2019 review

2019 in general wasn’t a bad year for jazz – great new releases, which will stand the test of time, and some wonderful concerts. Jazz, as in the previous year, will more or less have been 1 .1% of the worlds recorded music market. Streaming is giving our music a bit of a hard time, as Spotify, Deezer, etc. are not presenting jazz the right way and therefore migration of the jazz listener to the services is slow .. physical is still the dominant format globally for jazz and will stay as that for a few more years. The major record companies have lost a bit of interest in Jazz, with Sony hardly doing anything anymore, Warner as well and only Universal with Verve and Blue Note is a bit more active in producing and releasing jazz albums. The rest is moving to the independent labels … and some of them are really expanding and getting more interesting and widen their artist roster … like Edition Records in the UK, Ropeadope, Mack Avenue, Motema, Sunnyside, Smoke, etc in the US and Jazzland Recordings in Norway and many others around the globe. Jazz is alive and thriving … no matter what!!

As every year I will publish here a kind of ‘Best of 2019’ in terms of my personal choice of recordings and concerts from this year. I will put them in alphabetical order, as it is too difficult to select any of them as the best ….

Albums

Betty Carter – The Music never Stops

Haftor Medboe  Jacob Karlson   EP

Hays / Loueke – Hope

Holland / Hussain / Potter – Good Hope

James Brandon Lewis – An Unruly Manifesto

Joanna Wallfisch – Far Away From Any Place Called Home

Ketil Bjornstad – The World I Used To Know

Michael Leonhart Orchestra – Suite Extracts, Vol. 1

Rymden – Reflections & Odysseys

Zela Margossian – Transition

Live

Antonio Lizana & Arturo O’Farrill – Madrid, July

Branford Marsalis Quartet – Sevilla, March

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah – Madrid, November

Dhafer Youssef – Lyon, July

John Scofield & John Cleary – Madrid, November

Jose James / Melody Gardot – Madrid, July

Michael Leonhart Orchestra – New York, January

Rebekka Bakken – Madrid, November

Rymden – Rotterdam, July

The Bad Plus – Madrid, May and November

Details on these recordings and concert you can find in the various blog posts of mine from January to December.

Special mention deserve the two last recordings I delivered to Okeh/Masterworks as their A&R consultant, Branford Marsalis’ outstanding new quartet album ‘The Secret Between The Shadow And The Soul’, nominated for two Grammy awards, and Theo Croker’s ‘Star People Nation’, which as well is nominated for one Grammy award.

At the close of the year we remember all the wonderful artists, managers, agents, label representatives and friends that passed on in 2019 – they all left something within us and therefore will be remembered for a long time. May they all rest in peace.

conclusion of JazzMadrid19 plus new music

I hadn’t seen Patricia Barber in a long while and therefore was curious about her concert in Madrid on November 23rd, as well because I hadn’t heard her new album ‘Higher’, from which most of the repertoire of the performance came. Barber is a singer of art songs, her own compositions and lyrics in most cases and therefore brings emotional content directly into the pieces. She is as well an accomplished pianist, in Madrid supported by Larry Kohut on bass and Jon Deitemyer on drums. Barber is a wonderful singer with unusual phrasing that makes her music unique and individual. Beside her own compositions she performed a captivating version of ‘The In Crowd’, as well as an encore ‘You are my sunshine’, which left the audience asking for more. Her sidemen are solid and incredible in reacting to all nuances and changes of her piano playing and together form a special trio, instrumental or when Patricia is singing. It is a kind gesture to have your sidemen perform soli within the show … but whether it is necessary to have a bass and/or drum solo in every song in my opinion is debatable. It, in most cases, stretches the song unnecessary and by that losing intensity and the essence of the composition. Nevertheless, a performance of top quality and musicianship.

The Bad Plus were next in town on November 26th, performing at the packed to capacity Clamores Club. They opened the concert with two compositions by bass player Reid Anderson from their 2nd album, 2003’s ‘These are the vistas’, ‘Everywhere you turn’ and ‘Big Eater, before running through some of their back catalogue, focusing on the first and second album of the new Plus, ‘Never Stop II’ and the recently released ‘Activate Infinity’. What makes the Bad Plus so special is their quirkiness, their rhythmic power and openness to explore the essence of any song they perform. They can fall from a swinging moment easily into a free exploration of a theme, only to go back to a simple and stunning melody. Pianist Orrin Evans fits like a glove into the concept and the music mainly composed by Anderson and drummer Dave King, even so two of Evans’ contributions to the evening as a composer, ‘Commitment’ and ‘The Red Door’ were amazing and touching. All three musicians had their incredible moments in the spotlight, but their tightness as a trio was simply astonishing and at times got the audience into shouts of wonder and encouragement. I have been working with the group(s) for almost 15 years and never heard/seen a show that didn’t get me. Top of the world!!!

