Songs In A Mellow Mood. She repaid him by crafting a sensitive medium-tempo People Will Say, and a partly hummed version of Until The Real Thing Comes Along. Larkins again provides impeccable support.

The movie Let No Man Write My Epitaph (1960) had Ella in an acting role as a singer with addiction problems. The film was poorly received, but Granz cannily released an LP album of the same title with Ella accompanied by Paul Smith – who proved a more than adequate replacement for Larkins. Several of the songs, including Angel Eyes and Misty, were in Ella’s then current repertoire and had been recorded in live performances, but her “readings” here are more thoughtful. The “bonus tracks” include a brilliant rendering of Lush Life, a song that has defeated many a jazz (and non-jazz) singer, but Ella and Oscar negotiate its intricacies with consummate skill. The tracks with Barney Kessel (taken from the Rodgers & Hart and Ellington Song Books) complete this rewarding reissue.

The Legendary Rome Concert (1958) fully deserves its popular success. Celebrating her 40th birthday, Ella – in magnificent voice – offers a well-balanced programme of classic titles. Ably accompanied by Levy, Bennett and Johnson, she begins with a scorching and partly scatted St Louis Blues. Foolish Things and Angel Eyes lower the temperature, while an upbeat All Right With Me has Ella doing her Rose Murphy and Armstrong impersonations. The high points are moving renditions of Porgy and Sophisticated Lady. The Peterson, Ellis, Brown, Jones bonus tracks include her joking asides to Oscar (who then delivers a rollicking solo) on Stompin’, and Roll ’Em Pete, with Ella invoking the names of Joe Williams and Count Basie. To quote her biographer Stuart Nicholson: “Perhaps more than any of her live albums”, the Rome Concert “is a celebration of the joy of music-making, with Ella’s voice the perfect instrument to express the joy”.
John White


JELLY ROLL MORTON
PIANO SOLOS

Side 1: (2) Mamie’s Blues; (3) Michigan Water Blues; (2) Buddy Bolden’s Blues; (1) Winin’ Boy Blues; (2) Don’t You Leave Me Here (14.28)
Side 2: (1) Original Rag; (2) The Naked Dance; (1) The Crave; Mister Joe; King Porter Stomp (14.31)

(1) Morton (p, v). NYC, 14 December 1939. (2) as above. 16 December 1939. (3) as above. 18 December 1939.
Vogue Jazz Club 008, vinyl
****
  
“A small record company did a small historical album of the best things he had cut for the Library of Congress”. That’s the only mention of these 10 tracks to appear in Alan Lomax’s biography of Morton, but it places them exactly. The small company was General, and the historical album (a package of five 10” 78s) was an early manifestation of the revival that would soon sweep across the western world. If Morton had lived as long as, say, Kid Ory, he would have enjoyed a degree of celebrity that would have satisfied even his vast hunger for attention and acclaim. But he died in July 1941, aged 50.

These aren’t the only commercial recordings from those final few years, but they are, perhaps, the most eloquent. Just as in the 1938 Library of Congress series, Morton, alone at the piano, plays and sings the music of his youth with such intensity that he seems to be inhabiting it, rather than merely remembering. The Crave, with its Spanish tinge, the gradually accelerating Naked Dance, the spare, simple chords behind Mamie’s Blues, the obscure names (Judge Fogarty, Stavin Chain etc) that surface in the songs – these were all present and real in that unique creative mind.

The disc itself is a nice thing to have. The notes (in French) are brief but apposite, the front cover (a convincing pastiche of David Stone Martin by Pierre Merlin) is attractive, and it bears the amusing legend: Diploma as Creator of Jazz, awarded to Jelly Roll Morton by himself (“par lui même”). It sounds beautiful, too, but I could have done without the garish pink vinyl.
Dave Gelly


CHRIS PASIN AND FRIENDS
BABY IT’S COLD OUTSIDE
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas; Santa Claus Is Coming To Town; We Three Kings Of Orient Are; Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel; Baby It’s Cold Outside; It Came Upon A Midnight Clear; God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen;
Greensleeves; Christmas Time Is Here; I’ll Be Home For Christmas; The Christmas Song (56.46)

Collectively: Pasin (t, flh, v); Armen Donelian (p); ; Peter Einhorn (g); Ira Coleman, Rich Syracuse (b); Jeff Siegel (d); Patricia Dalton Fennell (v). Catskill, NY, June 2016.
Planet Arts 301714
****
  
Chris Pasin may not be a household name but he comes well recommended, playing for two and a half years with Buddy Rich in the early 80s before moving on to the Toshiko Akiyoshi and Lew Tabackin big band. His CD debut as leader was the 1987 Detour Ahead with Steve Slagle, Benny Green, Rufus Reid, and Dannie Richmond and his recent band Ornettiquette played music inspired by Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry.

That last seems to stand in some contrast to this proposition. It’s a Christmas album which doesn’t look to be ironic about its subject and opens with a fine but reserved vocal arrangement. Will it do enough jazz? Track two shifts up a gear, with a bright tempo, a buoyant two-feel and open trumpet in the lead before Pasin launches into a confident and engaging solo. We start to relax. Donelian confirms with some delicious Tynerish suspensions in a little tag added to the original sequence and a strong solo before Coleman takes a brawny bass break and trades with drums.

