Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Satoko Fujii: Spring Storm

Satoko Fujii (piano)
Spring Storm (Libra; 2013)
Todd Nicholson (bass)
Takashi Itani (drums)

Satoko Fujii is one of the most prolific composers/pianists on the avant garde scene. I've really loss track of how many records she has in total. Even just in the last year! But what I can say is, every record is a different adventure.

On her latest, Spring Storm, with new trio featuring Itani and Nicholson, she still explores some complicated yet beautiful structures in various settings. This allows the compositions to develop very organically and shift in and out of improvisation and melody.

"Convection" slowly builds in this manner. The slow pouring of Fujii's notes and the pulsating tones from Nicholson all rubbing against the mulit-layered patterns emenating from Itani's kit--give the listener something to experience at every turn. Especially the closing moments of the piece when Fujii and Itani have some forceful exchanges that bleed right into "Fuki" which allows Nicholson and Fujii and repeat the conversation in a different mode. Once the entire trio joins in during "Fuki," it becomes feverish and fun. Nicholson's performance is terrific and energizing.

"Tremble," the most ("slightly") direct piece on the album is a soothing introspective piece that guides the listener out from the long journey of soundscapes. A perfect conclusion to a delicate and diverse story laid out brilliantly by it's composer.

Again, in just a few songs, Satoko Fujii has show why she is one of most exploratory and vital composers in the avant garde movement today. Spring Storm is excellent opening example and actually a good starting point form those not already familiar with her material. Highly Recommended.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Harris Eisenstadt's September Trio

September Trio
The Destructive Element (Clean Feed; 2013)
Harris Eisenstadt (drums)
Angelica Sanchez (piano)
Ellery Eskelin (sax)

Two years ago, I was floored by the self-titled debut session from this trio of New Yorkers, September Trio. Now with their follow up, The Destructive Element, I can say I'm not surprised by their brilliance. It's just the way they are.

The movement on The Destructive Element is more fluid and with well balanced song structure. "Swimming" is a beautiful midtempo love letter filled with solid, almost gospel influenced chords from Sanchez. While Eskelin's romantic but muscular tone feels like Sonny Rollins hovering over the session.

Eisenstadt always seems to write the pieces with his band member's freedom in mind. On "Back and Forth," and "The Destructive Element" he gives Sanchez's classical ideas the floor. And Eskelin layers a solid structure on top. Eisenstadt's brushes provide the subtle hues for a lovely, all-around experience.

Eisenstadt does allow the session to be ballad or bop driven. The trio embarks on improvisation through "Additives" and "Here Are The Samurai." Both have rolling melodies from Sanchez and crashing movements of Eisenstadt's adventurous spirit on the kit. Free-spirited yet providing structure all the way.

The Destructive Element is more developed than it's predecessor but also slightly different. Still keeping an introspective vibe but also providing more opportunities for its members to expand on their own. Harris Eisenstadt has become an excellent composer in various settings. For me, September Trio is one of his best.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Sunna Gunnlaugs: Distilled

Sunna Gunnlaugs (piano)
Distilled (Sunny Sky; 2013)
Scott McLemore (drums)
Thorgrimur Jonsson (bass)

Sunna Gunnlaugs has always brought a wonderful balance of European and American influences to her work. Her recent trio session, Long Pair Bond is a great example of her growing vision and creativity. But the new an just released, Distilled, is probably the brightest of all her releases to date. While I have compared Gunnlaugs to Jarrett and Hersch, on Distilled, her freshness reminds me of a younger Herbie Hancock, Hank Jones or even Harold Mabern.

The session is performed by the same Long Pair Bond trio of McLemore, Gunnlaugs and Thorgimur. But here, they all feel free and seem to be having a blast in the studio. I got the sense on Long Pair Bond, but with Distilled it just seems like they really felt comfortable with each composers material and have played together so long that this might have been the session they were dreaming about the night before they step into the studio.

"Momento" is the lovely late night opening that could accompany the sultry walk of your special love as you both meet for the first time. Gunnlaugs keys are playful but romantic. Thorgimur and McLemore add the soft but sensual backbeat. "Distilled" and "Switcheroo" both ballads in nature, present opportunities for the trio to stretch and extend conversations. Gunnlaugs does a sweet calculation of notes on "Distilled" which feels like a soothing llulaby. While "Switcheroo" sees each member speaking to one another in improvised tones that will make the listener laugh as well as sit in a little bit of bluesy awe at how stunning the musicianship is on the piece.

