Selected reviews


        
        


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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 April 2018 (see below for sample reviews):

Alain's Tonejuice: Rouge Foncé (Calygram 51344, tonejuice.ch)
Alexander, Monty: Here Comes The Sun (MPS 0212406MSW)
Beneke, Tex: The Glenn Miller Formula Part Six (Sounds Of Yester Year 2081)
Bergonzi, Jerry: Dog Star (Savant 2163)
Berigan, Bunny: Bunny Berigan & His Boys Feb 1936 - Feb 1937 (Retrieval 79083)
Blanco y Negro: Timbero (Stunt 17142)
Bollani, Stefano/Jazz At Berlin Philharmonic VIII: Mediterraneo (ACT 9849)
Butcher Brown: Live At Vagabond (Gearbox 1542)
Cole, Alexis/One For All: You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To (Venus 1046)
Colyer's, Ken/All Stars: Colyer At Wimbledon (Upbeat 275)
Davis, Miles: Ascenseur Pour L'Echafaud (State Of Art 81213)
De Villers, Michel: Low Reed (Fresh Sound FSR 951)
Downes, Kit: Obsidian (ECM 578 2651)
DuBois, Scott: Autumn Wind (ACT 9856)
Galvin, Elliot: The Influencing Machine (Edition 1103)
Gardot, Melody: Live In Europe (Decca 602557654882)
Gingery, Bob: Kittyhawk (Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT-544)
Grdina, Gordon: Inroads (Songlines 1624)
Guiliana, Mark/Jazz Quartet: Jersey (Motéma 0233)
Hamilton, Jeff: Live From San Pedro (Capri 74147)
Heavyweights Brass Band: This City (heavyweightsbrassband.com)
Herman, Woody: The Wildroot Shows 1946 (Sounds Of Yester Year 2083)
Horler, John/Trevor Tomkins/Tim Wells: Open Space (Pathway 0119)
Husband, Gary: A Meeting Of Spirits (Edition 1098)
Hylton, Jack: Just Humming Along (Halcyon 178)
Jones, Ed: For Your Ears Only (Impossible/Ark 022)
Joulie, Sébastien: Resilience (Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT-543)
Lafitte, Guy/André Persiany:  (Fresh Sound FSR 953)
Lage, Julian: Modern Lore (Mack Avenue 1131)
LaVerne, Andy: Faith (SteepleChase 31840)
Levy, Lou: I'm Old Fashioned (Fresh Sound FSR 949)
Lowther, Henry/Still Waters: Can't Believe, Won't Believe (Village Life 171013)
Marks, Roger: Marks & Sparks (Upbeat 278)
McGrath, Roy: Remembranzas (JL Music 2017)
McHenry, Bill: Ben Entrada La Nit (Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT-541)
Meagher, Ryan: Lost Days (Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT-545)
Montgomery, Wes: In Paris (Resonance 2032)
Morild: Nordic Landscapes (Gvito 001)
Nocula, Kris: Firefly (iTunes, etc)
Palermo, Ed/Big Band: The Adventures Of Zodd Zundgren (Cuneiform Rune 440)
Pepper, Art: Smack Up (Poll Winners 27360)
Phillips, Simon: Protocol 4 (Phantom 191924 08318)
Pollard, Terry: A Detroit Jazz Legend (Fresh Sound FSR 954)
Pompeo, Samuel: Que Descaida (P&MB Produções 5040223)
Preminger, Noah/Rod Garcia: Dead Composers Club: Chopin Project (Connection Works 104)
Read, Matthew/Trio: Anecdotes II (BOD002)
Scouarnec, Gildas: Live At Radio France (Fresh Sound FSR 5058)
Sheppard, Andy: Romaria (ECM 578 6980)
Siegel, Julian: Vista (Whirlwind 4717)
Simone, Nina: The Colpix Singles (Stateside 0190295735869)
Somsen, Jasper: A New Episode In Life Pt. II (Challenge 73437)
Sons Of Kemet: Your Queen Is A Reptile (Impulse 6736432)
Starr, Kay: Wheel Of Fortune (Retrospective 4322)
Stenson, Bobo: Contra La Indecision (ECM 578 6976)
Strønen, Thomas: Time Is A Blind Guide (ECM 577 9058)
Surman, John: Invisible Threads (ECM 671 1317)
Travaglini, Stefano: Ellipse (Notami Jazz 003)
Trichotomy: Live With String Quartet (trichotomymusic.com)
Troupé, Sonny/Quartet: Add2 Reflets Denses (Socadisc TW2)
Vander, Maurice: Jazz At The Blue Note (Fresh Sound FSR 952)
Various: Dixieland Goes Progressive (Fresh Sound FSR 950)
Waldrop, Michael: Origin Suite (Origin 82747)
Weeds, Cory: Let's Groove: The Music Of Earth Wind & Fire (Cellar Live 041017)
Weiskopf, Joel: The Message (SteepleChase 31838)
Winding, Kai: Solo + Kai Olé (Phono 870284)
Winstone, Norma: Descansado, Songs For Films (ECM 578 6989)
Woods, Tony: Hidden Fires (Marquetry 940)
Wyatt, Eric: Look To The Sky (Whaling City Sound 104)
Yokoi, Yuko: Verde (yuko-yokoi.com)
Zinno, Dave/Unisphere: River Of January (Whaling City Sound 101)


