by: Hobert Taylor
Kait Dunton - Trio Kait - (Real and Imagined Music)
Snarky Puppy alum , pianist Dunton writes vibrant complex and delightful post modern jazz tunes a la Vijay Iyer and Robert Glasper. There is some neo-soul, a lot of up tempo syncopated excitement, and a couple of thoughtful melodic gems. Best new release of the week.
Takeshi Asai - French Trio Vol. 2 - (de trois cites records)
More contemporary sounding piano trio music from this New York based composer. Asai also plays with musicians in Tokyo and Paris, and this recording with his French rhythm section alternates between dreamy melodic waltzes and strongly inflected contrapuntalism. My picks, "653", "Hircam", and "Libre Arbitre". I thought of Lyle Mays while listening to this but not so Windham Hillish.
Brian Charette - Alphabet /city - (Posi-Tone Records)
Organist Charette splits the hair between jazz pop soul trio music and free jazz masterfully. With passing root chords and flashing leads from the amazing guitarist Will Bernard and up tempo snap crackle and pop from drummer Rudy Royston it's always a party. I really like the soul jazz outing "They Let Fred Out", the abstract blues "West Village", the rock song "Not a Purist", the crazy spooky "Hungarian Major" and equally off kilter "Split Black" as well as "Detours", "White Lies" and "The Vague Reply".
Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet - Intercambio - (Patois Records)
Bay Area trombonist Wallace has been a leading innovator in Latin Jazz. He uses a variety of styles, Cuban, Colombian, Puerto Rican, and Nuyorican among them to push the limits and categories and free the melodies from their traditional restraints. Highlights include a new take on Dizzy Gillespie's "Algo Bueno", "Shutter Bug" "Equinox", and "Circle".
George Freeman/Chico Freeman - All In The Family - (Southport records)
Guitarist George Freeman and his nephew saxophonist Chico Freeman come from arguably the first family of Chicago jazz. Chico's dad, the late Von Freeman (tenor sax), A.K.A. Vonski, and George were road warriors and staples of the Chicago club scene playing besides a panoply of greats from Charlie Parker, Johnny Griffin, Lucky Millinder to Sun Ra, Jimmy Witherspoon, Kurt Elling and Frank Catalano. In his own write Chico came up as a young lion, teaching at AACM, the great Chicago jazz studies institute, and bursting on the scene during the Wynton Marsalis revival of popular interest in jazz. This recording is a suite of music, melodic and bluesy, full of minor key moodiness, Latin joie de vivre and dreamy reflection. The songs are stitched together by improvisational fragments between them that work as transitional devices, but also as accents that inspire fresh ears for the variety of styles and approaches presented here. The backing band is exceptional in their coherence to the vision.My favorite cuts are "Five Days In May"," Vonski" (guitar sax duet), "Inner Orchestrations", "Chico", and "Essence of Silence", but they are all winners.
Jeff Denson/ Lee Konitz Jeff Denson Trion+Lee Konitz - (Ridgeway Records)
Bassist Denson has collaborated with the legendary alto sax player Konitiz (Miles Davis, Lennie Tristano, Stan Kenton)for several years, and they have made previous live recordings. This studio effort is intimate and casual without being off hand. Nobody phones nothing in. They sing, the horn dances and Konitz's famous long melodic lines abound. The whole band are fingers in a fist, and Denson's playing (imaginative, in the moment, personable) in particular helps gel the sound. My picks, "Duet", "Blue Skies", the minor key gem Tristano "East Thirty-Second" (wonderfully played by pianist Dan Zemelman), "Subconcious Lee" and the reprise of same (Denson solo).
Shaun Martin - 7 Summers - (Shunwun music)
Perhaps best known for his work with Snarky Puppy, keyboardist Martin solo effort has pop energy.. some soul jazz, some just plain fetching melodies hookfull and happy. Like Robert Glasper (particularly the "Black Radio" records) and Kamasi Washington, The Bad Plus and Snarky Puppy, this music sacrifices none of it fun for it's sophistication. "One Big Party" and "Lotus" sound like soundtracks to my memories of 1967, noisome barbecue and relentless summer heat assuaged by the slow rhythm of an oscillating fan. Check out "The Torrent" up tempo and dark and Martin's tribute to Nelson Mandela "Madiba".
