Monday, December 8, 2014

Tann: Needle Committed

Tann (trio)
Needle Committed (Traumton Records; 2014)
Dirk Häfner (guitar)
René Bornstein (bass)
Demian Kappenstein (drums)

A fun and interesting discovery a few days ago. I stumble my way into listening to the new release from German trio, Tann. This is an exciting record from a growing set of cross genre bending veterans on the German scene.

Needle Committed is a beautiful blend of both jazz and rock that stands out among many of the European trios of the moment. This is mainly due to emphasis on the guitar instead of the piano. Bouncing numbers like "Mandy's Dandy," and "Nanunks Garten" bring a fierce energy that cuts with rock intensity filled with steady intricate lines of the jazz ethos.

"Dra Di Net Um" with its funk basslines and staccato structure show the trio and embody avant garde and groovy in the same four minute span. While "Orgosolo" is more of a gentle ballad which you would have expected from a guitar trio like this. But this beautiful piece comes very late into the album and is a welcome spot--showing maturity as well as standout quality.

Needle Committed provides a new variety of styles that should provide a number of hours for the listen to dissect and enjoy. I've loved listening to this record over the last few days. Here's hoping that we hear more Tann soon rather than later.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Jason Adasiewicz: From The Region

Jason Adasiewicz (vibes)
From The Region (Delmark, 2014)
Ingebrigt Haker Flaten (bass)
Mike Reed (drums)

There are times when I feel like Jason Adaasiewicz has channeled the spirit of Walt Dickerson, another great vibraphonist. Both posse a unique talent of making their instrument and compositions sound and feel more personal than what it appears.

Adasiewicz has done it again with his latest release, From The Region. It's dark and lovely with brushes of intimacy at its center. Crafting a hard bop vibe on "Classic Route," Adasiewicz invites you in with some warm opening chord progressions. Then waiting to just about the middle of the number to begin showing the listener the trios full impact with hypnotic tones and tight calculated notes which soon round back to the opening lines and guide the listen out.

Flaten starts off "Two Comes One" with some superb low notes as both Adasiewicz and Reed slide in smoothly. While Reed takes the swinging action of the piece, Flaten and Adasiewicz revolve around his playing with a mixture of groovy details and free form. "Is A Bell A Rose" is a steady ballad that allows the trio ease you out of session on a heavy, somber tone but with sweet mixture of longing and desire for more.

Jason Adasiewicz has really come into his own in the last few years and after taking a really long spin with From The Region, I feel like this is probably my favourite of all his records. And it is by far one of my favourite records of the year. An well balanced and high developed session. Highly Recommend!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Traeben: Looking At The Storm

Traben (quartet)
Looking At The Storm (Jarr Records ; 2014)
Jens Larsen (guitar)
Soren Ballegaard (sax)
Haye Jellema (drums)
Olaf Meijer (bass)

On their third outing, Danish quartet, Traeben, continue with a free roaming blues and groove laden formula that made their second album Push one of my favourites in 2011. Looking At The Strom sees the quartet growing further and stronger with each number. It's a well rounded continuation of the solid compositions on Push.

Opening with what felt like a fun spy-jazz themed theme, "Do You Think They're Any Good," showcases the groups depth and agility to move from fun and rugged to adventurous with ease. Ballegaard and Larsen ride swiftly here with some sharp and bold tones keep the listener focused and intrigued throughout.

"Better Than The Other One" kicks things into a different gear and feels more like a rock group moving with heavy patches of guitar and pounding bass and drums. Ballegaard's sax provides a little respite but cuts tightly against the aggression of the rest of the band. This is a band really stretching out to be more than just another European jazz ensemble.

The title track seems to be perfect way to end the album. It takes a clam relaxed tone and slowly builds to cascade of crashing symbols, lush sax melodies and harmonic guitar lines. Bluesy, bold and beautiful.

Looking At The Storm is an effort that takes chances and sees Traeben growing as band and composers. Their ability to move forward with some really creative pieces makes Looking At The Storm an exciting musical experience and worth every listen. Over and over. Definitely a record not be missed out on this year. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Mostly Other People Do The Killing: Blue

Mostly Other People Do The Killing (quintet)
Blue (Hot Cup Records; 2014)
Jon Iragbagon (sax)
Kevin Shea (drums)
Peter Evans (trumpet)
Moppa Elliott (bass)
Rob Stabinsky (piano)

Mostly Other People Do The Killing, are one of the best and most challenging ensembles around. For their latest, Blue, they've surprised everyone by playing it straight. This is a wonderful love letter to Miles Davis' (and jazz in general) iconic benchmark, Kind Of Blue.