Examples of the 70 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):


ALEXIS COLE WITH ONE FOR ALL
YOU’D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO
Golden Earrings; I Will Wait For You; Moon River; Delilah; Cry Me A River; Alone Together; A Beautiful
Friendship; All The Things You Are; So In Love; You’ve Changed; You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To (56.59)

Cole (v); Jim Rotundi (t); Steve Davis (tb); Eric Alexander (ts); David Hazeltine (p); John Webber (b); Joe Farnsworth (d). New York, April 2010.
Venus Records 1046
*****
   
New York-based singer Alexis Cole was a new name to me and a most welcome surprise, a positively talented artist without doubt. Allied with a sextet who take the name One For All they produced a masterpiece, a very upfront bop combo providing exemplary underpinning to this most uncompromising of singers. The album was produced in 2010 by Venus Records of Japan and doesn’t have retail distribution outside that country but is now available directly from alexiscole.com/store. Cole herself says “I wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity to share this first ever vocal jazz album of One For All!” and that band play an important role in this set as excellent arrangers and players.

The programme commences with the swinging Golden Earrings and the rendition of Moon River is a joy, not least for the juicy reharmonisations and Cole’s similarly unexpected but tasty and perfectly placed melismas. Jim Rotundi’s fiery trumpet is showcased on Cry Me A River whilst A Beautiful Friendship has that classic bluesy feel that ticks all the boxes. All The Things You Are is taken at a swinging medium/up tempo, a real gem. No prizes for guessing that Sarah Vaughan and Anita O’Day were amongst Ms. Cole’s influences. Steve Davis’s trombone and David Hazeltine’s piano are heard to positive effect on So In Love. The disc ends with You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To, where Eric Alexander’s fluent hard-bop tenor is much in evidence. There is so much to enjoy and admire on this disc, recommended to all who love great songs sung by an outstanding individual singer. Despite the editor’s pleas not to overdo the star ratings I could not give less than five to such a perfect marriage of vocal and instrumental jazz. Buy it and be immersed in the warm musical ambience.
Brian Robinson


MILES DAVIS
L’ASCENSEUR POUR L’ÉCHAFAUD

(1) Générique; L’Assassinat De Carala; Sur L’autoroute; Julien Dans L’Ascenseur; Florence Sur Les Champs-Elysées; Dîner Au Motel; Evasion De Julien; Visite Du Vigile; Au Bar Du Petit Bac; Chez Le Photographe Du Motel; (2) On Green Dolphin Street; Fran-Dance; Stella By Starlight; Love For Sale; In Your Own Sweet Way; (3) No Line; Vierd Blues (75.01)
Davis (t) with:
(1) Barney Wilen (ts); René Urtreger (p); Pierre Michelot (b); Kenny Clarke (d). Paris, December 1957.
(2) Julian Cannonball Adderley (as); John Coltrane (ts); Bill Evans (p); Paul Chambers (b); Jimmy Cobb (d). NYC, May 1958.
(3) Sonny Rollins (ts); Tommy Flanagan (p); Chambers (b); Art Taylor (d). Hackensack, NJ, March 1956.
State Of Art 81213
***

Though usually described as a murder mystery, Louis Malle’s film is really a meditation on the slow imprisonment of the human spirit within its own technological creations. Now more often discussed (outside film schools at least) for the soundtrack than the images, it’s often adduced as an important stepping-off point in Miles’s career, his first unfettered outing as a composer of anything other than contrafacts, and a pointer to the open-ended, put-on-the-light-and-play approach of the late 60s and 70s. There’s no doubt that Miles’s scoring significantly redraws the movie’s inner landscape, drawing out some of its more complex psychological and philosophical elements.