It gets even better. We Three Kings takes advantage of its minor mode to add more Tynerish embellishment. Coltrane didn’t do Three Kings, but it would have sat well with Love Supreme on this evidence, Pasin on flugel flowing fluently over a challenging one-chord modal setting (Woody Shaw, anyone?) and Donelian tearing it up on piano. Emmanuel is a beautiful, open-ended trumpet and piano duet. And so it continues, recasting the season in proper jazz image, tinsel conspicuously absent. This is what a jazz Christmas should be. For more detail and ordering, go to planetarts.org.
Mark Gilbert


JAY RAYNER QUARTET
LIVE AT ZEDEL: A NIGHT OF FOOD AND AGONY

It Must Be Jelly ('Cause Jam Don't Shake Like That); Better Than Anything; After You’ve Gone; Black Coffee; Food Glorious Food; The Ladies Who Lunch; Blue Skies; Tenderly; Dance Me To The End Of Love; Get Me To The Church On Time; Hallelujah I Love Him So (53.06)
Dave Lewis (ts); Rayner (p); Robert Rickenberg (b); Pat Gordon-Smith (v). Soho, London, 24 March 2017.
Fane Productions 2
*

Zedel was the London West End venue for a night of food and musical agony by Jay Rayner and his band, resulting in one of the worst albums I’ve reviewed in nearly 30 years of jazz writing. “Easy-listening music” is never easy to listen to, and so it proves with this supper-club jazz by a well-known restaurant critic, whose music rapidly sounds very familiar, and who is certainly over-familiar with his audience.

Rayner has apparently been voted the most influential food and drink journalist in Britain by his peers, and is notorious for his acerbic wit (it says here). He is the author of 10 books, fiction and non-fiction, appears regularly on TV, and presents The Kitchen Cabinet for Radio 4. The blurb concludes by telling us that “Alongside all this he has a career as a jazz pianist, performing with his quartet everywhere from the Bath International Festival and PizzaExpress Live in Soho to the world-famous Ronnie Scott’s”.

It took me several attempts to get to the end of the programme. Rayner’s pianism consists of blues clichés. Singer Pat Gordon-Smith (Mrs Rayner) is inclined to be a belter, and is unlistenable throughout; saxophonist Dave Lewis is blandly unmemorable.

On his website, Rayner writes: “I perform live all over the country. Some, like...My Dining Hell, my journey through appalling restaurant experiences, are one man shows, and are absolutely hilarious. Others are with my jazz quartet and are also absolutely hilarious, but in a good way”. Not really – I didn’t find this musical experience hilarious in any way. It might be possible to get through the programme after a bottle of wine at the club, but I can’t see the point of inflicting it on oneself sober.
Andy Hamilton


MARTA SÁNCHEZ QUINTET
DANZA IMPOSIBLE

Copa De Luz; Danza Imposible; Scillar; El Girasol; Board; Nebulosa; Flesh; Junk Food (41.30)
Roman Filiu (as); Jerome Sabbagh (ts); Sánchez (p); Rick Rosato (b); Daniel Dor (d). New York, 7 & 8 March 2017
Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 533
*****
    
Raised in Madrid, the Spanish pianist and composer Sánchez moved to New York in 2011. Her previous Fresh Sound release, the 2015 Partenika, had a sleeve-note from Ethan Iverson and garnered praise for its left-field approach to group dynamics and structure. Excellent players, the Cuban Filiu and the French Sabbagh are retained from Partenika, and continue to evince a special understanding within the lucid yet subtly shifting frameworks supplied by Sánchez – who wrote all the material – and the equally impressive Rosato and Dor. Everyone in this extremely well-attuned group can burn when needed, but also reveal a heartening capacity for lyrical motivic development and reflective dynamic shading (for the last, hear, e.g., Scillar).

Sánchez displays a fine touch, astute rhythmic flexibility and a refreshing conceptual vivacity. She sees her work in terms of the flow of free counterpoint rather than harmony in any traditional sense and the voicings here can recall avant-garde classical ideas of “sound-colour-melody”, spread both spaciously and incisively across and around the quintet. In a useful sleevenote, critic Ben Ratliff draws attention to the conservatory-trained Spaniard’s early appreciation of Brad Mehldau, while Sánchez herself, speaking of Nebulosa, says, “It’s not really free, but it’s rubato – we go through changes and through the form, but not in time. Sort of like a Paul Motian vibe”.

