I just want to state a few things while we are preparing to ease the global restrictions set during the virus outbreak – I have seen many artists doing concerts from their homes and streaming them online, which in general is a good idea, but (and this is a big BUT) these shouldn’t be for free! There are ways to have people pay for access to your streams and performances and in times when concert income is more or less zero, this is more than needed – so please: Do Not Give Away Your Music For Free!!!! Especially when having in mind that a ‘normal’ concert schedule and with it income, most likely won’t be available until next year. Streaming old concerts on video channels is fine, but for the new performances you need to charge.
And for the non-musicians: please go out and buy a CD or two in your local record store (if you still got one) or order them online, therefore helping the local business and the artists – streaming is not creating enough income for jazz and other niche genres artists and therefore I urge everyone to do something old fashioned and actually buy music! Thanks.
Here are a few discs I listened to in the last few weeks and did enjoy doing so:
Rob Luft / Life Is The Dancer – British guitarist Luft is for me one of the best on his instrument today – a talented and humble young man. ‘Life Is The Dancer’ is his second album after his acclaimed debut ‘Riser’ and shares the same line-up as the previous recording: Joe Wright on tenor saxophone, Joe Webb on Hammond organ and piano, Tom McCredie on bass and Corrie Dick on drums plus guests Byron Wallen on trumpet and Luna Cohen on vocals. Luft’s compositions are strong and captivating, his playing that of a future star on his instruments (just listen to ‘One Day In Romentino’ and ‘Sad Stars’) and his group an ensemble at home with the leaders writing and way to tell stories. The title ‘Life Is The Dancer’ is a reference to the book ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle: ‘Life Is The Dancer and you are the Dance’, that is to say, you don’t live your life but life lives you. As Rob Luft explains: “I think that idea is a beautiful sentiment and I think the album title of ‘Life Is The Dancer’ suits my record, as the new compositions have something very bright, positive and dance-like in them. This warmth & energy is what I want people to feel when they listen to my music. The message is essentially: the past is in your head and the present is in your hands”. Highly recommended!!!!
Monika Herzig / Sheroes: Eternal Dance – Sheroes, the female all-star band assembled by pianist and composer Herzig, shows with the new album again that this group is open to tackle any kind of repertoire, from Herzig originals to covers of ‘We Are The Champions’, ’Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child’ and ‘We Can Be (S)Heroes’ by Bowie and Eno. With Herzig on the recording were Jamie Baum on flute, Reut Regev on trombone, Leni Stern on guitar, who each contribute one composition to the album as well, plus Jennifer Vincent on bass and Rosa Avilla on drums, with guest appearances by Lakecia Benjamin on alto sax, Akua Dixon on cello and Mayra Casales on percussion. A mainstream jazz recording with incredible individual performances, lead by a composer and pianist with a clear musical vision. An album that is growing on me the more often I am listening to it.
Robert Lee / Ascension – bass player Lee is a rising star on the Canadian jazz scene and his debut album a strong statement as a composer, musician, and band leader. Recorded with vocalists Mingjia Chen and Caity Gyorgy, Allison Au on alto saxophone, Trevor Giancola on guitar, Augustine Yates on piano, Geoff Claridge on clarinet, Michael Davidson on vibraphone and Jacob Wutzke on drums, ‘Ascension’ combines influences from jazz, chamber and film music and modern folk. The individual performances are top, and the ensemble sounds together and tight. A very promising debut of modern improvised music from a musician who does not seem to know boundaries. Exciting!
Eivind Aarset & Jan Bang / Snow Catches On Her Eyelashes – Eivind Aarset (guitar, bass, electronics) and Jan Bang (programming, samples, editing) are two outstanding musicians who have been working together in different forms since the 1990’s and this new album is the culmination of all of these experiences: it is free flowing music that is influenced from many different styles, ranging from contemporary classical music, to dub, from ambient to pop, always performed with a jazzy touch. Aarset’s inventiveness of sounds on the guitar is legendary and Bang’s way to play with sounds and enhancing them as well. As the provided press text states perfectly: “This focus on content and whole, rather than on tools and individual elements, provides the album with its emotional impact. Although technology is a prerequisite for creating this form of music, the album is far from a cold, intellectual exercise”. Close your eyes and listen—and smile! Beautiful, deep and contemplative!!!
Huet, Fournier, Kuhl / Rarefied Air – Edwin Huet on electronics and live processing, Alex Fournier -on double bass and Mike Kuhl on drums and percussion recorded an album of “ethereal, moody and textural improvisations”. Huet and Fournier, known as a duo as Xiodjiha, are expanding on the new album into a trio with the addition of drums and percussion, which gives the improvised music a new dimension as well as different colours. There are 4 pieces on the record, of which the title track is an 18-minute free improvisation of changing sounds and intense internal communication between the musicians. Listening to the fellow musicians and reacting to what they do and so creating music in the moment. Breath-taking!
Stefano Rocco / A New Night, A New Day – this debut by Sydney-based guitar player Rocco features Muhamed Mehmedbasic on double bass, Nick Southcott on piano and Ed Rodrigues on drums. Each of the seven songs is part of a story and represents a place or time or mood relevant to the character at the centre of the story. Explains Rocco: “During a summer evening, our character feels a chilled excitement before going out, then a few hours later on a beach, contemplating a bright and mysterious full moon. Later that night the weather turns foggy, a blurry vision causes disorientation and discomfort. After a long night out, our character is now finally on the way back home, walking through dark and hazy streets which are slowly lit by the sunrise. After a few hours of sleep, it is time for a slow start to the day, but suddenly, the sound of an old carillon interrupts the weariness, the clock is ticking. The adventure finishes with a storm: clouds building up, intense winds, thunder and rain …it is summer though, the sun will break back soon”. Jazzy storytelling!
Fiil Free / Under Overfladen (Beneath The Surface) – The Copenhagen-based septet by pianist and composer Lars Fiil continues on their new album its adventurous expeditions into the freer side of jazz. The collectively improvising musicians of the group are Tomasz Dabrowski on trumpet, Henrik Pultz Melbye on saxophone and clarinet, Henrik Olsson on guitar, Martin Fabricius on vibraphone, Casper Nyvang Rask on double bass and Bjørn Heebøll on drums. “There is whispering minimalistic ballads, big chaotic charges of energy and subtle grooves, and the open structures lets the unique and personal expression of each of the seven musicians shine through”. This is powerful music, with great individual contributions by all musicians and wonderful ensemble improvisations. Recommended!
Andy Milne / The reMission – this is pianist Milne’s first trio recording, a line-up he had found daunting so far. The recording session featured with drummer Clarence Penn and bassist John Hébert two experienced sidemen, which helped him to tackle the intimate piano trio format to the best. Says Milne: “For me, the decision to present who I have become as an artist in the trio setting involved a reckoning and a certain degree of artistic and technical evolution in order to both embody my past projects, and forge a new path forward.” Unison, so the name of the trio, start the album with McCoy Tyner’s ‘Passion Dance’, energetic and powerful. Another highlight is ‘Dancing In The Savannah’, a Milne original, which is opening with a groovy bass and as well including some incredible work by drummer Penn. Listen and enjoy!
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Thank you for the kind review, Wulf! Hope things are going well with you
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All good … stay safe