There is, inevitably, a motorway cue, which hustles and bustles in a generic way. For the most part, the atmosphere is one of stasis, or of a flaneur’s slow amble through the modernist city. It’s moody and atmospheric, but I wonder increasingly whether it deserves to stand as anything other than an interesting sidebar, whose content was dictated as much by Wilen, Urtreger and Michelot (the last of these a master of what might – quite kindly – be called standing-still bass) as by Miles. Even so, he never let a musical experience go to waste, so the occasion may well have gone deep and resurfaced years later with Teo Macero when the second most powerful social technology of the 1960s – the recording studio was ceding first place to television – was being radically rethought.

There’s material from the May 1958 sextet date which has appeared in various forms over the years and three numbers from a Prestige date with Rollins in March 1956, and their presence here further blunts the putative importance of Lift To The Gallows, which was questionable, anyway.
Brian Morton


KIT DOWNES
OBSIDIAN
(1) Kings; Black Is The Colour; Rings Of Saturn; Seeing Things; (2) Modern Gods; (1) The Bone Gambler; Flying Foxes; Ruth’s Song For The Sea; Last Leviathan; The Gift (46.00)
(1) Downes (pipe organs). (2) Add Tom Challenger (ts). Snape, Bromeswell and London, November 2016.
ECM 578 2651
****

“Oh, no!” the cry goes up, “Not another album of improvised church organ music”. Yep, another to add to that lengthy list. But fear not. In the hands of Kit Downes, former Norwich Cathedral chorister and organist and one of our most inventive and exploratory musicians, Obsidian is an impressive and fascinating work.

There are three organs on Obsidian – from St John’s in Snape, St Edmund’s in Bromeswell and Union Chapel in London – each with its own distinct sound (for the cognoscenti, Downes includes an organ stop list in the album’s booklet). Downes has previous on the pipe organ. Obsidian follows Wedding Music (Loop Records, 2013), Vyamanikal and the often terrifying Black Shuck (both Slip Imprint, 2016). Tom Challenger partnered Downes across all three of these albums: on Obsidian his only appearance is on Modern Gods, his tenor interacting with the organ in a slow-building and dynamic partnership.

Solo, Downes draws a wide range of sounds out of each organ. His performance of the traditional Black Is The Colour shifts from lilting melody to a much darker mood. Rings Of Saturn emphasises this darker side of Downes’s playing, a spectral whistle creating its spooky atmosphere. Sometimes the sounds are ethereal, at others the notes seem to fill every space, building a dense body of sound. This is music with serious intent, but it isn’t always serious music. Flying Foxes is sprightly and light, Seeing Things is playful, the sound of young clangers hyped up on sugar treats. Paul Downes wrote The Gift as a hymn. Kit takes his father’s tune and plays it simply (on St Edmund’s small organ), without embellishment, retaining its gentle melody.
Bruce Lindsay


JEFF HAMILTON TRIO
LIVE FROM SAN PEDRO

Sybille’s Day; Poinciana; Hammer’s Tones; I Have Dreamed; In Walked Bud; Gina’s Groove; Brush This; Bennissimo; Gary, Indiana; Hoosier Friend (53.54)
Tamir Hendelman (p); Christoph Luty (b); Hamilton (d). Alvas Showroom, San Pedro, California, 8 January 2017.
Capri 74147
*****

Jeff Hamilton, Tamir Hendelman and Christoph Luty have been working together since 2001 and have become a tight, highly integrated unit of spontaneous musical excitement. They have recorded several albums as a trio and three with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra (Live At MCG, Dear Mr. Sinatra and The L.A. Treasures Project).

Whether using sticks or brushes the leader draws the maximum colour from his kit in a sympathetic approach that adds total freshness to each arrangement. After years of working with Oscar Peterson he knows exactly what is required in a small-group setting. The big-sounding Christoph Luty makes a huge contribution with his perfect choice of notes providing a swinging pulse throughout the set. The mightily impressive Israeli-born Tamir Hendelman has clearly been inspired by Peterson and perhaps Benny Green and each selection is a testament to his creativity and invention.

