Thursday, February 14, 2013

Trio X of Sweden: "Traumerei"

Produkt-Information"Traumerei" is a German word that means daydream or reverie. It is the title song on this eleven track CD by Trio X of Sweden. It is also a perfect description of the music herein, played lovingly by Lennart Simonsson on piano, Per V Johansson on bass, and Joakim Ekberg on drums. "Traumerei" (Prophone 2012).  On the subdued pieces the drumming is subtle even as it measures the beat, and provides nice touches of color particularly with the brushes. A lot of the slower songs fit into the chamber jazz category, lovely and ethereal. But there are also some quiet pieces with a swing beat, and definitely upbeat tunes as well.

So who composed these eleven set pieces? How about Robert Schumann for the title song, and then names like Henry Purcell, J.S. Bach, Modest Musorgkij, Ludvig van Beethoven, Maurice Ravel, Frederic Chopin, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart?  Familiar all, but not exactly your typical jazz composers. No, this is a set of eleven classical songs, some recognizable to the average listener and others not so much, used as the basis for some really nice jazz trio play. While classical music lovers might be upset with the liberties taken by the trio, jazz folks should be enthused by the creativity and sound.

"Traumerei" starts the CD off with a soulful tune supported by a quiet and constant drum beat and soft snare play. It's a great introduction to the light touch of Simonsson and the delicate interplay with his partners. The bass underneath emerges mid-song with a strong counter melody and demonstration of some fast fingers and sympathetic ears and takes control of the melody for a while. "Purcell's "Sound the Trumpet, Beat the Drum" starts with a lively walking bass, a syncopated piano melody and some strong brush support and never let's up. The combination of the three players contributes to a highly propulsive song that continues to pick up with the piano part swinging more and more as the piece progresses. It is immediately followed by a charming piece, "Aria" from Bach's Goldberg Variations that is played realtively straight by the piano and bass in tandem, with brushwork underneath.

Later, "Bolero" by Ravel begins with the bass taking the lead, followed by the piano, with a strong drum maintaining and gradually increasing the tempo and dynamics. The bass is a constant as well underneath, and while the piece never moves far from the structure of the original, it is clearly a jazzed version, exciting, colorful and cleverly played. "Largo" by Chopin is quiet, with a touching piano melody accompanied by brushed drumming and a modest beat. The bass part is played equally quietly but is there in the background playing a counter melody to fill out the sound. On "Roslagvar/Swedish Polka" the group moves into mainstream jazz with a lively swing beat and livelier drum play. The percussion is perfectly attuned to the tempo and dynamics of the piano as it moves through the melody, providing a much more solid, jazzy base with more cymbal crashes and drum rolls.

All in all this is a pleasure to listen to, a set of eleven pieces of varying tempos and mood, underpinned by classical tunes which are cleverly converted to a set of contemporary jazz.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

February: Short on Days, Long on Music

I decided to play catch-up with this post, listing out my February purchases of new music and providing some capsules about each one. This excludes those I have already written a post about -- e.g. Trichotomy, Francesco Turrisi, Claire Daly, Eric Alexander, Aruan Ortiz and Michael Janisch, Jackie Ryan, and Harvie S.

It's a great batch, so here are they are:  

Mats Eilersten Trio, "Sails Set" (Hubro 2013): On April 10, 2012 I did a complete post on Eilersten -- who he is, his discography, and a discussion of his last few Hubro CDs. Clearly he is one of my favorites and one that I recommend to anyone interested in Northern European chamber jazz/ECM-like jazz. Just simply a well-oiled trio playing some lovely melodies in that style.

Product DetailsDeseul Kim/Kim's Trio, "Relationships" (Self-produced 2013): this one caught my eye when I saw that one of the guests was Vincent Herring on alto sax and flute. As I have said before, when the names behind the young player are well-known and well-regarded, it is likely that the young player is an up and coming talent. And Kim is, both as a bass player and a composer of several of the songs. Nice straight ahead music played with flair. Others on the recording are Oscar Williams on piano,  Ryan Palermo on drums, and  PJ Rasmussen on guitar.

