Monday, May 30, 2011

Andrzej Przybielski

Andrzej Przybielski (trumpet)
Abstract (Not Two Records, 2005)
De Profundis (Fenom Media, 2011)
Marcin Oles (bass)
Bartlomiej Oles (drums)

Andrezj Przybielski was one of those truly underrated musicians that never got even close to the word "recognized" in the wider public. For probably those outside Poland and parts of Europe, the name Andrezj Przybielski will unfortunately mean nothing. But, he is revered in his homeland and his passing this February will touch the artistic community in Poland for years to come.  Fellow Polish trumpeter, Tomasz Stanko has also acknowledged Przybieslski's legendary status. Przybielski's playing might be more fierce and adventurous than Stanko. He could turn phrases like Woody Shaw, Freddie Hubbard or Don Cherry. His loss is the entire jazz community's loss but hopefully in this digital age his legend can grow and be cemented.

Andrezj Przybielski, while having a pretty lengthy catalog, didn't record with any great frequency. Only in the last decade did it seem like he was really recording at a decent pace. He began playing more in the avant garde style in the 60s and 70s. As he got older his playing became more statesman-like but still had a distinctive bit to it. In the last few years he paired up with Europe's most prolific rhythm sections, the Oles Brothers, and formed a trio that recorded two albums under Przybielski's name, and two under the Oles Brothers direction as Custom Trio.

Abstract (Not Two Records, 2005) is a perfect introduction to Przybielski style. Abstract features moments of hard bop mixed with free jazz that form a beautiful and crisp document for a group with evolving ideas. You could compare the youthful injection from the Oles Brothers to that of the Marcin Wasilewski Trio for Tomasz Stanko. The energy featured on "Ride" forces the group into exchanges that are both explosive and beautiful. Przybielski and Bartlomiej demonstrate a brilliant piece of interplay midway through "Ride" that will undoubtedly have you stunned. The classic "Afro Blue" also gets a deep rendering which is drastically different from both the Mongo Santamaria original and the more well-known John Coltrane version. The trio really deconstruct this piece with a great deal of improvisation and post-bop vision. Elsewhere, "Epitafium dla Jacka" illustrates a more relaxed nature to Przybielski's playing that sets him alongside Miles Davis or even Clifford Brown.

It would be six year later that we would get the chance to experience this trio again. This time, in the form of a live album De Profundis (FenomMedia, 2011). De Profundis features tracks from Abstract, including a boisterous version of "Afro Blue" that really brings out the power of Marcin's bass playing. The trio is sublime form on this evening. There's consistency, but also a good deal of improvising throughout. The members have played with each other so long that you can tell they know the other's next move. The title track screams with an immediacy and beauty that you might not get on the previous album, and later develops into a bit a of call and response between the members and then a gentle fade out. "Guru" is a midtempo blues tinged number that has an incredibly introspective quality to it. The album closes on a more chamber/improvisational version of "De Profundis" that sees the trio moving in various directions but still keeps a distinct harmolodic tone that will encapsulate the listener until the end.

The passing of Andrzej Przybielski may not be felt throughout the entire jazz community but these two records are perfect documents of what the world will miss. Przybielski was never an artist who really wanted the spotlight. He played his music - when he was ready to play. When he wanted to record. And the results are something that we are all better off for after listening. Whatever you do this week, Abstract and De Profundis should be on your list of records to check out. A legend has gone but his music will touch more than he will ever know...

Friday, May 27, 2011

Resonance Ensemble: Kafka In Flight

Resonance Ensemble (group)
Kafka In Flight (Not Two Records, 2011)
Ken Vandermark (sax, clarinet)
Mikolaj Trzaska (sax, clarinet)
Mark Tokar (bass)
Michael Zerang (drums)
Tim Daisy (drums)
Steve Swell (trombone)
Per -Ake Holmander (tuba)
Dave Rempis (sax)
Magnus Broo (trumpet)
Waclaw Zimpel (clarinet)

This is an album I have been waiting for since I read about it on Ken Vandermark's twitter feed a few months ago. The Resonance Ensemble is the brainchild of the great Chicago saxophonist, Ken Vandermark. In the similar vein to Peter Brotzmann's Tentet (which Vandermark is also a member), Resonance embarks on large scale compositions. But where PBT tend to move into the upper stratosphere in theory--Vandermark is keeping things within a linear pattern as far as the tone is concerned. There is a great deal of improvisation happening but its within the melody and rhythm of the writing.