Jeff Hamilton’s Sybille’s Day was introduced in 2014 when Scott Hamilton was a guest with the trio on Live At Bern (Capri 74139). It opens with a brief but beautifully controlled pressroll before Hendelman takes off on two hard-swinging choruses, keeping the pot boiling with foot-tapping intensity. It has a 32-bar AABA construction but his judicious use of Gene Harris-like blue notes creates an evocative feeling of the blues nevertheless. The lovely Poinciana was introduced by Glenn Miller in the 30s and Bing Crosby had a hit with it in 1944. For jazz fans it will always be associated with Ahmad Jamal’s 1958 recording and the group doff their cap to Jamal’s distinctive arrangement, complete with bass ostinato. Highly recommended.
Gordon Jack


ED JONES
FOR YOUR EARS ONLY
Nomadology; Pandoras Box; Starbright (For Wayne Shorter); Marielyst; Solstice; Ebb And Flow (55.15)
Jones (ts, ss); Ross Stanley (p); Riaan Vosloo (b); Tim Gilles (d); Brigitte Beraha (v). London, June 2016.
Impossible/Ark 022
*****

The overall sound here is reminiscent of the quartets of John Coltrane, Kenny Garrett and Branford Marsalis, and the swaggering line-up is certainly up to the challenge of the leader’s Shorter/Tyner-like tunes. I particularly enjoyed Ross Stanley’s contribution on piano (those more familiar with his work on organ should also acquaint themselves with his piano playing here), as he melds essences of McCoy Tyner, Kenny Kirkland and Brad Mehldau, amongst others, into something of his own.

Brigitte Beraha’s contribution as vocalist and co-composer on Starbright (For Wayne Shorter) is in keeping with the style of the album, but the quartet work alone is engaging enough to not require what seems like something of a token vocal number, amongst the often Coltrane-like heavy blowing from Jones and Stanley. There are great playing contributions from bassist Vosloo (who composed Solstice) and drummer Gilles, whose interactive playing supports the other players and also drives the band as a whole.

One of my few reservations about this album is that seems to have two quite different halves – firstly a very direct post-bop, hard-blowing approach on the Tyneresque opener Nomadology and the swinging Pandoras Box that follows, and then the aforementioned vocal track leads into the second half of the album where the playing gradually becomes more free, with noticeably longer tracks, which makes for a slightly odd balance in the programming. However, this clearly wasn’t enough to stop me from thoroughly enjoying this excellent album, and I’d strongly recommend that you buy it soon.
Dave Jones


LOU LEVY
I’M OLD FASHIONED

High On You; I Won’t Dance; I’m Old Fashioned; Limehouse Blues; Take The ‘A’ Train; Estate; I’m All Smiles; You Say You Care; Wait ’Til You See Her; Ding, Dong, The Witch Is Dead (43.14)
Levy (p); John Heard (b); Shelly Manne (d). Hollywood, 27 & 28 November 1982.
Fresh Sound FSR-CD 949
****

A significant but largely overlooked lyrical bop pianist, Lou Levy (1928-2001) was born in Chicago and worked there and in New York in the early 1940s. In 1955 he settled in Los Angeles and became highly regarded by instrumentalists and singers. Stan Getz featured him on the albums West Coast Jazz (1956), The Steamer (1957) and The Dolphin (1981). Among the vocalists he accompanied were Peggy Lee, June Christy, Anita O’Day, Lena Horne, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra – Levy once said that he played for “everybody except Pavarotti”. As a soloist, Levy cited his two main influences as Bud Powell and Art Tatum. After recovering from narcotic addiction, Levy ended his career playing with Herb Alpert.

I’m Old Fashioned was first issued as The Kid’s Got Ears in 1983. This reissue should go a long way to solidifying Levy’s reputation as a versatile, subtle (and supple) performer. High On You is a charming samba, with Heard and Manne (excellent throughout) setting the pace. On I Won’t Dance, Levy aimed for (and realised) a “funky groove”, while I’m Old Fashioned (his favourite tune) is played as a delicate and ruminative solo. Limehouse Blues is based on a rhythmic pattern taken from Bill Evans’ album Empathy, and ‘A’ Train is an intriguing duet with Heard – with the piano only featured on the bridge. Levy first heard You Say You Care on Coltrane’s album Soultrane, and offers his own nimble and lilting interpretation. The closing track, Ding Dong (from The Wizard Of Oz) , recorded by Levy on his first album and reprised here, is what he calls “a bravura piece” and confesses that he listened to the play-back of this version “without laughing”. Recommended.
John White