What I was expecting was a full-on avant garde re-interpretation of the jazz opus. Instead we are treated to is a delicately laid out pattern of musicianship by the quintet. It is almost a note for note transcription but you have to listen extremely closely for the subtle details in the performances.

Iragbagon's sax is crisp throughout "So What." Certainly the best straight, traditional performance I've heard from him in awhile. Beautifully crafted too are the lines from Evans, Elliott and Stabinsky. Stabinsky, Shea and Evans show real vibrancy on "All Blues" and "Flamenco Sketches," with the trumpet and piano both high in the mix (as with the original compositions). But both pieces have slightly playful feel as added by Iragabagon's softer tone--almost like listening in a nightclub setting.

Listen, we all know its easy to record a homage like Kind Of Blue. It's also easy to completely screw it up. But what's challenging is to performance it with grace and reverence. Mostly Other People Do The Killing have done just that with Blue. A phenomenal tribute to the greatest jazz musician and his most important work in the pantheon of music in general. Highly Recommended!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Alon Nechushtan: Venture Bound

Alon Nechushtan (piano)
Venture Bound (Enja; 2014)
Donny McCaslin (sax)
Chris Lightcap (bass)
John Ellis (sax)
Adam Cruz (drums)

The wonderful thing about Alon Nechushtan is his diversity with every project. Almost every one of his albums includes different musicians, settings and ideas. From dense expansive ensemble work like Dark Forces, the ethic voyage of Talat to his traditional jazz groups---this a great sign of creativity, adventure and demur.

With his new release, Venture Bound, Nechushtan seeks yet another challenge with a new set individuals which is both collaborative and well structured by the pianist/composer. "L'Avventura" is forceful and lively opener that highlights McCaslin beautifully as well shining a light on Nechushtan work at the keys. 

Nechushtan combines Middle Eastern themes into jazz traditionalism with "Dark Damsel," and its opening with sublime oud work from guest musician, Brhim Brigbane. The tune gently folds into a warm midtempo late night excursion that is is delightful and captivating. "Haunted Blues" another style Nechushtan seems pull off miraculously well with vibe that feels both like New Orleans with a gritty New York tinge. Lightcaps funky basslines meld perfectly with Nechushtan's subtle "Monk-ish" lines hidden within the grooves. Fun and funky stuff among a free flowing inventive project.

While many of Alon Nechushtan's projects are well crafted conceptual pieces, Venture Bound feels more personal and intimate for any listener (newcomer or long veteran to his sound). And its a superb album to start your experience and work backwards for a career to keeps growing leaps and bounds with each project. Excellent work.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Joana Gama & Luis Fernandes: Quest

Joana Gama (piano)
Luis Fernandes (electronics)
Quest (Shhpuma/Clean Feed; 2014)

There's a passion and beautiful that emanates from this recording that made me feel like I was listening to a mixture of Mitsuko Uchida, Harold Budd and Christian Fennesz. Quest, the stunning debut from Joana Gama and Luis Fernandes is holds elements of experiementalism as well as classical introspection.

The duo present a series of quiet yet evocative soundscapes that are both a backdrop and a window into along a beautiful journey. "Dream" (written by John Cage) is errielly performed to perfection by Gama. The addition of Fernandes atmospherics heading into the middle passages gives the piece a more transcendent feel than even the original piece.

"Twisted Moments" and "Quest" give the listener a different perspective on the duo. Both provide haunting elements of electronics with subtle melodic tones from Gama. "Twisted Moments" with it's killer bee swarm of effects is dazzling and probably shouldn't be listened to outside if you are afraid of the little black and yellow flying creatures.

While "Quest" includes all sorts of found sounds and plucking inside the piano. A creative piece that undulates in various directions all the while keeping very focus on providing a linear emotional experience.

Quest is a solid debut from Gama and Fernandes. Both experimental and traditional with a real sense of adventure and solace that is more than just ambient sounds. I really hope they do another record together very soon. Highly Recommended.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Tom Tallitsch: Ride

Tom Tallitsch (sax)
Ride (Posi-Tone; 2014)
Art Hirahara (piano)
Michael Dease (trombone)
Rudy Royston (drums)
Peter Brendler (bass)
(live photo: courtesy my iPhone)

I just recently saw Tom Tallitsch perform in New York and was completely blow away. In addition, I was kicking myself as to why I never saw him perform before, as I have been a big fan for the last couple of years. But no matter, his live performance was just as stellar as his studio work. And his newest release, Ride is solid and well composed second effort worth every note.

One of the great things I've always enjoyed about Tom Tallitsch is his versatility. He can shift gears from a bold Ben Webster, Gerry Mulligan style to softer more emotional Sonny Rollins with each piece. Ride features that diversity early on with the opener, "Ride" is hard hitting and ferocious number that showcases Tallitsch big approach with this composition.