Resonance Ensemble was first developed out of a series of concerts and studio sessions that were later recorded in 2008 (Live In Lviv) and then for the 10CD box (Resonance Box). What's remarkable is that as Vandermark states in the notes to this album, because of the size of the band and the various groups they lead and projects they participate in, its difficult to get any rehearsal time before live shows or recording. I don't think any of us would notice or care. Why you ask? Because the results are something truly unbelievable.

For the group's third album Kafka In Flight, recorded live in Poland, Vandermark guides the group with three lengthy pieces of jubilant free form that would make you feel as if Ellington, Coltrane, Cherry, Coleman, Blakey, Chambers (and take the your pick of the rest) had gotten together in your backyard. Kafka In Flight is smokin'. Unlike even Vandermark's main group (The Vandermark 5), Resonance Ensemble seem to enjoy mixing the past in a large bowl and coming up with interesting and riviting concoctions. The opener, "The Pier" is fast moving and allows for moments in which each member can contribute and expound on Vandermark's material. It's a real treasure of ideas that surface. The always incredible Tim Daisy delivers an excellent improvised mid-section, accompanied by a good portion of the horn section and Vandermark on clarinet, explore and exchange some intense possibilities but it works unbelievably well.

"Rope" is a bit more cinematic, led by some great performances from Per-Ake Holmlander on tuba (a rare instrument in modern free jazz) and Magnus Broo (trumpet). "Rope" moves from funky to experimental to comforting (so-to-speak) and gives the listener a lot to absorb. Michael Zerang and Tim Daisy are superb as they duel it out with sharp intersecting chant from each of the wind players. "Coal Marker" rounds out this hour long journey in style. It's the ensemble releasing all it's force into your speaker (and you better be able to deal with it). There are spontaneous moments that sees the group in unison but also exchanging circular rhythmic patterns. This is a group that somehow, despite little time together, knows exactly what the other is going to do and each is up for the challenge.

Kafka In Flight is an album and performance that is built around the ability of Ken Vandermark to write excellent material that is interchangeable for each member. You can picture most of these notes performed by different members and each coming up with a different result. But the result would still be amazing. Kafka In Flight is yet another step in the already legendary career of Ken Vandermark. While the first two albums are both hard to find and in the case of the boxed set--expensive--you should definitely seek out Kafka In Flight. It is well worth every avant garde fan's dollars. One of our Top Albums Of The 2011.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Miles Davis (trumpet)
May 26, 1926 - September 28, 1991

May 26th is Miles Davis' birthday. Now I'm not going to go into a big long story about how great he is and the history. I believe you can get that from any site today.

I thought it would be good to give a short list of past pieces we've done on Miles Davis over the last few years.

It's not an all encompassing list but I think it covers some essential albums and collections that would be great for the uninitiated or even the collector in this age of digital music storage.

So as you spend the next couple of days reading articles about Miles here's what you might want to consider the next time you go to the record store.

L'Ascenseur pour l'echafaud
Kind Of Blue
Live In Stockholm
Bitches Brew Live
The Columbia Years
Doo Bop

And check out the videos we found as a bit of prove on why Miles Davis is so important.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Klang: Other Doors

Klang (group)
Other Doors (Allos Musica; 2011)
James Falzone (clarinet)
Jason Adasiewicz (vibraphone)
Jason Roebke (bass)
Tim Daisy (drums)

Guest Musicians
Jeb Bishop (trombone)
Josh Berman (cornet)
Keefe Jackson (sax; bass clarinet)
Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello; electronics)

There once was a time when Benny Goodman was considered "avant garde", "outside the mainstream" or just plain "what the hell was that he just played". Goodman's ground-breaking benchmark, Live At Carnegie Hall is evidence of how left of center Goodman was for his time. Fast forward just under 75 years later to Goodman's hometown of Chicago. You will find a vibrant avant-garde/free jazz scene that while not based on Goodman's playing, definitely has Goodman's spirit of collectiveness. Enter the quartet Klang led by clarinetist, James Falzone. Klang, with an unusual lineup of clarinet, vibes, bass and drum have set forth a different direction compared to their more veracious Chicago contemporaries.

