by: Hobert Taylor
Jacob Shulman - Until Autumn - (Mogold Records)
Saxophonist Shulman was a recognized prodigy at the L.A. High School of the Arts with club and festival dates under his belt, and now in his third year as an undergraduate at Princeton he has composed and released a stunning suite of compositions as an EP, "Until Autumn". I'm guessing the title refers to the fact that he recorded this over his summer break between sophomore and junior year.
Backed by other brilliant young artists on the L.A. scene, (Isaac Wilson, piano, Henry Terrell, drums, Greg Swiller, bass), Shulman presents a contemporary iteration of the jazz sub-genre known as third stream... which is no genre at all. From Darius Milhaud through Aaron Copeland through Gunther Schuller, the later work of Ellington, Modern Jazz Quartet,Mingus, Carla Bley Sun Ra,and Build (Matt McBane) and so many other innovators composers have melded "classical" elements to jazz improvisation and chordal structure in order to make music with both emotional and intellectual depth.
This recording gave me the same tingle that I felt when listening to the Mingus /Dolphy collaborations. That isn't to say it is derivative. Like Jason Moran or Vijay Iyer or Anat Cohen or fellow Angelino Daniel Rosenboom, Shulman brings fresh energy and new ideas to the tradition of serious jazz composition and improvisation.
The four pieces on the disc correspond to four movements in a classical composition with two allegro pieces book-ending two slower movements. In the liner notes Shulman says that the order of the four pieces (intended to heard as a whole) could be reversed. I agree. This is not a gimmick. It is a recognition of the fluidity of the various themes and the cyclical nature of their presentation. The changes are so seamless that while they can be sudden you are not left with the jarring sensation you sometimes get with the radical juxtaposition of thematic ideas. This means that even for folks without "jazz ears" this music while maintaining it's integrity is still melodically pleasing on a moment to moment basis. Good things happening here. Watch this space... I hope to interview him soon and we will keep you informed of any upcoming local dates.
Throttle Elevator Music - Jagged Rocks - (Wide Hive Records)
Gregory Howe and Matt Montgomery wrote 16 punk-funk- jazz tunes that punch and pinch alternately. There are shades of Bay Area hippie jazz, P-Funk and Maceo Parker sonic soul bursts, and Bill Laswell machine music. What makes this especially powerful is the playing and improvisation of the heart and soul of the performing ensemble, tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington. Currently riding high because of his playing on "To Pimp a Butterfly" and on his own new release "The Epic" (coming soon to KUCI), he comments on and is a commanding presence on each of the very short melodies on this disc, (most of them about two minutes long). Check out "Upper Deck" and "Across the Equinox"
Plunge - In for the Out - (Immersion Records)
Deep from the streets of New Orleans comes this fusion of second line traditions and avant garde jazz. Like Galactic these guys have updated the NOLA sound without losing any of the flavor in the Gumbo. As in the brass bands of legend, the bass is held down by sousaphone (Kirk Joseph) and elegant horn lines carry the melody,Mark McGrain trombone and alphorn, Tom Fitzpatrick and Tim Green Saxes, all punctuated by Robert Walter's tasty organ work. It's all really tight. My first picks: "Schoolie's Day" and the ambitious and more akin to the great classic sound of 60's small ensemble jazz the "Entropy Suite", cuts 9-13. Pay attention especially to the amazingly expressive bass playing by James Singleton.
Andrew DiRuzza Quintet - Shapes/ And Analogies - (Self Released)
Guitarist DiRuzza has a free and easy improvisational style in his compositions often expressed in "call and response" with keyboard player Michael Jarvey and saxophonist Robert Espe. Favoring elliptical melodies and a quavering vibrato tone these tunes feel to me like the rhythm of thought or light bouncing off parabolic mirrors. RIYL Exploding Star Orchestra. My faves: "Starfish Regeneration", "Too early For Eye Contact and the uptempo"Shapes and Analogies".
Pete Malinverni Emerging Markets - (Glass Beach Jazz)
Pianist composer Malinverni has written a suite celebrating the great cities of America that have hit upon economic hard times since the 1960's, Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Springfield, Newark, St. Louis and Milwaukee.
These are grand straight ahead compositions with a lot of Thelonious Monk influenced riffs, blues, and deeply evocative melodies in the jazz classical style (Mingus, Tadd Dameron,Billy Strayhorn). Malinverni has written mildly nostalgic tunes, for example the blues stylings on "Cleveland by the Lake", but they are not sentimental. Very classy.