Product DetailsGiacomo Gates, "Miles Tones" (High Note 2013): Gates came to singing professionally late but has made up for it with a string of solid outings in the past decade highlighted by his critically-aclaimed tribute to Gil Scott-Heron "Revolution Will  be Jazz" (High Note 2011). Here he takes on tunes associated with Miles Davis, and does so with some undstated vocals that capture the essence of each songs lyrics beautifully. "All Blues" and "So What" stand out to this listener, but the entire package is a wonderfully laid back experience. 
Splashgirl, "Field Day Rituals" (Hubro 2013): Splashgirl is listed as electronica and is more avant garde than label mate Eilersten, but is hardly way out there. It's a piano trio with a bit more panache and distortion, and very much in the same vein as E.S.T., Trichotomy, or Bad Plus for example, with hints of the more unusual groups like Nik Bartsch's Ronin or The Necks. I was a bit leery to try it but am glad I did. If you wnat a piano trio that is edgy but not wildly avant garde, this is for you

Product Details
Igor Gehenot Trio, "Road Story" (Igloo 2012):  At just 24 years of age Igor Gehenot has produced a simply magnificent trio work here with Sam Gerstmans on bass and Teun Verbruggen on drums. Gehenot is a Belgian, classically trained first and then trained in jazz by pianists such as Dado Moroni, who I greatly admire. But what makes this album special is the joy in it, the variety of moods and rhythms and dynamics, the tightly written compositions, all by Gehenot, and the touch and exquisite tastefulness of it all. Verbruggen is a master with the percussion throughout. This one has it all.  There are a lot of piano trios out there, but very few reach this level. This is a harmonic delight. If you like piano trios, if you like the trios of  Mehldau and Jarrett, don't miss this kid. 

Product DetailsFrank Basile, "Modern Inventions" (CD Baby 2013): Straight-ahead jazz by an accomplished sextet featuring Basile on baritone sax, Alex Hoffman on tenor sax, David Wong on bass, Ehud Asherie on piano, Fabian Mary on trumpet, and Pete Van Nostrand on drums. Basile is one of those baritone players who can take a cumbersome instrument and make it sing, with lovely legato lines and a huge range from the lowest notes to a tenor-like sound at the top. He is wonderfully supported by a number of players that I have posted about, highlighted by David Wong on bass. The post on Wong is still one of the most widelely read posts I have done in fact, and is a tribute to his big woody sound, and his mastery of all facets of play and support for the band. Ehud Asherie is another I have posted about, a young pianist with an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz piano and a love for the classic sounds and songs. Hoffman has gotten himself into a bit of controversy lately but put that aside and listen to his smooth sound. All in all a great mainstream recording.

Product DetailsIbrahim Maalouf, "Wind" (Harmonia Mundi 2012): A beautiful package containing a beautiful recording, this is one where I knew the supporting cast so trusted them to guide me to a great outing. Maalouf wrote and arranged the music and plays a lovely trumpet. His support is Frank Woeste on piano, the flexible Mark Turner on saxophone, Clarence Penn on drums and Larry Grenadier on bass. The music was written to score a silent film and the tracks fit together thematically and emotionally as it explores the themes of the film -- mystery, doubt, heartbreak, and even schizophrenia. Maalouf dedicated the work to Miles Davis and while he is not an imitator, he does provide the restraint and moodiness that Miles captured in his film work for "Elevator to the Gallows." Woeste is especially good in setting the stage for much of the music, and the titles reflect the moods -- "Doubts", "Suspicions", Excitement", "Certainty", and "Mystery" are a few of them. This is a first rate outing and each track stands on its own as a wonderfully moody and expressive work. Very mainstream sound and very good. 