Klang's third album, Other Doors investigates the music and legacy of Mr. Goodman but with a very unique free form spin. The album was originally born out of a Chicago Jazz Festival performance that paid tribute to the Chicago native and legendary clarinetist. Other Doors is fun, crisp and filled with improvised moments that turn this session into one of the best Chicago outings of the last few years. "Stompin' At The Savoy" sounds completely fresh and revitalized in the hands of this quartet. It contains all the elements of the swing classic but it's infused with spontaneous exchanges and ethereal swirls (led by Jason Adasiewicz's always sublime performance on vibes). Falzone's playing is respectful but never imitating. He brings some gentle phrasing to certain lines raising this version far above homage and places it into a post modern must listen.

"Memories Of You", a midtempo ballad gets deep, dark re-visitation under Klang's direction. With some great manipulation of space by Falzone, Adasiewicz, and guest Longberg-Holm. Falzone's performance is passionate and introspective and reflects Goodman's own moments were he gets lost in the music but the listener become wrapped inside the rhythm. The title track has an impressionist approach. It's lyrically beautiful and paints a slow but delightful picture that is led by the horn section. Rich and textural with a free spirit, you will find very rewarding.

"The Already And The Not Yet", a track originally written on one of Falzone's earlier albums by the same name, is a delicate but operatic piece that becomes hypnotic and enveloping towards its conclusion. "Goodman's Paradox" is the moment in which the group let's loose (sort of) and delivers an extended workout of swing and experimentation that will take you by surprise but it fits perfectly in context. Goodman would be wowed.

While each of the members and the guest musicians on Other Doors lead their own groups, as Klang they together achieve something completely different from their respective groups. This is a dynamic quartet that experiments with past themes and creating future music. Other Doors is no tribute. It's a complete enlightened re-imagining of one of the most legendary and important figures in jazz. Highly Recommended.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Jordan Young Group

Jordan Young (drums)
Jordan Young Group (self produced; 2010)
Brian Charette (organ)
Yotam Silberstein (guitar)
Joe Sucato (sax)

One of the main reasons I was drawn to the Jordan Young Group's self-titled debut was the fact that the leader was from Detroit. Detroit has long tradition of music legends across multiple genres (Iggy Pop, Juan Atkins, Elvin Jones).

Jordan Young has a nice pedigree in his short career. He has studied and played with some of Detroit's greatest musicians, including Gerald Cleaver, Marcus Belgrave and James Carter to name a few. Young's playing is understated but precise. The influences of Jimmy Cobb or Philly Joe Jones seem apparent. But as leader of this organ based trio, Young is also very good director of a tight and skillful collection of musicians.

The Jordan Young Group while consisting of some interesting covers, a few interludes penned by organist, Brian Charette and one full track by Young, is still a solid effort and demanding of repeat listens.

Opening with a surprising version of Pat Metheny's "H and H", the group transform this trio piece into a vibrant and exciting excursion. "H and H" gives each member moments to shine individually. Young's playing is sharp and well refined. He has a couple rolling moments that really catch the ear. Sucato's sax is killer and has a nice Stanley Turrentine vibe to it. Charette and Silberstein both display funky exchanges, with Young keeping the group in great timing. A great opener and nice prelude to what is to come throughout the session.

As I've said with other organ based groups, its difficult to kept the organ from overtaking the rest of the group sometimes. On the Jordan Young Group that doesn't happens. Charette's playing is leveled and masterful. The arrangements and choices Young and the rest of group have chosen highlight this through the intricacies of the quartet. "Every Time We Say Goodbye" is a wonderful rendition of the Cole Porter standard that emits a lovely tone through Charette and Sucato's performances. The groups interludes, "Pings", while short still give insight into what the band can do for the future. These are like short films or cut-ups. Giving a futurist, post modern element that the rest of the albums standards may not project. Charette and Young drives these pieces with swirling patterns and subtle improvisations.

