Mostly Other People Do the Killing - Loafer's Hollow

Jon Irabagon: tenor and sopranino saxophones; Steven Bernstein: trumpet; David Taylor: trombone; Brandon Seabrook: banjo and electronics; Ron Stabinsky: piano; Moppa Elliott: bass; Kevin Shea: drums.

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The versatile jazz band Mostly Other People Do the Killing, abbreviated as MOPDtK, first appeared in 2005 as a quartet. Saxophonist Jon Irabagon, trumpeter Peter Evans, and drummer Kevin Shea, joined the bandleader, main composer, and bassist Moppa Elliott. They immediately drew attention with their musical irreverence and easy-going posture, parodying the music of jazz giants through provocative originals and scattered covers. 
Avant-garde, bop in all its variations, Americana, swing jazz, and blues are common ingredients of their boisterous musical cocktail.

Throughout the years, there were some changes made both in sound and lineup. In 2003, when they released Red Hot!, the quartet was expanded into a septet with the addition of pianist Ron Stabinsky, trombonist David Taylor, and banjo player Brandon Seabrook. 
For the next two recordings, Blue (an unnerving recreation of Miles’ Kind of Blue) and Mauch Chunk, they returned to the quartet formation with Stabinsky staying put to assure harmonic (in)stability and compensate Evans’ absence.

With the all-singing, all-dancing Loafer’s Hollow, the septet formation (trumpeter Steven Bernstein is the novelty) continues absorbing a variety of influences and spreading originality. The band evinces a clear tendency to hold onto jazz roots and adapt them to our days with blasts of post-modernity. Here, they show an instinctive fondness for merging traditional swing from the 30’s and 40’s with avant-garde jazz, creating coruscating ideas garnished with humor and color.

Elliott’s eight tunes (four of them dedicated to literary figures) exude a cheerful ecstasy, starting with the frolicking opener “Hi-Nella”, a semi-fanfare comprising swing, folk, blues, and even a pinch of Mexican ranchera. Bernstein entertains us with a solo intervention packed with zingy notes and mellifluous phrasing. 
Even incorporating rock-solid movements, the same convivial disposition is transferred to “Mason & Dixon”, where we bump into ragtime rhythms enhanced by the banjo contortions of Seabrook, here more restrained than when has an electric guitar in hand.

“Bloomsburg”, a modern “Hello! Dolly”, has everything a Broadway classic may ask for, plus alternate 4-bar virulent improvisations and a few extemporaneous rhythmic freak-outs by Shea as bonuses.

While the horn-driven “Honey Hole” feels like a pre-bop standard, the pop tones of “Meridian” brings the melody of Huey Lewis’ “This is It” into mind. 
In opposition to these, “Kilgore” has a predilection to explore grunts, squeaks, squawks, and other curious noises, getting a bizarre-circus feel when Stabinsky has his solo stretch.
The recording closes with “Five (Corners, Points, Forks)”, a buoyant ride instigated by dreamy toy sounds of piano and sopranino.

Loafer’s Hollow is just about fun and energy. It’s an addictive album that may easily attract fans of mainstream and modern jazz due to its hybrid nature.

Favorite Tracks:
03 – Bloomsburg ► 04 – Kilgore ► 06 – Meridian


Matt Holman - The Tenth Muse

Matt Holman: trumpet; Chris Dingman: vibraphone; Bobby Avey: piano; Sam Sadigursky: clarinet and flute.

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New York-based trumpeter and composer Matt Holman has been upping the ante in the creative jazz universe through several valuable collaborations with Fred Hersch, John Hollenbeck, Kurt Elling, Andrew Rathbun, and Darcy James Argue.

With sufficient artistic ambition to considering different styles, Holman inspired himself on the work of the ancient Greek poet Sappho to give life to his sophomore album. The Tenth Muse has 16 fragments, running between one and eight minutes, and features talented musicians and leaders in their own right, such as the vibraphonist Chris Dingman, pianist Bobby Avey, and clarinetist/flutist Sam Sadigursky. 

“Fragment 104b” feels like a fugue, launching articulated melodic statements hinged by Avey’s offbeat accompaniment. Here’s a pianist who treats harmony with devotion. The zenith is achieved when a sparkling collective improvisation ignites a controlled-yet-stimulating fire. 

In “Fragment 147”, Holman bridges classical intonations with lumps of jazz improvisation. In complete accord, the quartet sets off for consistent interactions, allowing us to indulge in Holman-Sadigursky’s parallel phrasing, Dingman’s elegant melodies, and Avey’s attuned piano movements. By the end, after the bandleader’s improvisation, Avey creates a darker mood, getting well-timed responses from the two-horn frontline.

Perhaps the most intriguing composition is “Fragment 29a” due to its exploratory inclinations. We find ourselves in a scenario where the pianist smothers the sound of a repeatedly hit key and the horns draw pronounced rhythmic-melodic ideas. Off the hook, Dingman instinctively injects harmonic texture together with meticulous rhythmic figures.

More accessible are “Fragment 120”, which flows with artistic balladry, and “Fragment 4”, mounted with vigilant languor and sleek volatility. 
There are four compositions translated into solo performances, one for each member of the quartet.

More than any artistic embellishments from Greece, I’ve spotted glimpses of Kenny Wheeler and John Taylor’s literate music, which efficiently mingled with Holman’s own vision and sound, are beneficial and stimulating.
The Tenth Muse spawns an emergent trumpet star who boasts elevated compositional skills, musical maturity, and individual spontaneity.

Favorite Tracks:
01 – Fragment 104b ► 06 – Fragment 29a ► 09 – Fragment 4


Klaus Gesing / Bjorn Meyer / Samuel Rohrer - Amiira

Klaus Gesing: bass clarinet, soprano saxophone; Bjorn Meyer: bass guitar; Samuel Rohrer: drums, percussion.

The European trio co-led by German saxophonist and clarinetist Klaus Gesing, Swedish bassist Bjorn Meyer, and Swiss drummer Samuel Rohrer, releases their sophomore album, Amiira, on the drummer’s label Arjuna Music.

The trio appeared for the first time in 2013 with Open Source Music. Before committing to this project, Gesing released two solo albums and recorded with Anouar Brahem, whose quartet also integrates Meyer. In turn, Rohrer has recorded with the Ambik project and Daniel Erdmann, and is currently working with the Norwegian saxophonist Trygve Seim and Dutch pianist Harmen Fraanje.
  