Unknowingly we kept the best for last: Norwegian singer and occasional pianist Rebekka Bakken and band performed a powerful and emotional show, bending genres and delivered a concert of pure class at the Teatro Fernan Gomes. Rebekka is an amazing singer, with a fantastic range and total control of her voice – she can be the rock singer one moment, a delicate and emotional singer of ballads next and all seems natural and easy. Her band, consisting of Kjetil Bjerkestrand on organ and piano, Johan Lindstroem on guitars, Tor Egil Kreken on bass and drummers Rune Arnesen and Pal Hausken, is for me the best she ever had and was following responsively each of her musical steps, pushing her, holding back when needed and, together with her, was forming a compact unit, having fun playing together. There was not a dull moment throughout the 90-minute concert, which mainly was made up from repertoire of her 2018 album ‘Things You Leave Behind’. Outstanding her compositions and the way this band treated them – her vocal delivery on songs like ‘True North’, ‘Closer’ and on her cover of ‘Hotel St, Pauli’ was outstanding and full of emotions and brought a few tears to the eyes of the audience. Other highlights from earlier albums included her compositions ‘Mina’s Dream’, a wonderful ‘Powder Room Collapse’ and the covers ‘Little drop of poison’ from her Tom Waits album with the same title and ‘Ghost in this house’, which was absolutely beautiful and touching. Her take of the Norwegian church song ‘Korset vil jeg aldri svike’ went from a captivating acapella song into a piece of psychedelic and spaced out music, before returning to the simplicity of the beginnings. Bakken is at the top of her game, tells stories that matter in her songs and performs them with a band that fully understands who she is as a musician and singer.   Perfect!!! Gig of the festival for me!

 

Finally, a few new records I can recommend:

Ted Quinlan / Absolutely Dreaming – Canadian jazz guitar player Quinlan delivers with ‘Absolutely Dreaming’ another fine record – having his long-time collaborators pianist Brian Dickinson, bass player Kieran Overs and drummer Ted Warren at his side, he sounds relaxed and full of ideas.  The nine original compositions are classy jazz songs, inspired by Quinlan’s love to travel. Assured playing by all musicians and some outstanding soloing make this a wonderful jazz album to listen to.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcX5_dQ5kuw

Aaron Dolman / Nostalgia and Other Fantasies – The debut album of drummer Dolman is an interesting and captivating mix of jazz and world/folk music, inspired by looking at old family photos. The album was recorded with Caitlin Smith on viola, Marcus Savard-Lowry on guitar (Left Channel), Zacharie Bachand on guitar (Right Channel) and Mathieu McConnell on bass and takes the listener to different worlds. The compositions are melodic and beautiful, the performance by all players perfect. A surprising gem and definitely worth checking out.      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUs_5mhC3vI

Ketil Bjornstad / The World I Used To Know – Norwegian pianist Bjornstad is not only a wonderful human being, but a prolific writer, composer and performer. This solo piano album, recorded at Abbey Road Studios in late 2018, is based on his autobiography – a monumental undertaking as each of the books cover a decade of his life, starting in the 60’s and going up to today. This companion album therefore covers his story in music, performed by himself and includes music from Bach, Schubert, Debussy to his own compositions and songs by Joni Mitchell, Ole Paus, George Harrison and Burt Bacharach as well as a wonderful rendition of Keith Jarrett’s ‘In Your Quiet Place’. There are too many highlights on this impressive album to mention them all and Bjornstad makes them fit together, no matter what the source material is. A record for Sunday mornings, a quiet evening with a glass of wine or any other time when beauty is needed in your life!   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDZI-TjxjIU

The next blog post, at the end of December, will feature my personal best of 2019 … albums and concerts …

JazzMadrid19

After checking out Charles Tolliver and then Nubya Garcia (see my previous blog post), the next gig for me was one of top Fusion: guitarist Mike Stern with keyboarder Jeff Lorber, Jimmy Haslip on bass and top drummer Dennis Chambers, with special guest guitarist Leni Stern rounding up the impressive line-up. Most of the repertoire came from their current album ‘Eleven’ and were compositions by Stern and Lorber – powerful rock and funk influenced melodic pieces, which gave lots of space for Mike and Jeff to improvise and both musicians delivered some extraordinaire soli on their respective instruments. Stern, whom I first saw with Miles Davis in 1982, still has the same clear sound on his guitar and is surely one of the best nowadays. His rock, jazz and blues informed playing is delivered with passion and fire … his wife Leni added some wonderful playing herself and touched everyone with a heartfelt vocal performance in the opening song. Lorber as well showed why he is one of the leading keyboard players of our time and a master of the genre. Haslip and Chambers drove the two main guys to amazing heights … simply incredible!!

