Fall has arrived and with it, at least for now, some kind of normality. In most European countries restrictions from Covid are slowly scrapped and people go out to hear music again. Personally, I will still continue to wear a mask for a while – a simple but effective precaution, just in case things get worse again and in Spain, when being indoors in public places, it is anyway still mandatory to wear a mask, which I think makes sense. Being an optimist, I hope we can really start going back to live our lives more relaxed in the new year at least.
Until then I will continue working on my music archive and listen to some new recordings, about which I will inform you via this blog. This time the reviews I wrote are not from recordings of younger and unknown artists, but from some musicians I had the pleasure of working with over the years. With the exception of the late chick Corea I am still in touch with these wonderful artists and had the pleasure to hear their new albums, or at least some songs, far in advance of their releases. As different as these albums are, they all have on thing in common – they are great recordings of unique music!
Silje Nergaard / Houses – A new Silje Nergaard album for me is always something special. Her immaculate singing, her wonderful music for the lyrics by Mike McGurk and her classy choice of sidemen, makes every record outstanding. ‘Houses’ is no example and is a collection of really great songs, outstanding especially ‘Window Bird’, ‘A Crying Shame’ featuring Kurt Elling, the touching ‘I Knew I Loved You’ with guitar master Toninho Horta and ‘Velvet Curtains’, featuring the sax of Hakon Kornstad. Other special guests include violinist Adam Baldych, bass player Johannes Eick, sax player Trygve Seim and Bugge Wesseltoft on Fender Rhodes. 14 songs about houses and the people in them, songs about life, touching and wonderful stories, told by one of Europe’s most unique singers and her amazing band. From just one instrument next to her voice to an orchestra, Silje gives us the full spectrum of how a singer can be supported, while the focus stays on her stunning vocal delivery. Beautiful!!
Nils Petter Molvaer / Stitches – For his first album on his new label, Modern Recordings, the wonderful ‘SulaMadiana’, Molvaer had teamed up with singer, percussionist Mino Cinelu, but for ‘Stitches’, he brought his working band back into the studio. Guitarist Johan Lindström, bass player and co-producer Jo Berger Myhre and drummer Erland Dahlen are creating the grooves and sounds for Molvaer’s trumpet to shine. And shine he does: whether it is in a touchingly beautiful ballad like ‘Honey In Your Head’ or in a little groover like ‘Framework 1’, Nils Petter’s clear trumpet floats above the sound bed his companions are making for him. Most of the compositions are by Myhre and Molvaer, or collectively credited, with the exception of their outstanding version of ‘True Love Waits’ by Radiohead, which finishes the album. Other highlights on the record include the groups ‘Angels Ahead’, a groovy piece of avantgarde and Molvaer’s ‘Funeral’, a captivating and emotional composition. Some additional recording by Jan Bang rounds up a truly great album, exceptional and unique in its use of sounds and electronics. Up there with Molvaer’s best!
Theo Croker / BLK2LIFE || A FUTURE PAST – Trumpet player Croker’s new opus is more leaning to Nu Soul and R&B than his previous albums, even so these as well had strong influences of these genres already. In its base this is still a jazz record, and diverse guests like Wyclef Jean, Ari Lennox, Gary Bartz, Charlotte Dos Santos, Iman Omari, Malaya, Anthony Ware and Kassa Overall confirm these two statements perfectly. The band, consisting of Michael King on piano and Fender Rhodes; Eric Wheeler on bass and Shekwoaga Ode on drums, bring life to Croker’s complex compositions and space for the guests to add their individual contributions. Each listen of the album will open up new sounds and colours within the songs, which are in most cases without categorisation. A modern, cool sounding and groovy record, jazzy and sometimes drifting into avantgarde, accessible and challenging at the same time. Outstanding in an overall great record the track ‘State Of The Union 444 || BLK2THEFUTURE’ featuring Wyclef Jean and ‘Happy Feet (for dancers)’ with the wonderful Malaya. A big step forward for Croker!
Kurt Elling / SuperBlue – ‘SuperBlue’ is a groovy and funky collaboration by master Elling with guitarist and producer Charlie Hunter, plus drummer Corey Fonville and bassist-keyboarder DJ Harrison, both from the band Butcher Brown. I had heard Elling and Hunter, plus drummer Derrek Philips, for the first time in 2012 at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam and had enjoyed the great show, combining Hunter’s bluesy guitar and Elling’s voice and it seemed then that the guys had a lot of fun on stage, performing, among other compositions, an outstanding version of The Steve Miller Band song ‘The Joker’. This one isn’t on the album, but Freddie Hubbard’s ‘Super Blue’, the Manhattan Transfer’s ‘Sassy’ and Wayne Shorter’s wonderful composition ‘Aung San Suu Kyi’, here entitled ‘Where To Find It’ and adding Charles Twichell’s haunting poem ’Animal Languages’ to the music. There is as well another, very cool, version of the Carla Bley song ‘Endless Lawns’, which Elling first had recorded for his album ‘The Questions’ in 2018. Outstanding as well ‘Can’t Make It With Your Brain’ and ‘Circus’, plus the upbeat ‘Manic Panic Epiphanic’, my favourite song, at the moment, on the album. Co-produced by Elling and Hunter, this is another milestone in the incredible career of the singer. It should groove him to another deserved Grammy nomination – I’ll keep my fingers crossed!
Chick Corea / Akoustic Band – LIVE – Corea with bass player John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl, live in St. Petersburg in 2018, three years before the pianists untimely passing. A double disc to remind us of the constant quality of Corea’s music making, no matter what project it was. As a trio these musicians worked together on and of since 1987 and one can hear that: perfect communication and musical exchanges, as well as outstanding improvisations, especially from Corea, make this recording a truly special one. From Corea originals to Ellington and Monk, this trio covers it all wonderfully, swings playfully, always enjoying to explore the innermost parts of each composition. ‘Rhumba Flamenco’, ‘Monk’s Mood’ and ‘Humpty Dumpty’ from the second set, are my favourites on this record, but the rest is pretty amazing as well. A worthy posthumous release.