In times like these, with a virus running the world into chaos, I sometimes wonder how much we as people really have developed over the last few thousand years, when some of us don’t even respect or understand the basic rules of a community – look out for each other! Instead people knowing they have tested positive of the virus get on a plane … others meet in big numbers to party or hold races or fights … some refuse to wear the simplest of all protection measures only because they think it is an infringement of their liberties and freedom …. I do not get it! Isn’t it finally time to let the ME thinking behind and start thinking US instead? Many people have been hit hard by the restrictions which rightly were imposed to stop the spread of the virus but does an earlier functioning economy justify the price of even one life!! Not in my understanding of the world. I can only say again, what I think, that this will not be over until there is a vaccine and it is widely available around the world and until this is the case we need to be responsible citizens, thinking about our families, friends and everyone else around us and not taking unnecessary risks. That is for the time being the only way to stay safe!!!
The summer of 2020 will be remembered for a lot of things and maybe some of these wonderful records I listened to lately will be among them:
Antonio Lizana / Una Realidad Diferente – on his fourth album singer, saxophonist, and song writer Lizana expands his musical universe from jazz and flamenco into an even more multi-cultural world. Best example for this is the song ‘Carry You’, sung in English and Spanish with Becca Stevens, who seems to fit in perfectly in this mix of jazz, folk, nu soul and flamenco. Lizana’s band for the recording consisted of proven and long-term sidemen Daniel Garcia Diego on piano, Jesus Caparros on bass and Shayan Fathi on drums. The nine compositions on the album are nine stories taken out of life and told via music, full of hope and love. Lizana has a clear and strong sound on his sax and is an immaculate singer, expressing his emotions so in two ways. Fathi excellently drives the rhythmic world of Lizana together with Caparros and Garcia adds some tasteful and catchy piano. Outstanding tracks next to ‘Carry You’ for me are: ‘Mora’, ‘Me Cambiaron Los Tiempos’ and ‘El Garrotin’. Top international production from Spain!!!!
David Gilmore / From Here To Here – This new Gilmore album is a tribute to the late Criss Cross label head Gerry Teekens and his second on the label. “I wanted to get a smaller working group in the studio to facilitate touring. My very first record was centred around a guitar-piano-bass-drums quartet; I wanted to return to that format (a) because I like it, and (b) because of logistics.” The excellent guitarist recorded ‘From Here To Here’ with a swinging New York rhythm section consisting of Luis Perdomo on piano, Brad Jones on bass and E. J. Strickland on drums. Eight strong Gilmore compositions are set against Sam Rivers ‘Cyclic Episode’ and Bill Even’s ‘Interplay’ and make the album varied stylistically, grooving, and swinging and giving the leader space to improvise and expand the compositions. A great showcase for a master on his instrument!
Nir Felder / II – For his second album guitarist Felder brought double bassist Matt Penman and drummer Jimmy MacBride into the studio and recorded as a trio with overdubs ranging from additional electric guitar to synthesizer, sampler, acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin, Rhodes piano, and theremin. The result is a record of many genres without losing its identity as a collection of strong compositions and some wonderful finger work by the leader, whose sound and phrasing is keeping the album congruent. Outstanding performances by Penman and MacBride adding to the overall quality of the recording. Nir Felder is one of the most promising young guitar players today and ‘II’ will cement that position .. and thankfully very soon there is more to come, as there is another album ready to come out ‘2.1’ … and having been lucky enough to get a chance to listen to it, I can only say that the future looks bright for Mr. Felder! Stunning!!
Aimee-Jo Benoit & Trio Velocity / Borjoner – Singer Aimee-Jo Benoit’s collaboration with the Trio Velocity (fellow Canadians Simon Fisk on bass, Sheldon Zandboer on piano and Robin Tufts on drums) is that rare beast of a really great album – a selection or rock and pop songs that have meaning in the singers life, arranged loosely and played immaculate on the spot in the studio. Opening the album with Nirvana’s ‘All Apologies’ gets you straight into the mood – brilliant piano, wonderful vocals and extended improvisations …. up there with Herbie Hancock’s version of this song on his ‘New Standard’ album. There is plenty of great music here: from Joni Mitchell’s ‘This Flight Tonight’, made famous by British Rockers Nazareth, to Feist’s ‘Lonely Lonely’ and a wonderful rendition of ‘Norwegian Wood’. One of the best jazz vocal albums of the year so far!! Excellent!
Verneri Pohjola / The Dead Don’t Dream – With his previous three releases and in concert, Finnish trumpeter Verneri Pohjola has built himself a great reputation in Europe as a creative and innovative improviser with a warm and touching tone. On this new album Pohjola and his band play with the use of electronics in improvisation and creating soundscapes of relaxation and beauty. Tuomo Prättälä on piano, Antti Lötjönen on bass and Mika Kallio on drums, all top players in Finland, with their outstanding contributions, make this record a group effort, where everyone contributes to the greater good of the composition. Outstanding tracks in an overall great record for me are: ‘Wilder Brother’, ‘The Dead don’t Dream’ and ‘Suspended’! Highly recommended!!
The JAC / A Gathering – for their 10th anniversary Australian 8-piece band the JAC are releasing their third album with some of the material recorded with the Korean traditional/jazz fusion quartet Black String. The JAC are Matthew Allison on trombone, Shaun Anderson on drums, Alexis French on trumpet; Nick Tipping on bass; Chris Buckland on saxophones; Daniel Millward on piano and compositions; Callum Allardice on guitar and compositions and Jake Baxendale on saxophones and compositions. The first of the two-part recording highlights their extremely tight ensemble play and some outstanding individual improvisations. The 5 compositions are throughout excellent and mingle the groups jazz background with some Korean traditions, so creating something unique and rhythmically powerful. The second part of ‘A Gathering’ will be released in 2021, followed by a tour – that hopefully will bring this interesting project to Europe as well. Recommended!!
Alexander Flood / Heartbeats – Australian drummer Alexander Flood’s ‘Heartbeat’ is a very different kind of debut album – mainly solo drums and percussion with samples and electronics, plus the occasional group track make this something uniquely focused on rhythm. Global grooves all fall back to the first rhythm … which is what Flood demonstrates with his first album … and what as well the album title manifests. Beside Flood on multiple percussion instruments and programming the following musicians took part in creating this album: Josh Chenoweth on trumpet, Dylan Paul on electric bass, Jack Stempel on organ and synth bass, Tyler Venter and Lewis But-Husaim on electric guitars, David Goodwin on keyboards and KS Roopraj and Deep Sroa on vocals. Released on Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s Stretch Music label, this recording will for sure get some attention … and deservedly so!!!
Bill Frisell / Valentine – I am not often reviewing releases of major jazz acts, as everyone will be able to read/hear about them anyway, but once in a while there is one, that needs to be praised for its sheer musicality and beauty … and ‘Valentine’ is one of these. This first outing of a new Frisell Trio featuring Thomas Morgan on bass and Rudy Royston on drums (both played with Frisell in different groupings over the last years) is a lesson in musical communication, creative freedom, and sublime individual performances. There is not one weak track among the 13 chosen out of Frisell’s catalogue, some new tracks, and some standards and covers. A genre-defying record, that is another outstanding addition to the vast and incredible Frisell library. Go and get it – Sublime music!!