While the very interesting cover of David Bowie's "Life On Mars" and "Rain" are a great examples of Tallitsch moving in a more reserved and mid-tempo territory. Dease, Royston and Tallitsch give the rock classic and definitive spiritual feeling that complements the Bowie masterpiece warmly. "Rain," meanwhile feels both gospel influenced yet encompassing a soulfulness that shines above as one of my favourite tracks on the album.

"Knuckle Dragger" is another beautiful moment which Tallitsch highlights both great songwriting and leadership. A funky number that allows Dease, Hirahara and Brendler to stretch and provide some muscular flavour to session. It's a nice extend number that blossoms towards the end of this session.

Tom Tallitsch is now a veteran of the New York scene that really deserves wider recognition. Ride is another bright and confident addition to his cannon and well worth any jazz fans attention. And if he's playing in your city, don't be arse like me and wait forever to see him.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

1982: A/B

1982 (trio)
A/B (Hubro Music; 2014)
Nils Okland (violin, fiddle)
Sigbjorn Appland (harmonium, piano)
Oyvind Skarbo (drums)

Fredrik Ljungkvist (clarinet),
Erik Johannessen (trombone)
Sofya Dudaeva (flute)
Matthias Wallin (sax)
Hanne Liland Rekdal (bassoon)
Stian Omenas (conductor)

You know when you stumble into that artist or group that seems to do no wrong with each release? Well, 1982 are that group. A/B is another sold chamber masterpiece deserving every minute of your attention. With the addition of writing material for a much large ensemble 1982 have enlisted a strong cast to help re-develop and expand on their vision.

Track 1, "18.06" is a shimming work of cinematic orchestration which is both beautiful, and extremely engaging. Rich in bassoon tones and bombastic drum patterns provide an exciting new glimpse of 1982 that we have not heard to this point in their history.

Delving deeper and broader in scope with A/B, the trio have develop an atmospheric tone reminiscent of Michael Brook and Jon Hassell. The second half of the session features percussive elements wrapped in the soft coils of the wind ensemble that handles each of the remaining piece with delicacy.

A/B is melodic and emotionally effective. A solid re-imagination for 1982. And probably the best the record to date. Yes, at this point they seem be able to do whatever they want with their compositions and instrumentation. Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rodrigo Amado: Wire Quartet

Rodrigo Amado
Wire Quartet (Clean Feed; 2014)
Rodrigo Amado (sax)
Gabriel Ferrandini (drums)
Hernâni Faustino (bass)
Manuel Mota (guitar)

A Rodrigo Amado release is always going to be filled with some excitement. And Wire Quartet is definitely exciting and does not disappoint. A wonderful line up that features members of Red Trio and the increasingly rewarding, Manuel Mota. 

Wire Quartet consist of three very extended pieces. "Abandon Yourself" opens the album with slow building introduction where each member moves gently with well place focused notes. The piece moves into its second structure when Amado and Mota both let loose and Faustino and Ferrandini follow making this section of the piece the most chaotic and beautiful. The tone settles in the latter stages as each musician has their own moment to rise above. Great compositional/leadership work here from Amado allowing the members the freedom to craft the passages within the outlying structure.

Blues-like yet still encompassing sense of moving far beyond, "Surrender" has lots of free movements with Mota's guitar screeching like Branca, Bailey or Thurston Moore rolled into one. Amado's rolling tones and the some atmospheric brush-work from Ferrandini add a nice shine to the track. While on the closing number, "To The Music," Amado really let's loose with some terrific tones and patterns that feel like Ayler or Braxton. Mota's guitars wails alongside Amado but never overpowers the piece.

Wire Quartet is a rock album with jazz undertones. It loud, fierce and abrasive like any other Amado record. Similar to Amado's work with Luis Lopes but here we get the added touches of a fantastic quartet that pours even more muscle to Rodrigo Amado's compositions. Which I didn't think was possible. And the results are excellent and frankly--bloody brilliant stuff!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Danny Fox Trio: Wide Eyed

Danny Fox Trio
Wide Eyed (Hot Cup Records; 2014)
Danny Fox (piano)
Chris Van Voorst (bass)
Max Goldman (drums)

I always have the discussion with friends, artists and managers about signing to major labels and higher aspirations. My response and argument has always been, stay independent or on the indie label that has signed you. Your growth, acceptance and skill will expand the way the spiritual powers want it to expand.

Now after my big soliloquy, we have a group that so far has remained independent and their skill continues to grow--the Danny Fox Trio. With their second album, Wide Eyed, they continue on the rich textures and bold composition of their debut but broaden the adventure with a little more urgency and in some case fun.

