Friday, March 30, 2012

How About Trying Some Newbies? (Part 1)

One of the objectives I spelled out in my very first post was to write about new and interesting artists to whom I have been listening, to try to get people to listen to CDs they might otherwise pass by. So in that spirit, I am going to start posting about some folks who are new to the scene, or at least seem to be under the radar, that I have been impressed by lately. This will be the first of multiple postings of this type, which will feature short descriptions of the music, all of which I recommend.

Product DetailsSarah Elgeti Quintet, "Into the Open" (Your Favourite Jazz Recordings 2012)-- A Danish quintet, she's an impressive talent on tenor and soprano sax, and flute. Her group includes an altoist and baritone player, guitar, percussion, and piano/rhodes. She not only has a really nice sound, but has written all the rather impressive music. All of it is quite approachable, although "Trying to Forget" does step outside a bit; interesting; and played with outstanding voicings among the members.
Product DetailsTaurey Butler, "Taurey Butler" (Justin Time 2012) -- Butler's backstory is really interesting and described in the packaging It includes a degree in electrical engineering from Dartmouth, fluency in Japanese, and a history of playing clubs around his home in New Jersey and New York. But it was Oscar Peterson who he first heard on a CD while in High School  that inspired him to play and finally to land in Montreal, Peterson's hometown, where this was recorded. And it is quite a trio recording, with incredible verve on an assortment of standards and show tunes as well as some originals by Butler himself. The music is outstanding, and highlighted by Butler's own "Grandpa Ted's Tune" and "Nobody's Here," as well as a rousing finale of Horace Silver's "The Preacher." This is a great CD -- down the middle but with incredible feeling and interesting arrangements.

Product DetailsPiero Odorici with the Cedar Walton Trio, "Cedar Walton Presents" (Savant 2012) -- Wow! Cedar Walton has found a terrific young tenor player in Odorici, and with his trio's backing has produced a gem. Odorici has a lovely, full, and rounded tone on his sax, and demonstrates it with an expressive take of standards such as "Over the Rainbow", "My One and Only Love", and "If I Should Lose You." While the CD doesn't break any new ground, staying within the construct of the classic Blue Note recordings, the music is a delight to the ear and highly recommended.

That's it for this post. Lots of good straight ahead jazz to try. More new stuff to come.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Listening to: Kenny Wheeler "Music for Large and Small Ensembles" (1990)

Music for Large & Small EnsemblesJust a quick entry today. In preparation for the new Kenny Wheeler Big Band disc coming soon on CamJazz, I went back to the collection and am listening to "Music for Large and Small Ensembles" (ECM 1990) which may be a forgotten gem given that since that time Wheeler has largely been seen in small chamber-like settings. This two-CD set, however, shows another side to Wheeler, a more robust sound, more mid-tempo play, and incredible compositional work. Furthermore, the ensemble itself is a roster of first rate players, many still on the scene today and recognized as hall-of-fame category stars; and many of whom will be appering on his new big band disc as well.

Wheeler employs the big band to display the best qualities of his writing, which is always subtly nuanced and colored by the use of unusual combinations of sounds among his players. This big band is not a big band in the sense of the traditional big bands of the previous era or the ghost bands of the 90s, but rather is a sould mate to the sounds produced by Gil Evans and a precursor to the sounds of a Maria Schneider band. Ensemble play at times, small group play at others, and senesitivity between partners characterizes the sounds herein. Inherently emotional, beautifully colored by sensitive players, and highly melodic, it is no surprise to know it is considered part of a core collection by the Penguin Guide to Jazz.

And the roster! Besides Wheeler on trumpet and fluegelhorn, there is John Abercrombie on guitar, John Taylor on piano, Dave Holland on bass, Peter Erskine on drums, and Norma Winstone voice. Any one of these players has a list a mile long of five star CDs, with Taylor and Winstone being my particular favorites (Taylor will shortly have his own new piano trio out on CamJazz as well called "Giulias Thursdays". I have written previously on Norma Winstone for this blog.)

