Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Four Pianos

The beginning of 2014 has brought an incredible number of wonderful CDs to my attention so it's time to start posting about some of them. Today, four really nice piano works. 

Omar Sosa "Senses" (Ota 2014) continues a nice run of outings by the pianist on his own label, including "Calma" (Ota 2011) which I listed among my favorites of 2011; his duo with Paolo FresuAlma (Ota 2012, a mellow pairing of piano and trumpet sounds which paints a nice picture; and "Eggun: The Afro-Lectric Experience" (Ota Records 2013), a fine latin-tinged recording in various combinations of six players featuring Sosa on keyboards, Joo Krauson trumpet and Peter Apfelbaum on saxes; with additional support on various tracks by Lionel Louke on guitar and a number of other guitarists and percussionists. 

Product Details"Senses" is a set of 16 solo piano pieces, largely improvised. The pieces are very quiet and restful, tinged with some sadness, but more beautiful than melancholy. Sosa brings his Cuban roots into the equation in his subtle harmonies. These are peaceful meditations that will thrill you with their individual beauty. 

Product DetailsContinuing with meditations and impressionistic piano playing, Kaja Draksler "The Lives of Many Others (Clean Feed 2014) is a solo piano recording made at the Ljubljana Jazz Festival in 2013. The music here is more abstract than Sosa's and incorporates a broader palette of dynamics and harmonies. This 27 year old Slovenian has a discography dating to 2008 and has performed both solo and with her Acropolis Quintet, and uses both her classical and jazz training to produce some wonderfully diverse meditations that also incorporate folk melodies from her  home. In New York she studied privately with two of the best piano innovators today,  Vijay Iyer and Jason Moran. Great stuff.

Product DetailsThe Danny Fox Trio had a great first release with "The One Constant" (Songlines 2011) and their new CD is equally good,  "Wide Eyed" (Hot Cup Records 2014). The trio is Danny Fox on piano, Chris Van Voorst Van Beest on bass, and Max Goldman on drums. This too is a set of impressionistic pieces that move modern trios into more innovative settings, using unusual rhythms and harmonies over rather nice melodies. The music is a blend of modern mainstream and chamber jazz.  The  tightness of the group and their interplay is a product of their working together since 2008 and each player has plenty of time to improvise within the structure of the 11 tunes, all by Fox. My only complaint -- As much as I like Edvard Munch I am not crazy about the cover art, but what a minor quibble for such interesting and invigorating music.

front cover 600x600 200x200 Piano trio encounters of the Torontonian kind (Mike Downes, Matt Newton, Gerry Shatford CDs reviewed)Now here's a cover I can get behind, Gerry Shatford Trio "When I Sat Down to Play the Piano" (Self Produced 2014). A Canadian pianist, Shatford is joined by Neil Swainson on bass and Terry Clarke on drums. This set is evidently an outgrowth of his masters thesis for York University in Toronto. It uses traditional jazz building blocks in unusual ways, combining the rhythms and harmonies with streams from the more modern and impressionistic jazz of chamber music and the abstract. there are blues here, some boppish pieces, and even some ragtime sprinkled around. But all of these strands are used in the service of Shatford's unique tunes. Its a high spirit CD full of very individualistic and unique melodies and one that deserves attention.

Four unique piano CDs, from the U.S., Slovenian, Cuba, and Canada. Jazz is certainly international and here are four wonderful excursions for the listener.

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