ED PALERMO BIG BAND
THE ADVENTURES OF ZODD ZUNDGREN
The Solemn Z-Men Credo; Peaches En Regalia; Influenza; Yer Fast; Absolutely Free; Breathless (Part 1); Big Swifty; Kiddie Boy; Montana; Emperor Of The Highway; You Are What You Is; Echidna’s Arf (Of You); Hello It’s Me; Big Swifty Coda; Wailing Wall; Florentine Pogen; Flamingo; Marqueson’s Chicken; Song Of The Viking; Janet’s Big Dance Number; Broke Down And Busted; Breathless (Part 2); Zoot Allures; Yer Fast (Reprise) (74.24)
Palermo (arr, cond, as); Ronnie Buttacavoli, John Bailey, Steve Jankowski (t); Cliff Lyons (as, cl); Phil Chester (ss, as, f, picc); Bill Straub (ts, f, cl); Ben Kono (ts, f, o); Barbara Cifelli (bar, cl); Charley Gordon, Mike Boschen, Matt Ingman (tb); Katie Jacoby (vn, elvn, v); Bob Quaranta (p); Ted Kooshian (syn, kyb); Bruce McDaniel (elg, v); Napoleon Murphy Brock (v); Paul Adamy (b); Ray Marchica (d). Plus on Echidna’s Arf (Of You) The Louisiana Swindle Singers. New York, 17 July 2016 – 2 June 2017.
Cuneiform Rune 440
****

Todd Rundgren’s music, which pertains to half this album, isn’t perhaps the most obvious choice for a jazz reworking given that his songs are inextricably linked to his inimitable showman-like delivery. However, Ed Palermo’s talent lies in his alchemical ability to turn any song into a golden jazz arrangement. Palermo mainly sticks to Frank Zappa numbers but his previous record, The Great Un-American Songbook: Volumes I & II focused instead on progressive rock anthems. Happily, the other half of Zodd Zundgren is populated by Zappa numbers.

To be fair, Rundgren is not the usual run-of-the-mill pop star, his tastes being truly eclectic. On his 1973 album A Wizard, A True Star, he experimented with a variety of genres and hired the Brecker Brothers as backing musicians, whom Zappa employed as part of his ensemble on Zappa In New York. Palermo admits to Rundgren holding “a special place in my heart” even to holding a Zodd Zundgren night at his band’s gig at The Falcon in New York.

Rundgren’s songs don’t always translate to a jazz medium as successfully as Zappa’s. However, some of Rundgren’s tunes, such as the ballad Wailing Wall, do work well, here benefiting from a sumptuous tenor solo by Bill Straub. Occasionally, Zappa tracks regrettably short-change, such as the superb Big Swifty lasting just over a minute when the original is over 17 (admittedly there is a subsequent coda of a minute and a half’s duration, but still). Palermo, probably the leading disciple of FZ, is a hugely gifted arranger and once again he scores highly with an unashamedly original album. The brilliant elision of Yer Fast (Reprise) with Florentine Pogen attests to that.
Roger Farbey


NINA SIMONE
THE COLPIX SINGLES

CD1: Chilly Winds Don’t Blow; Solitaire; Children Go Where I Send You; Willow Weep For Me; The Other Woman; It Might As Well Be Spring; Summertime; Fine And Mellow; Since My Love Has Gone; Tomorrow (We Will Meet Once More); Under The Lowest; If Only For Tonight; Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out; Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair (42.53)
CD2: Trouble In Mind; Cotton Eyed Joe; Work Song; Memphis In June; You Can Have Him; Gin House Blues; Cone On Back Jack; You’ve Been Gone Too Long; In The Evening By The Moonlight; I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl; I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good); Little Liza Jane; Blackbird (35.18)
Simone (p, v) solo and with various accompaniments. USA, 1959 to 1964.
Stateside 0190295735869
****

File under... what? Well, “Nina Simone”, obviously. If there was a point in her career when the former Eunice Waymon avoided the turning marked “generic” and took the fork signposted “sui generis”, it was with her first Colpix single. Perversely, this is one of her least well-known periods, but it was the simple fact of being left alone with an engineer and without the usual A&R pressure that turned a jazz-slash-folk singer into the extraordinary songwriter and arranger that emerged between 1959 and 1964. The trajectory from Chilly Winds Don’t Blow to Blackbird is vividly documented here; the former was written by Hecky Krasnow, a producer more usually associated with novelty records like Frosty The Snowman and Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. The proudly chilling Blackbird is all Simone.

Remarkably, she regarded her pop career at this time as simply a means to pursuing her lifelong ambition of classical study. The very insouciance of these performances, even on the successful Nina Simone At Town Hall (some of which was re-recorded in studio), seems to have added depth to her music. An abusive relationship with her partner Andrew Stroud certainly added something to her developing self-reliance and non-ideological feminism. Jessie Mae Robinson’s The Other Woman was a fine example of how intuitively she had begun to shape a repertoire that didn’t fall within the usual “chick singer” range.