I found this a beautiful, endlessly compelling album, as intelligent as it is lyrical, melting and melding forms and feelings to consistently arresting effect. Hear, e.g., Copa De Luz, Danza Imposible and Board – the last an especially enticing piece, the initial poise of its now deliciously suspended, now nudging accents opening out into some potent and propulsive grooves from Sánchez, Rosato and Dor.
Michael Tucker


WOODY SHAW
THE TOUR VOLUME TWO

(2) All The Things You Are; (4) Night In Tunisia; (5) ’Round Midnight; (6) Some Other Blues; (3) Invitation; (1) What’s New (51.56)
(1) Shaw (t); Junior Cook (ts); Ronnie Matthews (p); Stafford James (b); Louis Hayes (d). Belgium, 4 March 1976. (2) Hamburg, 11 March 1976. (3) Burghausen, 21 March 1976. (4) Graz, 26 March 1976. (5) Bremen, 5 April 1976. (6) René McLean (ts) replaces Cook. Munich, April 1977.
HighNote 7308
***
 
THE NEW QUINTET VOLUME ONE
Katrina Ballerina; Announcement; Joshua; Sunbath; Announcement; To Kill A Brick (71.02)
Shaw (t); Steve Turre (tb); Mulgrew Miller (p); Stafford James (b); Tony Reedus (d). Onkel Pö’s, Hamburg, 11 January 1982.
Jazzline NDR N 77045
****
  
Woody Shaw left a sizeable legacy of studio dates and recorded live performances. Here are two more CDs of the latter and it’s clear that the second and later one deserves a more positive review than the first. The trumpeter’s son, also named Woody, wrote the fulsome notes for both of these CDs but failed to mention that the HighNote release involves editing designed to showcase the leader. The giveaway is some applause which follows a solo that we obviously haven’t heard. The result is that Cook, who displays more than competence, is heard in only two full-length solos and René McLean only in theme statements. The assertion in the notes that “the influence of Jackie on his son is easily apparent” suggests that the younger Shaw hadn’t actually listened to what was to be released. Of course those who enjoy trumpeter Shaw’s alternation, of simple phrases digging into the rhythm with Coltrane-inspired flurries that break the rhythmic flow, may not mind the artificial concentration on the leader.

The NDR release, on the other hand, is clearly a full presentation of four long pieces (averaging 17 minutes in length) played before an enthusiastic audience in a Hamburg club. Turre seems to be trying to match Shaw’s ability in the rapid-fire area and has a fair shot at it though in later years he became more ready to accept the limitations of his instrument. Their four-bar exchanges on the fast To Kill A Brick (apparently an Art Blakey expression) generate a superficial excitement which would have delighted a JATP audience of the 40s. Stafford James takes some excellent bass solos on this CD (and the HighNote release as well) while Miller and Reedus contribute notably to a fairly attacking set (no ballads included) which admirers of Shaw should find very satisfying. And his introductions of music and musicians add a welcome sense of the occasion.
Graham Colombé


DAVID VIRELLES
GNOSIS
Del Tabaco Y El Azúcar; Fitití Nongo; Lengua I; Erume Kondó; Benkomo; Tierra; De Ida Y Vuelta I; Lengua II; De Ida Y Vuelta II; Nuná; Epílogo; Dos; Caracola; Visiones Sonoras; De Portal; De Tres; De Cuando Era Chiquita; De Coral (52.22)
Virelles (p, marimbula, v); Román Díaz (v, pc); Allison Loggins-Hull (f, picc); Rane Moore (cl); Adam Cruz (stp, claves); Alex Lipowksi (pc); Matthew Gold (mar, x); Mauricio Herrera (ekón, nkonos, erikundi, claves); Thomas Morgan (b); Yunior Lopez (vla); Christine Chen, Samuel DeCaprio (clo); Melvis Santa, Mauricio Herrera (v). New York, May 2016.
ECM 576 5115

****
  
Some of David Virelles’s inventive compositions are arguably nearer to the serialism of Schoenberg and Webern than jazz in its generally understood meaning. Gnosis (the Greek word for knowledge) is light years away from earlier examples of Afro-Cuban music such as those created by the likes of Dizzy Gillespie or Tito Puente. In certain sections it bears a passing resemblance to elements of the Art Ensemble of Chicago or Claude Delcloo’s Africanasia. Certainly M-Base has been an influence on Virelles; the pianist having made contact with Steve Coleman around 2006, asking him questions on music to which the saxophonist furnished detailed replies.

Virelles was born in Cuba in 1983. Both his parents were professional musicians and at the age of seven he commenced classical piano studies but was naturally exposed to Cuban music too. As a teenager he met Canadian bandleader Jane Bunnett, an exponent of Afro-Cuban jazz. He subsequently moved to Toronto in 2001 where he studied at the city’s university. He then moved to New York City in 2009. The first album he recorded as leader was Motion in 2008, followed by Continuum and for ECM, Mbókò and Antenna. He’s also recorded with Henry Threadgill, Chris Potter and Tomasz Stańko amongst others.

His association with vocalist and percussionist Román Díaz began with the pianist’s second album and Díaz’s presence is felt keenly on tracks like Benkomo, Epílogo and Erume Kondó, where his part-sung, part-spoken interjections add a dramatic dimension to the pieces. Fitití Nongo is a haunting, standout track, Virelles’s piano evincing syncopated and harmonically satisfying contrapuntal lines, underpinned by a plethora of percussive polyrhythms. The album’s understated ingenuity is consistently compelling throughout.
Roger Farbey

 


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