The concert of American singer Stacey Kent and her excellent band, featuring Jim Tomlinson on saxes and flutes, Graham Harvey on piano and fender rhodes, Jeremy Brown on bass and Joah Morrison on bass was next for me and one I was looking forward to, as I like the lush and relaxed way this amazing singer is performing. Her mix of repertoire ranged from originals (written by Tomlinson, her husband and musical director) via standards to some classy Brazilian repertoire and a French song. Whether she sang in English or French or Portuguese, she made the songs work and the audience gladly went with her on this rewarding musical journey. Kent’s vocal control is outstanding and her delivery full of emotions. Tomlinson kept the band tight behind her and added some top improvisations to the mix. Harvey is an attentive and impressively supporting pianist, whose soli were as well serving the songs and were delicate and beautiful. Excellent!

On November 19th it was trumpet star Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, who performed with his stellar band in Madrid’s Teatro Fernán Gómez. At only 36 years of age, Scott is already a veteran leading his own bands, having started around 2005, with this year’s band probably one of the best so far. His sidemen for this tour in Europe were alto sax player Logan Richardson, pianist Lawrence Fields, bass player Max Mucha, drummer Corey Fonville and percussionist Weedie Braiham and they made Scott’s compositions groove and swing and .. whatever the song needed! Scott can’t hide that he is from New Orleans as the rhythms gave it away … but then his music, a mix of jazz in the past, present and future needs that groove. He bowed to Miles Davis with a powerful rendition of ‘Guinnevere’ in which Richardson and Scott performed impressively, played music from his own recordings as well as a stunningly beautiful new composition entitled ‘Songs she has never heard’. Beside the outstanding improvisations by Scott, especially Richardson and Fields impressed with their abilities and imagination. Polish bass player Mucha and Braiham and Fonville were exceptional in keeping the guys going. One of the shows of the year!!

Three days later it was time to go and hear John Scofield in a duo setting with singer and pianist Jon Cleary, with whom John recorded his 2009 album ‘Piety Street’ together with the cream of New Orleans’ musicians; an album I released at the time on EmArCy Records. Scofield and New Orleans resident Cleary performed repertoire that had its roots in the Crescent City and was a mix of well-known songs as well as compositions of lesser know musicians. Cleary is a wonderful pianist in the New Orleans tradition and an emotional singer, who brings life into these songs. Scofield in this set up is not only an outstanding soloist but supports Cleary perfectly and brings out the essence of the songs. His solo in ‘Fever’ was out of this world, disjointed to a degree, but making total musical sense. Same has to be said for Cleary’s piano solo in ‘My Baby Is In Love With Another Man’: powerful and captivating. Their performance of ‘Stardust’ was another highlight of the gig, as well as a beautiful rendition of ‘Talk To Me’, another gem unearthed by Cleary. One could feel the fun the guys had playing as a duo and performing this repertoire – Scofield was his usual magnificent self and Cleary right up there with him. An outstanding concert in many ways, that got the packed house going right from the start. Uplifting and fun, rough and touching … a wonderful show by two great artists!!!!

 

In the next blog I will review my last few concerts within the Madrid Jazz Festival 2019 plus a few new and exciting releases.

more from a jazz life …

Before going into the music and other events of the immediate past, I have to make a correction to my blog post from October: the wonderful album ONKALO by Julie Campiche will only be released in February … getting my advance copy I got carried away a bit and reviewed it already … I will at the time of release re-post that review and a link to an updated video, so everyone who wants can follow up and listen to the full record then.