Das Hammerklavier Trio, "Now I Know Who Shot JFK" (Altrisuoni 2009):  This is not their newest, which is "Rocket in the Pocket" (Jan Matthies Records 2012) and which I wrote about on December 26, 2012. That was the impetus for going back to get the earlier recording. this is another modern, fun European piano trio, a bit quirky, a bit mainstream, and always interesting. They play standards, they play rock, they play originals, they even drop in classical; mostly accoustic but occasionally with a frisson of electronics or fender. They are Boris Netsvetaev on keyboards, Phil Steen on bass, and Kai Bussenius on percussion. They are fun.

Product DetailsJamie Reynolds Trio, "Time With People" (Fresh Start New Talent 2012): Once in a while I'll buy a CD, particularly a piano trio, because I like the look of the package. This is one of those times. Of course I knew the label as well and trusted it. Reynolds is a pianist, and his mates are Gary Wang on drums and Eric Doob on drums. I still don't know much about them, but I do know that Reynolds is a talented composer and player, that he evidently lives in Brooklyn, and that the music is refined, delicate, and lovely. I'd identify this with modern impressionism, lovely melodies played with grace and backed by a refined percussionist working his palette as well as providing a solid rhythmic base. Very subtle tunes played quietly and tastefully. Nice stuff.

Product DetailsSteve Melling, "Solo Piano: Keys to the Upper Story" (MelliJazz 2012): Melling is a British pianist who began his career in the 1970s, and has played with many fine bands and players including Clark Tracey, Tim Whitehead and Alan Skidmore, all recognized names in the U.K., and with American stars like Phil Woods, Benny Golson, James Moody and Charles McPherson. This CD features Melling on 13 originals and is a wonderfully diverse set on modern maintream music.

Sara Serpa and Ran Blake, "Aurora" (Clean Feed 2012): I have to admit that Serpa's voice takes some getting used to. She is hardly a classic jazz singer, so do not expect that. She is a marvelous interpreter of the jazmusic however. Her simple, unadorned and vibrattoless voice has been described as "smooth as glass", and it is its simplicity that at first surprises and then reassures us that we are listening to a very talented individual. She is from Portuagal, had training at Berklee and the New England Conservatory with Danilo Perez and Ran Blake among others, and is well known in New York circles.  The arrangements are simple and sparse, with the Blake playing piano with Serpa, blending beautifully with her range and dynamic patterns and taking some lovely solos himself. This is a follow-up to an equally nice "Camera Obscura" (CD Baby 2010) by the duo.  Tender, daring, captivating -- these are good words to describe the voice and the music. Serpa is an original but well worth the time to listen to.

Going on vacation after this week, so there will likely be a gap in posts until later in the month. But this one should provide for lots of exploration and discoveries.

Two New International CDs

I got two new CDs today from two of my favorites from overseas -- Trichotomy and Francesco Turrisi.  Both have some new and exciting sounds incorporated into their music that make them very rewarding listens. 

Product DetailsTrichotomy's "Fact Finding Mission" (Naim 2012) follows the highly regarded "The Gentle War" (Naim 2011) and their international debut CD "Variations" (Naim 2010). As the band Misinterprotato they recorded three CDs in Australia, where they began in 1999. All three are available on thier website either as downloads or as CDs.

Product DetailsThe band is Sean Foran on piano, Pat Marchisella on bass, and John Parker on drums. For this outing they have added James Muller on guitar (Tracks 2, 6, 8), Tunji Bejer on percussion (Tracks 6, 9), and Linsey Pollack on reeds (Track 9). These additions, particularly the guitar, add new dimensions to the already fascinating layers put down by the trio, and is a departure for them since their last recording.

Trichotomy, according to the dictionary mans division into three parts, or a system based upon three parts, which is a pretty precise definition for this group after 14 years together. They are very much a group of three individuals with a collective sound developed in that time. They are a very contemporary group that blends all sorts of musical streams into their recordings -- progressive rock, classical, all types of jazz, and ambient music. They  blend these influences into songs that are always interesting and unique, with distinct melodies, imaginative improvisations, and often unique atmospherics. The group formed in 1999 while all three were students at the Queensland Conservatory in Australia and after their first decade finally were introduced internationally by Naim with "Variations".