Amiira opens with “Shine On Me”, a celestial ode that illuminates as Gesing’s soprano spreads engaging melodies over the fluffy layer created by the composite of bass and drums. Meyer opts for a disjointed approach before sticking to cyclic pop-rock lines.

“Minne” feels simultaneously beautiful and sad, evoking the elegy of Jobim’s “Retrato em Branco e Preto” and the nostalgia of Pieranunzi’s Fellini Jazz.
“Fulminate” moves in a different direction, incurring in a lucid experimentalism that encompasses hip-hop beats, funky bass lines, and an accordion-like effect on the saxophone.

Percussive noises unfold "After You’ve Left”, an atmospheric downtempo divagation where Gesing's dulcet phrasing finds solace in the underlying layer brought up by the rhythm section. Meyer almost transforms his bass into a sitar.

A vital, electrifying percussion sets “Source One” in motion and waits for Gesing’s bass clarinet to lead the way toward a fulgurant ecstasy of color. 
The very suggestive “Clouds Below” is a levitating piece à-la John Surman. It diverges in rhythm but not in posture from “Sirènes Sacrées”, a silky and perfectly synchronized spin of pacific enchantment.

I see Amiira as a compendium of sheer prayers arranged with freedom but also discipline. The trio, showing maturity and an excellent understanding, transports us to diverse sonorous landscapes where an audacious avant-garde jazz intertwines with soulful world music.

Favorite tracks:
01 – Shine On Me ► 06 – Source One ► 09 – Sirènes Sacrées


Mark Solborg & Herb Robertson - Tuesday Prayers

Mark Solborg: guitar; Herb Robertson: trumpet.

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Mark Solborg, a distinctive Danish/Argentine guitarist with a quirky sound, and Herb Robertson, an American trumpeter known for his free-mindedness and avant-garde punches, joined at Koncertkirken, an old church located in downtown Copenhagen, to fully embrace this duo recording.

The performance occurred on a Tuesday evening in 2014, and the album got the appropriate title of Tuesday Prayers. This worshiping music is celebrated through a variety of forms: fresh contemporary psalms, supplicant hymns, and fervorous invocations. 
Solborg and Robertson already had recorded an album together in 2009 entitled Nod.
 
“The Flute” was the ideal choice to open. It’s a cute short piece in which Robertson plays a pennywhistle, a six-holed woodwind instrument typical from UK and Ireland. The shrill sounds in addition to the beautiful dissonances of Solborg’s guitar, takes us to distant and impenetrable Asian forests.

In “I Know You”, Robertson enters with the same determination, this time on trumpet. He spreads that characteristic sound that populated many albums from the alternative jazz scene of the 80's and 90's, not only as a leader but also as a sideman of accomplished authors like Satoko Fujii, Gerry Hemingway, Mark Helias, Marc Ducret, and Tim Berne. Here, his authoritative phrasing finds the perfect accompaniment in Solborg’s string bends and devoted chords.

We are taken into another stratosphere in “Hymn”, a sort of Indian reverence that combines expressive trumpet murmurs with dotted guitar notes. 
The longest tune of the record is the title track, a sometimes-burbling, sometimes-contemplative 17-minute exultation whose abstraction is increased through a trumpet solo that oscillates between hoarse and strident, and the subsequent unruffled textures delivered by the guitarist.

“Shout, Landscape and Goodbyes” offers exactly what the title suggests. While Robertson fierily shouts complex melodic lines at first, Solborg joins him later, maintaining an active layer of distortion while exploring possible melodies.

The ones who pray have their methods and rituals, and Solborg and Robertson also found their own. There’s a transcendental harmony that surrounds them and facilitates the attainment of a perfect balance.

Favorite Tracks:
02 – I Know You ► 03 – Hymn ► 04 – Tuesday Prayers


John Abercrombie Quartet - Up and Coming

John Abercrombie: guitar; Marc Copland: piano; Drew Gress: bass; Joey Baron: drums.

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It's always pleasurable listening to John Abercrombie for the simple fact that he has this strange approach to songs, which he delivers with an appealing sound while avoiding standardized lines.

Abercrombie was responsible for unforgettable albums, true masterpieces that should be mandatory for any jazz lover. As a leader, I can point the progressive Timeless and Gateway as quintessence choices, but also Open Land, Class Trip, and Abercrombie/Johnson/Erskine as wonderful listenings. As a sideman, he was highly in demand for almost half-century, endorsing his unique musical impressions to musicians like Charles Lloyd, Enrico Rava, Kenny Wheeler, and John Surman.

Lately, he has been joined by a categorical quartet that comprises the pianist Marc Copland, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Joey Baron, and three years ago, they recorded 39 Steps on ECM. Besides originals (also with Copland's contribution), the guitarist picked “My Melancholy Baby”, a jazz standard to give it a bit more color. 
Now, on the new Up and Coming, released on the same label, the story repeats itself. This time it was Miles Davis’ “Nardis”, the outside song, which shines as one of the recording’s highlights. Its mood is perfect for the style of the guitarist who allows Baron to untie himself and embark on a temperate dialogue with Gress.

The opening tune may be called “Joy”, but it rather sticks to a wintry melancholy. This introspective mood appears again in Copland’s “Tears”, a more fitting title for Abercrombie's intimate confessions, here well sustained by the pianist’s achingly emotional chords. This tune is arranged with exactly the same structure of “Sunday School”, which despite brought by Copland’s ad-lib intro, obeys to the sequence theme-solos(guitar/bass/piano)-theme. 

“Flipside” feels quite familiar, affiliating Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” and Shorter’s “Yes or No” in its melody.
A tune we don’t easily forget is “Silver Circle”. Composed by Copland, this polished modal exercise, earnestly marked by Baron’s hi-hat, is prone to wider exploration and is where Abercrombie cooks his best solo.

Built in a smooth crescendo, Up and Coming exceeded my expectations, surpassing 39 Steps. I’m glad to realize that one of my favorite post-bop guitarists is still around, in good shape, and promises to come back soon with more. 

Favorite Tracks:
02 – Flipside ► 06 – Silver Circle ► 07 – Nardis


Lee Konitz - Frescalalto

Lee Konitz: alto saxophone, vocals; Kenny Barron: piano; Peter Washington: bass; Kenny Washington: drums.

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Prolific alto saxophonist and composer Lee Konitz has always fought to sound distinct from everyone else. Carefully dodging Parker’s bop clichés, he was at Miles Davis’ side for The Birth Of The Cool and recorded with the pianist Lennie Tristano, a big influence in his approach to improvisation.
Throughout his nearly 70-year career, Konitz himself has been highly influential in the way of playing of several musicians. 

