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!!!!