"Fact Finding Mission" is their third international release and is another fine recording full of life, creativity, challenges, and spontenaiety. The songs are varied dynamically, rhythmically, and in this case instrumentally. The three peices with guitar are distinct from the remianing six, and within the remaining six are some quiet songs as well as some uptempo and even unusual ones. Influences galore are often cited for the band, from Bad Plus, E.S.T, and Vijay Iyer to Brad Mehldau and The Necks. this clearly places them within the structure of modernist and moderately avant-garde piano trios, that is, structured music with a lot of freshness, playfullnes and daring thrown in.

"Fact Finding Mission" opens with "Strom" a tune with a lively, modestly latin rhythm and catchy piano melody. It's a pretty straight-forward piece, light and lively piece that captures the interplay of the three members well, and sets a high standard for the entire set. [Note: Given the political statement later on, I cannot help wondering if this is dedicated to Strom Thurmond but if so I have no idea why that would be so, even if it was ironic.] "The Blank Canvas" that follows immediately changes the dynamics, opening immediately with a guitar melody with an underlying roling piano base playing against it. While it's another lively song, it is very different though no less rewarding. "Lullaby" is a quiet piano based tune with lots of open spaces, a quiet demeanor, and very modest touches of bass and drum support. It and the later "Song for E.V." were written for the musicians' children and are soothing pieces of great resonance for he listener. In between them, however, is the far from soothing title song, the most unsettling piece on the CD with its heavy thumping beat and discordant piano part, plus some unusual musical effects. A very dramatic piece to say the least, especially when it is overdubbed with statements from Richard Nixon and George W. Bush (as well as one voice I cannot recognize) that are not particularly flattering. Jarring music for two jarring politicians. "Civil Unrest", by Parker as was the title song, with its guitar solo is also played over a heavier beat, and the sinuous guitar melody is part of that different sound introduced with the extra members. Finally, the introduction of the soothing bass clarinet on the mid-eastern like "Brick by Brick" and the lovely bass solo opening of "The Brook" need to be heard as they are part of two more of the more mellow impressionistic pieces.  

This is a band that is never dull, always playful and seemingly spontaneous even within their structured arrangements, and highly inventive. Three strong recordings in three years, and hopefully more to come.  

Francesco Turrisi
is an Italian musician living in Ireland. I wrote about him in a post called "Hits by Brits" last April 28th, and included his CD "Photografia" (Diatribe Recordings 2011) as one of my favorites for 2011. He had an earlier trio recording plus clarinet/bass clarinet of equal beauty, "Si Dolce e il Tormento" (Diatribe Recordings 2008), and has also recorded in other configurations in recent years. His is music that mixes classical elements with jazz to create the type of chamber jazz that is associated with ECM and the northern European sound.  Beautiful melodies, sparse arrangements, an emphasis if atmosphere and imprressionistic touches all characterize Turrisi's sond.  What makes this recording dirrerent is the instrumental grouping -- while still a trio, that group is now Turrisi on piano, Joao Lobo still on drums, but now Fulvio Sigurta on trumpet. There is no bass for this recording.

Product DetailsThe result is a dramatically different CD, not so much in terms of temperature, influences, and the like, but in terms of the sound itself. It is very much a trumpet player's recording, and Sigurta is marvellous in taking the lead. His tone is restrained and lovely, reminiscent of Kenny Wheeler and the quieter moments of Enrico Rava. Only once does the trumpet rise about a nice mezzo-forte sound, which is the maximum dynamic level thorughout the recording. I wrote a series of words that I would associate with this CD: pastorale, lyrical, tranquil, lithe, serene, dreamy.... that should easily set the stage for those who chose to listen. Each song is built upon a wisp of a melody with lots of room for expressionistic touches by each member. A trumpet seldom sounds better in this type of enviroment than it does here. 