Frescalalto marks his debut on Impulse Records and features the acclaimed pianist Kenny Barron, and a tight bass-drums engine composed of Peter Washington and Kenny Washington (no family ties, but natural musical rapport).
For this session, Konitz selected three originals and five standards, which were dressed with inventive new outfits. 

The adroit quartet takes the plunge with “Stella By Starlight”, a precious piece of the Great American songbook, here structured in a funny way. One at a time, each musician rambles solo throughout the 32 bars of the song focusing more or less on the main melody.
Then comes two choruses set aside to be enjoyed in trio formation (saxophone and piano). Before returning to the theme, we still have Peter’s nimble bass solo and trading eights with the drummer.

Trading eights can also be enjoyed in Konitz’s “Kary’s Trance”, a vividly harmonized number that trembles with all the enthusiasm of the post-bop from the 50’s, time when it was recorded for the first time for the album Inside Hi-Fi. The other two originals by Konitz are “Gundula”, a weeping ballad that calls for cool-tone melodic sensibility, and “Thingin”, a swinging old hit.

Not limited to the instrument that gave him prestige, the saxophonist also sings on two tracks - “Darn That Dream”, with just piano as accompaniment, and “Out of Nowhere”, delivering a vocal improvisation. Both the latter and the closing tune, “Cherokee” have the particularity of disregarding the theme's melody, gaining a larger sense of freedom in their approach. 

In “Invitation”, a typical AABA standard, Konitz kind of sticks to the same idea, opting to deliver the exact melody only in the last A of the chorus. This tune is where Barron shines the most through a masterly improvisation.

Showing a profound complicity, Konitz and his partners overcame the challenge of sounding fresh when the inspiration comes predominantly from the past. Unified in the same belief and purpose, they emphasized creativity when it comes to the standards, and displayed a perfect understanding playing the originals.

Favorite Tracks:
01 – Stella by Starlight ► 04 – Kary’s Trance ► 07 – Invitation


Matt Brewer - Unspoken

Ben Wendel: sax; Aaron Parks: piano; Charles Altura: guitar; Matt Brewer: bass; Tyshawn Sorey: drums.

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Matt Brewer is a bassist of modern touch and ample musical vision, who had his first appearance as a leader two years ago with Mythology. The album was recorded with a sextet whose front line included Mark Turner and Steve Lehman. 
For his sophomore album, Unspoken, Brewer convenes a completely different band, a tight quintet that fits his call in order to find the best shape for his bold compositions.

“Juno” is a great starting point. Ben Wendel and Charles Altura delineate the melody through a catchy unison while the sensitive chords of Aaron Parks echo in the background. The guitarist then embarks on an improvisational journey, displaying his attractive sound, which softly flows over the rhythmical structure pictured by Brewer and Tyshawn Sorey. 

In the title track, a circumspective lullaby, saxophonist and guitarist team up once again, intertwining improvisations, after Brewer had claimed his time.
The quintet’s interaction is outstanding in the half-dreamy, half-imperial “Twenty Years”, a poignant composition by Bill Frisell, in which Wendel’s saxophone implores for mercy while a breezy creativity warms the air. 

With a persuasive bass introduction, “Lunar” is my favorite piece of the record. Rolling at a charming rhythm fueled by Sorey’s mordant chops, we are given the pleasure of listening to Park’s intelligent comping and cultivated improvisation in addition to Wendel’s melodic metaphors.

The concise “Evil Song” is a great tune, marching flawlessly with ominous tones toward an uncertain destiny. It precedes Charlie Parker’s “Cheryl”, the second and last cover on the recording. Early improvisations fire up this capricious tune imbued of ebullient swing.

Brewer finishes the recording by entering in cool mode through the stylishly pop clouds of “Tesuque”. The fluency and consistency of the piano-bass-drums activity invite Wendel to another round of enthusiastic blows.

The undeniable compositional qualities of Matt Brewer are magnified through the special rapport that surrounds this quintet.
Unspoken is the bassist’s most ambitious album and arrives with an assortment of tactful collective and individual moments.

Favorite Tracks: 
04 – Lunar ► 05 – Evil Song ► 09 – Tesuque


Michael Bisio & Kirk Knuffke - Row For William O.

Michael Bisio: acoustic bass; Kirk Knuffke: trumpet.

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Bassist Michael Bisio and trumpeter Kirk Knuffke, two relevant contributors in the improvised jazz panorama, got together at Park West Studios in Brooklyn to shape the six tunes that would be included in Row For William O.
Bisio dedicates this album to William O. Smith (better known as Bill Smith), a clarinetist, composer, and educator who occasionally recorded with Dave Brubeck and had a hand in Shelly Manne’s Concerto for Clarinet & Combo. 

The constructive duo opens with one of the honoree’s compositions entitled “Drago”, which exposes the theme’s melody in a gorgeous unison and is designed with absorbing grooves and stimulating swinging sections.
The title track gets a classical chamber feeling during its four-minute introductory section, in which we can appreciate the distinctive bowing bass of Bisio and fill our ears with the intuitive language of Knuffke. Throughout the subsequent section, the tune seems to veer into a ballad but the idea never took practical effect. At this phase, Bisio enjoys a great solo moment while Knuffke, showing an enviable control of the trumpet, explores different sounds.

Exaggerating in the title’s length but not in the focal daintiness of its intonations, Bisio’s “I Want To Do To You What Spring Does to Cherry Trees” is a more intimate journey gradually expands.
Resorting to a tight complicity and wistful abstraction, “December”, composed by the duo, often moves within complex textures created by Bisio's asynchronous plucking of strings. 

“To Birds…”, the closing tune is the opposite, a question-and-answer ritual that stands at the crossroads of classical and chamber jazz.
But the most appealing track on this recording is Bisio’s “Oh See O.C.”, a wonderful model in the art of improvising. A persistent and unusual swinging bass groove finds existential purpose in the impulsive contortions of the trumpet phrases.

Bisio and Knuffke take advantage of their elevated technique to better complement each other. 
Although in need of some mood changes, Row For William O. provides us with contrasting pitches and timbres that assure a fun ride.

Favorite Tracks:
01 – Drago ► 02 – Row For William O. ► 05 – Oh See O.C.


Charlie Hunter - Everybody Has A Plan Until...

