Monday, September 23, 2013

Nikolaj Hess: Trio

Nikolaj Hess (piano)
Trio (Gateway Music; 2013)
Tony Scherr (bass)
Kenny Wollesen (drums)

Danish, pianist, Nikolaj Hess has performed and led various size groups. One of the more effective and resonant groups for me (outside of solo) is his trio line up. While it can sometimes vary in membership, the aesthetic value is always the same--emotional, subtle and long-lasting.

For this simply titled Trio album, Hess is joined by Tony Scherr and Kenny Wollesen. A quiet and reflective session that opens with a wonderful rendition of Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love." Stripping away the already fantastic vocal from the original you realize how much of the impact the songs can actually have. And it is brilliantly executed by Hess. His notes seem to hit the heart with every touch.

"September 2010" is a gentle midtempo piece that evokes the soothing pictorial view of autumn. A laid back bop approach that easily settles with an evening skyline. Adding a little bit of a groove into the mix is "Kontra" which sees the bassline and drums hitting a different step. Hess manages to mix in both some modern lines and notes into this composition that reminded me of some of the more eccentric work of Jason Moran. "Social Club" is another midtempo piece but with a little joyous romp to it, interspersed with some nice improvised pieces. A nice, fun and creative way to end this enjoy journey.

Trio is beautiful recording that is quick to catch the ear of any music fan. The impact of Nikolaj Hess' compositions will definitely touch you. It's one of those record that you'll end up listening to constantly without even realizing it.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Mark Dresser: Nourishments

Mark Dresser (bass)
Nourishments (Clean Feed; 2013)
Rudresh Mahanthappa (sax)
Michael Dessen (trombone)
Denman Maroney (hyper-piano)
Michael Sarin (drums)
Tom Rainey (drums)

Mark Dresser is one the few distinctive bassist on the scene that continues to impress with complex arrangements that challenge convention. His latest outing as leader, Nourishments, Dresser demonstrates a solid and bold approach with both his playing and compositions. Allowing the quintet to mix things up yet follow a rough set of parameters with beautiful results.

"Not Withstanding" jumps out like a delightful and fierce piece that could have been written by Zorn's Masada. It's filled with both improvised accompaniments and stoic solos. All shifting back and forth through various counterpoints making for an intense and fun listen. "Para Waltz," a wonderful ballad that starts off solemn and quaint thanks to Maroney and slowly builds in stature. Mahanthappa's horn sounds big yet very romantic pared against Dresser understated touches during this piece.

The harmonic structure of "Rasaman" is highlighted by the always immepecable Michael Dessen and his early exchanges with Mahanthappa. Another lovely and romantic number that feels more like a journey than just a musical number.

Mark Dresser has put together a tightly woven document with Nourishments. An exemplary piece which is also filled with improvisations that while challenging are also very inviting. Nourishments is a superb album that delivers on every construct and theme which should give every listener something to think about after the first spin.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Intersection: Caravaggio

The Intersection: An ongoing feature on JazzWrap that looks at artists that have blended jazz, world and electronica in new and highly creative ways.

Caravaggio (group)Bruno Chevillon (bass, electronics)
Benjamin de la Fuente (violin, mandocaster, guitar, electronics)
Eric Echampard (drums, percussion, electronics)
Samuel Sighicelli (hammond organ, keyboards)

Brimming with influences of King Crimson, Can and fusion era Miles Davis, French quartet Caravaggio are deserving of wider recognition. Blending found sounds, electronics, steady basslines with crashing and cascading guitars and drums, Caravaggio create rock music with experimental jazz tendencies. It's reminiscent of Norwegian groups Elephant9 or Humcrush.

On their 2008 self-titled debut, Caravaggio opens like a submarine rising to the surface with "Canicule." Blips and crackles maintain the pace throughout the fast half of the album until the heavy laden "Platz." It feels like Miles Davis meeting up with Korn. Dark, dense and filled with enough slow energy you are bound to be happily depressed by the closing cacophony of Echampard's drums and the screeching guitar lines.

Caravaggio#2 moves in a slightly more song structured direction. With a similar and just as sinister version of Denis Hopper's "Platz" (a reworking of "Platz" from the debut), Caravaggio shows a great deal of growth in the four years between albums. "When Will You Be Angelic" and "Anybody Here" come on fast and furious with whizzing guitars and keyboards followed by drum patterns. "Anybody Here" transitions into a funkadelic style groove towards the latter moments which in continual listens seems like pure genius. "Profondo" closes the album with King Crimson like quality - slow moving but monstrous in structure.

While prog, experimental fusion can be envisioned throughout Caravaggio's material - the quartet are focused on providing something different with their album. A sense of adventure and intensity that shows that its not just the Scandinavian territories that explore in new atmospherics. Here's to hoping this quartet is around for a while.