I did well in my selecting and am enjoying all eleven entries, whether I knew the artists first or felt that the combination of players, instruments, and songs would probably appeal to me. A bit of guesswork is always fun an a great way to open the world of jazz even wider to my ears.
Without further ado, the discs:
Jesse Stacken has recently be lauded for his 2011 disc "Bagatelles for Trio" (Fresh Sound/New Talent 2011) in several periodicals and on-line reviews, and it is indeed a very charming, melodic effort consisting of 13 individual bagatelles with Eivind Opsvik on bass an Jeff Davis on drums. But prior to this CD, he recorded another, "Magnolia" (Fresh Sound/New Talent 2009) with the same trio. Seven more lilting and delightful melodies for those who like this type of quiet introspective music from a piano trio.
Moving on, the drummer Jeff Davis has a new CD on the label, "Leaf House" (Fresh Sound/New Talent), also a piano trio, with Eivind Opsvik again on bass but with Russ Lossing on piano. Great disc, but the compositions by Davis, who wrote all eight tracks, are somewhat more angular and unusual than those of Stacken. "Transitional Whales" spends its first eight minutes with the bass and drums sounding a lot like a ship at sea, later joined by the piano with some hard hitting free improvisations for example; this is not music for the faint of heart. On my scale of looking at piano, from the straight forward sounds say of Oscar Peterson or Red Garland to the free experimentation of Matthew Shipp, this leans heavily in Shipp's direction. It appeals to me, but my tastes for piano music are pretty broad.
Moving onward, Russ Lossing from the Jeff Davis disc is the next player to discuss. Lossing has most recently put out a disc in honor of Paul Motian called "Drum Music" (Sunnyside 2012) and it is contains wonderfully subtle solo piano versions of Motian's compositions. But here I have a disc by Lossing called "Phrase 6" (Fresh Sound/New Talent 2004), a piano trio with John Hebert on bass and Jeff Williams on drums. Once again we are back on a more melodic turf, though the music is still further outside of the standards box, and Lossing allows plenty of opportunities for his partners' soloing efforts. Together though, songs like "Koan" and "Virgil" stand out as musical poetry. "Dexterity" by Charlie Parker is taken at a mid-tempo and is a standout way to conclude the disc, with Lossing intro ducting some real complexities to the piece before it concludes. The disc is lovely but definitely outside the standards box, melodic but modern, with a lot of nice bass and drum soloing throughout.
Now for an interlude, let's cover a few discs very close to being traditional standards trios. Rick Germanson, who has become much more widely known since "You Tell Me" (Fresh Sound/New Talent 2005) shakes up some standards and some originals with Gerald Cannon on bass and veteran Ralph Peterson on drums. "It Was a Very Good Year", the Sinatra classic, begins with a bombastic introduction played by piano and drums, breaks into a latin version of the melody, and then opens up to a terrific piano improvisation by Germanson. "Angel Eyes" is played dreamily, as it should be, with great emotion and tenderness, and has a lovely section where the bass takes over. Other highlights are Germanson's own "Erika's Endeavor", and the closing solo "Born to Be Blue." Germanson writes tunes that with time could mature into standards, and treats standards such that even as he opens them up one never loses the theme. His closer is fantastic and demonstrates everything he brings to this outing. First rate music.
Helen Sung is another who has in the past two years or so produced a couple of outstanding mainstream CDs that I have covered previously, and whose "Helenistique" (Fresh Start/New Talent 2005) with veterans Derrick Hodge on bass and Lewis Nash on drums is a nice outing demonstrating Sung's early mastery of different sounds -- bop, ragtime, swing, stride, et al -- as she rearranges and plays standards and well known tunes like "Sweet and Low", "Cottontail", "Where or When" and "Bye Ya". Sung seems to be experimenting and finding her own narrative voice on this disc as she plays through all the different styles, so that while it might not be her mature voice it is a wonderful disc to listen to. I wouldn't want to have missed it nor should most jazz buffs. "Where or When" with its bowed bass is a classy rendition of the song and bravura performance for Hodge, and "Willow Weep for Me" a lovely mid-tempo outing for Sung.
Moving along, Perico Sambeat is an alto sax player who also contributes a couple of pieces on flute and soprano sax to "Jindungo"(Fresh Sound/New Talent 1997). This is an oldie and Sambeat is a new name to me, but it was his backing trio that caught my attention and my Euros -- Bruce Barth on piano, and Mario and Jordi Rossy respectively on bass and drums. With that trio I figured to be in good company for some nice soft latin jazz and I was correct. The group spins nine pieces, all but two by Sambeat or Barth, and the ambience is gentle, relaxed, and lovely. Sambeat has a lovely tone on the alto and avoids any harshness in his upper register, and Barth is given a lot of room to stretch out. "Evidence", the Monk tune, swings effortlessly for Sambeat, as does the whole recording. This is an absolutely first rate outing.
Five more to come in another post, including a couple of familiar names. Fresh Sound/New Talent offers some first rate play by a lot of artists we all know, in some cases their early recordings but in other cases new recordings of folks who may not have a record deal, or are playing in unusual settings. Jordi Pujol was featured at jazzwax.com a while back and his interest in producing new sounds is clear, even as he is sometimes criticized for the reissues of old jazz on his Fresh Sounds label. Check it out, it is a first rate feature.
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