Charlie Hunter: guitar; Kirk Knuffke: trumpet; Curtis Fowlkes: trombone; Bobby Previte: drums.

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Charlie Hunter, a New York-based guitarist with a catchy sound and superior technique, has a new album whose long title, Everybody Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Mouth, was taken from a quote uttered by the heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson.
Hunter returns to the quartet format, adding the extraordinary trumpeter Kirk Knuffke to his regular bandmates - focused trombonist Curtis Fowlkes and exciting drummer Bobby Previte, who had partaken in his previous album, Let the Bells Ring On.
 
The title track invests in a persuasive jazzy bass groove, intuitive guitar chops, and well-calibrated drumming. The horn players, whenever not blowing in the same direction, fill the available spaces with tasteful detail. First solo of the recording was conceded to Fowlkes who didn’t disappoint.
“(Looks Like) Somebody Got Ahead Of Schedule On Their Medication”, doesn’t stand out only because of its super enigmatic title, but also for being slightly more abstract in its approach. Hunter shows off an engaging sound, establishing a fruitful connection with the reedists while Previte substantiates he's a true master in rock-style cross-cuts. 

“Leave Him Lay” and “No Money, No Honey” are sketched with chunks of funk, blues, and rock. The former begins in the guise of an effulgent blues before shifting into a horn-driven extravaganza delivered at typical 4/4 tempo; the latter bursts with punchy rhythms occasionally disrupted to let the horns assume the command with authority.
The gently exotic “Latin For Travelers” does justice to its title, changing completely the mood and displaying the best solo of the record, splendidly conceived by Knuffke.
 
“Who Put You Behind The Wheel?” adopts the form of a cartoonish dance in which we find the bandleader smothering the sound of his strings. It reserves a surprising variation for the finale. 
In turn, “(Wish I Was) Already Paid And On My Way Home” flows at a more relaxed pace than the brassy and reggae-ish “The Guys Get Shirts”, which inevitably takes the path of blues afterward.

Hunter shows all his polyvalence on guitar and forges a great album strongly rooted in the traditions of blues and rock. The quality of his arrangements is an asset.

Favorite Tracks:
02 – (Looks Like) Somebody Got Ahead Of Schedule On Their Medication ► 06 – Latin For Travelers ► 08 – Who Put You Behind The Wheel?


Marcus Strickland - Nihil Novi

Marcus Strickland: saxophones, clarinet; Keyon Harrold: trumpet, flugelhorn; Kyle Miles: electric bass; Jean Baylor: vocals; Robert Glasper: piano; Mitch Henry: organ, keyboards; Masayuki Hirano: keyboards; James Francies: keyboards; Chris Bruce: guitar; Pino Palladino: electric bass; Meshell Ndegeocello: electric bass; Chris Dave: drums; Charles Haynes: drums; E.J. Strickland: drums.

37-year-old Florida-born Marcus Strickland is a resourceful saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer who has been building a solid reputation through his own projects, as well as a sideman for Robert Glasper, David Weiss, Dave Douglas, Jeff Tain Watts, Roy Haynes, Charles Tolliver, and Ben Williams.

Nihil Novi, which translates to ‘nothing new’, is the title of his 2016 album of originals, the first on the Blue Note/Revive label. 
His Twi-Life project, whose name came from the title of his 2006 double-album released on Strick Muzik and featuring two different quartets, brings emergent voices from the jazz sphere, but also maintains the recognized musicians that helped him to create his own path like pianist Robert Glasper (guest appearance) and brother E.J. Strickland on drums.
Marcus takes us on a personal journey, in which he reveals his vast musical inspirations through a triumphant fusion of jazz with other languages such as soul, R&B, funk, and hip-hop. Regardless of what the title advocates, Strickland actually creates something new by mixing all these diversified influences with a confessed passion for beat making. 

The 14-track album, produced by electric bassist Meshell Ndegeocello, begins with “Tic Toc”, which sounds and feels like a work song, displaying free-flowing saxophone phrasings and vehement words. 
This somewhat eloquent ritual tags along with “The Chant”, delivered at a frantic Brazilian rhythm and impeccably adorned with the resolute in/out approach of the bandleader.

Soul and R&B can be found both in “Inevitable” and the Bartok-influenced “Talking Loud”, both featuring Jean Baylor (Yellowjackets, The Baylor Project) on vocals. She also participates in “Alive”, a funky/soul exposure that boasts a graceful horn-driven ostinato as intro. 

The power of the baritone saxophone makes us feel perky in the surrounded-by-words “Mantra” while “Sissoko’s Voyage”, resembling an African dance, chains Chris Bruce’s funky guitar rhythms with the circular bass lines of Ndegeocello. 

Also funk-oriented, “Mirrors” finds Keyon Harrold’s trumpet solo overlapped by the sound effects of one of the keyboardists, and “Cycle” relies on collaborative sax-trumpet interactions on top of a groovy keyboard-bass-drums texture. The horn players conspire closely once again in “Celestude”, a flexible piece bolstered by uplifted bass licks.

Attentive listeners will find great multi-dimensional musical moments in this colorful neo-soul Afro jazz for the times to come. Expect a myriad of syncopated rhythms varying according to the mood and flow.
Nihil Novi may not be a symbol of perfection but certainly is a singular musical experience.

Favorite Tracks:
01 – Tic Toc ► 02 – The Chant ► 11 – Celestude


Jarrett Cherner Trio - Expanding Heart

Jarrett Cherner: piano; Jorge Roeder and Haggai Cohen-Milo: bass; Jason Burger and Richie Barshay: drums.

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Brooklyn-based pianist, composer, and educator Jarrett Cherner boasts his homogeneous trio-formula in Expanding Heart, a feverishly passionate album released on BaldHill Records. For this recording, a vehicle to exhibit his vision and qualities, Cherner gathered two different trios. Bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Jason Burger play nine of the eleven tunes on the album, while bassist Haggai Cohen-Milo and drummer Richie Barshay play the remaining two. 

Even with a diversified selection that comprises originals and covers of disparate styles, one can immediately find a common direction and identifiable traces in the music of the trios. That's because, regardless the numerous influences, Cherner has a rich, personal touch and sound.

“Opening” is a 35-second solo piano intro that doesn’t do much than prepare the way to Ornette Coleman’s brilliant “What Reason Could I Give”, a tune with a whirlwind effect where the emotions are elevated through Cherner's exultations, Roeder’s relentless pizzicato, which has the equivalence of a bass pedal, and Burger’s fidgety drumming. 