This is an elegant recording that, while tranquil, is never boring. "Le" is a beautiful lullabye to Turrisi's as yet unborn child and was written with an expectant father's dreams built right into it. "Birth" is another meditation on what is coming for Turrisi and begins with an outstanding,beautiful, bewitching piano solo, followed later by an equally mellow and evocative trumpet. And just when you think it is all going to be a low key affair, there comes a touch of a slow bluesy trumpet in "Incubo n. 3"

A different path for Turrisi, with the piano as much in support of the trumpet as in the lead. It is a masterful set of compositions played by an equally masterful trio.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Straight Down the Middle, Straight From the Heart

I don't know, sometimes I think it has become quite unfashionable to praise mainstream jazz CDs that cover the standards with with standard band formats. that phrase "moldy fig" rattles around in my brain everytime I pick one up and enjoy it, and think about writing about it.

But then again, that is the beauty of jazz -- so much variety, so many streams -- that there is room under the tent for everyone. Want to know how wide the difference is among listener's (or critics for that matter)? Compare the list of top ten CDs as selected by readers of some of the most widely read jazz magazines, or the lists posted all over by critics.

Variety is what makes it exciting to me every time I read about new recordings, and each time I purchase something new and fresh to my ears. As I hope my posts have shown, I like a wide range of music, from the straight and narrow to some of the edges, although not all of them by any means. One minute it might be Hank Mobley, another Nik Bartsch's Ronin, and another Matthew Shipp, just as example.

I never feel bad about liking or disliking something, (although I did make a promise in January to try and understand better the Sam Rivers "Live in New York" recording because it bothers me not to hear what others love about it, even if in the end I do not). But if I dislike something, I never ever would write what has now become infamous -- "F*ck Wayne Shorter!" I might write that something wasn't for my ears even though I could hear the musicianship, etc. But bad?? I don't write about bad or good musicianship or playing etc since I am not a critic or musicologist. I do write about what I like, what is good for me and why I like it.  Writing that obscenity seems to me the product of jealousy and frustration by a person tired of not getting a share of the attention, and shows an incredible lack of respect. [Ironically I just received a copy monday of a new Frank Basile recording, "Modern Inventions" (CDBaby 2012) on which Alex Hoffman plays, and plays nicely and right down the middle, as part of this mainstream band. It's a nice recording]

For the record, I like a lot of Wayne Shorter's music, but his play at times can be too rough for my taste while at others sublime; and his compositions in his hands or others can be marvelous. This CD does not hit my sweet spot. But that is me, not he and his amazing bandmates. 

Anyway, enough of the meandering; I am here today to praise two very straight and narrow CDs I purchased recently by two established saxophonists -- "Baritone Monk" (NCB Jazz 2012) by Claire Daly, and "Touching" (High Note 2013) by Eric Alexander. No new ground is broken but this is music that truly is straight from the heart. On both CDs the sound is special, the individual solos and group play are all good, and each song is played with the appropriate emotional charge.

Baritone MonkI've written about Claire Daly before, and her outstanding command of the very difficult baritone sax. As a bass clarinetist I sat next to baritones for years and neither of us ever got near the melody, so to hear a baritone played so flawlessly, emotionally, and smoothly over the course of 10 pieces [Eleven if you count the closing holiday medley with a vocal, which I prefer to forget] by Thelonious Monk is marvelous. Actually nine pieces -- "Pannonica" is as beautiful as ever with Daly shining on the flute in this case as is Steve Hudson on piano. So much joy on other pieces, particularly "Let's Cool One" and "Fifty Second Street Theme", and mystery in the baritone-drum duo on "Green Chimneys." So much to like here. Her supporting cast is lovely -- Hudson on piano, Peter Grant on drums, and Mary Ann McSweeney on bass.