Jordan Young's own, "Claudes Monet", the group display a loving touch that is straight ahead but still richly rewarding. It's a beautiful ballad that again gives the individual members a chance to shine and the listen a closer opportunity to hone in on Young's playing and compositional skills. Another stellar performs comes on the yearning "My One And Only Love" where the group again shows a great deal of pose within a classic number. Young while the leader of group shares a great deal of skill like the aforementioned drummers and possibly even more recently with Paul Motian in making is playing understated when needed and boisterous when demanded. In "My One And Only Love" it's definitely in the background, allowing his group to take the lead nicely.

On the Wayne Shorter piece "Angola", Young is required to up-the-ante and energize the group with a really magnificent performance. The group's response is smokin'. Young lets loose on a vicious solo midway through that you didn't hear or expect from the earlier portion of the album. It's a good opportunity to experience the full range of Young's playing and direction. The Jordan Young Group closes with another Ping which again could foreshadow a future direction for the group and that I hope comes to disc soon.

Jordan Young has definitely learned a lot from his Detroit mentors. But I think the most important thing was how to be a leader. The Jordan Young Group is fantastic debut from a quartet that display great versatility with originals as well as inventiveness with the elements of the past. A solid effort worth your time and money.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Cylinder (group)
Cylinder (Clean Feed; 2011)
Aaram Shelton (sax)
Darren Johnston (trumpet)
Lisa Mezzacappa (bass)
Kjell Nordeson (drums)

I have become a huge fan of Aram Shelton's work over the last couple years. His various groups/projects are all very different. His departure to San Francisco from Chicago adds a great new thinker to the ever growing West Coast avant garde and free jazz movement.

With his latest collective work, Cylinder, Shelton actually becomes more a member of a unit than leader. And a stellar unit it is. There is a lot of creative thinking going on throughout this session. Each member has a history of moving in and out of both avant garde, free jazz, chamber and straight ahead circles. On their debut as Cylinder it all melds into one of the best sessions you'll experience all year. It's not because it's built on a Free Jazz motif, it's more because of the effectiveness of the performances and concepts within each piece.

You can hear shades of Ornette Coleman or Don Cherry throughout, but the group really doesn't rely on history. In fact, they might be shaping it (if this is an ongoing quartet). While this is a group effort, each member does have opportunity to express themselves on selected pieces. "The Ear That Was Sold To A Fish" opens with a lovely duel phrasing from Shelton and Johnston. Johnston, who has worked in the avant garde arena for years (on both sides of the Atlantic) works in the stratosphere with some beautiful lyrical notes.

A revelation for me was Lisa Mezzacappa, whom I've only known by name but hadn't investigated her music (until now), and I have to say I've really been missing out on an amazing bassist. She has this ability to hit the thick notes delicately and with poise and makes you really feel it. "Sung By Dogs" is one of those moments. The galloping rhythm laid out by Mezzacappa and Nordeson accompanying on the horns makes for a haunting yet rich piece with lots of intersections for the ear to latch on to.

The individual work of both drummer and bassist rises again on both "The Deep Disciplines" and "Crossings" where both share some nice crosscurrents early on and then the quartet regroups midway and runs through a set of improvised moment before catching a groove that is covered by Johnston and later Shelton's fierce sonic resonance. 

"Skipped Rocks" sees Shelton moving poetically on clarinet while his bandmates mingle and experiment with sound. "Skipped Rocks" isn't a track where you have to listen closely. The melody and theories take hold quickly (even for the uninitiated) and its beautiful. Cylinder closes on a more free form note than it began with "Earthworm" which weaves its way in and out with sublime work from Mezzacappa and Shelton. It's a piece that doesn't rise in tone so much as it elevates in texture and density. Cylinder seem to utilize the space around them and gives you a look inside the mind of a well focused quartet with a multitude of ideas.

While Cylinder may get headlines because of Aram Shelton, it really is a complete group with a swirl of theories and concepts that makes it one of the best future-forward bands on the scene right now. I really hope they record regularly. An excellent listen.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Julio Resende: You Taste Like A Song

Julio Resende (piano)
You Taste Like A Song (Clean Feed; 2011)
Ole Morten Vagan (bass)
Joel Silva (drums)
Bruno Pedroso (drums)
Joao Custodio (bass)

This is an album I fell in love with after the first listen. Classically trained but quickly inspired by jazz at a young age, Portugese pianist Julio Resende is becoming a very important star on the scene. He has trained and performed in Portugal, Spain, France and the U.S. in addition to receiving great accolades in his home country. Resende's style has been described as somewhere between Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans. He has the playful adventurousness of Evans, and intricacies of Jarrett but Resende has also quickly developed an innovative voice over just the short span of three records as leader.

