Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Moskus: Salmesykkel

Moskus (trio)
Salmesykkel (Hubro Music; 2012)
Hans Hulbaekmo (drums)
Fredrik Luhr Dietrichson (bass)
Anja Lauvdal (piano)

Truly an unbelievably beautiful debut. Moskus show a balance maturity and youthfulness that breathes new life into a scene that is filled with trios that now starting to branch outward. With Salmesykkel, Moskus manage to keep things contemporary yet with clear traditional lyricism.

Moskus set aside the cold, distant nature usually associated with trios from the Scandinavian region in favour of keeping things simple. The title track opens the album with vibrancy and adventure. Lavdal's notes delicate, airy and inviting. Dietrichson and Hulbaekmo add textured beats that provide a subtle groove later incorporates small closing gospel lines. A beautifully written opening that carries a clam spirit throughout the session.

"Farlig Norsk Hengebru" is jovial and well collected. Hulbaekmo's drums and percussion drive the rhythm. While Lauvdal weaves in and out with improvised lines all with the background of a tight bass line melody from Dietrichson. The piece quickly becomes engrossing with the trio improvising their way into the closing notes.

"Dagen Derpa Og Veien Tellbaksjatt" and "Creperie De Marie" are more introspective and free moving pieces that show Moskus' capability of moving from captivating rhythms to personal and thought provoking themes. Closing on the trio's on name with "Moskus" is bold. Something about the piece for me had me thinking "what if Nick Cave laid down lyrics for this?" What an amazing collaboration. It's a dark ballad but executed with such beauty and grace you could cry.

Salmesykkel is a stunning achievement of maturity from a young trio that is still finding its voice. But that may come sooner than you think. This a superb debut from Moskus and highly recommended.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Thing w/Neneh Cherry: The Cherry Thing

The Thing w/Neneh Cherry
The Cherry Thing (Smalltown Supersound; 2012)
The Cherry Thing Remixes (Smalltown Supersound; 2012)
Neneh Cherry (vocals)
Ingebright Haker-Flaten (bass)
Paal Nilssen-Love (drums)
Mats Gustafsson (sax)

For a group that has already covered Groove Armada, PJ Harvey as well as reconstructing free jazz over the last 15 years in various forms, The Thing teaming up with avant punk, soul wordsmith, Neneh Cherry is really nothing out of the ordinary. Together they have created the poetic, Cherry Thing. And it really demands your attention.

A rustic fusion of love and social consciousness through Cherry's lyrics and The Thing's ability to timely move from gentle to aggressive with superb balance. "Cashback" illustrates this agility with funk and free thinking and harsh lyrical content that knocks you back and keeps you fully engaged. Nilssen-Love, Gustafsson and Haker Flaten cut a crisp and incisive groove that on "Too Tough To Die" (written by Martina Topley Bird). With Cherry at the helm, she and the trio really make the piece their own. Slightly unrecognizable but completely excellent.

The ballad "What Reason Could I Give" beautifully closes the session with shimmering echo treatments on Cherry's vocals with an emotional backdrop of notes by the trio. Lovely stuff.

What better way to follow this superb session than with an equally unexpected but blistering re-interpretation, The Cherry Thing Remixes. Opening the album with the lovely closing number of the original "What Reason Could I Give" is even more haunting with muted and echo chamber piano notes clashing against 80's electro drums. Really turns the piece into a ghostly journey through love and despair.

"Accordion" is fierce with a mixture of pulverizing keyboards and treble effects that later creates a dreamlike atmosphere for a piece that originally hung on Cherry's rhymes. Now, engulfed in anthematic electronics yet still holding its effectiveness. "Golden Heart" is layered with tribal beats and wah wah guitars creating a hypnotic mixture that slowly builds but never overspills. Just as intense as the original but with more of a swirling romanticism.

One of my favourite groups, The Thing continue to do the creative and the challenging with every project. In both The Cherry Thing and The Remixes they have managed to capture the vibe of the avant garde and the dance floor with unbelievable results. These are two richly rewarding projects that should not be missed.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Mostly Other People Do The Killing: Slippery Rock!