Brenda Earle Stokes / Solo Sessions, Volume 1 – composer, pianist and singer Stokes’ delivers as her second album a solo recording for piano and voice. The album is an eclectic mix of originals, standards and covers of songs by k.d. land, Huey Lewis and Michael McDonald, as arranged by Stokes and performed by her in top quality. She is a wonderful pianist with delicate touches on the ballads and power when needed – her singing is immaculate and touching. Key tracks are McDonalds ‘I can let go now’, her own ‘The Waltz’ and the Swallow/Winstone tune ‘Ladies in Mercedes’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xwBx8sPmwE

Bria Skonberg / Nothing Ever Happens – this new album by singer and trumpet player Skonberg is pointing in a new direction – more edgy, modern and more fun. The album showcases Skonberg’s working band of recent years – pianist Mathis Picard, bassist Devin Starks and drummer Darrian Douglas – along with guest appearances by saxophonist Patrick Bartley, Hammond B3 master Jon Cowherd, and guitar great Doug Wamble. Her own compositions mix well with the well chosen covers by The Beatles, Sonny Bono and Queen and make for an interesting listen. Touches of Soul, New Orleans and Pop run through her jazz arrangements and make them personal and her performances on trumpet and vocals are always in service of the song. For me her best album so far!   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDHpq_24Zp4

Jerome Jennings / Solidarity – drummer Jennings’ second release is a hard swinging affair featuring trumpeter Josh Evans, tenor and soprano saxophonist Stacy  Dillard, trombonist Andrae Murchison, pianist Zaccai Curtis, and Jennings’s friend and mentor, bassist Christian McBride plus special guests saxophonist-flutist Tia Fuller, tenor saxophonist-vocalist Camille Thurman, bassist Endea Owens, and percussionist Carlos Maldonado. A truly great jazz album, with very good originals and standards; with variety and surprises in many forms, but always swinging and played on the highest level. Recommended!    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3dhuJ95Zml0

Van Morrison / Three Chords & The Truth – since ‘Astral Weeks’ I have been a Van Morrison fan and followed what he did over the years and this new album is again a proof of his amazing song writing skills and his unique singing style. The album features contributions from legendary guitarist Jay Berliner and a duet with The Righteous Brothers’ Bill Medley (‘Fame Will Eat the Soul’). Songs like ‘March Winds in February’, ‘Read Between The Lines’ or ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ are typical Morrison and are excellent in delivery and composition, as is most of the album. Highly recommended!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIiUJFPp2qs

Naughty Professor / Everyday Shredder EP – New Orleans funk jazz outfit Naughty Professor released their digital EP earlier this month to critical acclaim. No surprise as the funk running through the 5 tracks is immaculate and powerful. Great brass lines with heavy grooves make this one to dance to. Check out ‘3 Wise Men’ or ‘Pleiades’ and get up and move your body.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12B8-FwvjYA

November – as in the last few years, is the time for the International Jazz Festival in Madrid, which this year started on October 28th and will run until November 30th … and the first show I attended was Charles Tolliver presenting Paper Man @ 50. That album featured besides the leader and trumpeter Tolliver, Herbie Hancock, Gary Bartz, Ron Carter and Joe Chambers and was recorded at Town Sound Studios, Englewood, New Jersey on 2nd July 1968. The modern versions of these compositions were performed by Tolliver and Jesse Davis on alto sax, Keith Brown on piano, Buster Williams on bass and Lennie White on drums. Tolliver’s music sounded modern and fresh and his and everyone else’s playing was impressive and captivating. Brown and Davis were wonderful soloists next to Tolliver and his amazing rhythm section. Left me and the audience asking for more …

The second gig I attended was that of young saxophonist Nubya Garcia, whom I had seen before and enjoyed her show. This one was as good as the first I saw, and she and her band were giving the mostly standing Madrid audience in a packed Conde Duque groovy jazz to dance to. Excellent musicians who gave her the support and groove to improvise freely and with verve and lots of ideas. This is modern and adventurous jazz, deeply rooted in a tradition of Coltrane or Sanders. Powerful, groovy and melodic improvised music that reaches a younger audience. Captivating!

In the last few weeks the music world lost many great and important artists, some of them I had the pleasure to see perform or work with – Ginger Baker, the outstanding rock and jazz drummer of his generation I saw at the Cream reunion concerts in London in 2005 and once before many years back with his Airforce band … incredible power and intensity!! Pianist Milcho Leviev I heard first through his 2 duo recordings with Dave Holland, but as well liked his solo or group recordings. One of Europe’s most underrated but best pianists. Producer Gerry Teekens I met a few time at North Sea Jazz and liked his enthusiasm for jazz, which he brought to his wonderful label Criss Cross and all its productions. Jan Erik Kongshaug was not only one of the best sound engineers of all time, but as well a warm and gentle human being. I had the pleasure meeting him and working with him on a few occasions and always enjoyed his company and professionalism. They all will be missed. May they rest in peace.