And within the other  sections (trumpets, trombones, saxophones) I want to highlight Evan Parker, Julian Arguelles, and Stan Sulzman, each also a well-known leader with an extensive discography.

This is an outstanding album for fans of Wheeler, or large ensembles, melody, and beauty; and for those who do not know many of this British players, a chance to be iintroduced to open a door on a wealth of new music to listen to.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Local Talent

Look around you, check out the newspapers, look at the notices posted around your town. You might be surprised to find how many local musicians there are around who play at restuarants, clubs, schools, et al each week. And you also might find out how many of them are really talented and fun to listen to.

Now I grant you some towns are more blessed than others, and in my case there is a plethora of talent in the area, right up to and including internationally known musicians such as Dave Brubeck.  But let's put him aside, and today note two folks from town, both of whom I know, and both of whom have made some great music recently.

Product DetailsLiner NotesRondi Charleston is a cabaret/jazz singer with a great voice and great charm on the stage, whether she is performing here in Westport, at Joe's Pub in New York, or around the country. Her repertoire is extensive and incorporates American Standards, show tunes, folk, and most recently on her latest album "Who Knows Where the Time Goes" (Motema 2011), originals penned both alone and with Lynne Arriale. This highly recommended album has lovely interpretations of the title song, written by Sandy Denny and made famous by Judy Collins; the Frank Loesser standard "I Hear Music"; and a haunting original by Rondi with music by Arriale called "Land of Gallilee."

Charleston is accompanied by some amazing talent, including Lynne Arriale on piano, Dave Stryker on guitar, and Clarence Penn on drums. In person, I caught her here in Westport with Joel Frahm on sax, and with actor Boyd Gaines on a truly fun rendition of "Baby It's Cold Outside." Catch her live if you can when she is touring the country, or on CD if you cannot, and enjoy.

I recently picked up a locally produced CD from another very talented local musician, Walter Lewis. With his Walter Lewis Blues Trio, he sings and plays guitar on a tremendously entertaining blues disc, "A Tip of the Hat." (Long Hill Recording, Shelton CT 2010;;  and also available at Sally's Place, Westport (203-454-0303)). Walter believes in shedding light on original blues music by the greats, and this CD features "Green River Blues" by Charey Patton; "I'm a Steady Rollin' Man" by Robert Johnson; and "Let Me Love You Baby" by Willie Dixon among its 12 cuts. A simple accoustic trio with David Anastasia on bass guitar and Scott Logan on drums, the music is infectious and a joy to hear.

The Walter Lewis Trio plays locally around Connecticut and should not be missed. Watch for them by checking their website, and in the meantime groove to the music on their disc.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Behind the Band: David Wong, an Ace on the Bass

Early on, in my second post on this blog, I wrote about two young bassists I had seen at Small's Jazz Club, Corcoran Holt with Ethan Iverson, and David Wong with John Mitchell. I said at the time that one of the greatest things about hearing live music is the chance to really hear the bass player, who often is lost on CDs and unless a leader, unknown to the average jazz fan.  While I mentioned some of David Wong's recordings then, I wanted to return to him today, having thought about the excitement of his live performances while listening to another great performance with Pete Zimmer called "Chillin', Live at the Jazz Factory" (Tippin' Records 2008). While live, it still cannot capture the feeeling of actually watching David in action.

Over the past couple of years I have been fortunate to see a number of shows in the New York area with bands featuring David on bass, and I am always deeply impressed with his dexterity, resonant sound, and interplay with the other members either providing rhytmic support, coloration, or expressive solos. He performs regularly at Smalls with a number of trios and quartets, and has been playing with such notables as Wessell  "Warm Daddy" Anderson and Aaron Diehl to name just two performances.

David Wong was born and raised in New York City and is a graduate of the LaGuardia High School for Music and Art and the Performing Arts. In 2004, he graduated from the Juilliard School in classical music. He has studied classical bass with Orin O'Brien of the New York Philharmonic, and jazz bass with legends Ron Carter, Ben Wolfe, and John Clayton. From 2003 to 2004, as part of the Eric Reed Trio, he performed in Europse and the United States, and with Jazz at Lincoln Center.  

