Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Susana Santos Silva & Torbjorn Zetterberg: Almost Tomorrow

Susana Santos Silva (trumpet)
Torbjorn Zetterberg (bass)
Almost Tomorrow (Clean Feed; 2013)

The meeting between Santos Silva and Zetterberg is something I wouldn't have even thought about a few months ago. But in listening to their recordings both with Svenka Kaput and Lama, the desire for experimentation should have seemed obvious.

So Almost Tomorrow is the perfect bridge between to the groups and excellent collaboration of two emerging talents in the European scene.

Santos' playing is becoming more bold and creative with each release. She brings a rich spirit of ideas that for me, is reminiscent of Joe Mcphee. Zetterberg has been fearless on the bass; and is also growing in stature with each performance.

These ideas and brashness are played out on tunes like the "Columbus Arrival In Har jedalen." With its interesting blend of blues-like tones and Portuguese flavouring, "Columbus..." is absorbing and adventurous to mind and ear.

"Almost Tomorrow" opens with a heavy solo from Zetterberg as Santos joins in the tune floats between folk and experimental with ease. Both musicians exerting strong and very well placed extend passages.

"Notskalmusik #6" is possibly the most accessible piece on the album. A short but emotional ballad led mainly by Santos, with Zetterberg adding soft touches around the edges.

Almost Tomorrow is a beautiful session that may have come out of the blue but it's perfect timing for all of us. A great steady, detailed listen and rewarding with every note. Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Christian McBride: Out Here

Christian McBride (bass)
Out Here (Mack Avenue Records; 2013)
Christian Sands (piano)
Ulysses Owens (drums)

Christian McBride has stretched both ends of the jazz spectrum in his almost two decade career as leader. He's released a string of beautiful hard bop albums coupled with an exploration in more funk/fusion outings. Both experiences are exemplary. On his latest, Out Here (his second album this year), he has bit of a return to form. A trio session that shines with vibrancy and youthfulness.

"I Guess I'll Have To Forget" provides the glowing confidence McBride has in his bandmates. The gentle and uplifting tone Sands takes is accompanied by the infectious timing exuded by McBride and Owens; a lovely number which is matched superbly on the next piece "Easy Walker." "Easy Walker" starts in a gospel/blues tone and slowly rides it's way upward with some hauntingly funky plucking from McBride. 

The happiness and youthfulness I referred to is presented in the sweet rhythms of "Who's Making Love." It's the funky, fusion, rocked up by McBride from recent history but filled with a hard bop joy that I haven't heard in awhile. And I swear there's an element of Queen's "Another Bites The Dust" in there somewhere.

The killer piece during this session is obviously McBride's rendition of "My Favourite Things." It's thoughtful and well structured. Sand's performance is sublime. McBride's arrangement favours Sands and Owens. He allows them both freedom to extend the notes and create some patterns that turn this into more than just the usual standards cover.

Out Here sets a brilliant and compassionate tone that lets the listener slowly develop and become enveloped in sound, vision and lyrical tones. An excellent outing from one of the best veteran bassists on American jazz scene today--Christian McBride.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Nick Hempton: Odd Man Out

Nick Hempton (sax)
Odd Man Out (Posi-Tone; 2013)
Art Hirahara (piano)
Marco Panascia (bass)
Dan Aran (drums)
Michael Dease (trombone)

I f-n'! loved this record! Sometimes you're just blown away by the basics and the attention to tradition. That's what Nick Hempton has done on his third album, Odd Man Out. Deploying the same group as his previous excellent outing, The Business, with Michael Dease replacing Yotam Silberstein, Hempton's quintet execute a smooth and stylish return.

While there's nothing that will break new ground here--it's the way its performed and constructed that I loved the most. Hempton's prerogative is to groove, all the while showing a real strong sense of leadership and maturity in this new set. "The Step Up" and "Nights And Mornings" both show a steadfast commitment to hard bop and heartwarming balladry. Hemptons' interplay with Hirahara and Panascia is superb.

Hempton's sound continues to grow and become more well rounded. While the tunes on Odd Man Out have that hard bop feel to them, you can feel from "A Bicycle Accident" that Hempton's writing is starting to move many new directions. Here Hempton applies multiple layers and patterns that allows the rest of the group to move freely and shape new ideas over the course of the piece.

Nick Hempton's quick growth over the last few years has been exciting to watch and listen. Odd Man Out is another step forward in that progress. And it's a great record with grooves and rich structures. Worth every note rooted in tradition but vibrant for now.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Rob Mazurek/Exploding Star Ensemble: The Space Between

Rob Mazurek/Exploding Star Electro Acoustic Ensemble
The Space Between (Delmark; 2013)

There's always been that spot of Sun Ra influence within cornetist, Rob Mazurek's music. Exploding Star Orchestra is probably the best example of that exploration. On his latest, The Space Between, with a fully tweaked version of the orchestra under the configuration of ensemble, Mazurek delivers a haunting and beautiful document of futuristic soundscapes. Very cinematic and demanding your attention to little details placed throughout.

Swirling, pulsating electronics inhabit the sessions opening number "Vortex 1-5." Keyboard, piano, percussion, looped sounds,cornet and more take you on journey through liquid space. It's trippy but does steady itself and gives you time to catch up and drop yourself inside the swirling structure just in time to witness Mazurek's raising tones on cornet.

Most the album moves as one consistent piece, but the passages in "Shifting Sequence," and "Space Between" provide some wonderful insight into the Mazurek's compositional vision of the session. Everything is very open. And while there may be a guidepost to follow, the musicians are allowed the freedom to get there on their own terms.

The vocals on the closing number, "Indra's Net" are provided beautifully by Damon Locks. His delivery is spiritual and uplifting. Like Sun Ra or early Pharoah Sanders work, it is the denouement to a long self-actualizing journey.

Again, Rob Mazurek has shown he is an extremely creative composer and consistently challenging his previous works and the musicians that surround him. The Space Between could easily be the sound to suspense thriller. Or even the soundtrack to your psyche. Highly Recommended.