 

 

jazz around the world once more ..

Many great new recordings have been released over the last few weeks .. and as I have been a bit lazy in writing about them, this blog will be a little bit longer than usual …  and it will for the first time have links to the music written about, so you can easily follow up … hope you’ll enjoy!

Julie Campiche / ONKALO – on her first record under her own name, Swiss harpist Julie Campiche is creating wonderful soundscapes and spaces for improvisation for her band, which includes saxman Leo Fumagalli, bass player Manu Hagmann and drummer Clemens Kuratle. Five out of the six composition on the album are by Campiche and show her talent as a writer with unique style, using the talents of her co-musicians perfectly. Her sound on the harp is very individual and captivating, her music from groovy to contemplative, from ambient to modern jazz, with deep musical content, at the same time accessible and challenging and rewarding when listening closely. Julie Campiche is sure an artist to have an eye on for the future! You can check out the opening track of the album in a live setting here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=5&v=NcpKKpFojvQ

Wolfgang Schalk / Obsession – Austrian guitarist Schalk’s new album features ten original pieces he wrote for and recorded with his current band – Andy Langham on piano, Carlitos Del Puerte on bass, Gene Coye on drums and Luisito Quintero on percussion. Schalk has a beautiful sound on his instrument and his writing includes wonderful lyrical ballads as well a groovers like the title track of this new album, which you can listen to by following this link: https://open.spotify.com/track/2vzHO4FUNnlDRdUFGGc1Bb?si=KgqAKcGjRuObkKXHMi6AGw

By the way: his wonderful 1996 album ‘The Second Third Man’ featuring Michael Brecker has been re-mastered and is available again and surely worth checking out!

Dave Holland, Zakir Hussain, Chris Potter / Good Hope – three masters at work – this is one wonderful recording and surely one of the best of the year so far! The musical border crossings are incredible, the call and response and musical communication on an extremely high level and the musicality of these three artists beyond! At times the album recalls Hussain’s 1987 masterpiece ‘Making Music’, but then goes beyond that in terms of togetherness and depth. Potter blows his heart out and Holland gives the rhythms a pulse and his soli are touching and full of ideas as ever. Hussain is a master on his instrument and delivers the beat of the music with elegance and feeling. A must hear!!

https://open.spotify.com/track/0EWg6Mlq0q0bmwWR0UEGA0?si=meqKVeYLS9mpcFPqSBLGeg

Tertio / La mince ligne – Tertio are a Canadian jazz/rock quintet led by guitarist Vincent D. Perreault and are featuring Paul Shrofel on keyboards, Alex Lefaivre on bass, Eric Thibodeau on drums and Andy King on trumpet. Their music is an individual and intense mix of influences ranging from Weather Report to Miles Davis – it is funky and melodic and played by a very tight band. Marvellous!           https://open.spotify.com/track/6THgEUOluXpc95Ix1aEFO7?si=HBVZ5rbGR9ac3ub7ols6Ew

Joel Miller / Unstoppable – sax player, composer and conductor Joel Miller delivers with Unstoppable a ‘21st-century chamber symphony, inspired in equal parts by Afro-Peruvian folk music, early 2000 indie rock and large ensemble jazz’. The album is set up in 3 parts – Song Story, What you can’t stop and Deerhead Hoof Suite, all wonderful performances with great use of the various colours of the ensemble.  For lovers of big sounds and good melodies. And Miller plays some really good sax parts throughout. Line up: flutes by Billy Kerr, Nadia Sparrow; clarinets by Mark Simmons, Luc Jackman, Jennifer Bell; horn by Jocelyn Veilleux; trumpets by Lex French, Bill Mahar; trombone by Dave Grott; piano by David Ryshpan; acoustic and electric guitars by Steve Raegele; percussion by Sacha Daoud, Erin Donovan, Kullak Viger Rojas; drums by Kevin Warren and acoustic bass by Fraser Hollins. Guest conductor Christine Jensen. Recommended.  https://open.spotify.com/track/7cIstxVfvcETEjWzFKgmJz?si=JHgKRl89RgSP0utHb0jnKQ