Another rendition of the master Ornette is “Turnaround”, which came out markedly bluesy. 
Unfolding with an inviting rhythm, “Distance” is a 6/8-meter odyssey, flawlessly composed by Cherner, which shines with great energy and is enhanced through encouraging melodic discourses and a bass solo inundated of soul force.

Otis Redding’s R&B hit “I Got the Will” showcases the bandleader’s flattering improvisational language without losing the groovy touch of the original. This song anticipates “Meditation 1”, the first of three amiable, generous, and unclouded pieces whose bittersweet lyricism triggers soft waves of relaxation.

The alternative trio (Cohen-Milo and Barshay) delivers Vincent Roses's “Whispering” with a dissimulated 4/4 pliability, and also “Here We Go Again”, a witty post-bop feast à-la Kenny Barron with a knack of Dizzy Gillespie.

The refined musical credentials and dynamism of Cherner, who found solid ground on his peers, are responsible for turning Expanding Heart into a resplendent achievement. Devoid of any type of artifice, he conquered me with his musical spontaneity, technical fluidity, compositional engagement, and natural facility.

Favorite Tracks:
02 – What Reason Could I Give ► 03 – Distance ► 08 – Here We Go Again


Noah Preminger - Meditations on Freedom

Noah Preminger: saxophone; Jason Palmer: trumpet; Kim Cass: bass; Ian Froman: drums.

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Meditations on Freedom is the suggestive title of the most recent album-length by the Brooklyn-based saxophonist Noah Preminger, who launches a musical protest against ominous political developments in America.
Throughout his still short but spellbinding career, Preminger has recorded/performed with a bunch of acclaimed artists, including guitarist Ben Monder, pianists Frank Kimbrough and Fred Hersch, horn players Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas, bassists Dave Holland and John Patittucci, and drummers Matt Wilson and Billy Hart.

In order to express his vision, Preminger reunites the same efficient quartet that has been backing him since 2015: trumpeter Jason Palmer, bassist Kim Cass, and drummer Ian Froman.

The quartet initiates with three covers in a row. Bob Dylan’s “Only a Pawn in Their Game” is filled with free-feeling melodic ornaments meticulously instilled to top layer the moderate bass-drums flow; the indelible riff of Bruce Hornsby's “The Way It Is” is immediately recognizable before a luxuriant improvisation is put out by Preminger, perfectly comfortable in exposing his adventurous personality with just drums under his feet; Sam Cooke’s 1964 African-American cry of hope “A Change is Gonna Come” acquires a ballad-like infatuation where the improvisers are encouraged to explore.

Preminger’s “I Have a Dream” and “Mother Earth” start with Cass’s invitational bass discourses and are given a 4/4 time signature. The former, dynamically charged by a swinging-yet-robust rhythm section, shows off the unforced fervor and crisp focus of the horn players; the latter, more restrained, compels Preminger and Palmer to fly fearlessly and then land in safety.

They blow the theme of “Women’s March” with pacific solicitude; however, the number gains an impetuous swinging pulse in sections reserved for personal creativity.

The honey-coated rendition of George Harrison’s folk-pop “Give Me Love” doesn’t let us hear the peace-appealing lyrics of the original but conveys all its emotion, whether emphasizing its beautiful melody, whether rejoicing through time-restricted volleys exchanged by Preminger and Carter.

Meditations on Freedom, bringing into mind the fruitful collaboration between Don Cherry and Gato Barbieri in the mid 60’s, is another impactful album from a gifted saxophonist who shares his perception of the world by allying strong message with an engaging musical setting.

Favorite Tracks:
02 – The Way It Is ► 04 – I Have a Dream ► 08 – Give Me Love 


Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo - Peace

Satoko Fujii: piano; Masaya Kimura and Kenichi Matsumoto: tenor sax; Sachi Hayasaka: soprano and alto sax; Kunihiro Izumi: alto sax; Ryuichi Yoshida: baritone sax; Christian Pruvost, Natsuki Tamura, Yoshihito Fukumoto, Takao Watanabe: trumpet; Yasuyuki Takahashi, Haguregumo Nagamatsu, Toshihiro Koike: trombone; Toshiki Nagata: bass; Akira Horikoshi and Peter Orins: drums.

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Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii, a highly creative exponent of the international avant-garde jazz scene, has been riding on the crest of the wave through formations that range from solo to large ensembles.
Throughout more than two decades, experimentalism has been a trait she exploits in each of her albums.

Her latest feature, Peace, recorded with the 15-piece Orchestra Tokyo, is a stunningly arranged tribute to the late Canadian guitarist Kelly Churko, who lived in Japan for more than a decade before dying of cancer in 2014. This is the pianist’s fifth album with this particular orchestra, another high point in her vast curriculum of big-band formations (New York, Nagoya, Kobe, and Berlin), and an excellent follow-up to her duo recording with the bassist Joe Fonda, precisely entitled Duet.

The album kicks in with “2014”, a 32-minute challenge delivered with no obstructions or discriminations. It features two French guests: drummer Peter Orins and trumpeter Christian Pruvost. The latter opens the curtains with breath attacks and then steadfast phrases, entering into a strange dialogue with the former. Subsequently, the saxophonist Masaya Kimura and the trombonist Yasuyuki Takahashi create another unorthodox, microtonal dialogue. Advancing like a storm, the tune easily gets the shape of a 4/4 orchestral jubilation populated with percussive contrivance and brash horn blows. All wrapped up in psychedelic effervescence. 

“Jasper” has no connotations with the amazing vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, who gave the same title to one of his most unforgettable tunes. It was rather composed by Fujii’s husband, the trumpeter Natsuki Tamura. In a symbiotic exchange, Toshiki Nagata’s balmy bowed bass and Sachi Hayasaka’s melodious soprano wave at each other in an accessible, curvy salutation peppered by Oriental flavors. Despite the pacific atmosphere, don’t be surprised if paroxysms arise in a sporadic way.

Highly contrasting is the title track, a colorful eruption of avant-jazz muscularity whose horn infestation creates sonic noise and confusion, even if well-defined melodic lines inhabit in the back.

Chosen to close, is “Beguine Nummer Eins”, a grandiose triumph that glides as a freeing hymn, similar to those of Carla Bley or Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra. A voluptuous susceptibility takes possession of the melodic strolls, which are galvanized by Yoshihito Fukumoto’s emphatic trumpet solo.