"All Tolled" and "Drone." illustrate a huge leap in confidence and musicianship from the trio. Melodic pacing and subtle yet bold upfront melodies radiate from these pieces. Fox has a strong hand on the keys but with "All Tolled" Voorst shows impressive plucking indeed. "Drone" shoots out of the gate brilliantly with Fox on a rolling set of notes. Goldman is equal to the pacing and gives a solid foil in unison. This while Voorst comes riding in heavy on the bassline which carries the piece through till Fox and Voorst rejoin providing jubilant finish.

"Funhouse Memory" is funky but with a number incongruent chord changes and notes. It's fun with demented intentions. Moving in various directions that felt The Meters grooving with Friedrich Gulda. "Tumble Quiet" concludes this beautiful session in stately fashion. While the notes are bold and intricate; the piece is well grounded and calming place the listener at the edge of a long journey.

Wide Eyed is the Danny Fox Trio moving from strength to strength. A record of extremely high quality in both composition and performance. If it were on a major label you might have known about it already. But it might not have the freedom and buoyant expressiveness that comes with being on your own and letting the music come to you as you go. Wide Eyed, is a record that you will come back to time and again. And it is definitely one of my albums of the year. Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Zero Centigrade: Birch

Zero Centigrade (duo)
Birch (Obs, 2014)
Tonino Taiuti (guitars; electronics)
Vincenzo de Luce (guitars; electronics)

One of my favourite duos, Zero Centigrade return with albeit short but highly effective album, Birch, that continues there quest in manipulating sound structures in beautiful new ways.

Birch is essentially one long piece with a number of different movements nestled inside. Opening with a common theme of folk/blues style plucking that we have become accustomed to from the duo, it gently slides into move melodic heavy drones around the six minute mark. This effectively represent the next movement which has a number of rising octaves and tremolos that haunt the senses and permeates throughout the reminder of the piece.

The hypnotic nature of the middle movements also incorporate a number of found sounds that provided the added space and intrigue to Birch. The final structure to Birch returns to the first movement with more delicate, romantic but short chords from Taiuti wrapped with searing electronic lines across the top from de Luce.

Another beautiful and absorbing release from the Italian duo. Birch continues to explore the territory that their last release, Selce did but with even more imagination left to the listener. Birch is a wonderful and meditative piece that is both engrossing with and without headphones. Highly Recommended.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Halvorson/Knuffke/Wilson: Sifter

Mary Halvorson (guitar)
Matt Wilson (drums)
Kirk Knuffke (cornet)
Sifter (Relative Pitch; 2013)

While this stellar collaboration actually came out last year, Sifter has been on repeat in house for some time now. It is probably one of the most fun and expressive releases I have heard Mary Halvorson on in a long time. The trio of Halvorson, Knuffke and Wilson demonstrate a unique companionship, they have worked with each other on various projects over the last the years, but Sifter for me, is one of their standout projects.

The performances are very melodic in their phrasing but as each musician bounces off each other the tunes become vitalized with a real hyper sense of jubilation. "Cramps" and "Don Knots" both provide rustic twang balanced out with jagged notes that mold themselves into a unified piece very quickly. Both pieces provide an element of melody that becomes very catchy and foot-stomping good.

Halvorson and Knuffke give "Original Blimp" that dangerous element with some both providing different directions for the song to follow. Halvorson guitar flows with a fun haunting and rolling pace, while Knuffke's cornet rises high along with Wilson steady kit work. All this makes for a grooving little marching number which reminded me of slowed down ska number.

"Forever Runs Slow in Cold Water" and "Absent Across Skies" are ballads but with very twisted chord changes. The trio show how their fun can turn serious a complex ed within seconds. Both pieces are intense and really shine light on how specific, calculated and united the musicians are within each number. Halvorson's looping lines towards the closing of "Forever.." are marvelous.

While I may talk about Mary Halvorson allot throughout this piece, it really is a trio session. Each musician provides writing credits for the music in the session. They each challenge each other and each rise to that challenge. But what makes this one of the my favourite records right now is the sheer fun they are having on every single track. Sifter is a good damn brilliant piece of work that every fan of these musicians should seek out quickly. Highly Highly Recommended!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tomasz Dabrowski & Tyshawn Sorey: Steps

Tomasz Dabrowski (trumpet)
Tyshawn Sorey (drums, piano)
Steps (For-Tune Records; 2013)

An awesome collaboration from two rising creative talents on the jazz scene, Tyshawn Sorey and Tomasz Dabrowski. Steps is a really exhilarating session that is expansive in its ideas as it is in it's performances.

Originating from linear structured material, Steps weaves a beautiful course between it's detailed outline and it's subtle improvised moments. "Song 8," features a rampage of consecutive notes from both musicians. Sorey's rolling dash across the kit and Dabrowski with blistering pacing eventually evens out into modular groove towards the final movement. But its really the consistency of their notes that I felt was the most captivating measures of the piece.

