Sixty thousand songs a day ….

If one considers that Spotify alone adds around 60.000 new songs every day to its catalogue, yes, that’s sixty thousand, it is hard to imagine how someone can find or discover anything new there …. And it makes me wonder how long they will be able to do so without cutting at the low use end … which for sure would mean classical and jazz and other niche genres. We are not there yet, but I am afraid at one point in the coming years we will see this happen. As I don’t like playlists, I discover new music via my contacts in the music business, by reading magazines for the music genres I like, following musicians on their social networks, stay in touch with labels and some PR companies to get their new records for a possible review. And here are some of these which I got lately and really like – I hope you will enjoy some of these as well.

Pål Nyberg / Lowlands – Swedish guitarist Nyberg’s new album puts a focus on his writing, performed by a wonderful group of musicians including Birgitta Flick on sax, Per ‘Texas’ Johansson on clarinets, Markus Jägerstedt on keyboards, Mauritz Agnas on bass and Konrad Agnas on drums. The compositions are melodic and relaxed, the individual performances especially from Johansson and Flick are outstanding. The subtle use of electronics enhances the overall sound and gives added emotional content. Nyberg’s guitar sound is traditional and clear and he swings wonderfully, even in a more modern context. Laid back, touching and contemplating – a great record for all hours of the day! Recommended.

Logan Richardson / AfroFuturism – Alto saxophonist, producer, and composer Richardson is joined on his new and fifth release by guitarist Igor Osypov, Peter Schlamb on vibes and keyboards, bassist Dominique Sanders, and drummers Ryan J. Lee and Corey Fonville. Guest appearances by vocalist Laura Taglialatela and Ezgi Karakus on strings round up the line-up for AfroFuturism. The albums diverse compositions are enhanced by keyboards, synthesizers and programmed parts, with sound samples used frequently amid heavy grooves. Modern jazz it is, but with a nod to the past. Logan’s alto keeping the album together, binding the various elements into one soundscape of different colours. Says Richardson: “I always feel strongly about all my projects, but this one was so fluid in the way we produced it and the way the different voices came together. It feels like something truly special.” Indeed, it is!

Joan Mar Sauqué / Gone With The Wind – On his second outing as a leader, trumpet player Joan Mar is accompanied by Josep Traver on guitar and Giuseppe Campisi on bass. The drum-less trio leads to a more melodic approach and therefore the selection of the songs: all from the 40’s and 50’s with strong melodies. The trio delivers a wonderful traditional jazz record, with Joan’s trumpet clear and straight and swinging. Outstanding Ray Brown and Dizzy Gillespies ‘Ray’s Idea’ as well as Gigi Gryce’s ‘Shabozz’. One musician to keep an eye on. Very promising!!

Tania Giannouli / In Fading Light – Greek composer and pianist Giannouli recorded her new album in a trio format, featuring Andreas Polyzogopoulos on trumpet and Kyriakos Tapakis on oud. “Oud and trumpet are two of my favourite instruments. A trio with these instruments is unusual, but I wanted to explore the beautiful textures, tonalities and emotional resonances that this combination of instruments offers” says Giannouli about the new record. Her music is touchingly beautiful, contemplative and melodic. One can hear that she is classically trained, but has an open mind for improvisation. In her words “The music on this album is an expression of love, hope and compassion, a plea for understanding, kindness, and the need to respect and embrace our common connectedness”. And it is exceptionally performed and highly recommended!!

HITRA / Transparence – The group Hitra is an international quartet, being born at the Norwegian Academy Of Music in Oslo and featuring Hilmar Jensson from Iceland on guitar, Italian pianist Alessandro Sgobbio on piano and Norwegians Jo Berger Myhre on bass and Øyvind Skarbø on drums. The compositions by Sgobbio for the band are spacious and ambient, with an openness for improvisations, either collectively (‘Labtayt’) or individually. Jensson is a wonderful guitar player   with a clear sound and a sensibility to fill spaces to enhance the soundscape of the songs, or to lead the way like in the captivating ‘Cite Des Poetes’. Sgobbio, who as well acted as the producer of this album and who is as well known for his work with the group Periscopes, sets the tone without being in the forefront, making this a true band album. One to check out!

Michael Wolff / Live at Vitellos – Already recorded 10 years ago, this quartet outing by pianist Wolff deservedly now sees the light of day. The band, consisting as beside the leader Wolff of trumpet player Mark Isham, John B. Williams on bass and drummer Mike Clark, opens the disc with the wonderful and touching ‘Ballad Noir’, in which Isham’s melodic improvisations shine. This is followed by a groovier piece entitled ‘Lagniappe’ and a wonderful rendition of Wayne Shorter’s ‘Fall’. Another of Wayne’s compositions, ‘Nefertiti’, shows the musicians’ deep connection, expanding the song through improvisations and working perfectly as a unit. Wolff and Isham are amazing soloists, backed and pushed forward by Williams and Clarke, a powerful rhythm section. A top live concert captured in perfect sound quality. Stunning!

