fresh music

a few records I did enjoy listening to over the last few weeks:

Weird Turn Pro / Let Me Be Unwound – led by pianist/composer Mike Effenberger, WTP as well features Matt Langley on reeds, Chris Klaxton on trumpet, Chris Gagne on trombone, Rob Gerry on bass and Mike Walsh on drums and creates a floating, repetitive, jazz inspired music that is minimalistic and meditative. The sextet often sounds as a much bigger ensemble, pushing the tiny melodic phrases around and ‘embracing repetition as form of change’. Music like a river: seemingly being the same without ever being so … as minimal changes constantly occur. Fascinating!

Kobie Watkins Grouptet / Movement – Watkins, a former drummer with Sonny Rollins, presents his first album with his new band Grouptet, which features Jonathan Armstrong on sax, Ryan Nielsen on trumpet, Justin Nielsen on piano and Aaron Miller on bass. ‘Movement’ is a hard-swinging traditional jazz album in the best sense – great compositions, wonderful ensemble-play and individual contributions and a really good version of ‘Manteca’!!  Worth checking out!!

  WTP   Kobie

Michael Leonhart Orchestra / The Painted Lady Suite – I had seen the MLO last year in New York and have been waiting ever since for their debut album .. and multi-instrumentalist, composer and arranger Michael Leonhart does not disappoint with this orchestral debut: powerful compositions and arrangements, plus some incredible individual performances and soli, make this an outstanding album for any fan of larger ensembles. The Suite takes 7 of the 10 tracks of the album and is based on the migration of the Painted Lady Butterfly and has some wonderful compositions and arrangements with a very unique signature. Outstanding soloists in a cast of over 30 musicians are Nels Cline (in ‘Music Your Grandparents Would Like’) and Donny McCaslin (in ‘In the Kingdom Of MQ’). This is a captivating mix of traditional big band arrangements with new sounds and new ideas, a bit of Zappa and Vienna Art Orchestra thrown in and you get one of the most exciting new big ensemble voices for a while. A must!!!!!

Simone Kopmajer / Spotlight On Jazz – leading Austrian Jazz singer Simone Kopmajer recorded her new album with some of the best local musicians – Terry Myers on sax and clarinet, Paul Urbanek on piano, Martin Spitzer on guitar, Karl Sayer on bass and Reinhard Winkler on drums and they give her the background for her swinging and traditional jazz singing. She stylishly mixes her own compositions with standards and is so creating a relaxed and beautiful atmosphere to listen to these extremely well-presented songs. For the quiet hours of the day!

MLO    simone_cover_spotlightonjazz

John Pittman / Kinship – Canadian trumpet player John Pittman, who made himself a name as part of the Heavyweights Brass Band just released his debut album, featuring Shirantha Beddage on baritone sax, Jeff McLeod on piano, Mike Dones on bass and Curtis Nowosad on drums and ‘Kinship’ is a cool and swinging core jazz album, with really good compositions and musicians that were chosen for their kinship with the leader and the way they can communicate via music. Pittman is a great trumpet player and improviser, who surely deserves wider recognition!

Nicola Conte & Spiritual Galaxy / Let Your Light Shine On – Italian composer, guitarist and DJ Nicola Conte delivers with ‘Let Your Light Shine On’ a very strong homage to the Afrocentric spiritual music of John Coltrane. And as usual he has assembled to top band to bring his compositions to life – among many others the album features contributions by Theo Croker on trumpet, saxophonists Logan Richardson and Magnus Lindgren, as well as Zara McFarlane on vocals. Great grooves, great ensemble play and soli on what must be seen as one of Conte’s best recordings so far. Recommended!

Kinship cover idea 6 001    NC

Paolo Vinaccia / Mystery Man – This 6 CD box set was released in Norway earlier this year to celebrate the drum masters 64th birthday and features 64 tracks from recordings made between 1981 and 2018 plus an interview disc with an additional 9 tracks from a radio show done by journalist Tor Hammerø. All these tracks of various musical genres have the sensitive drumming of Paolo Vinaccia in common and it is fascinating to listen how he can adapt to whatever musical environment and make the music all his own and still make it work for whoever he is recording. He listens, communicates and makes sure that the music sounds great – keeping himself in the background, only stepping up when needed to increase the groove or add something to lift the composition. The list of musicians with whom Paolo played and recorded is endless and includes almost all the main Norwegian jazz artists of our time – Terje Rypdal, Bugge Wesseltoft, Arild Andersen, Nils Petter Molvaer, Beady Belle, Sidsel Endresen, Eivind Aarset, Bendik Hofseth, etc., plus international acts like Mike Mainieri, Ferenc Snetberger, Tommy Smith and Henry Kaiser. This box confirms what they all knew already: Paolo Vinaccia is one of the most accomplished European drummers of our time.