You know, it had taken me a long time to write this piece as I was so engrossed with the intricacies of the Dabrowski and Sorey subtle movements with each note. This evident on "Song 6 (steps)" and "Song 3" both have some wonderful counter-movements that sound funkier and avant garde at the same time. Dabrowski's tones are sometimes reminiscent of Don Cherry at his peak. But Dabrowski is really coming into his own with a variety of stylistic approaches on each record. While Sorey seems to grow, absorb and spread influential techniques and thoughts with each session and musician he records with.

Steps is a great exploration in rhythms, patterns and free thought. Both Sorey and Dabrowski are shinning new light on the duo setting as well their ability to generate new and interesting material both separately and in collaboration. A highly rewarding session and deserve continued and deep listening.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kasper Tom 5: Ost Bingo Skruer

Kasper Tom 5
Ost Bingo Skruer (Barefoot Records; 2013)
Kasper Tom (drums)
Rudi Mahall (clarinet)
Jens Mikkel Madsen (bass)
Tomasz Dabrowski (trumpet)
Petter Hangsel (trombone)

I have enjoyed recent releases from Danish drummer, Kasper Tom--most notably his work with Fusk. On his latest project, the Kasper Tom 5 and their debut Os Bingo Skruer, Tom shows again an excellent sense of diversity and creativity.

Ost Bingo Skruer is fun and widely expansive. At times the horn based quintet resembles a dream meeting of The Vandermark 5 and Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The opener, "Doner macht schoner" embodies some odd arrangements and structures but somehow floats into a very catchy groove enhanced by Mikkel Madsen's infectious plucking.

"Kusk" opens with some quiet yet free moving lines from Tom as each member slows joins in. Mahall's playing stands out here as the clarinet becomes the main focus in the earlier stages. Then Mahall shares sublime exchanges with Dabrowski and Hangsel.

"Everything All The Time" is a great display of the quintet's expansive sound as they improvise and cut a blistering patten that turns inward in its final chords but strikes a lasting response in the listeners consciousness. "Parat Krabat" closes out a very dynamic session date with surprisingly hard bop traditional influences on display. A great way to end a complex yet captivating date.

Kasper Tom as shown himself again as a bold and resourceful composer who can gather the musicians into a challenging situation and produce some material of wonder and fresh exuberance. Ost Bingo Skruer is a great record that challenges conventions but is also rich and fun to experience. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Akira Sakata & Giovanni Di Domenico: Iruman

Akria Sakata (clarinet. sax)
Giovanni Di Domenico (piano)
Iruman (Mbari; 2014)

An absolutely brilliant duet session from Giovanni Di Domenico and Akira Sakata! While yes, a good majority of Iruman is improvised, the two musician smoothly create a beautiful soundscape that this lush and romantic. And its stands out more than its improvised parts.

"Yellow Sand Blowing From China" and "Lotus Blossom In A Old Pond," are both deeply involved numbers but the intricately place notes by Di Domenico set a romantic path for listener. This run tangent to Sakata's sprawling lines and once blended together become bold and outrageous statements of adventure.

On the fresh and rampant "Bud I," the duo show a marvelous combination of notes. This piece felt reminiscent of Ornette Coleman with Sakata running up the scales at full-blast. Di Domenico following with great agility. "Papiruma," is more a spiritual outing between Sakata utilizing his improvised vocals along side Di Domenico's arpeggios on the keys. Exciting and challenging movements and worth treasuring.

Throughout Iruman you get a sense of a solid understanding between the two musicians; in addition to a edict to find other spaces for their lyrics to go. This is a daring yet pleasing session that flows nicely in free form as well as in an uplifting and emotional atmosphere. Highly Recommended.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Arni Karlsson: Mold

Arni Karlsson (piano)
Mold (Mold Music; 2014)
Scott McLemore (drums)
Porgrimur Jonsson (bass)

You know, I sometime wonder if artists like Arni Karlsson, Sunna Gunnluags and even American Danny Fox, were on larger labels like ACT or ECM would they receive more acclaim and listenership. I do feel the answer is a resounding yes.

But then again, they could also get also lost is in mountain of similar projects from those labels. So I guess it a good thing that we get to discover these artists on our own and enjoy their continued development. And that is exactly what we see with Arni Karlsson's long awaited third album, Mold.

A bright and richly toned session that marks serious growth in the artists cannon. Opening with emotionally introspective piece "Smell Of Hay," Karlsson shows steady and brave compositional skills that reflect his classical training. But the inclusion of McLemore and Jonsson bring a different level of cohesion to this session immediately with this opening track. It's a fuller and more enveloping sound.