His latest, You Taste Like A Song, is a piece of sheer brilliance. It's a trio session with members he's performed with on his previous albums - this time featuring two sets of trio on selected tracks. Opening strong with the melodic ballad, "Silenciso-For The Fado", Resende shows his classical skills have not drifted into the background. His playing is beautiful and his bandmates improvise between the lines creating a very atmospheric nature to the piece. The titled track is upbeat in a more Northern European pattern but you can feel Resende's youthful rock influences (which later come out on an interesting version of Radiohead's "Airbag") as the group touches off a cascade of rhythms and beats that might leave you toe-tapping by the end.

"Improvisacao (Call It Whatever)" charges through with imagination and a clear sense of unity. Each member has some stellar improvised moments in addition to some terrific dual interaction and solo pieces (especially Vagan). "Improvisacao" shows the growth of Resende on the creative front. I felt like I was listening Jason Moran or Kris Davis at certain points. Resende really delivers with an astounding version of Thelonious Monk's "Straight No Chaser," Led by some unique drumming from Silva. A muffled effect on the drums gives them a distance and depth that is haunting. Resende's performance is sublime. It's not the usual keys you'd expect for a cover of Monk's material and that makes it a huge standout for me. Exquisite stuff from the young pianist.

You Taste Like A Song could be the album that sees Julio Resende arrive on the global radar for many jazz fans this year. It's well balanced and he demonstrates a creativity and enjoyment that you might not hear all year. I've discussed a lot of pianists over the last month. Not sure how that happened, but anyway... Julio Resende is one that I believe if you need something different in your jazz catalogue right now, You Taste Like A Song is the album to purchase. Highly Recommended.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Chord Four: Californian Avant Garde?

Chord Four (group)
Chord Four (self produced)

Andrew Conrad (tenor sax, clarinet, melodica)
Brandon Sherman (trumpet, flugelhorn)
Brandon Schmidt (bass)
Colin Woodford (drums)

Shimmering. Refreshing. Inviting and clever. Just a few words I would use to describe Chord Four and their self-titled debut. This Los Angeles quartet has found a nice balance between past and present.

Chord Four are part of an emergent California scene that might someday rival Chicago in the free jazz arena. While most new groups emulate their influences, Chord Four seem to have developed a foundation on which they can create new harmonies and patterns that make this debut fun and entertaining.

The two opening tracks display very distinct sides to this quartet. On the opener, "I See Orange, I See Summer, I See Happy People", shows a group enjoying rhythm and structure with elements of Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Lester Bowie and Art Blakey. It's a fast moving calypso pattern that is as infectious as it is intricate.

"The Metamorphosis Of The Gilded Flutterby" sees the group utilizing more improvised aspects within their writing. It has a bit of a Chicago vibe to it (piano-less quartet) with Conrad switching to clarinet and some wonderful playing by Schmidt on bass. "The Metamorphosis..." gently rides itself out with some sweet closing bars from Conrad. The band explores more improvised territory with "Mr. Balvenie", a rolling piece with lots of depth and suspenseful syncopation. It's fun, creative and accessible all at once with driving elements from Woodford and Schmidt.

The Chicago vibe sometimes intertwines with a New Orleans romp as evident on "Waltz," a midtempo piece with stellar interaction between each member. Sherman leads the way with some great passages that also fold nicely into Schmidt's perfect plucking. This tune then elevates slowly without losing its intimacy, and fades out on Conrad notes. Chord Four have this exciting spirit that is built on foundations inhabited by greats like Dave Douglas, Art Ensemble Of Chicago (and if you can remember, even Arto Lindsay's Lounge Lizards). 

Closing out the album is one of those examples of the aforementioned possible influences; "Quiet In The Library" jumps out with a pulsating rhythm lead by Schmidt as the rest of quartet move in to add some strong colour and body to the tune. It's a vivid piece and moves with an impassioned spirit. A perfect way to close out the album.