Product DetailsEric Alexander remarkably has recorded as a leader since 1992, with roughly a disc a year over the past decade on High Note, as well as a number of Japanese ballad recordings. His newest is "Touching", to be released sortly, and it features Alexander wtih three of his regular cast -- Harold Mabern on piano, John Webber on bass, and Joe Farnsworth on drums. On ocassion I have found the recordings overly predictable and just average, but this recording is one of the best I have heard. Over eight songs, many of which are not all that familiar, the band puts their feelings into the music and indelibly marks the tunes with the soul, passion, and musicianship that is needed to lift a mainstream outing up from just a walk in the park into flight. The ballads like "Gone too Soon" are played smoothly and sweetly, and  the R 'n B classic "Oh Girl" is a soulful way to end the recording on an up note. This is a cast that knows each other well and plays like it, matching each other's feelings and notes every step of the way.

For those who love solid mainstream jazz, these are real winners.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Aruan Ortiz and Michael Janisch Quintet: Banned in London

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Aruan Ortiz is a young up and coming pianist and award-winning composer. A classically trained violist and pianist from Santiago de Cuba, he blends contemporary classical music, Afro-Cuban rhythms, and improvisation as primary material for his compositions. Since arriving in New York in 2008 he has played with the Wallace Roney Quintet and has made five critically well-received recordings, including 2012's excellent "Orbiting" (Fresh Sound New Talent 2012).

Product DetailsFor "Banned in London" (Whirlwind Recordings 2012), he co-leads a  a talented quintet with bassist/composerMichael Janisch featuring saxophonist Greg Osby, Raynald Colom on trumpet, and Rudy Royston on drums. This is a live set, recorded during the London Jazz Festival of 2011 at the Pizza Express Jazz Club, and consists of five extended compositions, two by Ortiz including "Orbiting" from his previous CD, one by Janisch, "Jitterbug Waltz" by Fats Waller, and "Ask Me Now" by Thelonious Monk.

This is a classic blowing album will all the pros and cons of such a session. Live recordings like this transmit the excitment and boystrous energy of improvised play, but at the same time can lead to overly long solos, noodlings, and looseness as each soloist stretches out. On this CD there is a little of both, with  the balance in favor of the excitment and virtuousity of the members. At times the music is tight, the improvisations creative, and the changes to the standards fascinating as they deconstruct the tunes to the point that they are barely recognizable. At other times the players take off on extended almost free jazz sections where they are playing against each other and where the solos take off into significant flights of fancy.

But there is no doubting the talents of the players. The 34 year old Spaniard Colom is especially intriguing to hear within the group, as he is a lesser known talent but a player whose CD "Rise" (Jazz Village 2012) was a startling revelation last year. But each of the others shine as well. "Precisely Now" opens the set tightly starting with a bass solo, but the tune quickly evolves into an open freestyle blowing vehicle for extended solos from Colom and Osby. Colom’s solo is passionate and intense and nicely supported by Ortiz and the lively drumming of Royston. Osby's solo is more tense and urgent. Osby demonstrates his abilities to play both inside and out, and his opening solo introduction to "Jitterbug Waltz" is a demonstration of his talents, as is his smooth sax play once the melody is underway. Ortiz’s “Orbiting” is a vehicle for an outstanding solo by Colom which is fiery and exciting, while Ortiz follows and calms the piece with hs own solo before Roylston turns up the flame with a drum feature. Ortiz plays his solo on "Ask Me Now" wonderfully, and this is a stabilizing ballad in the middle of the set. Osby and Colom play equally beautifully. The fury return with the closing “The Maestro”, another solo fest for each member  to blow this into a pretty avant-garde ending.   

Banned In London” is an exciting outing that gets out to the edge but never falls off the cliff. It's for the more adventerous listener who understands the live context and is willing to put up with the excesses of the format to hear the gems within.

A Singer You Should Hear: Jackie Ryan

Product DetailsJackie Ryan is a wonderful singer with a huge range and repertoire, which she demonstrates wonderfully on "Listen Here" (Open Art 2013). Singing is in her blood after all -- her Mexican mother sang operettas professionally and her Irish father was a classical tenor who sang in multiple languages. She herself has sung around the world at places like Ronnie Scott's, Birdland, and Jazz at Lincoln Center. As she demonstrates on this CD, her styles include the blues, gospel, latin, ballads, show tunes and swing, and her control on each is immaculate whether she is singing loud and brassy or soft and silky. 

