Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Three to Watch in 2013

I began this blog with the idea of identifying CDs and players that get overlooked by the general buying public, and so in this post I am identifying three young musicians/groups whose 2012 CDs impressed me and who I expect will continue to produce interesting music in the coming year. Their music also point to the universality of jazz, featuring as they do players from England, Russia, the United Stataes, and Germany; and the variety of sounds and forms that constitute jazz in the second decade of the 2000s.  

Dice Factory's eponymous first CD (Babel 2012)  is a quartet outing featuring Tom Challenger on tenor sax, George Fogel on piano, Tom Farmer on bass, and Jon Scott on drums. 
Product DetailsAs stated by Challenger, the band's work is highly structured despite its  "seemingly chaotic music, harmony and rhythm...Chaos, chance, numbers, structure, work ethic are the principles at work here." Dice Factory is a sometimes lyrical, sometimes abstract, and always challenging (no pun intended) blend of these concepts, and a joyful listening experience that mixes rhythm, tempo, and harmony is highly individualistic ways. Each musician brings with him experiences in the new creativity that is defining British jazz -- Tom Challenger is a LOOP Collective member and leader of the jazz-electronica group MA and saxophonist for the group Outhouse; Tom Farmer is the double bassist for Empirical; drummer Jon Scott is a member of the Kairos 4tet, and pianist George Fogel is a member of MA and the trumpeter Andre Canniere Group.

Each member is a composer and contributor to Dice Factory's sound, which mixes a great deal of accoustic play with a quiet yet effective dose of electronica. "Heyu Nantucket" starts right in with a catchy, somewhat jagged piano-driven melody that immediately reminded me of the works of Vijay Iyer or Matthew Shipp, and I was not surprsed to find the reference to Iyer's work as an influence in some of the band's materials. The jagged tune goes on for eight minutes with tradeoffs between the sax and piano, and sometimes unison play, and the whole piece reflects the band's commitment to structured chaos. A very exciting start, and one that is picked up again and again. "Gooch" starts with some strange rhythmic play by the bass and percussion, but then introduces a gentle melody on sax that dominates a very pleasing song even as the unusual rhythm patterns are played underneath. "Saribund" is another of the catchy tunes that tip the cap to Iyer and others.  "Eternal Moment" is pretty far out there on the abstract/free curve, with a wailing sax part over a propulsive beat, and then the band returns to the more serene sound of "Pipes." Challenger on sax can play sweet or forceful as demonstrated in the range just between these two songs,  but he is always in synch with his playing partners, and is outstanding throughout and especially endearing on some of the balladic tunes. Very nice modern abstract jazz for the more adventerous listener.

Philip Dizack's second CD, "End of an Era" (Truth Revolution Records 2012)Product Details hews more closely to the mainstream but is not without its moments of modern abstraction and creative play, which contribute to a rewarding listen. Dizack is a trumpet player out of Milwaukee, whose previous recording was on Fresh Start New Talent, so this is his introduction in many ways to the U.S. market. Dizack wrote eleven pieces and arranged Coldplay's "What If", and uses his supporting cast extremely well. And what a cast of young players, some of whom trade-off on various pieces --- Jake Saslow on sax, Aaron Parks on piano, Sam Harrris on Rhodes, Justin Brown on drums, Kendrick Scott on drums, Reinaldo DeJesus on percussion, Linda Oh on bass, Joe Sanders on bass and on three pieces the Maria Jeffers Strings. Dizack jumps right in with a very emotional piece, "End of an Era" that immediately establishes Dizak's first rate credentials, and also includes a short but moving piano interlude by Parks. Saslow shines on "Grow", a meditation on change and the need to develop and move ahead in life. Further  on, "Forest Walker" is about the search for the way forward, and is a lovely, caressing melody with a mellow restrained and lovely trumpet at the outset that then cresendo's as the piece moves on.  "Yele" is a mediation on hope in the face of tragedy that is inspirational to listen to. Dizack's muted play on "What If" is another highlight, but there are really too many to catalogue in this short piece. Dizack is a player to be watched closely, and a composer who is extending the ideas of modern mainstream jazz with his inviting tunes. Beautiful compositions rendered beatutifully by a first class team.

The Hammer Klavier Trio's second recording is  "Rocket In The Pocket" (2012 Jan Matthies Records), a clever session of acoustic trio music with a touch of electronics and electric instruments that add fun, sparks, and excitment to the brew.  The trio is Boris Netsvetaev on piano and keyboards; Philipp Steen on acoustic and electric bass; and Kai Bussenius on drums and percussion. The group blends all sorts of styles and tempos in a collection of songs, all written by Netsvetaev, that cover classical forms, rock, electronica, and basic jazz. The songs range from brooding impressionism on "A Sketch in Dark Colors" with its lyrical melody, to the distortions and modernism of "Suicide Train, with its quirks and bending sounds. The range of moods and sounds is great, but the effect never feels disorganized; rather it enhances the excitment of the trio as they blur the lines between the trasditional accoustic trios and the modernist trios characerized by E.S.T. or Micael Wollny's [em], to name just two. And as the band ranges over the wide variety of sounds and moods, they tip their hats to their antecendents. The beauty of "The Incredible Atmosphere Of Andrew Hill's Music" with the increadible bass arco work of Steen is a highlight, as is the more upbeat and jagged "Hysterioso", a tip of hte hat to Monk or the soulful "Harold Mabern" a lyrical tribute to the wonderful osunds of that pianist. Melodies, jams, improvisations mix wonderfully in a CD of delightful suprises. Modern lyricism at its best with a touch of abstraction, this is a group to watch.

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