by: Hobart Taylor
Ryan Blotnick - Kush - (Songlines)
Composer/guitarist Blotnick's melodies are alluring not because they are attached to various traditions such as African, South Asian, dreamy Americana country (Frizzel, Metheney), or the avant garde. They possess a seeming underlying force and conviction, a personal integrity, that allows them to stand alone outside of genre and influence. Backed by an outstanding crew of collaborators, Michael Blake on tenor and soprano saxes, bassist Scott Colberg, and drummer RJ Miller, Blotnick explores thoughts and moods at their source allowing for what sounds to me like an artful balance between composition and improvisation. Yeah, you’re thinking (or I'm thinking) Mingus and Monk, George Russell and Carla Bley, Henry Threadgill , Robin Holcomb, Wayne Horvitz, Ran Blake and among Blotnicks' contemporaries, Rob Reddy, John Ellis, Ben Monder and Andrew Downing. These composers, and many others are writing/improvising/performing the music that moves the needle. They are building gleaming new temples on the glorious ruins of the old ones.
Patrick Arthur/Dana Fitzsimons/Chris Otts - the cheap 3nsemble - (Self Released)
Guitar, drums and tenor sax, intertwine like smoke rising from a joint's afterglow. The melodies hover overhead, wispy clouds outlined by the hazy glow of a winter sun. A "Poor Butterfly" is blown by a sultry breeze in a shadowy cave of memory. The "Volkslied" (folksong) echoes faintly from caverns deep in the bowels of earth. You get my drift. Lovely.
Michael Pedicin - As It Should Be - (Groundblue Records)
Laid back, casual, comforting, jazz. Saxophonist Pedicin is the leader of this sextet, but the tunes are almost all composed by guitarist Johnnie Valentino. The whole project glides gracefully along at a very relaxed pace. There is a typically nuanced Coltrane tune, "Crescent", that is a standout, and my kudos to Valentino's "Facing the Night" and "Last Words".
Daniel Weltlinger - Samoreau-A Tribute to the fans of Django Reinhardt - (DMG Records)
Violinist Weltlinger's original compositions are clearly homages to the gypsy jazz tradition, not straying a centimeter from their origins. Playing Stephane Grapelli's part in the ensemble, he demonstrates the same pathos, drama, and control that the maestro lent to the Quintette du Hot Club. Django's parts are played by Lulo Reinhardt, Romano Reinhardt, and Jermaine Reinhardt, "members of Django's extended family" say the liner notes, as well as Taylor Paucken. Alternating between hot swing and European folk melodies, often inside tunes as well as between tunes, like the Django originals, these tunes reach for your ribs and start tickling.
Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda - The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda - (Luaka Bop)
Alice Coltrane who died in 2007 was a spiritual leader and composer whose contributions were seriously overshadowed by the genius of her husband John.
As a young jazz pianist she was a protege of Bud Powell. After marrying Coltrane, she introduced him to various spiritual traditions which culminated in his masterwork, "A Love Supreme". After his death, she continued to perform and record, and her music became more and more spiritual in the Indian tradition. Using the newest technology like synthesizers, and one of the world's oldest instruments, the harp, she connected music and performance to her vision of the divine. From her Vedanctic Center, here in Southern California, she gathered together a chorus of devotees who performed chants with her accompaniment on synth, organ, and harp. This is transcendental music in the most definitive sense.