Chelsea McBride / Aftermath – another wonderful big ensemble recording from Canada, this one from composer, conductor and saxophonist Chelsea McBride, who put into music various forms of conflicts, saying “The works found on this album were meant to be dark, and scary, conflict is never an easy thing to explore. But I can’t look at all the hurt that inspired this recording without remembering that even in the worst moments … somehow there is hope”. And her compositions do reflect these words perfectly .. dark, but with a ray of light, melodic and sometimes uplifting, haunting and engaging. A great album reflecting our times! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uzAvESR0i4

Dan Pitt / Fundamentally Flawed – young guitarist Pitt delivers a remarkable first album with his trio, that flows between composition and improvisation without effort. Completing this exciting trio are bassist Alex Fournier and drummer Nick Fraser, both well-known in the Canadian jazz scene. Pitt has a full sound on his instrument and is a class player – one to watch and see where he goes from this first step …  https://open.spotify.com/track/4ahBicjgcXk5kVhwbFIcdG?si=cxqAZyCNSZyARkHuvdNS2Q

The Bad Plus / Activate Infinity – this is the second album from the ‘new’ Bad Plus, featuring Orrin Evans on piano and as usual Reid Anderson on bass and Dave King on drums. Written by all members of the trio, this is exciting music that shows the new direction of the band … as edgy as always, but with a new melodic sense … Orrin Evans having a sometimes-symphonic touch on the piano. Wonderful and highly recommended … not only by myself: “Along with new songs, The Bad Plus reshapes a few fan favourites, like “Thrift Store Jewelry” and “Love Is the Answer” — as if to reinforce the idea of continuity, from then to now and beyond” – Nate Chinen, WBGO    https://open.spotify.com/track/3EWX16gyPWqh2HB1MmND36?si=dQVp7hWaQ3maNucfLR-DdA

Trevor Giancola / Sonnet18 – Giancola, a formidable guitar player and composer, assembled his ‘dream team’ for this recording with the wonderful Seamus Blake on sax; Rick Rosato on bass and Adam Arruda on drums. Says Trevor about the album: “Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 is about love, life, and death: things that I think all people, to some degree, are constantly trying to come to grips with. This album represents my own attempt to address these big picture topics in the most personal way that I can.” Incredible performances by all musicians, but especially Giancola and Blake make this album a valuable addition to any jazz collection.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVkMjOMDBoM

The Occasional Trio / Live In Berlin – pianist Simon Vincent’s trio, featuring Roland Fidezius on bass and Kai Lübke on drums, recorded this album at the Schlot Club in Berlin over two nights – creating intense music with free spaces for improvisation, based on compositions by Vincent. The trio is tight and swings amazingly, treats ballads with lyrical interplay and giving the audience their emotions through music. Harmonic and melodic adventures worth checking out!

Andres Vial / Gang of Three – A year after the release of his critically-acclaimed Monk tribute album, ‘Sphereology, Volume One’, Montreal pianist Andrés Vial and his sidemen bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Eric McPherson focus entirely on Vial’s original compositions, which are influenced by blues, gospel and world music. Vial shows, as he did with the Monk album, what great player he is and that he can swing as well as groove or touch the listener with an emotional ballad.     https://vimeo.com/353639401

DSC / MonkTime – DSC, a trio led by bassist Leon Lee Dorsey and featuring guitarist Greg Skaff and drummer Mike Clark, deliver a high level and touching tribute to Monk. This is only Dorsey’s third album, coming after a 20-year gap … but it has been worth while waiting … as this is an album that shows respect to the original compositions, but still giving them something individual. As Dorsey states: “We weren’t looking to reinvent the wheel on masterpieces. We wanted to keep the essence of the songs, that timeless commonality they have, while blending in our own spices and flavours.” A must have for Monk fans!     https://vimeo.com/354123443

 

Further recommended listening:

Hiromi / Spectrum – a wonderful solo album by the colourful and energetic pianist, showing her full range of expressions on her instrument.    https://open.spotify.com/track/1NpTkYFGPrYb9FRNGjLVyJ?si=mgd34nzmSnS2U003szw0Ig

 

Joshua Redman & Brooklyn Rider / Sun On Sand – the string quartet Brooklyn Rider with Redman and Scot Colley on bass and Satoshi Takeishi on drums – what a musical feat!! Music composed and arranged by Patrick Zimmerli – a perfect vehicle for Redman and his co-musicians. Alone the opener Flash is worth the album! https://open.spotify.com/track/2DmMxDDxzEPyuIaCBzYBLX?si=KMAQEyUbQWywjQ1sy6JKMQ

 