Mike Freedman / Into The Daybreak – The debut album by Toronto jazz veteran Freedman showcases not only his tremendous skills as a player, but as well as a composer, as all 9 tracks on the album were written by him. Recorded with Jeremy Ledbetter on piano, Alexis Baro on trumpet, Chris Gale on tenor saxophone, Kobi Hass on bass, Max Senitt on rums & percussion, plus guests Curtis Freeman on fretless bass and Louis Simão on cuica, these nine diverse tracks are performed with verve and power. Freedman has a wonderful clear and full sound on his instrument and his improvisations shine through deep melodic and musical understanding. This is a top band playing – individually as well as an ensemble they shine and make the listener feel these modern jazz songs. A surprise in many ways.

Jihye Lee / Daring Mind – The second album by South Korean composer and arranger Lee ‘reflects her struggles, doubts, joys and hopes’ of living in New York City. “My goal is to invite listeners into my creative world, to relate to my stories, and to reflect on the truth that as humans, we share similar struggles and triumphs regardless of where we come from. It is my hope that we can create genuine connections with each other through art,” she says. Co-produced with Darcy James Argue the recording session included the following musicians: Guest artist: Sean Jones (Trumpet); Reeds: Ben Kono, Rob Wilkerson, Quinsin Nachoff, Jeremy Powell, Carl Maraghi; Trumpets: Brian Pareschi, John Lake, Sean Jones, Alex Norris; Trombones: Mike Fahie, Alan Ferber, Nick Grinder, Mark Patterson, Jennifer Wharton; Piano: Adam Birnbaum, Haeun Joo; Guitar: Sebastian Noelle; Bass: Evan Gregor and Drums: Mark Ferber. Her music is surely a universal reflection of what it means to be human and her band transports these feelings perfectly. A stand-out big ensemble work of many colours and emotions and timeless quality!!!

staying at home and listening to music …

Almost a year ago, on March 10th 2020 we started our voluntary confinement, anticipating the governmental restrictions in Spain by a few days – we saw what was coming our way and having a high-risk family member we had to act swiftly. Since then, our social contacts, like everyone else’s, have been meagre to say the least – a few drinks with friends on a terrace in the summer, one lunch in a restaurant in July and a barbecue with 4 friends in August, before things got worse again. The rest happened via video calls and conferences or quickly on the street through an accidental meet while shopping. I can say we have been careful and avoided to do what we really like – going out to gigs and dinners, travel and be with family and friends. The ongoing vaccination programs around the world give hope and once we are vaccinated, we expect to experience a ‘kind of normal’ again. Until then … stay safe, stay at home as much as you can and listen to new music, like the below records, which I had the pleasure to enjoy lately.

Coma World / Cream Submarine – Coma World is a collaboration between drummer Maxwell Hallett a.k.a. Betamax (The Comet Is Coming/Soccer96) and bass player Pete Bennie (Speakers Corner Quartet) in which both as well use electronics to construct an experimental mix of jazz and dub. The duos sonic improvisations over bubbling soundscapes, ambient clouds or heavy beats create spontaneous and raw funk, like in the track ‘Thief’. This is music beyond categorization – it’s driven by the artists vision for sound and rhythm and so becomes unique. The album surely grows with more time spent with it, discovering all the subtle colours and changes, like you will find in the wonderful title track. Love it!!!!

Rudi Berger featuring Toninho Horta – Austrian violinist and composer Berger and Brazilian guitar master, singer and composer Horta met for the first time in the late 1980’s when Horta asked Berger to record 2 songs with him for the album ‘Moonstone’ and since then they have played more than 500 times together. The recordings for this album go back until 1997, the latest having been done in 2019, with the exception of one track, the 1988 recording of Berger’s ‘Gabriele’, the track the Toninho loved most when first hearing Rudi’s debut album ‘First Step’. The first eight tracks on the album are wonderful and intimate duo recordings of standards and originals, showcasing not only the two musicians’ extraordinary talents, but as well their musical connection and emotional performances. The rest are band recordings with a strong Brazilian flavour, highlighting the compositions of Berger and Horta. The ‘musical brothers’ Berger and Horta have delivered a wonderful swinging and touching record, that I only can recommend highly. Stunning!!!

Eshed  Korten  Biolcati Kim / A Way Out – Israeli guitarist Yoav Eshed, New York pianist Lex Korten, Swedish-Italian bassist Massimo Biolcati and South Korean drummer Jongkuk “JK” Kim first met in 2017 at a jam session, but felt such a strong musical connection, that they continued to play together and finally in 2019 went to record ‘A Way Out’ – a vibrant modern jazz album, with strong originals, a nod to the past and very strong ensemble play as well as individual performances. Key tracks for me are ‘Rogue’, ‘Piano Rain’ and their version of Kenny Wheelers ‘Nikolette’. A promising debut!!

