Saturday, September 8, 2012

I'm Back...with More Music from Europe

I took far more time away from this blog than I expected to, so I have a lot of thoughts rumbling around in my head, including picking up again on the Italian Jazz scene. I visited music stores in Berlin and in Barcelona (alas, Jazz Messengers was closed for August) and picked up a lot of European label stuff; and also picked up a lot of new things at home, so there is a lot of music to talk about.

Today, a piano soloist, a piano/bass duo, and a piano trio.

Agusti Fernandez plays the solo piano on "El Laberint de la Memoria" (2001, Mbari Musica) and plays it with great soul. Fernandez is one of the most important jazz pianists and free jazz explorers in Spain, and posses a unique and powerful style combining jazz, classical, and spanish folk music. He has recorded as a leader since 1987, and in 2003 was the first Spanish musician to record on ECM, with the Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble, with whom he has worked since 2002. He has played with a truly international pantheon of great players like Marilyn Crispell, Evan Parker, William Parker, Joe Morris, Mats Gustafsson, and many others. A prolific musician, he has recorded over 50 CDs to date.

The CD title means "The Labrynith of Memory", and the music is based upon the Spanish classical music of the 20th century that was a part of Fernandez' classical training. Impressionistic and emotional pieces flow from his fingers, expressing the essence, as he says, of the Spanish composers de Falla, Albeniz, and others. He enriches the music with his own free jazz experience and braids the sketches into 14 pieces. Elegant and flowing, this is a wonderful set that truly sets forth his memories of classic Spanish pieces according to his own tremendous pianism.

Copland, Marc / Schlappi, Daniel - Essentials CD Cover ArtDaniel Schlappi is a Swiss bassist, born in 1968, whose latest CD, "Essentials" (CATWALK 2012), is a duo with a well known if under-appreciated pianist, American Marc Copland. Interspersed with 8 pieces named "Essential"1 through 8 are a number of standards and other pieces by the likes of Ellington, Ornette Coleman, Jerome Kern, Nat Adderley, and Miles Davis. "Solar" opens with Copland comping behind Schlappi's lead on the melody, then joining in as the two weave back and forth between melody and accompanist. Taken at a moderate pace, it is a lovely, romantic interpretation of the popular song. "Never Let Me Go" and "My Romance" drip with the same expressiveness and interwoven sounds between the two; this is CD that relaxes like a glass of wine and good book. The eight improvised "Essentials" maintain the same feeling, with Schlappi able to more fully explore the full range of his fingerboard and demonstrate his exemplary tone, which really shines on "The Face of the Bass", the most uptempo of the 17 pieces.  Copland has always played at this pace, as exemplified by his recent work on Pirouet, so those interested in this CD should have a good idea of what to expect. Even "Work Song" by Nat Adderley is taken slowly, and with a very different, luxurious and legato feeling that changes the whole picture of this popular song.  Nice music by a great pairing of players.  

Finally, the trio, lead by Inaki Sandoval, and the CD, "Sausolito" (AYVA Music 2005). With Horacio Fumero on bass and Peer Wyboris on drums, this was his first of three CDs, and features 7 originals and 3 covers -- "Smilin' Eyes" by Stefan Karlsson, "'Round Midnight" and "My One and Only Love." Sandoval is one of the leading Spanish jazz pianists and resides in Barcelona. I first became aware of him as a pianist in 2011 as he teamed with Eddie Gomez and Billy Hart on Gomez's CD "Miracieolos" (2011, Bebyne Records), another really great trio disc to find and listen to. Sandoval is the director of the Jazz Department at the Liceu Conservatory. Unlike the first two discs described in this blog, which are laid back outings of subtleties and romance,  this one has a stronger and more pervasive forward propulsion led by the brushwork of Wyboris and walking bass lines of Fumero. The pianist himself has a light touch that moves quickly up and down the keyboard, and he too keeps the beat moving with his consistent left hand. "Sausolito" is a breezy upbeat tune that will have the toes tapping; "Smilin' Eyes" follows with an expert opening solo on bass leading to a touching melody. "Te Imaginas" is full of shifting moods and imaginative lines and is a tour de force for Sandoval the composer. I could listen to "'Round Midnight" and "My One and Only Love" all day and Sandoval adds two more beautiful versions to the repertoire, the latter done solo to conclude a really great CD.  

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