March 2020 – very difficult times and I won’t add to the tons of messages about the how, what and who … just asking everyone to be responsible citizens and stay at home!
It seems while at home many people use their social networks more than usual and therefore a lot of challenges have popped up – I did the photo one charting my life in 9 pictures, but some of the others I can’t do. How can someone who goes to gigs constantly for over more than 45 years pick his top 10 of these or how can someone who has thousands of records select his top 10? For me that’s simply impossible – each period in my life has important records in many ways, so this is one challenge I pass on. In general, I don’t like these kind of challenges and therefore I didn’t respond – even so I found the one concerning ones most influential labels quite interesting – for me that would be (not in any order): amadeo, CTI, Strata East, Gramavision, enja, ECM, Emarcy, Verve/Impulse, Jazzland, Okeh, Edition, Ropeadope to mention the ones that jump into my head right now (including obviously the ones I worked with). Different periods in my life had different main labels, but most of them, once with me, stayed with me. And their music I am still listening to …..
Here are a few interesting recent releases:
Lakecia Benjamin / Pursuance: The Coltranes – alto saxophonist extraordinaire Benjamin pays with her third album homage to Alice and John Coltrane. Co-produced with bass player Reggie Workman, who played with both Coltranes, this album is a strong statement of individuality and musical power. Ron Carter, Gary Bartz, Regina Carter, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Meshell Ndgecello, Steve Wilson, The Last Poets, Marc Cary, Keyon Harrold, Marcus Strickland, Brandee Younger and Jazzmeia Horn are the guests on the recording – representing three generations of musicians, all with the goal to give new impetus to the music of the celebrated Coltranes … with stunning results – Regina Carter in ‘Walk With Me’, Dee Dee Bridgewater and The Last Poets in ‘Acknowledgement’ and Benjamin’s performance throughout the album make this a contender for album of the year! One not to miss!
Dennis Kwok Jazz Orchestra / Windward Bound – Windward Bound is the first full-length album from the Canadian Dennis Kwok Jazz Orchestra featuring a six-movement suite for jazz orchestra and multiple woodwind soloists. All compositions are by leader, woodwind player, composer and arranger Kwok and are a kind of tribute to the tradition of the big band but being modern and fresh. The orchestra features beside the leader vocalist Caity Gyorgy, Naomi McCarroll-Butler, Sophia Smith, Brenden Varty, Kyle Tarder-Stoll and Jonathan Lau on reeds, Megan Jutting, Matt Smith, Paul Callander and Marie Goudy on trumpets, Nick Marshall, Andrew Gormley,Charlotte Mcafee-Brunner and Inayat Kassam on trombones, Augustine Yates on piano, Aidan Funston on guitar, Jonathan Wielebnowski on bass and Jacob Wutzke on drums. A wonderful swinging and relaxed big band album with great performances all around and fantastic sound!
Mike McCormick / Proxemic Studies, Volume I – Mike McCormick is an Oslo-based guitarist, laptop performer and composer originally from Yellowknife, Canada. He recorded his debut album, an exploration of human intimacy, with the help of vocalist Laura Swankey, Emily Denison on trumpet and Knut Kvifte Nesheim on drums and vibraphone. The music they create is emotional, powerful and haunting, the lyrics are parts of letters, emails and texts he received from partners of the past …. Giving expressions from love and lust to bitterness and so making this a truly personal exploration of the space of intimacy. Wonderful not only McCormick’s guitar sound and craft, but Laura Swankeys pure vocals, the beautiful trumpet sound of Denison and the straight grooves of Nesheim. Deep and edgy – and for sure worth checking out!
Thana Alexa / ONA – singer Alexa says about her new recording: “ONA is the musical expression of what being a woman means to me. It is my discovery of the wild woman spirit within me and the experiences I’ve encountered in setting her free. It celebrates the inspirational women in my life who have given me the confidence to realise my truth and express it freely. This music tells the story of what I’ve learned about the lives of women – starting with my own – our experiences, our emotions, our sexuality, our worth, our desire for freedom and our ability to overcome injustice by fighting for what we believe in”. ONA, which is the word for “she” in her native Croatian language, was recorded with drummer and co-producer Antonio Sanchez, bassist Matt Brewer, pianist Carmen Staaf and guitarist Jordan Peters. The guests on the album are Regina Carter, Becca Stevens, Claudia Acuña, Sofia Rei, Nicole Zuraitis, Sarah Charles, poet Staceyann Chin, and the ROSA Vocal Group. All songs were composed by Alexa, except her wonderful vocal arrangement for Massive Attacks ‘Teardrops’ and Tears For Fears ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’, which she totally makes her own. Powerful in their messages and musically amazing are for me all tracks but especially ‘Pachamama’ with the great Regina Carter adding colour to the beauty of the song, as well as ‘He Said She Said’, featuring Becca Stevens. Thana Alexa is a jazz singer for our times – masterful performer and writer, relevant in her messages and statements and this record is simply ESSENTIAL LISTENING!!!
Wolfgang Muthspiel / Angular Blues – on his fourth album for ECM, Austrian guitar master Muthspiel returns to the trio format, this time with his old friends bass player Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade, who both appeared for the first time with Muthspiel on the 2000 album with singer Rebekka Bakken ‘Daily Mirror’. Here the trio moves beautifully between subtle swing and groovy little numbers as well as pensive ballads. Switching between electric and acoustic guitars makes this album more colourful, his clear and beautiful sound on the guitars is a pleasure to listen to and the musicianship and communication and understanding between the musicians makes the music deeper and touching. Beside the guitarists compositions the trio as well performs exceptionally well two standards: ‘Everything I Love’ and ‘I’ll Remember April’ and Muthspiel performs his piece ‘Solo Kanon in 5/4’without his sidemen – a touch of classical music, a melodic walk on his own into a beautiful musical landscape. Outstanding!!!
Stay safe – stay home!!!