"Things You Should Know" has the authenticity and folkish quality that Gunnlaugs seems to have gained form her current tours of the East Coast of the U.S. But Gunnlaugs energy and song structures make for a perfectly constructed midtempo cross country journey. I loved the loneliness of "Opposite Side." This is very much my favourite track on the record. The conversation between Thorgimur and Gunnlaugs is sublime and is only enhanced by slow brush tones from McLemore's kit. A real delicate and beautiful display molded into a five minute love poem.

With Distilled, Sunna Gunnlaugs takes one more impressive step in solidifying her name amongst many in the jazz community, as one to watch out for. While many of my favourite pianists perform in the more free form or minimalist tradition; Gunnlaugs, like Fred Hersch, keeps the creativity of a traditionalist alive. But with a unique style and verve. Distilled is another brilliant example of that and more. Highly, highly recommended.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Filipe Felizardo: Guitar Soli For The Moa And The Frog

Filipe Felizardo (guitar, effects)
Guitar Soli For Moa And The Frog (ShhPuma/Clean Feed; 2012)

You know every guitar player doesn't have to sound like Ry Cooder, Bill Frisell, Robert Fripp or Michael Brook, to name a few of the famous modern ones (yes I'm leaving about 20 out but there's only some many lines I can write). It's when the guitarist takes the time to create and expand on their influences that really catches my eye.

That's what I found while exploring the textural soundscapes created by Filipe Felizardo on his debut, Guitar Soli For Moa And The Frog.

Notes and tones phase in like recurring dreams on the opener "Against The Day." Soft and deeply emotional, Felizardo's notes have a rustic quality. And that makes "Against The Day" echo long after its final movements have completed.

The extended suite "A Conference Of Stones And Things Previous" holds a similar inquisitive nature, with chords slowly crafting a journey that is raw and sweet. On the third movement "Obsidian", we do get a sense of a rough edge to Felizardo's playing. This is a dark poetic movement that hangs and doesn't tend to let you go.

"Of The Excrement and the Frog" posses an eastern aesthetic with a haunting blues undertone. The textures that Felizardo works through reminded me of work by the Italian duo, Zero Centigrade. Beautiful and melodic, but demands patience.

Guitar Soli For The Moa And The Frog is an impressive debut with quiet, ethereal ideas and patterns which may actually be best absorbed through headphones. Filipe Felizardo has delivered a wonderful compelling and challenging record. And shows that foundations of experimental guitars and exploratory folk can transcend both sides of the Atlantic. Highly Recommended.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Tomasz Dabrowski: Tom Trio

Tomasz Dabrowski (trumpet) 
Tom Trio (Ilk; 2013)
Nils Bo Davidsen (bass)
Anders Mogensen (drums)

I first came across Tomasz Dabrowski's work as a member of Tomasz Licack's brilliant albums, Quintet and Trouble Hunting. Now Dabrowski has released his first trio album, Tom Trio that delivers with intensity and very creative agility.

While this is his first album as leader, his work as sideman has definitely helped in building his voice and ideas. It all comes together beautifully on Tom Trio. "7 Days To Go" has a slow melodic build that reminds me of some of Nate Wooley work. It's a narrative that scales gently, added by the precise brush treatment from Mogensen.

"Wave" has a fantastic multi-layered rhythm as laid out Mogensen. Both Davidsen and Mogensen are giving the reins to run ramped, so-to-speak. The result is a nice convergence of blistering trumpet work from Dabrowski with succinct slicing and calculation from bandmates. This culminates with some terrific improvised sections towards the closing moments of the piece.

"European 46" shows Davidsen alongside Dabrowski in a groovier setting. The piece is probably the most infectious number of the session but still holds creative strategy of the overall artist vision. "This Way Up" is a whole lot of fun. Led by the driving thumbing of Davidsen, the piece soon turns into a nice bit of hard bop. The exchanges between Dabrowski and Davidsen are superb and infectious.

Tomasz Dabrowski has crafted a brilliant debut with Tom Trio. It's rich in diversity and powerful in its execution. This is one of those albums that you must seek out - now!