There are so many new releases in jazz every week, that it is hard to follow what’s coming out in the various markets around the world. Despite having more time at my hands while being more at home and doing some research and listening, it is still impossible to hear them all or even a small percentage. And of course, in most cases I avoid writing about the ‘big’ releases, as they get enough publicity anyway, but try to find some great unknown acts or upcoming musicians to introduce to a slightly wider audience. And maybe one or the other of the readers follows up and does enjoy a certain record … than my job would be done and all can be happy.
With the pandemic still troubling this world in many ways, I still recommend to buy music, not stream it, as artists now depend on that income much more than ever and ordering a CD from your local music shop or online service helps them as well. Time to built your COVID music library … and here are a few recommendations of recently released albums:
Sharqant / Sharqant – founded by guitarist Manar Alhashemi, the groups self-titled debut album features band members Hassan Albadri on oud, Mouhammad Fadel Kuj on percussion and Mouhammad Almajzoub as the vocalist plus the Norwegians Håkon Kornstad on saxophone / vocals and Knut Reiersrud on guitar and bass. Together, based on mainly Egyptian, Iranian, and Syrian texts, they create stunning and unique music – a melange of Arabic and Nordic influences with lots of space for improvisations. A floating sound scape of melodic beauty and deep interaction. Atmospheric at times, groovy at others, this is an album that draws the listener into the music, revealing individually imagined stories and being touched by the emotions in sound. Top performance marks all around make this record standing out. One of the recordings that really prove that music is a global language. Highly recommended!
Simone Kopmejer / My Wonderland – Austrian singer Kopmejer is building a reputation as a traditional jazz singer to watch in Europe and some Asian markets … and her new album will surely help her to make some steps forward – classy tunes, from some great originals (‘My Wonderland’ and ‘A Trembling Moon’, based on Debussy’s Claire de Lune) to Ellington, Bacharach, Jobim, Santana and others, perfectly sung and played by her outstanding band, featuring Terry Myers on tenor sax and clarinets, Paul Urbanek on piano, Martin Spitzer on guitar, Karl Sayer on bass and Reinhard Winkler on drums. Simone intonates perfectly, is at home in ballads and up-tempo songs and radiates the joy of singing in all tracks. Delightful!!!!
Kari Van Der Kloot / The Architects – ‘The Architects’ is the second album by New York based Canadian singer and song writer van der Kloot and features fellow Canadians Jamie Reynolds and Lisanne Tremblay on piano and violin respectively, as well as bassist Gary Wang and drummer Nathan Ellman-Bell. The songs are wonderful stories put to music and are set in the tradition of the great Canadian song writers like Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen, but with a modern touch. The themes of the songs tell us about growing, trying to break out of our routines and create the world in a way we would like to live in. Kari’s voice is strong and fragile at the same time, her band supporting perfectly and so transporting the emotional content of the music to the listener. A true discovery!!!
James Brandon Lewis & Chad Taylor / Live in Willisau – last year’s jazz festival in Willisau again put on a sax / drum duo, as they had done successfully in the past with Dewey Redman & Ed Blackwell as well as Max Roach & Archie Shepp. Saxophonist James Brandon Lewis and drummer Chad Taylor in their show payed tribute to these historical concerts, as well gave a nod to Coltrane and Ellington. Past, Presence and Future – their music, full of dynamics, roughness, and beauty, covers it all and is in a category of its own – free as well as structured, melodic, and full of groove. The raw energy of the performance is even on the recording amazing and captivating. The communication between the two musicians works on the highest musical level and the result is an outstanding album of improvised music, fitting our times. James Brandon Lewis once again confirms that he is one of the most accomplished improvisers of his generation and with master drummer Taylor he found the perfect partner. Sublime!!!
Regina Carter Freedom Band / Swing States: Harmony in the Battleground – Violinist extraordinaire Carter called up an all-star band to record this musical and political statement – John Daversa trumpet and flugelhorn, Kabir Sehgal on bass and percussion, Harvey Mason on drums and Jon Batiste on piano, plus Alexis Cuadrado on bass. Says Carter: “voting is a civic duty and an extremely important responsibility, even more so now as we are living in surreal times…we have become a divided country of Red vs. Blue, Us vs. Them or Not Our Kind and that pot is starting to boil over. The Swing States project is a musical contribution that I hope will help galvanize folks to get out, exercise their right to vote and encourage their brothers and sisters to do so as well.” The Song selection reflects music from the ‘Swing States’ and is delivered with verve and an underlying optimism, hopefully encouraging people to take part in the coming democratic process. Regina Carters playing is second to none, emotional and touching, soaring, and leaving us wanting for more. Musically essential, but as a record in our times, even more so – listen, enjoy, and then get out and vote! Timeless!!!
Ant Law / The Sleeper Wakes – On his 4th band album, Law steps out not only as a skilful guitarist, but again as a talented composer, whose songs this time around transmit positivity, warmth, and humour. Supported by Michael Chillingworth on alto saxophone & bass clarinet, Ivo Neame on piano, Tom Farmer on acoustic bass, James Maddren on drums, plus guests Tim Garland on tenor saxophone and Adam Kovacs on percussion, ‘The Sleeper Wakes’ becomes a powerful statement by Ant and will further enhance his already growing reputation. There is a great band feel to the performances and beside Ant especially Neame and Maddren are standing out from this wonderful ensemble. This is modern improvised music, with swing and beautiful little melodies. Made me smile all through the album and made me enjoy the musicality of the group and its leader. Outstanding!
John Finley / Soul Singer – After returning to Canada and a 5 decades lasting career as singer and song writer, John Finley presents his latest recording, mainly featuring his own compositions – only 3 of the 11 songs are not either written or co-written by Finley. Starting off the album is his ‘Let Me Serenade You’, which was a hit for Three Dog Night in 1973 and still sounds like a cool track. ‘Go’ is a little funky gem and very well sung. So is ‘Money Love’ and his take on Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ is touching and soulful. Finley’s unique singing is supported here by Lou Pomanti as the producer and on piano, organ and keyboards, Marc Rogers on bass, Larnell Lewis and Davide DiRenzo on drums, Danny Weiss, John Findlay and Sam Pomanti on guitar, William Sperandei and Tony Carlucci on trumpet, William Carn on trombone, Allison Young on saxophone and Robin Newman, Gavin Hope, Amoy Levy, Ciceal Levy and Katherine Rose on background vocals. A wonderful vocal album with great tunes and a charismatic and very individual singer. A real surprise!!
Alvaro Rojas / Gran Kasa – about his new project guitarist Rojas says: “If I were to sum up this record in a few words, I might say it sounds a bit like a 70’s prog band, a salsa band and a string quartet going on a road trip together”. Fellow musicians on this trip are Meredith Bates on violin, Peggy Lee on cello, Chris Gestrin on piano and analog synths, James Meger on acoustic and electric bass, Liam MacDonald on percussion and Sam Cartwright on drums. Peruvian icon Susana Baca adds her voice to the outstanding ‘Tu, La Tierra’, the rest are instrumentals by the leader. Strong compositions with a lot of different influences, melodic and with their own sound. A great ensemble makes this record fun and rewarding to listen to. Worth checking out!!!