Great Music

that’s what I want to write about – from the tons of CD’s I listen to constantly I want to inform about and personally remember the good ones, not the bad ones … it is like with wine: if you tasted once a wine you don’t like, you never buy that one again and you wouldn’t advertise it, but the one you like …. same here.

Let’s start with some recent ECM releases which caught my ear: FLY, Year of the snake. The great trio of Mark Turner, Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard has delivered another little master piece of chamber music oriented jazz, with all music written by the three protagonists. Turner is blowing beautifully, always sensibly supported by Grenadier and Ballard. A tight trio with a seldom reached high level of internal communication. I really hope to get a chance to see these guys live at one point.

Arild Andersen is one of Europe’s great bass players and a amazing musician. On this new album he teams up with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Tommy Smith. Celebration is dedicated to ECM by performing arrangements of compositions connected to the label – Jan Garbarek’s Molde Canticle, Keith Jarrett’s My Song or Crystal Silence by Chick Corea, among others. As arrangers worked Tommy Smith, Makoto Ozone, Trygve Seim, Mike Gibbs and others. And the result is an incredible big band record with great compositions and arrangements which focus on the essence of the songs, all guided musically by Andersen’s beautiful bass sound. Highly recommended.

Saltash Bells is the new CD by John Surman and it somehow takes me back to his ‘Amazing Adventures of Simon Simon’ (which he recorded with Jack De Johnette)album from 1981 – layers of saxophones and electronics combine to a sound so unique and touching, with small melodies floating around. John credits his son Pablo Benjamin with some of the sound design – he obviously listened to his dad’s past creations and intentions and together they created a typical Surman album of lasting quality – just listen to Whistman’s Wood and the title track Saltash Bells and you will be under John’s spell as well. So far my album of the year!

In 1980 and 1981 what was called the Magico trio released two records – Magico and Folk Songs. The trio in question consisted of Jan Garbarek, Egberto Gismonti and Charlie Haden. Now a live concert double CD has been released from a concert in Munich in 1981. Carta de Amor is an incredible document of an trio so special and with such a musical connection – there is space for every player, as well as delightful group playing and improvisations. All three musicians are in top form and are playing consistently on a high level. Hard to believe that this has been in the ECM vaults for such a long time and amazing how great the sound is on this live recording.

IMG_2847  morning sky over Madrid

Now to releases on various other labels:

ODE is a selection of composition pianist Brad Mehldau especially wrote for his trio with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard. Brad is not only one of the most innovative and exciting pianists around, he has as well one of the best trios on the scene at the moment. These guys are so tight, so together in terms of understanding and communication and improvising together or support each other when a solo is due. This is true for the playing on this amazing record, but as well for all of their live shows. And these composition are truly getting the best out of each member of the trio! Another great Mehldau record – he can’t do wrong!

When I saw the Pat Metheny Unity Band, featuring Chris Potter on saxes, Ben Williams on bass and Antonio Sanchez on drums, in a concert in Rotterdam this summer, I loved every minute of it – as it reminded me a lot of one of my favourite Metheny records: 80/81. The record does the same: Pat wrote all the music for this new group and the sax by Potter really takes the music to new levels – he is such a powerful player, but with a sensitivity to listen to what is happening around him. Pat and sax is a combination for me that works extremely well (see Michael Brecker or Dewey Redman on 80/81) and with Potter he has the right man for him. Williams and Sanchez are a great rhythm section, that gives both soloists a carpet to walk on. Recommended.

Ibrahim Maalouf is a trumpeter, trumpet instructor, composer and arranger. He was born in Beirut, Lebanon and now lives in Paris, France. Diagnostic is his third album and he composed all the music, except the Michael Jackson song They don’t care about us. Besides the trumpet he as well plays piano, keyboards, percussion and electric bass. His music is influenced by his Lebanese roots, classical music and jazz – it can be at times hauntingly beautiful, at others powerful and dark. An interesting new voice – worth to check out and keep following musically.

Renaissance by Marcus Miller starts the way you want a Miller record to start – with a heavy bass line – grooving and funky. And it finishes the way you want too – with a ballad performed on solo bass – fantastic! In between you have what Marcus is all about – great groovy jazz, amazing ballads and overall some of the best electric bass playing you can get nowadays … then there is a track (Ivan Lins’ Setembro) with the great Gretchen Parlato on vocals – just beautiful.

A short preview on two records I have been involved in making and which both should be released in October/November this year:

China Moses – her new album Crazy Blues is more or less what is says out the booklet – a blues based affair, a tribute to some of the great singers in jazz and some great vocal work by the young lady herself. This is worth waiting for and will raise the status of China in Europe by a few levels. I just love the way she deals with that repertoire … wait and go for it!

Karen Mok – is a Chinese actress and singer, who is HUGE in her home market, but hardly known outside, which I guess will change soon. Firstly because of her new album, title tbc, and secondly because she is featured prominently in the next Keanu Reeves movie. The album, a mix of standards and covers plus 2 Chines songs, was produced by Bugge Wesseltoft, who as well arranged all the music and plays piano. Karen will surprise a lot of people with her jazz Made in China.

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