Jan Garbarek & Hilliard Ensemble / Remember Me My Dear – a live recording from that wonderful combination of voices that gave us Officium. Divine vocal performances with the added voice of Garbarek’s saxophone … compositions by Pärt, Brumel, von Bingen, Garbarek and others inspire the 5 musicians to create beauty in sound. https://open.spotify.com/track/0WdHpqNjIAlK6easKjLROh?si=hH1S9lDXTNiAVDsctHuvQw

 

some shows I saw and heard lately:

Javier Colina / Josemi Carmona / Bandolero – this trio, as well known as the De Cerca Trio, performed at the AC Hotel Recoletos on October 25th, as part of a Colina residence. Both records of the trio are fantastic in the way they mix jazz and flamenco and the same is true for their shows … from Carmona compositions to flamenco standards and jazz standards they paly everything in their own special way – Colina a wonderful bass player with lots of ideas and twists, Carmona a top guitarists for him it isn’t about speed but expression and Bandolero keeping the rhythm for them.

They get better and better and this time their version of ‘Moon River’ was absolutely divine.

Sara Gazarek – singer Sara Gazarek just has been for her first time to Spain for 5 concerts, three of them in Madrid’s Café central, where I saw her on October 30th performing with Julian Shore on piano, Alex Boneham on double bass and Ferenc Nemeth on drums. Gazarek is an immaculate singer with incredible control and technique and gives all chosen material her own stamp – as on the night we could hear her doing so with compositions from the Beatles, Brad Mehldau, Miles and many others, as well as her own songs. Her latest and truly wonderful album ‘Thirsty Ghost’ provided most of the material, exceptionally performed by her band. Outstanding on the night her own ‘Easy Love’, co-written with Larry Goldings and a very powerful and touching rendition of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’. Amazing!!

autumn in jazzland

Autumn in Jazzland … new releases from around the world, some from major labels other from small indie labels – it is the main season for music releases and I want to introduce you to some of the latest new discs (or better files, nowadays) which I heard and enjoyed listening to:

Let’s start in Canada, where Surefire Sweat, a powerful and grooving octet led by drummer Larry Graves, just released their self-titled first album. Cool compositions, captivating arrangements and powerful horn sections are part of this modern jazz album, which shows influences from John Scofield, Tony Allen and Roy Hargrove, to whom the track RH Factor refers. Strong performances by all featured musicians (Rob Neal Christion on flute, Elena Kapeleris on tenor sax and vocals, Paul Metcalfe on baritone sax, Brad Eaton on trumpet, Paul MacDougall on guitar and vocals, Liam Smith on bass, Rhodes and vocals and Dave Chan on percussion, Hammond organ and vocals) make this album an enjoyable listening experience. Get up and dance!

TuneTown, a trio consisting of three of Canada’s leading improvisers, Kelly Jefferson on saxophones, Artie Roth on bass and Ernesto Cervini on drums, as well released their debut album in September, entitled ‘There From Here’. They easily mix elements from the avantgarde with funk, swing and jazz into their own and very eclectic music. In between they show as well how some standards can be treated freshly by wonderfully performing ‘Sophisticated Lady’ and ‘All Of You’. Their nod to Thelonius Monk ‘The Monks Of Oka’ is one of the highlights of the record, that stands firm in the tradition of saxophone trios, but has found its own voice.

Baritone Madness are Pat Belliveau, Keith O’Rourke and Gareth Bane, who together with bass player Kodi Hutchinson and drummer Tyler Hornby recorded their debut album earlier this year for a September release. 3 baritone saxes … and the album starting with ‘Moanin’ .. another wonderful track is ‘Port NOLA’ .. and the rest is really cool and swinging hard. Great originals, wonderful arrangements and top playing by all three saxophonists. I can imagine that this band live gets any audience going …. Baritone madness indeed!

 

‘Just Friends’ is as well a debut album, this one by UK violinist John Pearce, who with his long-standing side-men David Newton on piano, Will Harris on bass and drummer Ian Matthews recorded an album of standards. Pearce has a full and beautiful sound and is surely a top player on his instrument – he can tell a story; make you dance or captivates your attention by astonishing melodic play. For friends of a more traditional approach to jazz, this is a beauty and Pearce is someone to watch out for.