On "Saltstreaks," Karlsson opens the lyrical conversion to both his fellow members for some warmth solo pieces as well as nicely balanced exchanges one on one throughout the piece. "Growing" is a late night midtempo number where Karlsson's playing reminds me of McCoy Tyner. It's bold but with a lot of playfulness. The trios movement as well as on the title track show great depth and emotion. "Mold," while sounding cold and distant, is really more a painting of one's own longing for something more and how to create it.

Mold is a terrific and momentous leap for Arni Karlsson as a composer, leader and performer. And while he and a few others remain independent, their lyrical vision and growth continues to spread. And that's always more important than being on the popular label. Here's to spreading the word. Mold is one of JazzWrap's album of the year for sure. Highly Recommended!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Elliott Sharp's Aggregat

Elliot Sharp's Aggregat
Aggregat (Clean Feed; 2012)
Quintet (Clean Feed; 2013)
Elliott Sharp (sax, guitar)
Brad Jones (bass)
Ches Smith (drums)
Nate Wooley (trumpet)
Terry Green (trombone)
So I really don't own much Elliot Sharp as leader. I have a number of albums featuring him as a member. So when I spent the last few weeks listening to two albums from one of his most recent groups, Aggregat, I was completely blown away. A really well focused, well imaginative ensemble that is more than the sum of its parts.

Complicated and sometimes groovy arrangements sift through the group's debut, simply titled, Aggregat, "The Grip" and "Allelia." Both pieces featuring abstract constructions from Sharp on sax augmented by more soothing and sparse paths laid out by Jones and Smith. Sharp's horn sounding like barge horn alerting the other ships in its path.

Sharp is primarily on sax with this trio but also blends end his brilliant guitar work as well. This is featured on "Positronics," a lovely rolling number that at times reminded me of contemporaries Thurston Moore or Marc Ribot. While the piece may sound free floating, it slow builds into a nice groove that even feels track from Bitches Brew era Miles Davis.

On the Aggregat's follow up, Quintet, the group has expanded in size to its simply stated title. The addition of Nate Wooley and Terry Green provides new variety and depth to the overall sound and vision for Sharps group. "Katabatics" is a collision of horns, Smith's poly-rhythms and the steady nature of Jones, all boiling over into a boisterous but lovely celebration of creativity.

"Blues For Butch" while using the blues as its blueprint, is more than that. It is highly elevated piece with great sections of improvised and explosive work from the horn section. "Lacus Temporis" and "Cherenkov Light" are both more experimental in nature and give a nice glimpse into the individual talents of each musicians.

Both Aggregat and Quintet are solidly composed by the multi-instrumentalist Elliott Sharp and beautiful performed by his bandmates. This was a great starting point for me and hopefully a good moment for you the listener to become fully invested in Elliott Sharp's expanded vision.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dorge/Sorey/Westegaard: Like Salamanders We Survive

Pierre Dorge (guitar)
Tyshawn Sorey (drums, piano)
Torben Westergaard (bass)
Like Salamanders We Survive (Gateway Music; 2014)

What happens when a trio just sits down in the studio and say to each other--"just play." A daring and sprawling accomplishment results. That's what Dorge, Sorey and Westergaard have done with Like Salamanders We Survive. This is an improvised session which comes off as very well structured and devised. But that's because these musicians are veterans at their craft.

The movements through Salamanders are effortless but also engrossing for listener. "Homage To Dragoman" is beautifully laid out. With spare line and slightly atmospheric effects from both Sorey and Dorge. While Westergaard adds a haunted bassline that crawls throughout the piece.

The trio present an number of divergent themes throughout the session. On "Who Am I To Play?," Sorey shows his unique and distinct talent at the drums. A kit that clatters and calms at all the right moments. While his bandmates counter with wonderfully synchronized patterns that go from frenetic to funky. At times reminding me of a mixture of Naked City meets Headhunters. Just beautifully creative stuff.

"Speaking Of Which" a dark and introspective piece with Eastern influences showcases a softer side during this session. It's dream-like in its approach and the trio still add a number of improvised passages to keep the listener's ears challenged.

Like Salamanders We Survive is a brilliant work that needs to absorbed in multiple listening sessions. I found myself coming back to particular tracks over and over. Constantly I found myself missing something. That's when you know you found a great record for your collection.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Kaja Draksler: The Lives Of Many Others

Kaja Draksler (piano)
The Lives Of Many Others (Clean Feed; 2013)

Hauntingly beautiful. That's the best way to describe The Lives Of Many Others from Kaja Draksler. This solo piano session brilliantly showcases Draskler's avant garde spirit which was already apparently on previous releases. But here we get a more intimate yet dynamic perspective.