Ryan attracts only the best players for her bands. The first CD listed in her discography is from 2000, and there have been seven in all. Her last two CDs --- Doozy (Open Art Records 2009) and "You and The Night and the Music (Open Art 2007) --- have featured bands that include a who's who of great contemporary jazz musicians -- Jeremy Pelt, Cyrus Chesnut, Red Holloway, Tamir Hendelman, Christophe Luty, Jeff Hamilton, Larry Koonse, Carl Allen, Ray Drummond, Neal Smith, Dezron Douglas, Eric Alexander, Romero Lubambo.

Product DetailsFor "Listen Here" she has another star-studded cast -- John Clayton on bass, Gerald Clayton on piano, Gilbert Castellanos on trumpet, Graham Dechter on guitar, Obed Calvaire on drums, and Rickey Woodard on sax. The band ably supports her clean clear voice. When it swings, it swings hard, with plenty of feeling and plenty of joy. Her interpretations are spot on with the lyrics and stories, her voice full, highly resonant and eminently inviting. She can be blues, she can be sultry, but she is always keenly aware of her intonations and the content. Similarly the band knows when to step up, when to lay back, and maintains great balance with Ryan.

Product DetailsSome highlights. "Comin Home Baby" opens the set with the upbeat play of Castellanos' trumpet, followed by the bluesy force of Ryan's voice. As she lays into this blues with great spirit she is ably supported by the trumpet and drums driving the beat with her, and by a beautiful piano interlude by Gerald Clayton, who is masterful over he course of the entire program. The switch to "The Gypsy in My Soul" highlights the smooth and silky tone of Ryan's voice and her control over her emotions, which here are infectiously happy. "Throw it All Away" is emotionally powerful story telling, a mellow and evocative song that is sung by a clearly thoughtful Ryan. "Accentuate the Positive" is a mind blower, starting with a great delivery of the introduction that sets the stage for a gospel tinged blues. The organ and wailing sax contribute marvelous accents that heighten the songs appeal. I Loves You Porgy" cannot get a whole lot better than this, a beautifully controlled reading backed by a restrained band with some lovely piano play.

And so it goes -- one wonderfully sung tune after another -- another killer blues "No One Ever Tells You", a latin "La Puerta", very classic takes on "How Little We Know" and "Anytime, Any Day, Anywhere", and a knockout caressed "A Time for Love."

Jackie Ryan is a singing force to be reckoned with, a woman whose feel for the music, whether it be the blues or a ballad, latin or english, brings loveliness to anything she touches. Her clear clean voice is never breathy and her interpretations spot on. Highly recommended, as are her two previous recordings.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Do You Know Harvie S?

Product DetailsHarvie S (Harvie Swartz), is an accomplished bassist with a long and distinguished career as a leader and accompanist, dating back to the early 1980s. As Harvie Swartz he began his career as leader with a 1982 recording on the Muse label, "Old Time Feeling", a duo with Sheila Jordan, with whom he went on to have a great deal of success. In fact, last year High Note released a 1990 duo recording of the two called "Yesterdays" which I didn't write about but is pure magic. Through 2001, when he shortened his name to Harvie S he recorded almost a dozen sets as leader and was an accompanist playing with, among others, Toots Theilemans, Mark Soskin, John Abercrombie, Joe Locke, and Art Farmer.
As Harvie S, beginning in 2001 he has recorded another half dozen or so CDs for Zoho, Savant and other labels. Highlights include the first duo with Kenny Barron, "Now Was the Time" (Savant 2008) and his first recording on Zoho "New Beginning" (Zoho 2001) a distinctly individualistic melding of bop and Afro-cuban beats.   