Alex Bird & The Jazz Mavericks / Whisky Kisses – Alex Bird is a Canadian singer and song writer of immense talent and the new album, his second, confirms that statement. With Ewen Farncombe on piano, Eric West on drums, and Scott Hunter on bass he is performing 11 strong originals, that are jazzy, swinging and fun to listen to. The band is the perfect vehicle for Bird’s vocals, supporting, challenging and pushing him to immaculate performances. ‘Fire Not Warmth’ is a great opener for the record, a groovy little number that immediately gets you into the album. ‘The Way She Moves’ and the title track are other highlights in an overall strong release. I hope Alex will soon have a chance to get to Europe and showcase his talent here – I for sure can’t wait to hear him live!

Allan Harris / Kate’s Soulfood – On his new album, guitarist and singer, song writer Harris pays tribute to Harlem by penning soulful and jazzy portraits of that vibrant neighbourhood. He recorded the album with the help of Arcoiris Sandoval on piano, Nimrod Speaks on bass and Shirazette Tinnin on drums. Also featured is Grégoire Maret on harmonica, David Castañeda on percussion, Curtis Taylor on trumpet, Alex Budman on alto saxophone, Keith Fiddmont on tenor saxophone and Ondre J Pivec on organ, plus guest Tonga Ross-M’au, who plays guitar on ‘Colour Of A Woman Is Blu’. This is Allan Harris at his best – great songs, perfectly performed. Terry Callier springs to my mind as an influence, but Harris is his own man and with ‘Kate’s Soulfood’ he has delivered a masterpiece!! No to be missed!!

Generations Quartet / Invitation – this is a project by saxophonist and educator Dave Liebman, inviting his students Billy Test (piano), Evan Gregor (bass) and Ian Froman (drums), spanning three generations of musicians, to this session of standards. The albums opener, a powerful reading of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Maiden Voyage’, has Liebman in outstanding form on the soprano sax and the band pushing him, urging him on! Other highlights include a wonderful ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’, again with Liebman soaring and pianist Test shining his light and the title track, featuring amazing work by Gregor and Froman. The only live recording on the album, the closing track ‘You And The Night And The Music’ again showcases the incredible control Liebman has over his instrument, his inventiveness when improvising and that there is nothing better than an audience to get the best out of a band – the 4 musicians prove here that they are exactly that and not a project for the studio. Outstanding!!!

Dave Restivo / Arancina – Restivo’s third album as a leader was recorded in a trio setting featuring Jim Vivian on bass and Alyssa Falk on drums, plus special guest vocalist Fawn Frtizen on two tracks. The album opens with the 4 part ‘Sicilian Suite’, a swinging visit to Italy, with Restivo’s joyful playing and the excellent support by Vivian and Falk, making these 4 songs the highlights of the album. The compositions are traditional, but not museal, full of energy and emotions. The two tracks with singer Fritzen are wonderful and her performance outstanding! She truly gives life to these songs. Overall a great record which I can happily recommend.

Alan Pasqua / Day Dream – This solo piano recording by veteran pianist Pasqua captures the beauty and quietness of day dreaming perfectly and leads the listener into the depth of the songs. Says Pasqua about the album: “All of the songs that I have chosen have incredible melodies as well as harmonic depth. The performances are really a snapshot in time of my interpretation of the song”. An intimate album, best enjoyed with a glass of wine and eyes closed … Day Dreams will lift you up. Highlights are for me the title track, ‘In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning’, ‘Prelude To A Kiss’ and ‘Turn Out The Stars’. Beautiful!!

Cotatcha Orchestra / BigBand Elektronics – The Cotatcha Orchestra is the brain child of trumpeter Jiří Kotača, whose musical vision was to blend the sound of a full jazz orchestra with electronic music, hence the albums name. He brought together the following musicians to fulfil his dream: Marek Kotača on alto and soprano sax, clarinet; Radek Zapadlo on alto sax, clarinet; Petr Smékal on tenor sax, clarinet; Ivan Podhola on tenor sax, flute, clarinet; Radim Hanousek on baritone sax, bass clarinet; Matthias Zeindlhofer, Jan Galia and Ivan Melin on trombone; Michal Motýl on bass trombone; Ádám Gráf, Jan Kozelek and Jan Přibil on trumpet; Martin Konvička on piano; Peter Korman on double bass and Kamil Slezák on drums, plus guests Lenka Dusilová on vocals (on the fantastic ‘Billy’ Pilgramage’) and Ilja Reijngoud on trombone (on the delightful ‘A Very Old Lady Driving A Ferrari). Seven of the nine compositions are by Martin Konvička, a pianist, composer, and producer of electronic music all in one, giving Kotača the material for the band. This is a fun album, with wonderful arrangements, ambient sounds combined with powerful brass and some delicate soloing by Kotaca and Konvička. A gem!!!!