Her jazz credentials are most obviously testable on a couple of items like Fine And Mellow and Summertime, but Simone was exploring a new and different African-American music. A DJ recently described her as “like Tina Turner, if Tina had played piano”. Nonsense. If there’s a valid comparison, it’s with Beyoncé, the only remotely comparable star of the present firmament, but even she seems pigeonholed and predictable compared to Simone. The Colpix Singles is a comprehensive survey of genuinely historic material.
Brian Morton


SONS OF KEMET
YOUR QUEEN IS A REPTILE

My Queen Is Ada Eastman; My Queen Is Mamie Phipps Clark; My Queen Is Harriet Tubman; My Queen Is Anna Julia Cooper; My Queen Is Angela Davis; My Queen Is Nanny Of the Maroons; My Queen Is Yaa Asantewaa; My Queen Is Albertina Susulu; My Queen Is Doreen Laurence (55.34)
Shabaka Hutchings ts); Theon Cross (tu); Tom Skinner, Seb Rochford (d); plus Pete Wareham, Nubya Garcia (ts); Congo Natty, Joshua Idehen (v); Moses Boyd, Eddie Hick, Maxwell Hallett (d). London, c. 2017.
Impulse! 6736432
***

After two albums, Shabaka Hutchings and the Sons Of Kemet hit the big time with an Impulse! contract. As before, their music retools the music of the Caribbean with its elements of marching bands and carnival and presents it from a new angle. In a recent interview, Hutchings remarked that “There is a conscious effort [by me to be] thinking Caribbean phrases, but then not actually playing them [...] In my head I might be going over what a calypsonian might be singing, or small phrases, but it just shouldn’t sound like that on a saxophone”. Indeed it doesn’t, although the dub-bass groove of Theon Cross’s tuba certainly roots this music in the islands.

The album itself addresses the British monarchy, rejecting the idea that some people are born to rule by right of blood and inheritance. In her place, Hutchings proposes a list of different queens, each one an admirable woman who has made a big difference to her society. That makes this set sound overly polemical, but its strength lies not just in its message but in its musical medium, an often high-powered and energetic momentum propelled by numerous drummers and of course the flame-throwing sax of leader Hutchings. As ever, a group to watch and admire.
Simon Adams


BOBO STENSON TRIO
CONTRA LA INDECISIÓN

Contra La Indecisión; Doubt Thou The Stars; Wedding Song From Poniky; Three Shades Of A House; Elégie; Canción Y Danza VI; Alice; Oktoberhavet; Kalimba Impressions; Stilla; Hemingway Intonations (64.47)
Stenson (p); Anders Jormin (b); Jon Fält (d). Lugano, May 2017.
ECM 578 6976
*****

Sometimes you get lucky. In March 2009 I took a morning flight to Stockholm to undertake research on the Swedish poet Gunnar Ekelöf. During the flight I read about an upcoming concert by Bobo Stenson’s trio at the city’s famous Fasching club. The date of the concert? The day of my flight. That evening at Fasching remains one of the highlights of my experience of live jazz. Fält, who had a background in free improvising, had not been that long with the trio, appearing on the excellent 2008 ECM release Cantando. Bobo and I agreed that while the young Swede was very much his own man, his fresh, ever-alert playing (sample, here, the ad libitum introduction to Hemingway Intonations) made him a sort of “son of Jon Christensen” – the great Norwegian whose dynamic and textural sensitivity and bar-slipping idea of “drumming in waves” had long contributed much to the evolution of Nordic and European jazz.

The trio’s Indicum from 2011 certainly rekindled the sense of magic I had felt on that March Stockholm night. But the present disc is something else again. Everything about this gently – yet purposively – flowing music is as close to perfection as one might wish. Stenson’s lyrical touch and nuanced range of nudging rhythm are wondrous throughout and Jormin is superb in both arco and pizzicato mode. Wide-ranging, the programme is suite-like in effect, featuring Silvio Rodriguez’s title piece, Federico Mompou’s Danza, Bartok’s Song and Satie’s Elégie as well as Stenson’s deeply reflective Alice, the briefish rolling modal group improvisation that is Kalimba Impressions and a striking range of originals from Jormin which feature, in Stilla, the album’s most rocking grooves. Music to make you cry – with joy.
Michael Tucker

 


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