Whether attracting or repulsing, Fujii’s music is always full of passion and unlimited artistic creativity. Peace was forged by the hands of an adventurous pianist and master conductor who’s capable of moving in different directions with an extravagant magnificence.

Favorite Tracks: 
01 – 2014 ►02 – Jasper ►04 – Beguine Nummer Eins


Theo Bleckmann - Elegy

Theo Bleckmann: vocals; Ben Monder: guitar; Shai Maestro: piano; Chris Tordini: bass; John Hollenbeck: drums.

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Theo Bleckmann, a resourceful vocalist/composer whose work frequently slips into avant-garde genre, convokes a great quartet for his ECM leader debut, Elegy, a career highlight.

Innovative guitarist Ben Monder and resilient drummer John Hollenbeck are two longtime associates who easily pour out the tones and textures envisioned by the singer. 
Joining for the first time, but incredibly adapted to their bandmates’ ways, are the pianist Shai Maestro and the bassist Chris Tordini. Together, they bringing in the lyrical, dramatic, and nearly theatrical fluxes that suit Bleckmann’s unique style and transparent vocal essence. All the songs here are related to death and transcendence.

“Semblance”, driven by Maestro’s piano, functions as a short introduction to Stephen Sondheim's “Comedy Tonight”, a pensive aria where Bleckmann’s sublime voice and technique become evident while uttering the words ‘tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight’.

He stands firm in his conceptual dreamy soundscapes throughout “Fields”, where sweet falsettos and other melodious vocal strolls are matched by Maestro’s movements and then uplifted through Monder’s feverish glissando. 

Pianist and guitarist invert roles in “The Mission”, a plaintive tune producing slightly more tension due to the buzz-like sounds that keep escaping from Monder’s instrument.
Maestro and Hollenbeck’s interaction is superb in the voiceless and concise “Littlefields”, kind of an interlude that invites us to the mournful vigil the title track prepares us. Loops and distorted guitar are part of this half-sinister half-airy experience.

As a gently percussive chant of transcendent Zen tranquility, “To Be Shown to Monks at a Certain Temple” contrasts with the radiant abandonment of “Take My Life” whose melodic contours move closer to a progressive pop-rock style, bringing into mind the Yes vocalist Jon Anderson. Impelled by untamed impulses, Monder shakes things up with an invigorating solo, forcing his likes to become involved in a vibrant, soulful communion.

Bleckmann’s outstanding work soars with intimacy and perplexity. The beauty of his voice architectures an unconventional style that makes him unparalleled among contemporary jazz vocalists. 
Elegy is a treat to be slowly absorbed and ultimately fully embraced. Just follow the easiness of its breath and you’ll agree with me.

Favorite Tracks:
04 – The Mission ► 06 – Elegy ► 10 – Take My Life


Andrew Cyrille Quartet - The Declaration of Musical Independence

Bill Frisell: guitar; Richard Teitelbaum: synthesizer, piano; Ben Street: double bass; Andrew Cyrille: drums.

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As one of the most considered avant-garde jazz drummers, Andrew Cyrille, a 77-year-old living legend who played with Anthony Braxton, David Murray, Muhal Richard Abrams, Cecil Taylor, Marion Brown, Carla Bley, David S. Ware, among others, doesn’t disappoint in The Declaration of Musical Independence, his first album on ECM Records.

To be front and center in most of the tracks, the drummer called the guitarist Bill Frisell, who never stops to cause admiration with his rootless voicings sank in delayed/reverbed effects. The quartet is rounded out by the subdued-yet-influential keyboardist Richard Teitelbaum and the prominent bassist Ben Street, who already had recorded with Cyrille in a trio project of the Danish pianist Soren Kjoergaard. 

The veteran’s snare rat-a-tat can be heard in the first minute of “Coltrane Time”, a ride for freedom whose dazzling intensity takes us to cosmic surfaces. While the bandleader sticks to his astute rhythm patterns, the tune seizes a mix of atmospheric and electrifying components due to Teitelbaum and Frisell’s approaches.

Frisell’s “Kaddish”, more contemplative and less amorphous, is so melodiously yearning that could make me cry. Its wistful, penetrating melody causes assorted sentiments to unclasp. 

The celebrated world-class guitarist shows once more his compositional mastery and passionate literacy in “Song for Andrew No. 1”, a composition he likely wrote for Cyrille. This one is put up with beautiful, serene ambiances and contrasting polyrhythms.

Experimentalism integrates “Sanctuary”, an exquisitely percussive number composed by the collective, which brings up the intimacy, interplay, and control of the quartet.

Besides Frisell, with three tunes, also Teitelbaum and Street contributed with one composition each. The latter’s “Say…”, a languorous piece of glacial tones, is marked by a repetitive melodic suggestion implanted by Frisell on top of Teitelbaum’s sparse keyboard voicings. An adventurous Cyrille, impressive in the art of brushing, combines in perfection with Street’s suave harmonics.

The longest and perhaps the most abstract tune on the recording, got the title of “Dazzling (Perchordially Yours)”. It’s an anatomically diffuse, nearly dismembered experience of textural intermittence boosted by electric guitar bends.

The Declaration of Musical Independence is a spacey and highly hypnotic adventure. All the four insightful musicians put their own individual style in favor of the band’s sound. Their sense of time is volatile, their temperament falls in introspection, their chemistry is on-the-spot, and their moves, precise and compassionate. 
As a consequence, we remain suspended in the air for a long, long time.

Favorite Tracks:
02 – Kaddish ► 04 – Say… ► 09 – Song for Andrew No. 1


Generations Quartet - Flow

Michael Jefry Stevens: piano; Oliver Lake: alto saxophone; Joe Fonda: double bass; Emil Gross: drums.

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New York pianist/composer/bandleader Michael Jefry Stevens has a remarkable aptitude: he moves equally well in post-bop and avant-garde genres. 
His solid musicianship, deserving a wider exposure, spans for more than twenty years, not only leading projects under his own name but also as a member of creative groups, most of the times having the company of his longtime associate, Joe Fonda, a fanciful modern bassist. 
Examples are The Fonda-Stevens Group, a notable quartet/quintet led by the inseparable duo, The Mosaic Sextet with the prolific trumpeter Dave Douglas, and Conference Call, a bold project featuring the German saxophonist/clarinetist Gebhard Ullmann.