He is currently a member of Roy Haynes' Fountain of Youth band  as well as bassist with the Heath Brothers quartet, led by jazz legends Jimmy and Albert "Tootie" Heath. David has also beeen performing with singer Sachal Vasandani, and pianists Jeb Patton. and Dan Nimmer, among others.

Product DetailsDavid has an impressive discography for a player only in his first decade of professional playing. To hear him playing, try listening to any of the following: 
  • Roy Haynes "Roy-alty" (Dreyfus 2011),
  • Sashal Vasandani "Hi-Fly" ( Mack Avenue 2011), and
  • Dmitri Baevsky "Down with It" (Sharp Nine 2011)
  • The Heath Brothers "Endurance" (JLP 2009)
  • Pete Zimmer Burnin' Live at the Jazz Standard (Tippin' 2006)
  • Pete Zimmer Chillin' Live at the Jazz Factory (Tippin'2008) 
Product DetailsDavid Wong is not widely known to jazz listeners, even as he is a widely known and used bass player to other jazz players, most likely because he has yet to be a leader, either live or on CD. When that happens, I am sure others will hear a player I believe will be a long standing, first call bassist. Product DetailsProduct Details


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Stretching Out: Discovering John Zorn

Look at the 10 record covers on the page. What they have in common is that they are all on Tzadik Records, and the all are works by John Zorn. Now for a long time I stayed clear of both Tzadik and Zorn, having heard bits and pieces of some of the music, and associating much of it with the NY Downtown Scene, experimental works, and the avant-garde. Words like skronk just never were in my vocabulary, and players like Mark Ribot were pretty far removed from my aural palatte.

Product DetailsHowever, one day I happened across "Alhambra Love Songs", a simple piano trio recording of what turns out to be very mellow, beautifully composed songs in tribute to the towns of the Bay Area, and realized that there is a body of work here that is a lot broader than I ever realized. Examining the works of Zorn more closely, I found a whole lot of threads -- Filmworks, The Books of Angels, The Masada Group, and a whole lot more. And I realized that everything in the Zorn catalogue did not have to be loud, free, and too far out there. In fact, as I began culling through all of the recordings, sampling many on-line, and talking to a couple of giant Zorn fans at my local store who understood my reservations and preferences, I was turned onto several more outstanding works, and then did some mining of my own. Ten Cds are shown in the accompanying pictures, each very much attuned to my tastes. A couple of Books of the Angels, a Filmworks project, a Masada group disc, and a bunch of free-standing recordings are represented, with the common characteristics being an emphasis on accoustic instruments, uncluttered and highly meodic lines, and interesting chamber-like performances. Among the highlights to this listener would be Uri Caine on "Moloch: Book of Angels 6 ", "Stolas: The Book of Angels 12" by the Masada Group, the aforementioned "Alhambra Love Songs", and three very recent recordings, "At the Gates of Paradise", "The Gnostic Preludes", and "Mount Analogue."  

John Zorn is a major figure on the jazz scene today and particularly of the downtown jazz scene in New York. Besides being a prolific composer, he is a producer who brings together some really outstanding players to give life to his works. So don't let  the name or associations scare you away; read the labels and look at the payers on each disc, sample some tracks on-line, and then try one or two recordings. Starting with "Alhambra Love Songs" in particular is a good way to experience some fine trio play, and from there you have many avenues to explore.

Once again, read past the brand name and study the ingredients -- I think what you find will surprise and amaze you.
Product Details

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Releases I am Awaiting

Between catalogues, magazines, blogs, and label sites, here is a list of the recently released and upcoming CDs from February to early April that I have on my purchase list, which I am sure will expand:

