Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Branford Marsalis: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul

Branford Marsalis (sax) 
Joey Calderazzo (piano)
Justin Faulkner (drums)
Eric Revis (bass)
The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul (Okeh, 2019)

With The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul, Branford and company start firing on all cylinders immediately via the Revis penned "Dance of the Evil Toys." It's raucous and fun. Calderazzo and Faulkner fly alongside Marsalis with brilliance as they provide a discordant but beautiful stretch of improvising that never lets up until the closing note.

Marsalis' only written number for the album, "Life Filtering from the Water Flowers" begins as if you were opening a vault that leads to a dampened chamber. Calderazzo's notes are calm and joyful leading the group into some great interplay between Marsalis, Faulkner, and Revis that travels throughout the remainder of the piece. 

The Secret Between.. also includes covers of Andrew Hill's "Snake Hip Waltz" and Kieth Jarrett's "The Windup." Both are excellent interpretations and wonderful additions to Marsalis' catalog. "The Windup" closes out the album in the brusque fashion that it began. 

The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul continues to show how the Branford Marsalis Quartet continues to stand high and above of many other jazz groups over the years. The versatility of their writing and precision of their performances is yet again why the group and leader seem to get better every year with every record. Enjoy... 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Thumbscrew: Theirs & Ours

Thumbscrew
Mary Halvorson (guitar)
Michael Formanek (bass)
Tomas Fujiwara (drums)
Theirs & Ours (Cuneiform Records; 2018)

I have to be honest, I didn't expect this "supergroup" of Halvorson, Formanek, and Fujiwara--known as Thumbscrew, to last. Mainly because they rotate through so many of their own projects. But, they have been very prolific since their first outing in 2014. Now with their most recent companion releases Theirs and Ours the trio continues to stretch the improvised equations further with enormous success.

Ours is confident out of the gate with Formanek expanding his already intricate and fluid bass melodies followed by Halvorson's expressive and personal tones on "One Day" and "Unconditional." But one of my favourites is the almost rock-infused "Cruel Heartless Bastards" which changes pace from the start. Fujiwara and Fromanek shift modes with Halvorson, disrupting and cutting edges throughout. It felt like I was listening to Throwing Muses or Belly. 


Theirs features interpretations of some well known and not so well known jazz pieces such as Benny Golson's "Stablemates" where the trio showers the listener (or at least this one) with a rolling and vibrant version led by Fujiwara and Halvorson. While short, "Stablemates" floats perfectly into the Brazilian rhythms of Jacob Do Bandolim's "Benzinho," a lovely bounce that shows what fun the trio has had throughout this outing. Thumbscrew closes out Theirs with the beautiful Misha Mengelberg ballad "Weer is een dag voorbij" that perfectly encapsulates a creative and delicate journey with an arrangement that stays true but always shines with their original imprint.

While both Theirs and Ours feature very distinct themes, both releases are superbly delivered and highlight the monstrous talents of three excellent improvising pros on the scene today. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Sunna Gunnlaugs: Cielito Lindo

Sunna Gunnlaugs
Cielito Lindo (SunnySky Records, 2015)
Sunna Gunnlaugs (piano)
Þorgrímur Jónsson (bass)
Scott McLemore (drums)

Another beautiful stroke from the very understated Icelandic pianist. I have been an immense fan for a few years now. Cielito Lindo is a steady, rhythmic and colourful session that stays with you few hours after each listen.

"Cielito Lindo," sets the adventurous tone as the group further explores Spanish rthyhms throughout each of its recent releases. "Dry Cycle," is another evidence of Gunnlaugs playful nature but with exact precisions and contemplative construction from both Jonsson and McLemore. It's probably one of my favorite Gunnalaugs pieces across all of her records.



"Icelandic Blues" and "Summertime" are both tight and different prospectives for Gunnaluags trio. "Icelandic Blues" showcases the trios swift ability move from intricate blues, gospel tinge to slight frenetic improvisation and back again. Sublime. While "Summertime" is a different animal altogether. An almost experimental deconstruction of the Gershwin standard. This is where Jonsson and McLemore shine and Gunnlaugs shows (for me at least) that she is reaching Keith Jarrett highest in her performances.

Cielito Lindo is another powerful and emotional piece of work in the cannon of Sunna Gunnlaugs material. I am hoping as her music becomes more important overseas that more US listener realize that there is another important musician on the scene.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Dre Hocevar: Coding Of Evidentiality

Dre Hocevar Trio
Coding of Evidentiality (Clean Feed; 2015)
Dre Hocevar (drums)
Bram De Looze (piano)
Sm Pluta (electronics)
Lester St.Louis (cello)

A sublime and cerebral Clean Feed debut from Slovenian born drummer/composer Dre Hocevar. Coding of Evidentiality travels a steady path of intricate notation that both calming and insightful. 

Hocevar allows his fellow bandmates to stretch and improvise within his compositions. Opening with "Form Of The Future Thought" which focuses in St. Louis and De Looze's swirling, melodic interplay. Hocevar wraps those elements in with a cross section of rhythmic patterns that eventually move the piece to high level cacophony that still remains beautiful and telling.

Experimentation takes hold on "Critical Discourse Analysis" with Pluta's electronic manipulation added by De Looze and subtle shifting notes from Hocevar and St. Louis provide a wonderful balancing acting of modern and traditional themes managed for new outlook that may not have been seen since the latter days of Esbjorn Svensson Trio.

I really loved the closing piece, "Second Portrait Of The Exemplary" with its multiple interchanges between the musicians all intertwined with Hocevar's quick brush/cymbal coordination. It's hauntingly beautiful and raucous till its conclusion.

Coding Of Evidentiality is a record that will make you think and entertain the senses. A shinning element of style that will be one of the best records you'll experience this year. Highly Recommended.