After the great music at North Sea Jazz I had the chance to see and hear a few more concerts in Madrid and Alicante, mostly of acts that I have written about a few times already and which I truly like, therefore I’ll make it short this time. Julian Lage, in a trio with Jorge Roeder on bass and Eric Doob on drums, played as usual on the highest level of musicianship on his instrument and both Roeder and Doob are perfect sidemen for him, working well as a group. Most of the music came from the album ‘Modern Lore’, but from earlier in his career as well – the master of the young guitarists. Dhafer Youssef, singer and oud player extraordinaire performed ‘Diwan of Beauty and Odd’ with Aaron Parks, Matt Brewer on bass and Ferenc Nemeth on drums and it was a powerful and beautiful show full of wonderful singing by the master, whose musical relationship with pianist Parks seems to grow and grow. The new Gregory Porter show, when he performs without an orchestra, is a great mix of songs from all his recordings, including a few from the latest Nat King Cole tribute just as a touching duo with Chip Crawford on piano. Jahmal Nichols (bass), Emanuel Harrold (drums), Tivon Pennicott (tenor sax) and Ondrej Pivec (Hammond organ) completed the solid band behind the great voice.
The one artist I want to write a bit more about this time is the incredible singer and performer Ute Lemper. I know Ute since her 2000 album Punishing Kiss and have seen and heard her many times over the years. But it has been a few years now since I last saw her perform and I was looking forward to her concert ‘Songs from the broken heart’ in Alicante, as it promised to be a voyage through her career and best songs from her catalogue. Vana Gierig on piano; Victor Hugo Villena on bandoneon and Romain Lecuyer on bass, gave Ute Lemper the support and sound she needed for the variety of songs she performed. From songs connected to Marlene Dietrich (a new and forthcoming project, based on a 3-hour telephone conversation between Dietrich and Lemper) to Leo Ferrer, Brel, Reich, Dylan and of course Brecht/Weill, the trio made it all sound right and Lemper, with her energetic performance and vocal skills, made these songs hers and so kept the overall sound and quality of the show going. Especially Pete Seeger’s ‘Where have all the flowers gone’/’Sag mir wo die Blumen sind’, which in the German version was done by Dietrich and which Lemper did in both languages, was stunning in terms of delivery and emotional content .. and for me a song I hadn’t heard in years, but one I had a connection to in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Ute Lemper is without a doubt one of the great singers and performers of our time – she can’t really be put in any category, she seems to have created her own. Wonderful and highly recommended.
It is something special to find an unreleased studio session by one of the most revered jazz artists ever, so the hype around John Coltrane ‘Both Directions At Once / The Lost Album’ was deserved on that simple fact and of course, because the music is amazing! This recording will not open new doors to the understanding of what drove Coltrane etc., but it is a valuable piece of the jigsaw in understanding his development and musical evolution. The title makes sense as he is partly still in the tradition, partly already moving forward, working toward expression of spirituality. His and the bands playing is unmatched and the two originals and Slow Blues alone are worth checking this album out. Recorded with the best Coltrane band featuring McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones, this is not only a document of a great group of musicians and its leader, it is a great jazz record. Period!
‘Flow Vertical’ is the new album by Serbian sax player, composer and singer Jasna Jovicevic and it is a tour de force of composed and improvised music ranging from chamber music influenced pieces (featuring Gabriela Koso on bassoon; Filip Krumes on violin; Rastko Popovic on violin; Dejan Bozic on cello and Uros Secerov on percussion) to a wonderful solo sax performance and everything in between. An unusual album that kept me listening with its twists and subtle little melodies and the power of the compositions and performances. A new voice to listen to!
Already out for a year, I only just now heard the 3 CD set of Gard Nilssen’s Acoustic Unity entitled ‘Live in Europe’. Nilssen, a formidable drummer in various bands, whom I had the pleasure to hear a few times and his partners in Acoustic Unity Petter Eldh on bass and Andre Roligheten on tenor and soprano saxes are known for the adventurous music based on free-flowing improvisations over themes composed by all three players. Powerful and communicative are the words coming to mind. The three discs have been recorded at three different concerts and while disc one shows the trio in incredible form, disc two shows them with guest saxophonist Fredrik Ljungkvist, who as well plays clarinet and disc 3 has them perform with sax players Kristoffer Berre Alberts and Jorgen Mathisen. The guests simply enhance the power of the music the trio makes, as it allows them to shine within the space the trio usually gives each other as well. Extended communication, expression of common ideas and simply the pleasure to play with each other. Adventurous and exciting, fresh and challenging, but rewarding when listening closely.
Aaron Shragge, dragon mouth trumpet, flugelhorn, shakuhachi and Ben Monder, guitar just released their third album together, entitled ‘This World Of Dew’ and it is a beautiful duo recording of 14 new Shragge compositions, giving both artists room to display their unique sounds and create a lyrical and heart-warming album. Tracks 2 to 7 are linked as a suite, which is musically enchanting, hauntingly beautiful and meditative. Recommended.