Most American groups seem to be based around one performer or they are collectives of well established leaders. Chord Four, I hope will break this trend. Their debut is an impressive mixture of free form and access that will hopefully spread over the course the year. Here's to hoping the band get the chance to tour and impress audiences even more than on record.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

RGG: One

RGG (group; formed 2001)
One (Fonografika)
Przemyslaw Raminiak (piano)
Maciej Grabowski (bass)
Krysztof Gradziuk (drums)

Here's the thing. This year has started off with some really incredible albums. Many of which I would never have heard or at least spent months trying to find. One of the groups that I was turned on to this year was RGG out of Poland. RGG are arguably  one of the best kept secrets on the global jazz scene.  Their latest album, One, is a great example of how outstanding the group has become. They have been grabbing attention since they made their major debut at the 2002 Bielsko Jazz Blizzard Festival (for the uninitiated this is one of the best jazz festivals in Europe).

There have been many trios over the last decade with great ideas and impressive efforts. Comparisons of RGG and fellow countrymen, the Marcin Wasilewski Trio always come to the forefront when both groups put out an album (in this case within weeks of each other). I believe the difference lies in the compositions and production. RGG have been able to expand and take the listener on various journeys over their career. I'm not saying MWT haven't done the same. I'm saying MWT have taken a more direct contemplative approach. RGG continue experiment (loosely put) on each record.

With five albums under their belt, all of which have featured expansive themes, intimate performances, and some fully improvised works, RGG have returned with One, a more focused and extremely balanced session. Opening with the warm and melodic title track, RGG set a mood similar to that of Tord Gustafsson or EST. "One" contains a beautiful passage from Maciej Garbowski on bass and Raminiak's keys turn the melody into an intimate observation of a rainy day. "Around Again" (a Carla Bley composition) is the perfect showcase for RGG's ability to stand apart. Like the original there is a real sense of vibrancy that the listener will connect with immediately.

"Almost Blues" really shines. The group are in full force as a unit with each member getting an opportunity to let loose. Gradziuk's solos are fierce and really exciting--keeping the tune humming, despite its short length. "C.T." is dedicated to Cecil Taylor and highlights the improvised nature of the trio. This was brought out in previous albums but in this Cecil Taylor inspired tune you can see the band stretching and having a lot fun doing it. "On The Way To Road 11" is simply a beautiful ballad that reminds me of the some of the more intimate and intricate Keith Jarrett trio pieces. 

With One, RGG have managed to combined elements of each of their explorations from albums past into a bold and impressive outing that should be on everyone's wish list this year. I have to thank Maciej at Polish Jazz for turning me on to RGG. In a very short time period they have become one of my favourite groups. If you have the chance you must seek out RGG's One. Highly Recommended.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Harris Eisenstadt...From Toronto To New York

Harris Eisenstadt (drums)
Canada Day II (Songlines Recordings; 2011)
Matt Bauder (sax)
Chris Dingman (vibes)
Nate Wooley (trumpet)
Eivind Opsvik (bass)

Harris Eisenstadt is one those rare and highly versatile drummers that utilizes diverse world rhythms and themes into cohesive crafty compositions, all of which amounts to some fantastic outings. Eisenstadt has recorded and performed in various groups including Convergence Quartet, Nate Wooley Quintet and a killer session with Jeb Bishop and Jason Roebke entitled Tiebreaker, among many others. One of Eisenstadt's most recent and exciting units is his own creation, Canada Day (yes named for the country's national holiday and Eisenstadt's home of origin).

Eisenstadt is a Canadian but now living in New York. He has a unique, diverse and complex style that has been born over the course of recent albums (The Soul And Gone, Guewel, and Woodblock Prints). With Canada Day, Eisenstadt explores different meters, patterns and counterpoints but still beams with crisp accessibility. Eisenstadt sites Miles Davis' classic 60s quintet as inspiration and Canada Day II, the groups second release, is a solid post bop offering that reflects those influences.

His seasoned bandmates, all of whom have successful groups of their own, bring rich ideas to Eisenstadt compositions. The majority of the material is based on Eisenstadt's life experiences in the New York area of Brooklyn. This creative zone flies freely throughout the music on Canada Day II.

"Cobble Hook" is a fast paced opener with a lot fun and rhythmic patterns laid down in the beginning by Eisenstadt. The band quickly joins in and Dingman and Opsvik put in stellar performances. Wooley and Bauder add some heavy elements to the mix turning this into a smokin' affair that feels more big band than small group.