  • Eric Alexander and Vincent Herring, "Friendly Fire" High Note
  • Richard Galliano, "Nino Rota" Deutche Grammaphone
  • Andy Shepherd, "Trio Liibero ECM
  • Lynne Arriale, "Solo" Motema
  • Billy Hart, "All Our Reasons" ECM
  • Ulysses Owens, "Unanimous" Criss Cross
  • Dayna Stephens, "Today is Tomorrow" Criss Cross
  • Bud Shank and Phil Woods, "Bouncing with Bud and Phil" Capri
  • Upper Left Trio, "Ulternative" Origin
  • Matthew Shuipp, "Elastic Aspects" Thirsty Ear
  • Jeff Hamilton Trio, "Red Sparkle" Capri
  • Luis Perdomo, "Universal Mind" RKM
  • Brad Mehldau, "Ode" Nonesuch
  • Pete Zimmer, "Prime of Life" Tippin'
  • Kenny Werner, "Me, Myself, and I" Justin Time
  • Phronesis, "Walking Dark" Edition
  • Dialogues Trio, "Twinkle Twinkle" Babel
  • Gwilym Simcock, Tim Garland, "Lighthouse" ACT
  • EST, "301" ACT
  • Masabumi Kikuchi, "Trio" ECM
  • Michael Wollny's [em], "Wasted and Wanted" ACT
And these are recent purchases, all of which are very nice and within the generally straight-ahead framework:
  • Ahmad Jamal, "Blue Moon" Jazz Village
  • Mark Soskin, "Nino Rota" Kind of Blue
  • Enrico Pieranunzi, "Permutation" CamJazz
  • Ben Wendel, "Frame" Sunnyside
  • Johnathan Blake, "The Eleventh Hour" Sunnyside
One additional note. As a long-time and fully committed fan of Leonard Cohen, I was blown away by an advance copy ( April release in the U.S. athough it is available already in Canada) of his son Adam Cohen's upcoming CD,  "Like a Man". It's eerie how much he sounds like his father circa 1968, and the music itself, lyrics, voice and simple instrumentation all add up to an A-one recording.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Staying Current: Jazz Periodicals

Featured ImageGrowing up I still remember being glued to my radio to hear the latest songs from my favorite groups, or to hear the latest new groups, and then getting down to Cutler's Record Shop in New Haven CT (still in business) to buy the album. I remember spending hours at Cutler's browsing records, and even listening to them in small booths at the front of the store. I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard "Marekesh Express and the first time I saw "Surrealistic Pillow" in the window at Cutler's. I was still a few years away from jazz, but I am sure that finding new jazz then was also a lot different than today.

Things are really different today:
  • It isn't easy to hear a lot of jazz, let alone new jazz, in the car or at home on the radio these days. Local stations are basically gone, and Sirius radio is limited to a couple of stations if you have it at all. Some stations broadcast over the internet, but I believe the number of listener's to that mode of listening is limited.
  • It isn't easy to browse CDs in a record store, since there are not a lot of music stores left. Those that are left do not necessarily feature a jazz section, and if they do it is not usually very comprehensive. 
  • On-line sites for music are good, but tough to navigate if you are looking for new items that are not being heavily promoted.
  • Blogs follow new releases, but for the most part in small doses. They are a rich source of information, but just like my blog, the information is directed by the tastes of the blogger. And they are a lot harder to flip through than the bins at a record store. A list of blogs I follow appears with my profile, and I encourage you to thumb through them as a rich source of materials. But this entry is about magazines.
All of this comes to mind today because I got a windfall this week of my monthly jazz magazines, and therefore got a lot of information on new releases from articles, advertisements, and reviews of both new recordings and reissues. For many new recordings I got two or more viewpoints, helpful when trying to create an aural image of the music. Herein then is a list of my regular readings, again not including blogs: 
  • Downbeat - The oldest and probably most familiar of all the U.S. jazz magazines, Downbeat was founded in 1934 and has been in continuous publication since. It bills itself as providing "Jazz, Blues and Beyond." Downbeat's reeviews are excellent and they use a grading system of from one to five stars. They feature profiles on established and new performers, have their blindfold tests, and conduct reader and critic polls annually.
  • Jazz Times - "America's Jazz Magazine" according to the cover, Jazz Times is the second of the big two magazines in the U.S. It dates back to Radio Free Jazz, a publication founded in 1970 in Washington D.C. by a local record store owner, and was it was originally designed to update shoppers on the latest releases, which it still does today. It became JazzTimes around 1980, and except for about a year around 2010 has been in print ever since. Its review section is extensive and it to provides articles on a range of players and performances each month.  
  • Jazzwise - Jazzwise is a British publication that I receive on my iPad each month, and basically looks like, and has content like, the two U.S. magazines above. It covers the British Isles scene in depth, but also runs articles about international jazz stars from the U.S. and the rest of Europe, and has an extensive reviews section. Jazzwise provides a good look at music abroad, as well as hitting upon the U.S. releases. Its breadth of coverage of the new recordings is in many ways better from that perspective than either of the two U.S. magazines.  Jazzwise is currently celebrating its 15th anniversary.
  • Jazz Journal JJ OFC 0312 - A UK magazine, this is another great resource for the interested jazz fan. It is a bit skinnier than the others, but packs in a lot of good information about players, and of course about new music in its review section. It was founded in 1947 and tagged itself "the greatest jazz magazine in the world". It almost disappeared in 2009 but was revived with a merger with another publication and is still around today. 
Another publication, this one a newsprint freebie if you are around the New York area, is the "New York City Jazz Record", formerly "All About Jazz New York." While it features artists who are playing in New York each month, it is chock full of information on new recordings, has a section that profiles new artists each month, and lists all the shows around New York for the month. Its review section is extensive, and leans much further toward free jazz and the avante-garde than the other four magazines above. And the best news for those outside the area is that the publication is on line and is free. So if you cannot get a print copy of this excellent journal, read it on-line.