Jazz at Bran Castle

What better way to end the summer jazz festival season by going to a new and exciting place and hear good music? Our trip to Bran in Romania basically started in January this year with a visit to Madrid by drummer Paolo Vinaccia and his wife, painter Trude Semb, and as Paolo is on the programming board for Jazz at Bran Castle, he mentioned that we should come and have a few relaxed days with them there and hear some great music. As to listen to jazz played in the original Dracula castle seemed something exciting and cool, we decided to go … and did last weekend. The trip from Bucharest to the castle is long, as traffic is incredible, but once there we saw a beautiful small town and an inviting mountainous landscape and of course the legendary castle, see photo below.

On the Friday evening the festival was opened by the Omar Sosa Trio, featuring beside Sosa on piano and keyboards, Seckou Keita on kora and Gustavo Ovalles on drums. The trio’s mixture of Latin and African rhythms was captivating and the flow of the group improvisations changed the music constantly. The sound created by the piano and kora is extremely beautiful and fits the flowing compositions perfectly. The 200 strong audience (the court of the castle doesn’t hold more) enjoyed the music immensely and honoured the trio with a standing ovation. I hadn’t listened to much of Omar’s music before this show, but will definitely catch up on that in the coming weeks.

Paolo had us invited to the artist lounge, which served wonderful wines from around the world and some incredible and tasty food, so waiting for Lars Danielsson to set up for his show was very enjoyable and time flew very fast … ‘Liberetto III’ was the program Danielsson brought to the castle and this band includes beside him on bass, John Parricelli on guitar, Gregory Privat on piano and Magnus Ostrom on drums. Beautiful melodies brought to life by an excellent band. Had on the first two albums the piano seat be occupied by Tigran Hamasyan, Privat stepped in for number 3 and what a good choice he is: inspired improvisations based on Danielson’s compositions gave the rest of the band something to smile upon and a direction for their own melodic explorations for the music they created together. Recommend listening.

Saturday started at lunch time with a concert in a nearby church by the Duo Medieval and Arve Henriksen. This was scheduled as a Trio Medieval concert with trumpeter Henriksen, but unfortunately one of the singers of the trio, Jorun Lovise Husan, fell ill and couldn’t make the trip. So it was up to Anna Maria Friman and Linn Andrea Fuglseth to perform with trumpeter and singer Henriksen in an acoustic concert in the church and if one wouldn’t have known, it didn’t seem to make a difference: their voices floated around the space and Henriksen added various trumpets and flutes to them, creating hauntingly beautiful music between medieval religious music and folk songs from mostly Scandinavia. They then as well opened the evening in the castle court yard and the music, this time with the addition of Paolo Vinaccia on percussion and drums, was simply perfect for the environment and left the audience asking for more. The soaring voices filling the castle, supported by simple but effective percussion to enhance the rhythm and Henriksen’s sounds and immaculate trumpet playing, left no-one untouched. Great music!!

Next up on Saturday night was supposed to be a duo of Enrico Rava and Stefano Bollani, but unfortunately Rava had a fall at home and couldn’t make it, so Bollani decided to play a piano solo show instead. He is an artist who doesn’t know borders or genres .. it is all music to him and his solo show had therefore moments of classical music, known themes and standards, free improvisations and as always, a good sense of humour. All on a very high musical level and built up nicely, so the audience kept following him throughout.

The Saturday finished with a concert by Norwegian trumpet player Nils Petter Molvaer, with Jo Berger Myhre on bass and Erland Dahlen on drums. They played the music from Molvaer’s latest album ‘Buoyancy’, a mix of ambient sounds, jazz improvisations and rock elements that was perfect to close the night with its moving sound patterns and sometimes heavy grooves over which Molvaer laid his trumpet improvisations. One of the stars of European jazz at his best.


That was for us the end of the festival, as we had to go back on Sunday, when our wonderful host Paolo made a guest appearance in the show of Daniele Di Bonnaventura, before Rabih Abou-Khalil closed the 6th edition of Jazz at Bran Castle. For us truly a weekend to remember –  for the beautiful time we spend with Paolo and Trude,  for the great music we heard and the wonderful hospitality we were shown by the team of the festival.

In the next blog I will review a few new records from around the world, including the 6 CD box set ‘Mystery Man’, showcasing the recorded music career of Paolo Vinaccia. Stay tuned.