Over the first three pieces we experience a diversity of free form and expansive classical structures that are fun, exciting and challenging. This is highlighted in "Communication Entropy/Andromeda." where Draksler moves within different motifs and crafts a wonderful storyline for the listener.

The extended piece "Suite: Wronger:Eerier:Stronger Than (Just A Thought):I Recall," is improvisation with perfected and well balanced lines. Quiet movements draped in watersheds of rolling notes moving in one singular pattern leaving you gasping at her accuracy on the keys.

While "Delicious Irony" and "Army Of Drops" are reminiscent of Vijay Iyer or Jason Moran as contemporary comparisons--Draskler's intensity allows you to get lost in the melodic atmosphere more than the aforementioned musicians but with a little more irreverence and subtle humour.

Kaja Draksler is already a growing name within the European community but with The Lives Of Many Others you can see how this rich and expressive voice should have big impact everywhere else very soon.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Necks: Open

The Necks (trio)
Open (ReR; 2013)
Chris Abrahams (piano)
Lloyd Swanton (bass)
Tony Buck (drums)

With Open, their seventeenth album, Australian trio, The Necks turn more understated than usual. A calm ambience that is more reminiscent of recent Harold Budd material drifts effortless throughout this hour long piece.

Opening with subtleties of gentle drum beats and slow rhythmic patterns in the basslines, the trio takes you on slow journey through its first quarter of an hour. Setting an ethereal soundscape that is both soothing and adventurous, the piece begins to expand in its middle movements with the additions of chimes and more detailed and rolling layers of piano lines from Abrahams. These notes and effects quickly rotate into a very hypnotic passage.

And the final passage becomes more focused with a slight groove adjacent to the improvised patterns. These notes finally collide with the an almost Eastern melodic pattern to close out the session in a beautiful psychedelic manor.

For those unfamiliar with The Necks, you can always jump in at any point. With any record you find. Anywhere. But without a doubt, Open is an excellent starting point to find out what all your friends have been raving about for over a decade. This will be one of the best records you will ever own. I hope... Highly, Highly Recommended!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Marcin Masecki: Scarlett

Marcin Masecki (piano)
Scarletti (For Tune; 2013)

There is always discussion among classical fans (new and traditional) about how many times can you record and hear the great pieces. How many times do you really need to hear or buy Mahler's 5th, Beethoven's 9th or Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 9?

Usually my answer is--when you know it's a stellar re-interpretation. When a musician has taken it upon themselves to create it a new and make it their own. That's when you must own it. Well, we have come to that point with young Polish pianist, Marcin Masecki and his live release Scarlatti.

First, by taken on one of the few composers that you see/hear being interpreted--its a immensely refreshing. Most young musicians will automatically go for aforementioned composers. Masecki takes on a number of Scarletti piano pieces under the heading of Act I - Act IX. There is fierce perspective approach Masecki has with these piece. The attitude is invigorating and refreshing.

Act II, IV and Act VII are vibrant with lots of loud octaves and improvised segments that require intense concentration. The rolling notes are fun and haunting all at once. But as just as that excitement rises, Masecki delivers superb ability change directions and allow for more intimate moments of reflections. This is where you the listener become captivated by his skill on the instrument. The galloping nature of Act IV and VII are fruitful and entertaining and joyful on repeated listens.

Closing out the live recital are two Goldberg Variations that are both calming and temperate. Filled with improvised sections but still attached to its original bedrock, Masecki makes this a wonderful way to end his concert.

With Scarletti, Marcin Masecki fuses the expansion concepts of jazz into the strict confines of traditional classical. The burst of inspirations allows for a complete deconstruction of how both are perceived. So again--when is listening to the same piece enough? Never. When it's done superbly well like Scarletti. Highly Recommended!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

MoFrancesco Quintetto: Maloca

Mofrancesco Quintetto
Maloca (Art of Life; 2013)
Francesco Valente (bass)
Johannes Krieger (trumpet)
Guto Lucena (sax)
Iuri Gaspar (piano)
Miguel Moreira (drums)

A surprisingly well crafted and swingin' debut as leader for bassist Francesco Valente. Maloca delivers shades of hard bop mixed with contemporary themes and musicianship that sparkle with each track.

Maloca has a very American feel emanating from its Italian composer. Valente's playing feels like a combination of classic Paul Chambers and a well balanced Christian McBride. The opener, "Tchap" and "Maloca" both present a refreshing vibe of young excitement. Lucena and Gaspar have blistering exchanges throughout the beginning of piece.  Valente stays calm and reserved letting his bandmates create new energy from his composition.

"Maloca" jumps with a hint of Latin flavour. But Valente doesn't want to re-create the past. This piece is focused on stretching out with some subtle chord changes by Gasper and Moreira. Valente patterns groovy and infectious but still understated. 