Mostly Other People Do The Killing (quartet)
Slippery Rock! (Hot Cup Records; 2013)
Jon Iragbagon (sax)
Kevin Shea (drums)
Peter Evans (trumpet)
Moppa Elliott (bass)

I don't know how they do it, but with each record, MOPDTK get wilder with clever humour and intricate creative compositions. Non-secquitor song titles and ironic covers hide a quartet of immense power and quality. On their newest release, Slippery Rock! they again bring an electricity and excitement that intertwines a jam session with a revival.

Opening with the soaring and multi-layered "Hearts Content," the quartet set in for more of a rock oriented groove through Shea's crisp timing and Elliott's funky bassline before the tune quickly gets turned on its head. Rhythms and patterns that are circular, jump cutting and then linear - all still with precision and avant garde accuracy. Stunning!

"Can't Tell Shipp From Shohola," a bluesy ballad with minor improvised periods highlights the ability of MOPDTK to shift styles but still maintain a sense of adventure and airiness that pulls in both casual and well-seasoned listeners.

The rhythm and blues side of jazz is always present throughout the group's existence. And it is on display here with "Sayre" and "Yo, Yeo, Yough." Both pieces have soulful elements filling the forefront but with intense concentration on reshaping everything else. This can be heard on the improvised section of "Yo, Yeo, Yough." Elliott and Irabagon have very hard-pounding arrangements riding along side a fierce set of patterns laid out by Shea.

"Is Granny Spry?" is a nice way to close another interesting journey in the world of MOPDTK. The album is somehow dedicated to smooth jazz of the '70s and '80s but you would never really know it. Parts of "Is Granny Spry?" give a hint at what was going on in the mind of this group as they were writing and performing. It is soulful and melodic with heartwarming passages. And just when you think this is where the funk comes in--they change direction and leave you with question marks all over your face.

Scattered lines and chords show Mostly Other People Do The Killing as a group that really don't want to be confined to the definition of jazz and whatever its subsets may be. This is a group that is having fun with every note and every structure. Slippery Rock! is yet another bright spot that once you're under the MOPDTK spell - you can't get out. Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Best Albums Of 2012

JazzWrap revisits another stellar year in music for 2012.

Another jazz year with a host of new discoveries. Here's some of the exciting records we heard over during 2012. I hope you discover some new ones here too.

I decided to stop doing a list in any numerical order (expect my personal favourite album). It just doesn't make any sense to me. These are just the records we've spun the most over the year. Next year looks to be just as good.

Album of The Year: Mary Halvorson: Bending Bridges

Amy Cervini: Digging Me, Digging You
Scent Of Soil
Max Ritcher: Vivaldi Recomposed
Bernocchi Budd Guthrie: Winter Garden
Esperanza Spalding: Radio Music Society
Jeff Parker: Bright Light In Winter
Neil Cowley Trio: The Face Of Mount Molehill
The Right Now: Gets Over You
Niels Lyhne Lokkegaard: Vesper
Cakewlk: Wired
Ebo Taylor: Appia Kwa Bridge
Wadada Leo Smith: Ten Freedom Summers
Josh Berman: There Now
Bruce Barth: Three Things Of Beauty
Branford Marsalis: Four MFs Playing Tunes
Traben: Push
Jakob Bro: Bro/Knak
Lund Quartet
Martin Kuchen: Hellstorm
Aram Shelton: Everything For Somebody
Portico Quartet
Scott McLemore: Remote Location
Platform 1: Takes Off
Hugo Carvalhais: Particula
1982 + B.J. Cole
Eric Revis: Parallax
Anat Cohen: Claroscuro
Ivar Grydeland
Arts & Sciences: New You
Jesper Zeuthen: Plus
Marek Jakubowicz: Feelings
Baloni: Fremdenzimmer
E.S.T.: 301
Ballrogg: Cabin Music
October Trio: New Dream
Andres Thor: Monokrom