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