Another on-line publication, this time doing for the UK what the "New York City Jazz Record" does for New York, is "JazzUK", which discusses shows areound the British Isles, profiles some of the players, and has a small review section.

For those who lean more towards the smooth side of jazz, Jazziz magazine (US) may be your thing. 

So that's it, some fodder for you to consider in your quest for good music. Enjoy the journey!

JazzTimes CoverSubscribe to Jazzwise magazine


Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Shopper's Guide: Check out the Ingredients on the Label

Pick up a new brand of salsa or soup at the market. Do you ever check out the ingredients before you buy, maybe look at the spices to see if the salsa is mild or hot, or look to see if the soup is high in salt? Nice to hold that bottle or can in your hand so you can look it over before you buy, find out what's inside or what you think is inside, and whether you are going to chance the new brand or stick to the same old same old.

Same thing should hold true in choosing your music. Not only who's the leader, but who else is in the band, who's adding the spice, sugar, salt, or other flavorings to the stew the leader is creating. And it's a lot easier to do that when the disc is there in front of you and not just on a computer screen. Taking chances is the path to expanding your horizons, to hearing new sounds, and to discovering some of the new, young voices in jazz today.

Product DetailsThis all comes to mind because I am listening to a new disc, "The Eleventh Hour", by Johnathan Blake (Sunnyside 2012). I have to confess close to total ignorance about him, although I have seen his name sprinkled in my collection on a few recordings -- "Panorama" by Hans Glawischnig (Sunnyside 2008), Omer Avital "Live at Smalls" (Smalls 2011), Tom Harrell "Time of the Sun" (High Note 2011).  This is his first disc as a leader.

So my eyes did not automatically go to his CD on the rack. It's a lot easier to shift attention to the new Chick Corea, Vijay Iyer, or even the lesser known but up and coming Ben Wendel. But pick it up --it only takes a second and it isn't very heavy after all -- and look at the players:  Jaleel Shaw on alto, Mark Turner on Tenor, Kevin Hays on piano, and Ben Street on bass. Now those are names I can really get into. And then add in some special guests on a few songs:  Tom Harrell on trumpet and flugelhorn, Robert Glasper on piano (did I mention that I picked up his newest to look at first?), Tim Warfield on tenor, and Gregoire Maret on harmonica.

Suddenly this is a disc to sit up and take notice of. After all, if all those guys respect him enough to be a part of his debut as leader, then he must have that magic "something." Furthermore, these are all players that I have heard and that I like -- not too far outside, not too bland, right there in the pocket so to speak.