On "Now Longer" Eisenstadt gives the always impressive Opsvik time to shine with some very intricate solo work. This midtempo number delivers with swathes of free form thought from Bauder and some very exploratory drumming from Eisenstadt. "Now Longer" closes with the group in ethereal form thanks to Dingman, Wooley and Bauder. "To Be" really sees the quintet in a Miles Davis mode. Rolling patterns and urgency through each member's delivery makes "To Be" a fruitful and exquisite piece.

"Judo With Tokyo Joe" closes Canada Day II on both a melodic and beautiful note. The resonance of the piece and Eisenstadt blues-like pacing allows Bauder and Wooley to open up while Opsvik and Dingman set intimacy around the borders. It's a swirling piece that is dedicated to New York's grand avant-garde master, John Zorn, whom Eisenstadt gained new inspiration from prior to the recording this session.

Harris Eisenstadt has always been a well regarded performer, but Canada Day II shows him becoming an even more important composer and leader. His ability to write material that accentuates the most creative elements of his bandmates is simply superb. Canada Day I and Canada Day II are both highly recommended releases from a versatile and dynamic artist.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

David Braid: Verge

David Braid (piano, prepared piano)
Verge (DB, 2011)

A few weeks ago I wrote about the exciting Canadian pianist, David Braid and his collaboration with the Canadian Brass. On his latest release, Braid goes it alone with Verge, a beautiful and diverse selection of solo pieces that has been on repeat in my house for days now.

David Braid is one of the few pianists capable of straddling both the classical and jazz worlds with ease. In addition, the ability to perform a solo piece, while not daunting for a pianist, does ask the question, "how do you make it different?". Well, Braid does that magnificently. A combination of masterful technique, delicate arrangements and hint of playfulness makes Verge a real treat for jazz fans.

Opening with the lovely "Le Phare" (some one correct my French but I believe it is "the lighthouse tower" or "the lighthouse"), Braid rolls out the statement of Verge, an experiment that will be both exhilarating and contrasting. Braid's playing climbs into a rolling melody midway through and never lets down until the end. It's a delicate performance set with rich harmonics and was based on the great composer Igor Stravinsky's thoughts that music can be used to revolutionize lives. Braid certainly is a shinning light in this regards.

Braid switches to prepared piano for a truly different version of "The Way You Look Tonight" that is startling and slightly unrecognizable at first listen. I actually had to start the track over because I wasn't sure it was what I was hearing. There is a great set of improvised moments throughout highlighting Braid's dynamic way of reshaping this standard.

"Richmond Square" again sees Braid on prepared piano and utilizing a great deal of speed and creativity by manipulating the piano into not just a melody instrument but also a groove laden percussive one as well. Inventive, infectious and inviting wrapped up in just over six minutes--wow! Braid returns to a mellower focus on "Semi Unconditional", a track that follows a balladry form, with warm and highly emotional undertones.

The most adventurous piece on Verge might be the one Braid didn't write, "Spring Garden Night" based on a Chinese folk song. Braid again manipulating the piano giving it a very dense nature and Eastern atmospheric. It works extremely well. Braid utilizes the space well and creates some moving and thoughtful imagery that could sit well alongside the material of Harold Budd (big words I know) with this piece.

With Verge, David Braid has really set himself up with a terrific launching pad that should be recognized by a much wider audience. His inventiveness and in some case risk-taking are elements that are making David Braid part of that select few pianists in jazz that continue to move outside the borders of the genre.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Misinterprotato...Your New Favourite Band!

Misinterprotato (group; formed 1999)
The Gentle War (Jazzhead Records)
Sean Foran (piano)
Pat Marchisella (bass)
John Parker (drums)

The piano trio has blossomed in the last ten years. But with each new group there are definitely distinctive qualities that make them all enjoyable and in some cases extremely fascinating. Misinterprotato are one of those fascinating trios. This Brisbane, Australia based group has been igniting the Australian scene for just over a decade. Their influences are definitely an amalgam of modern jazz, improvised thought and the excitement of a rock trio. 