The cited duo joins forces once again in the Generations Quartet, an irresistible new collective that also features the renowned saxophonist, visual artist, and poet Oliver Lake who has his name forever associated with a few mandatory albums of the improvised genre released between the 70’s and 90’s, cases of Heavy Spirits, Expandable Language, and Virtual Reality: Total Escapism.
Rounding out the group is the much younger Emil Gross, an Austrian drummer who tries to get the visibility he deserves and gain his place in the avant-jazz scene.
Flow, their vehement new album, was recorded live in Bielefeld, Germany, in October 2015.

Lake contributes with a couple of powerful originals. One of them is the opening track, “Rollin”, where Fonda holds out an intrepid bass groove to start, receiving promptly back up from Gross and Steven. The latter makes use of a clever comping, full of rich rhythmic intention, and his improvisation comes up with Latin seasoning. Still, the show belonged to Lake, who boasted his disconcerting sound and fluid phrasing peppered by occasional wild exteriorizations.

Also liberating yet distinct in terms of motion and attitude, Steven’s “Mantra #2” is a spiritual voyage suffused with clamors. It was connected through individual and collective creative moments in order to gain the expression of a healing prayer delivered with uplifting tranquility.

The hyperkinetic title track, another expeditious product from the saxophonist’s mind, displays all his intensity, vision, and expansive language. The band crafts assorted textures with articulated ideas, doing the same in Fonda’s densely ordered “Read This”, a polyphonic wallop with transitional sections and rhythmic accent patterns succeeding one after another.

Not everything here is so explosive, though, since there’s space for a dazzling ballad, “La Dirge de la Fleur”, set in motion by the classical cascades of Steven’s solo piano and enriched by Fonda’s magical improvisation. 

Flow is a wholly unique venture and lives up to the hype. Each musician seems to be able to read their equal’s minds, and consequently, their moves. It’s this unstoppable communication, together with off-kilter moods and entrenched musical consistency, that makes this recording so special. We want more from the Generations Quartet in a near future.

Favorite Tracks: 
01 – Rollin’ ► 03 – Mantra #2 ► 04 – Flow


Mark Whitfield - Grace

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Mark Whitfield: guitar; Davis Whitfield: piano; Yasushi Nakamura: bass; Mark Whitfield Jr.: drums. 

Mercurial guitarist Mark Whitfield got the jazz world’s attention during the 90’s, when the NY Times considered him ‘The Best Young Guitarist in the Business’. Despite speaking a vocabulary of his own, his style is still influenced by his mentor George Benson, the one who recommended him to the organist Jack McDuff.
Mark not only has collaborated with jazz legends such as Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, and Jimmy Smith, but also with recent stars like Sting, Chris Botti, Diana Krall, and Roy Hargrove. 

After sharing the stage so many times with his two sons (Berklee graduates just like their father), Mark decided to record his new album, Grace, with them. The Japanese bassist Yasushi Nakamura, who won the title ‘honorary Whitfield family member’ from the patriarch, joins the pianist Davis Whitfield and the drummer Mark Whitfield Jr. The brothers' names were announced for trumpeter Freddie Hendrix's upcoming concerts.

Comprising only originals, the recording kicks in with the straight-ahead “Afro Samurai”, a fusion cocktail made of funk, R&B and jazz. If Mark shows rapid reflexes, Davis exceeds all the expectations with an excitingly groovy solo.
All the spirit of the blues is put in the 32 bars of “Blues D.A.”. While Mark configures the theme, Davis and Nakamura improvise emotion.

Marks’s guest, Sy Smith, offers her vocal skills in the title track, a pure contemporary R&B creation with polyrhythmic feel. Despite the sugary taste, it was “Double Trouble” that satisfied me most through its props and embellishments flying over a swinging bass line. Here, the impulsive drumming of Mark Jr. becomes unstoppable, even during Mark’s brisk improvisation. At the minute five, a change of mood takes effect and a modal approach is put in practice before the final step.

Momentarily suspending the high impetus, “Space Between Us”, a slow-moving waltz is laid down. The band then plunges into a gripping crossover jazz with “Fortress”, where the joyous tones are directly connected with the addition of well-designed funk-rock elements. The beautiful, rich melodies are superimposed to the hot rhythms in a multi-colored celebration of past and present.

The ‘family’ is perfectly connected in Grace, mixing the wisdom of experience with the irreverence of the youth. Synergy is their key for success and I'm sure Mark doesn't regret giving this opportunity to his gifted sons. Long live the family!

Favorite tracks:
01 – Afro Samurai ► 04 – Double Trouble ► 06 – Fortress


Kris Davis - Duopoly

kris-davis-duopoly

Kris Davis: piano; Bill Frisell: guitar; Julian Lage: guitar; Tim Berne: alto saxophone; Don Byron: clarinet; Craig Taborn: piano; Angelica Sanchez: piano; Billy Drummond: drums; Marcus Gilmore: drums.

Kris Davis is a forward-thinker Canadian pianist and composer who has combined innovation and sophistication in the modern music universe. Displaying an uncompromising style and unique musical trademarks, Davis is a confessed adept of exquisite linear notes in detriment of traditional chords.
Her new album, Duopoly, is a fantastic follow-up to the well-accepted Save Your Breath, gathering eight irreverent improvisers – guitarists Bill Frisell and Julian Lage, pianists Craig Taborn and Angelica Sanchez, drummers Billy Drummond and Marcus Gilmore, and reedists Tim Berne and Don Byron - with whom she plays two duets each. The tracks' alignment obeys to some rules, in a sort of mirror distribution. The first eight pieces are written material while the last eight, adopting the names of the guest musicians as titles, are totally improvised.

The guitarists are responsible for the most enjoyable pieces. In “Prairie Eyes”, the unmatchable Bill Frisell knocks us out with his typical folk-jazz approach. His alluring sound comes from the eccentricity of the chords and the incredible choice of notes. Davis’ flowing left-hand ostinato is an essential key for this cinematic merge of mystery and beauty. And what a dark lyricism they create!
Collaborating with the pianist for the very first time, Julian Lage excels in a different way, playing his acoustic 1939 Martin in “Surf Curl”. He does it with mastery and intelligence, taking advantage of Davis’ rhythmic stimulus.

Two pianos being played simultaneously can be weird and we have that sensation from time to time when listening to the creative soundscapes of the nebulous “Fox Fire”, which makes us ask the question: are Davis and Taborn twin pianists? Not really, but their lines of vision are full of intersections. “Beneath the Leaves”, composed and co-performed by Angelica Sanchez, compresses classical, avant-garde, and flamenco sketches into the same recipient.