The latest CD to feature Harvie S as leader is his second duo with Kenny Barron, "Witchcraft"  (Savant 2013), and given the players how can it be anything by elegant, tuneful, and terrific? This will be a pretty short post since there is not much to say other than the two are marvelous together, Barron displays all of those skills he has learned over his 50 years as a professional musician, and Harvie S shows his skills as an accompanist/colorist as well as stepping out on the lead on many occasions and playing a beautifully bowed "Juan's Theme" with some elegant backing by Barron.

Some of the tunes may surprise, like Stevie Wonder's "Creepin' "or Eumir Deodato's "Juan's Theme" but in the hands of these veterans they are as mellow as the rest, which include songs like "Wig Wise" by Duke Ellington, and the title tune "Witchcraft" by Cy Coleman. Barron's tribute to "Sonia Braga" and "Until Tomorrow" by Harvie S feel right at home with the rest.

What a treat.


Ek Safar: One Journey

Ek Safar is a trio composed of Nicolas Schulze on piano, Heiner Stilz on clarinet, and Soumitra Paul on tabla, and their new CD is called "One Journey (Double Moon Records 2013). Double Moon is an imprint of Challenge Records of Germany, and this is part of a series labeled as Jazz Thing: Next Generation Volume 45.

The combination of instruments is alluring, hypnotic, and very soothing, even when the tempo is at its fastest and the tabla is in full swing. The songs for the most part were written by one of the group members or as a collective; the exception is "Tabarka" by Keith Jarrett and a couple of traditional songs that were rearranged by the group.

Clarinetist Stilz excells in this setting and brings a subtle eastern flair to the melodies, more so than the piano of Schulze. The first piece, "Listen to the Heart" does begin with a simple chant and some single piano notes for its opening minute or so, and then breaks into a piano and tabla duet that gradually inreases in pace. The tabla is a major element to the piece at first loud and then more restrained as the melody is played by the piano with traditional western harmonies and scales. The clarinet enters at minute five and takes over the melody with a beautiful woody tone and legato tonguing. The tune ends with a reprise of the mild chant as the instruments fade into the background. It's a beautiful beginning to a subtle, gorgeous recording. 

"One Journey", the title piece, is a lovely melody played by the clarinet in its middle register, accompanied by a secondary melody played in counterpoint to it, and the sound has almost more to do with the third stream linkage of classical melodies and jazz than those of eastern music and jazz. "Dialog", the second piece, and later "Dialog 2", are short, sinuous clarinet solos with tabla accompaniment, mostly played in the middle and lower registers. Jarrett's "Tabarka" starts with the clarinet at the forefront with the piano sinuously moving in and around its lead and the tabla setting the pace. Its a marvelous piece for the trio to demonstrate their listening skills as well as their playing skills as they play in and around each other. The tabla plays a major role in the piece and one should listen to Paul as he changes his touch constantly.

"Schatten Und Begleiterin", or shadow and accompaniment, is a slow, haunting piece played almost mournfully by the clarinet, with the wisp of piano. "Sari Gellin" is a traditional piece which opens with the piano playing simple quarter notes, the tabla setting the beat, and then the clarinet playing a moving solo, followed in turn by the piano. The concluding piece, "Mumbai Mail" is the most distictly Indian song, expectedly as it was arranged from a traditional raga. The three players move in and out, the clarinet provides the sinuous sound of the traditional raga and for the first time plays largely in the upper register though still with restraint. The tabla lays out the tempo throughout, and the piano weaves its way in and out with the clarinet. The tabla solo is a highlight to the piece and really brings home the CD is a very traditional way. A great ending piece.

And so it goes, ten beautiful pieces that provide an air of restrained beauty. All are taken at a mid-tempo at the fastest, and the dynamics never go beyond a mezzo-forte, so the entire set is incredibly soothing with wonderfully woven legato melodies traded between a clarinet hardly ever reaching into its upper register and a piano peacefully rolling out melodies and accompaniment. The tabla is omnipresent but restrained as well.

I am in love with this recording and recommend it across the board to any listener of any jazz persuasion.