When reviewing albums, I try not to go after releases that will get a lot of attention and space in all jazz and music magazines anyway, but try to recommend smaller labels and unknown artists releases of quality – subjective quality of course, as this is based on my musical taste only. Exceptions are made when I truly like an album of an established artist and/or I have been involved in the making of the record and are really happy with the results. Enjoy the wide variety of new music I have discovered and had a great time listening to:
Michel Camilo / Essence – ‘Essence’ is already the 25th album of the piano master and one of the few he has recorded with a full big band. It has all the hallmarks of a Camilo album: virtuosity, power grooves and tons of incredible soli, from all members of the 18-piece band. All compositions are from Michel Camilo and highlight as well his writing skills and his feel for the sound of this big band. Gorgeous ‘Liquid Crystal’ with his swinging groove and a very deep solo by Camilo. ‘Mano A Mano’ with the big band is a powerful and colourful affair with a very cool brass arrangement by Philip Mossmann. ‘Just Like You’ features a great solo by saxophonist Antonio Hart and is overall a melodic beauty and ‘On Fire’ is just that! Great percussion and drums and some heavy brass driving this known song from the Camilo songbook. Camilo chose the perfect title for this album, as in its essence it is pure Michel Camilo – incredible powerful and heartfelt music!!
Jaelem Bhate / On the edge – Another big band recording, but in this case the debut of composer, conductor and bandleader Jaelem Bhate. He assembled a band with some of Canada’s most exciting new talent and went into the studio to record his multi-movement PACIFIC SUITE, which is the core of this album. ‘On the edge’ is a more traditional big band album, with some wonderful compositions, like the lightly swinging ‘Wishful Thinking’, or the beautiful ballad ‘When I was loved’, where Bhate uses the big band sounds to great effect. The four movements of the Suite vary in energy and colour, highlighting Bhate’s writing and arranging skills and leaving the listener wanting for more. Recommended.
David Cruz / EP – Here we have another Canadian debut: guitarist David Cruz’s first recording as a leader is an exciting and dynamic guitar trio recording featuring William Dietrich on bass and Miles Fuller on drums. The six songs on the EP are comprised of 3 originals and 3 standards, featuring a truly delicate reading of ‘Take The A Train’ as well as a wonderful ‘Giant Steps’. The originals are interesting composition and are fitting well with the interpretations … a young guitar player making his mark – beautiful sound and imaginative playing. One to watch out for!
Haftor Medbøe, Gunnar Halle, Eva Malling / Hvor En Var Baen – Inspired by the poems of Danish writer Martin N. Hansen, the trio of guitarist Medbøe, trumpeter Halle and bass player Malling have created a wonderful album of beautiful melodies and soundscapes. This gorgeous album is a 9-track limited edition on hand-numbered 10“vinyl available via http://copperfly.co.uk/ and so is Haftor Medbøe, Jacob Karlzon – a touching piano / guitar duo recording of excellent compositions. The performances by guitarist Medbøe and pianist Karlzon confirm very close musical minds, which give each other space to play, without losing focus on the essence of the songs. Intimate and captivating .. as if time stands still when listening. Exceptional! This EP has four incredible instrumental tracks and the download has a bonus track with vocalist Jessie Bates … the track is called ‘Happiness’ and that’s exactly what it is .. happiness in sound. Extremely well done!
Viktorija Pilatovic / The Only Light – This is Lithuanian jazz vocalist Viktorija Pilatovic’s third album and a big step forward for the singer, composer and producer. Here she is supported by Alberto Palau on piano and keyboards, Ales Cesarini on bass, Mariano Steimberg on drums and percussion, Perico Sambeat on alto saxophone and flute and Ivan Cebrian on guitar (both on 3 tracks only) in creating a modern jazz vocal album of highest quality. Highlights include the title track, the captivating ballad ‘Frozen in Silence’, as well as a swinging ‘Hungry Eyes’, the cool ‘My Blues’ and ‘Confusion’ a wonderful song, arranged for horns by Perico Sambeat, which ends the album strongly and with some great individual performances, especially from Sambeat on alto. Pilatovic is a wonderful singer with amazing control and tons of feeling. One to watch out for!
Megalodon Collective / The Triumph – A septet coming out of the Trondheim jazz program and partly having played with the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra; these young Norwegian and Swedish musicians don’t seem to know genres. Their music is a wild mix of ensemble play and free passages, jazz, rock, African influences, big band riffs and whatever comes to mind of these outstanding performers. Martin Myhre Olsen (NO), Karl Hjalmar Nyberg (SE) and Petter Kraft (SE) on saxophones, Karl Bjorå (NO) on guitar, Aaron Mandelmann (SE) on bass and Andreas Winther (NO) as well as Henrik Lødøen (NO) on drums are a collective of pure power, raw energy and a sense of humour – how else can you create such incredible and unique music? Highly recommended!
Theo Croker / Star People Nation – normally I don’t review recordings I have been involved in, but this time I have to make an exception for this wonderful new album by trumpet star and producer Theo Croker. ‘Star Nation People’ is everything that is cool about a recording of jazz, soul, R&B and Hip-Hop influences – a record that has all these ingredients, but still is at its core a jazz album. Theo Croker put this album together with the help of saxophonist Irwin Hall, Michael King on piano and keyboards, Eric Wheeler on bass, Kassa Overall on drums, plus guests singer Rose Gold, Dave Whitfield on fender Rhodes, ELEW on piano, Anthony Ware on tenor saxophone, Eric Harland on drums and vocalist Chronixx and created a modern jazz adventure for young and old music fans. Just check out ‘Portrait of William’, a song Theo wrote for his father, with a wonderful brass line, some incredible melodic play by Croker and a danceable groove behind it … easy to listen to, but deep musically. This record is a reflection of our times, it is Theo Croker inside out .. his musical vision, his past and present mixed into one great record!!