Australian composer and alto saxophonist Luke Cuerel’s new album is a truly ambitious project, as his 14 piece orchestra is fusing jazz, classical and electronic music on ‘Luke Cuerel Orchestra’. Luke has written an album for string section, wind, brass, harp, drums, bass, keys and electronics. The ensemble features Luke’s favourite musicians and his music is heavily inspired by people and places in Brisbane. The songs are touching, melodic and colourful in the use of many musical shades. For sure an album that needs the listeners attention, but believe me, it’s worth all the while. Gorgeous!

The adventurous UK label EDITION Records has a few surprises for us this fall – already out is the wonderful duo album ‘Hope’ by Kevin Hays & Lionel Loueke. Originally released as a limited LP, this newly remastered release features 3 additional tracks and is available in all formats. This is joyous, uplifting music performed at the highest level. As Hays says: “Music for me is mostly about peace-making by its very nature. I do sort of marvel at the universality of music. How deep the roots go that connect us all. I think that may come out in the music you hear on this recording.” Don’t miss this one – I can’t stop listening to it. Amazing!

Other recommended listening from the labels new releases includes Oddarrang’s fifth album ‘Hypermetros’. The Finnish sound architects delivered another album full of surprises, moulded by raw, emotive and uplifting themes.

Pianist Aki Rissanen, bass player Antti Lötjönen and drummer Teppo Mäkynen’s third album ‘Art Of Motion’ is a tour de force of jazz, classical music and electronics and will propel the Finish trio into the top league of European jazz groups. It is very difficult today for a piano not to sound like e.s.t. or a few other top European piano trios, but Aki and his two musicians are doing just that. Special and captivating!

The Michael Leonhart Orchestra is probably my favourite Big Band of today – deep, surprising and a lot of fun. Their second album ‘Suite Extracts Vol. 1’ is exactly that: amazing arrangements of covers ranging from Howlin’ Wolf via Ornette Coleman to Spinal Tap and Wu-Tang Clan, performed by the best of the best – the orchestra features among others Chris Potter, Nels Cline, Donny McCaslin, John Ellis, Eric Harland and Erik Friedlander as its soloists! Check this out – be open and enjoy – this is simply great music – no categories!

SOUND OUT, Sokolowsko

Sound Out is a professional development and mentoring platform for creative musicians who challenge normal categorisation and is produced by Martel Ollerenshaw as an initiative of the Europe Jazz Network. The first event took place in Sokolowsko, Poland from 25th to 31st of August and had as objective to eradicate limiting factors which hold the artists back, such as insufficient industry awareness, lack of access to relationships within the music industry, limited cross border activities and communication.

The musicians taking part in this first edition of Sound Out were:

Aviva Endean – clarinet, sound artist, performance creator (Australia)

Benedikt Wieland – electric bass, electronics, composition (Switzerland)

Inge Thomson – vocals, accordion, electronics (Scotland)

Joanna Duda – piano, electronics, composition (Poland)

Karolina Rec – cello, vocals, electronics, composition (Poland)

Lucia Cadotsch – vocals, composition (Switzerland)

Morris Kliphuis – horn, composition (Netherlands)

Ramon Landolt – synths, composition (Switzerland)

Throughout the week the musicians had various workshops and guest speakers coming from all over Europe to participate and share their knowledge with this group of exciting artists. I had the pleasure of sharing a session on the recorded music business with my friend and Edition Records founder Dave Stapleton, which I thought was one of the best I did, as the questions of the group were well thought through and challenging. This session was followed by 20-minute face-to-face meetings and discussions, which touched on some of the individual needs and questions the musicians had.  Coming in on the end of the week, it was interesting to see how much the 8 musicians had bonded and grown into a group, open to communicate within the group and beyond.

While preparing for the session and listening to music from all participants, I was overwhelmed with the individual strength of each artist and the music and performances they created. The musical diversity within the group ranges from folk, to electronics, to jazz, to free improvisations and includes other art forms in wonderful collaborations.

When invited I was a bit surprised having to go to a small village in the middle of nowhere in Poland … but once there I came to understand why Sokolowsko was the perfect place for this kind of event:  The local hosts were the Contemporary Art Foundation In Situ, headed by Bozenna Biskupska, Zuzanna Fogtt and Gerard Lebik, which is responsible for many activities in the village, including art festivals, exhibitions and restoring the old Sanatorium into a wonderful place for the arts. Sokolowsko as well is home of the Krzysztof Kieślowski festival and his archive and through the work of the foundation has become a small island for the arts in Poland. No better place to be.

The first Edition of Sound Out felt to me an overwhelming success and I hope that many other editions will follow … there are many deserving artist out there and many experienced people working in the arts, willing to pass on some knowledge.