Keith Jarrett - Creation - (ECM)
Recorded live in 2014 at concerts in Toronto, Tokyo, Paris, and Rome, these recordings bookend that essential work in the jazz piano canon, The Koln Concert, (1975). These are deep meditations that require attentive listening.
Michael Kocour - Wherever You Go, There You Are - (OA@ Records)
This recording is also solo keyboard work. There are tunes here, not extended improvisations, but there is freshness and energy, lightness and spirit throughout as he covers a wide range of jazz styles ("Just In Time" next to "Freedom Jazz Dance" for example). His own compositions are striking and there is a Clare Fisher tune "Pensativa" done on Fender Rhodes that is just off kilter enough to make you break out in a broken grin."
We have three exceptional new classical releases that adhere to the station's philosophy of championing alternative and underplayed new music. One features a young Latina composer and pianist, Gabriela Montero, who has provided us with stunningly dramatic new work based on her compositions and improvisations, a second features an innovative adaptation of the Bach 'Cello Suites to guitar by Steven Hancoff, and the third features three 20th century French Trumpet concertos performed by Paul Merkelo and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kent Nagano.
Gabriela Montero and the Youth Orchestra of the Americas -
Rachmaninov Piano concerto # 2, Montero Ex Patria, Op.1, and three improvisations.
- (Orchid Classics Records)
Venezuelan Montero was a renowned child prodigy who was famous for improvising melodies on the spot when audiences would call out the names of composers.
Currently much in demand for concert appearances globally as a pianist, her compositional skills and improvisational acuity are the real highlights of this record. There are so many "definitive" recordings of Rachmaninov concertos (Richter, Horowitz, Rachmaninov himself,etc.) and while this recording is vibrant and sensitive the purpose of trotting out this old war horse is to display in a traditional context Montero's talents. Her own work, particularly Ex Patria, should resonate with both lovers of the 19th century "classical" Brahms inflected canon and those who sensibilities have been shaped by Gershwin, Stravinsky and John Adams. In her program notes Montero asserts that the piece is a protest and lament for the current state of affairs in Venezuela, corruption, violence, dis-unity. The three improvisations are a bit more romantic, hints of Schumann and Delius.
Steven Hancoff - The Six Suites For 'Cello Solo (J.S. Bach) Arranged for Acoustic Guitar - (Out of Time Music)
So what does it do to remove the deep browns and low timbre fullness from the 'Cello Suites and replace them with almost harpsichodean precision plucking. Well it de-romanticizes and lightens the work for me... emphasizing cerebral elements (always present in Bach) and de-emphasizing the passionate dynamic swells that make these pieces among the most popular in all of classical music. For those accustomed to Yo Yo Ma, Casals, and Rostropovich this may be a bit unnerving. But the process of deconstruction can be a process of re-invention. I think it is safe to say that the guitar is the principal instrument of contemporary global culture. It's facility, portability, and versatility allow for cross pollenization of genres and styles. Hancoff in a sense provides new context for examining Bach's melodies and counterpoints and perhaps will inspire others who use his instrument to explore musical ideas in performance that seemed inaccessible to them in the past.
Paul Merkelo/Kent Nagno Montreal symphony Orchestra - French Trumpet Concertos (Tomasi Desenclos and Jolivet) - (Analekta Records)
Merkelo, principal trumpet for the Montreal Symphony Orchestra has chosen three particularly challenging works from mid 20th century France and masterfully interprets them. While the trumpet is pretty much a show offy instrument, and virtuosi from Maurice Andre to Wynton Marsalis dazzle listeners with fire and honey, There is something almost primal in the way horns of that register command attention. Merkelo's choices emphasize the contrasts of deep orchestral eddying seas of melody and ship like trumpet cadenzas plowing the waves. There's a lot of jazz here, think Milhaud, and a lot of incantation, Debussy etc. It all sounds grand.