Now, the drummers! Billy Drummond is featured in “Eronel”, a cool piece that Monk co-wrote. Responsive and classy, Drummond manages to find the best way to accompany Davis’ textural rambles. 
Eric McPherson’s skittish drumming creates unrestrained steam in “Dig & Dump”.

Pushing the limits of compulsiveness, “Trip Dance for Tim” invites the irreverence of Tim Berne, who neither curbs nor shies away when manipulating extended techniques to thrill. The almost unrecognizable rendition of Duke Ellington’s “Prelude to a Kiss”, apart from some dispersion, infuses an attractive romanticism.
From the improvised pieces, which still follow a logic structure, I was particularly impressed with “Tim Berne” and “Julian Lage”.

The 16 tracks of Duopoly, probing action-reaction reflexes, certificate Kris Davis as one of the most brilliant pianists around. Due to an elastic approach, her textural densities enlarge and shrink in favor of the circumstances. We’re before a charming, present-day jazz of elevated artistry.

Favorite Tracks: 
01 – Prairie Eyes ► 02 – Surf Curl ► 05 – Eronel


Jeff Siege Siegel - King of Xhosa

Erica Lindsay: saxophone; Francesca Tanksley: piano; Rich Syracuse: bass; Jeff ‘Siege’ Siegel: drums + guests Feya Faku: trumpet; Fred Barryhill: percussion.

jeff-siege-siegel-king-xhosa

A freeing intersection of cultures is used as a premise for Jeff ‘Siege’ Siegel Quartet’s magnificent album, King of Xhosa.
In this recording, Siegel, an experienced drummer, composer, and educator living in Woodstock, New York, welcomes the South African trumpeter Feya Faku and the percussionist Fred Barryhill as his personal guests. 
His gripping quartet benefits from the presence of amazing improvisers such as the pianist Francesca Tanksley and the saxophonist Erica Lindsay. Siegel works closely with the bassist Rich Syracuse, with whom he establishes the primary foundations to better serve the improvisers.

The album, starting and finishing at the sound of short pieces centered in African percussion, has its first great moment in “Prayer”, whose spiritual spell and organic clamor are reminiscent of Billy Harper’s harmonic structures. This is not surprising since Tanksley, who composed the tune, is part of the latter’s current quintet. Faku opens the improvisational section, spreading persuasive melodic phrases; Lindsay boasts her rippling dialect by playing in and out; Tanksley is exemplary and exhilarating in her style.

The title track, a Siegel’s original, is driven with a Latin feel and invites us to the vicious quadrature of its musical web. It thrives by exalting the spirit through rapturous solos and a taut sense of interplay.
Tanksley’s “Life on the Rock” changes the mood adopted till then, preferring a swinging rhythm to support its author’s post-bop whims. In addition to the usual suspects, Syracuse adventures himself in his first solo.

Faku contributes with three of his own tunes. His trumpet fills up in “Courage”, an introspective and enchanting small anthem that contrasts with the stirring, Italian-style “Unsung”.
Things cool down with Siegel’s “Ballad of the Innocent”, but the fire doesn’t wait too long to be relit. It happens with a couple of tunes by Lindsay: “Gotta Get To It”, a generous entreaty, and especially “Call to Spirits”, a yearning, often oneiric, and vitally percussive imploration, here magnified by the avant-gardish phrases of the tenorist.
Through “Erica’s Bag”, Siegel steps on Latin ground, just to end up trading fours with his peers. To conclude the session, the blues-drenched “Get Real” is dispensed with heart and dynamism.

King of Xhosa is a little gem that bursts with the verve of a quartet in top form. It’s not uncommon to hear fractions of Harper, McCoy, and Coltrane in this healing amalgam of modal music, avant-garde, and post-bop. 
Joy for the ears, food for the soul.

Favorite Tracks:
02 – Prayer ► 03 – King of Xhosa ► 09 – Call to Spirits


Nick Finzer - Hear & Now

Nick Finzer: trombone; Lucas Pino: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Alex Wintz: guitar; Glenn Zaleski: piano; Dave Baron: bass; Jimmy Macbride: drums.

nick-finzer-hear-and-now

New York award-winning composer, arranger, and trombonist Nick Finzer, will certainly delight the admirers of both traditional and modern jazz with his new release, Hear & Now, a politically-charged body of work that envisions to make us aware of the turbulent days we’re living in.
To sculpt his third recording as a bandleader and composer, Finzer, who was mentored by the great Steve Turre at Julliard, reunites the same sextet that appears on his previous album, The Chase (Origin Records, 2014). A blow of fresh air increases the fascination of his inspired new musical creations.

The sonorous spells can be immediately felt in the opening tune, “We The People”, a stylish post-bop pleasure of rare quality and unmitigated class, whose blues connotations and arrangement bring us the best of Turre and Kenny Garrett. Its dimension is expanded with sparkling improvisations by Finzer, pianist Glenn Zaleski, and guitarist Axel Wintz, all of them mesmerizing in their gestures.
Transcendent piano chords give “The Silent One” the epithet of a prayer. Flowing with articulate musicianship, the tune presents a muscled rock guitar comping during Finzer solo, and piano harmonic conduction for Lucas Pino to demonstrate how to make a saxophone solo sound interesting.

The only cover in the recording is Duke Ellington’s lullaby-ish “Single Petal of a Rose”, an homage to Finzer’s key influence, which was melodically co-driven by Pino’s bass clarinet and bundled up in wha-wha effects.
Seated on the bass pedal of Dave Baron and the undeviating drumming of Jimmy MacBride, the clement “Again and Again” shows a perfect understanding between pianist and guitarist who succeed in the articulation of their interventions. All ends up in a dauntless horn-led collective improv.

“Racing to the Bottom”, another post-bop explosion, does what its title calls out. The fast pace allows the soloists to adventure from one extremity of the scale to the other.
Unhurried breezes show up in a quasi-sequential triple dose with the demure “New Beginnings”, a marriage between jazz and avant-pop, “Lullaby for an Old Friend”, written for a friend of the trombonist who passed away, and “Love Wins”, a dainty hymn that celebrates marriage equality.

Superbly produced by Ryan Truesdell (Gil Evans Project), Finzer’s music feels alive, flaring up with color and legitimacy within an assured direction.
Thus, after listening to Hear & Now, it’s no difficult to conclude that Finzer deserves to be known as ‘21st Century’s trombone sensation’.

Favorite Tracks:
01 – We The People ► 02 – The Silent One ► 04 – Again and Again