So this should be some kind of stew, and in fact it is. Nice to hear the simulated sound of a needle hitting the vinyl preceding the first tune -- cool touch. Everyone gets some outstanding solos along the way, and at other times the unison play, particularly between Shaw and Turner, is beautifully rendered. Turner shines on "Dexter's Tune", a Randy Newman song, Harrell on his own "Blue News", Glasper and Maret on Glasper's "Canvas", and Shaw on "Of Things to Come", one of seven songs penned by Blake. Blake proves himself to be an outstanding composer as well as drummer, constantly pushing the group dynamics, using all of his tools to bring the pot to a boil at some points and to a simmer at others. His play from the kit is always advancing the music, his insistent beat is particulary noticable on "Freefall" the longest piece on the CD and a chance for everyone to shine.

This is a hard disc from which to pluck highlights, as the music from start to finish is excellent and the musicianship extraordinary. Do not overlook this one, and enjoy a new star.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Get to Know: Nikki Iles


Nikki Iles is another UK jazz player who is relatively unknown in the United States. I can only hope that her new piano trio recording, "Hush" (2012 Basho Records), with Rufus Reid on bass and Jeff Williams on drums, two well known players here, will bring her the visibility she deserves.
Iles was born in England in 1963, and has progressed steadily into the front rank of British jazz musicians since she first broke onto the scene in the early 1990s on recordings led by Anthony Braxton and his Creative Jazz Orchestra, and by the Mike Gibbs Orchestra. She studied at The Leeds College of Music in the mid-80s before eventually settling in London to pursue her career as a jazz pianist. In clubs, she worked at times with Scott Hamilton, Iain Ballamy, Art Farmer, and Teddy Edwards among others.
Besides performing, she is a widely respected teacher, and she has acted as a tutor at numerous workshops and summer schools around the world, as well as maintaining active links with most of the London colleges.

"Hush" is only her latest, and perhaps her best, record outing to date. Before talking about it, I wanted to highlight four other Iles recordings in my collection, and in particular her close relationship to another outstanding jazz player from England, altoist Martin Speake. The four discs, all excellent, in order of release dates are as follows:

  • The Tan T'ien"The Tan Tien" (FMR Records 1997), a duo album with Iles and Speake, which intersperses wholly improvided pieces with a number of standards like "Turn Out the Stars" and "Ugly Beauty".
  • Secret"Secret" (Basho Records 2001) with Martin Speake, Nikki Iles, Duncan Hopkins, and Anthony Michelli, the latter two being long-standing members of Iles trios. Secret contains songs written by the team, with the exception of "The Thrill is Gone" and is a fully realized recording of great expressive writing and play.
  • Everything I Love"Everything I Love" (Basho Records 2004) is an Iles' trio recording, with a two songs penned by Iles and songs by Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Bill Evans, and others. This is a very balance set and one that demonstrates Iles' expressive use of the entire keyboard, a delicate touch, and an ear for reworking old melodies with fresh chordal arrangements and intricate fingerings.
  • Secret - Martin Speake, Nikki Iles, Duncan Hopkins and Anthony MichelliBloor Street" (Edition Records 2010) is a return to the quartet featuring the Iles' trio with Martin Speake, with all the music written by Speake, Iles, or Hopkins. This is music played by friends which is clear from the interplay of the instruments and communication between the players.

HUSH"Hush" features songs written by Iles,  Julian Arguelles, Ralph Towner, Kenny Wheeler, Dave Brubeck,  Brubeck, and Rodgers and Hart. It is also the first disc in a long while that features two new partners, in this case Reid on bass and Williams on drums, which came about after Iles played with Reid for a project with the London Philharmonic's 'Renga' ensemble.  Having played with Jeff Williams in the past, Iles recorded this album in New York in September 2010.