I first got turned on to Misinterprotato as a result of my obsession with fellow Australians, The Necks. I wanted to find more interesting jazz bands from the country and...well... I found it.

While many people may only be aware of Australian trio The Necks, Misinterprotato occupy a completely different area from fellow countrymen who utilize more improvisation and dense space as part of their repertoire. Misinterprotato have developed over five albums into a highly creative and deeply thoughtful group. Their latest album, The Gentle War (Jazzhead) echos the subtle adventurousness of one of their earlier releases, Delay, but also combines the more crisp and well focused melody driven material of the last two albums, Variations and In Is In.

"The Gentle War" burns with intensity and a rolling groove laid out by Foran and Parker. But this is a group effort throughout. Marchisella joins in with a wonderful meditative solo that might make Charlie Haden proud. "Cute" is something you don't get from many trios of late, a sense of humour centered around some forceful playing. The group dig deep with the melody that moves swiftly but with a real command that is both shining and invigorating.

"Wrestle" is another thoughtful and compelling work that really highlights the well rounded ideas Misinterprotato put together. "Wrestle" moves with grace and beauty that is both ethereal and joyous all in one. "Not According To Plan" is the real triumph on The Gentle War and for me its my favourite track on the album. With mellow openings and very textured passages from Foran, this piece delivers on introspection in the best possible way. Marchisella and Parker move in larger during the final movement and give the piece more depth. A real treat for anyone listening.

The closing number "Time" is beautiful and atmospheric. It's extremely reminiscent of the Delay album which was mostly an improvised exploration and the perfect ending to a richly satisfying outing.

Comparisons to The Bad Plus, Keith Jarrett trio (Charlie Haden and Paul Motian) and even the great Esbjorn Svensson Trio are unavoidable but Misinterprotato do lay out their own path and clearly distinguish themselves from the those trios. I think if you use the aforementioned groups as your starting point, you will undoubtedly fall in love this Australian trio. Misinterprotato has created one of the best trio records so far this year with The Gentle War and I urge you to take the journey with them. Misinterprotato is your new favourite band.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Niels Lyhne Lokkegaard

Niels Lyhne Lokkegaard (sax)
The Scale Of Grey. The Tone Of Black. (Nelsonian Records)
Christoffer Steen Moller (piano)
Jeppe Kjellberg (guitar)
Jeppe Gram (drums)
Carsten Skov (vibes)
Lise Christensen (vocals)
Lennart Ginman (bass)

A hauntingly beautiful third album, The Scale Of Grey. The Tone Of Black., from Danish saxophonist, Niels Lyhne Lokkegaard will leave many listeners in amazement. Lokkegaard has been a rising star on the Danish scene for a few years now. His playing style is subtle and touching in way many Nordic releases of the last few years have been. For me its reminiscent of the more balladry moments of Dexter Gordon or late period Stan Getz.

But what separates Lokkegaard from the rest is his compositional skills. A layering of lush arrangements combined with the unity and understanding from his bandmates makes The Scale Of Grey. The Tone Of Black. lovely and satisfying experience for any jazz fan.

"The Opening" features a rich atmospheric tone led brilliantly by Kjellberg on guitar and then joined by Steen Moller and Lokkegaard. It's melodic and calming and lays the groundwork for journey into the rest of this session. "The Restraint" delivers another chilling message with Skov and Christensen providing some ethereal treatments just audible enough to twist your subconscious in and out of shape. Lokkegaard has established a beautiful minimalism through the performances of his ensemble that is both in tune with jazz and ambient aesthetics.

"The Unresolved" with its rolling melody from Moller on piano and Lokkegaard's crisp phrasing feels like more accessible Philip Glass piece. It's a cinematic piece that holds the listeners attention through a long journey. On "The Wasteland" Lokkegaard's writing highlights the contribution of Ginman, Kjellberg and Gram with its bluesy pacing and rhythmic tone.

Niels Lyhne Lokkegaard has a young lyrical voice and developed over three records an extraordinary compositional skill that beams through his entire band. Niels Lyhne Lokkegaard is a moving work from an artist that is really only just beginning to make his statement on the European scene but it is a bold statement that should be discovered by everyone. Brilliant stuff and highly recommended.

Also Recommended
Light Airborne (Calibrated Records)
Niels Lyhne Lokkegaard (Calibrated Records)