Valente's re-interpretation of Bela Bartok's "Romanian Folk Dances" is beautiful. A fierce piece to perform within the classical cannon. Originally featuring a violinist who must be in top form to navigate this piece. Valente turns this into a delicate and wonderfully emotional romantic march.

Closing out the album is "Soul" written by trumpeter, Johannes Krieger. This a smokin' number with excellent individual lines and toe-tapping rhythms, will make you think you just walk into the best nightclub in town.

Maloca is a refreshing and invigorating session that stays within tradition while still exploring and creating a new voice. A solid debut from Francesco Valente and his MoFrancesco Quintetto. Highly Recommended.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Steve Davis: For Real

Steve Davis (trombone)
For Real (Posi-Tone; 2014)
Abraham Burton (sax)
Larry Willis (piano)
Nat Reeves (bass)
Billy Williams (drums)

Steve Davis is in superb form on his new album, For Real. This is probably the best I heard in a couple albums now. While the bandmates remained the same for this album, with the inclusion of Abraham Burton, their tone and Davis' writing feels stronger and more confident.

"For Real" takes a calm but groovy approach, with some additional homage to the Blue Note legacy (you'll know what this means when you hear it). While keeping the hard bop tradition, Davis still manages to make his compositions stand above some of his contemporaries. The lovely ballad "Days Gone By," excels thanks to the raw but lush notes from Burton and the always steady hand of Willis. Davis' playing is understated and warm reflecting a soft elder statesmen quality.

"Daylight" closes out the album on a wonderful Brazilian swing. While having the infectious flavour, Davis crafts the tune with a number changes that allows for some adventurous movements throughout the piece. Not your typical number. And not you typical Brazilian influence tune. Well done.

With For Real, Steve Davis show that he has a lot more to write about and he continues to go from strength to strength. For Real is probably his best record to date for the Posi-Tone label. And its well worth seeking out. Right now!

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Impossible

The Impossible (trio)
The Impossible (self-produced; 2013)
Mitch Green (bass)
Sam O'Brien (sax)
Tony Irving (drums)

The Impossible are a Brisbane based trio that reflect the influences of might be Coxhill, Brotzmmann and more recent, The Thing or Vandermark 5 and Sonic Youth (with whom drummer, Tony Irving as played with in the past). But where those compassion lay, is also jumping off point for more creativity. 

Their self produced debut is filled with two extended pieces record live, The Impossible show the audience at this live gig and you the listener, that there can be surprises around ever corner and ever note.

"Ignition" drives around on the heavy interaction between Irving and Green. The exchange of phrasing and complements is swift and fierce. It's a hard tone but beautifully placed along side the rhythmic lines that O'Brien gently adds just underneath the chaos.

"The Unanswered Question" sees O'Brien rising in the mix with Irving acting as the counter foil. The piece is calculating and intense. It requires a delicate patience as each chord and notes starts to fall into place and then midway through is completely broken apart by O'Brien and Irving. A battle that is engrossing and lovely all at once. This rotates and slowly works its way to calm, relaxed conclusion to the evening.

A very intriguing debut from The Impossible. While this live evening was long on song. It was short of the amount of tracks. But it does give us the potential of what this trio can do once in the studio. Definitely an album worth your money and band to look out for going forward.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Best Albums Of 2013

JazzWrap looks back at a phenomenal 2013.

Another exciting year. We have seen the growth of recent talent into what will be significant voices of the future. And the continue leadership of the elders. We remember those who have shaped the scene and left us way too soon but what they've taught us lives on through us.

Below are some of the albums that have had a significant effect on me over the last year. In no real order except the first two because they would not stop playing on my stereo, ipod and inside my head.

I hope you get a chance to hear some of this amazing music over the next few months. And we all hope the music just keeps getting better and braver over the next year. Enjoy.

Album Of The Year: Sunna Gunnlaugs: Distilled

Mary Halvorson: Ilusionary Sea
Jakob Bro: December Song
Mostly Other People Do The Killing: Slippery Rock!
Soren Gemmer: At First
Jason Moran/Charles Lloyd: Hagars Song
Cakewalk: Transfixed
Nicole Mitchell: Aquarius
Mikrokolektyw: Absent Minded
Nick Hempton: Odd Man Out
Wadada Leo Smith/Angelica Sanchez: Twine Forest
Kris Davis: Capricorn Climber
Fred Hersch/Benoit Delbecq: Funhouse
Zero Centigrade: Selce
Sava Marinkovic: Nowhere Near
Soweto Kinch: Legend Of Mike Smith
Luis Lopes: Live In Madison
Susana Santos Silva/Torbjorn Zetterberg: Almost Tomorrow
Soren Dahl Jeppesen: Pipe Dreams
Christian McBride: Out Here