And what a lovely album it is, full of incredibly expressive play, gentleness for the Wheeler opus that opens the recording, "Everybody's Song But My Own", a more upbeat tempo for "Nardis" and then some upbeat interpretations for "In Your Own Sweet Way' and "You Must Believe in Spring." Iles brings imaginative improvisations to each tune, reinterpreting them with fresh ideas and new shapes. Her own music is deeply moving with beautiful melodies and sympathetic play by her partners. "Meditation" is particularly wonderful, a reflective piece of quiet dignity with a melody that remains with you long after the music ends. Iles sound and touch  is reminiscient of Bill Evans, highly impressionistic, deceptively simple, but always driven forward with a subtle but omnipresent underlying rhythm. Reid brings his strong and deep bass tones to the recording and has some outstanding solo parts, while Williams provides a wide range of colors as well as a similar quiet emphasis on forward motion. .

Nikki Iles is a pianist not to be missed, and her new CD "Hush"  would provide a wonderful introduction to her music.

Just in - John Law, "Three Leaps of a Gazelle" (2012)

 CD: Three Leaps of the Gazelle

Three Leaps of a Gazelle
John Law
(33 Records)

Wow! John Law, who was featured in an earlier entry on this blog, has stepped up once again to produce an outstanding set on his new recording, "Three Leads of a Gazelle" (33 Records)., a trio recording with his recent mates Yuri Goloubev on bass, and Asaf Sirkis on percxussion. The recording features eight wonderful pieces, some borderline classical/chamber jazz like the title song, and others like "Swazz" more traditionally jazz-oriented. In between we are treated to a baroque styled opus, "Three Part Invention", originally found on "The Art of Sound Volume 4" but significanlty more powerful here, and a very impressive and stately ode "The Quiet Dignity of the Minor," honoriing the British miner's strike of 1984-85. There is a great deal of interplay among the three partners, who trade off melodies and support effortlessly throughout.

What really stands out, however, and what separates this effort from earlier Law recordings, is the use of some unusual instruments. The group's palette is wonderfully expanded, with colors and depth added to almost every piece through the use at various time of  a "hang drum", an iPod, a glockenspiel and the sounds of cicadas. While this may sound rather outre, these touches never overwhelm the beauty of the melodies, the wonderfully bowed bass lines, or the delicate underlying rhythms provide by Sirkis, but instead add to the complexity of the listening experience in a new and wonderful way. The art on the packaging is equally impressive as well, and should be appreciated along with the music.

Once again a "must listen" from John Law.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Listen to Marc Copland

I am not sure how well known Marc Copland is to the jazz listening public, which he should be given his extensive and wonderfully lyrical body of work. I know from reading reviews and columns how respected he is as a jazz musician by other players as well as by reviewers. Copland has recorded six discs on Pirouet in the past seven years, three of which were his "New York Trio Recordings" series (2006, 2007, 2009). As a composer or interpreter, Copland brings great skills to the piano thorough his touch, his sensitivity to tempo, and his interplay with his cohorts. Even more amazing for such a skilled pianist, Copland actually began as a saxophonist, playing alto with Chico Hamilton in the early '70s, only later emerging on the piano in the early 1990s as a leader on discs produced by Hatology, Savoy, and others.  

I thought of all this because I have his new recording "Some More Love Songs" (Pirouet, 2012), and it is an exquisite display of warmth and lyricism. Even though this is a recording of mostly standards -- "My Funny Valentine", I've Got You Under My Skin", "I Remember You", "When I Fall in Love" -- and covers of songs by Joni Mitchell and Ron Carter plus one original, Copland finds new depths and interesting ways to freshen each. All of the music is played at a leisurely pace, with an artist's touch, whether it be the playing of Copland, or the support of his two partners, Drew Gress on bass and Jochen Rueckert on drums, both of whom are leaders in their own right. Listen to Gress play his solo on "When I Fall in Love" to hear his woody, deep tones and musicianship from his dexterious fingers and delicate touch, and the carefully placed brush work and gentle cymbal play of Ruecert throughout, adding color to the mix.
As a follow-up to "Some Love Songs" by the same trio (Pirout, 2005) I found this CD to be significantly more touching and the play more cohesive between the three partners. I highly recommend this disc to those who like straight ahead, relaxed piano trios playing standards with a fresh point of view, played by a lyrical master of the piano.