Jazz Thoughts #001

It only seems sensible to concentrate some of these blogs on jazz given it forms a good third of my podcast output (and sometimes 50% when doing the Band on the Wall playlist). So here is the first of a series of semi-regular set of thoughts on current jazz.

It was interesting to note the backing band David Bowie used for his swansong album was exclusively people normally associated with jazz. Donny McCaslin (flute, saxophone, woodwinds) Ben Monder (guitar) Jason Lindner (piano, organ, keyboards) Tim Lefebvre (bass) and Mark Guiliana (drums, percussion) all have existing impressive jazz CVs. I mention this only because so many of my chums who cannot abide jazz are avid Bowie fans. Hopefully this revelation will spur them to open their ears to the music. But I doubt it.

I finally got around to acquiring the latest John Scofield, his first on the famous Impulse! label.  Called “Past Present”, the line-up is impressive  Scofield on guitar, of course, Joe Lovano on tenor sax and the rhythm section of Larry Grenadier on double bass and long standing associate Bill Stewart on drums. First listens felt somewhat disappointing but I persevered and started to really appreciate where Sco was going with this latest set. There’s a good mix of funky blues licks, hard-bop, and post-bop with both leaders showing inventiveness. Along with Bill Frisell, Scofield is still one of the current leaders on jazz guitar.

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There are a handful of new releases on the Whirlwind label coming soon which are worth checking out when released.

Russian-born, London-based alto saxophonist Zhenya Strigalev has followed up his 2015 sextet release “Robin Goodie “with his new trio project “Never Group”. Recorded over two days in Berlin with the rhythm section of electric bassist Tim Lefebvre (him again) and drummer Eric Harland, the album features  guest appearances from keyboardist John Escreet, double bassist Matt Penman, vocalist Charles Armstrong and trumpeter Alex Bonney. The music consists of original compositions and the contributions of respected Austrian electronics composer/musician Bruno Liberda (who also appears on the recording). Starting with a tongue in cheek “Radio 4” style band intro, and then some wacky free form stuff the band soon launches into an excellent  funky trio workout. Over twenty tracks which includes a series of codas which intersperse the main compositions, the band is on fire with Harland particularly playing his socks off. This is powerful improvised music with the three main players all showing excellent technique and the desire to incorporate new sonic elements into the mix, the bass/drum combination on “Strange Party” in particular wanders into  grunge/post-punk territory! A highly enjoyable al bum, which is released on April 1st.

Released on 11th March Jeff Williams album “Outlier” features Josh Arcoleo (tenor saxophone), Phil Robson (guitar), Kit Downes (keys) and Sam Lasserson (basses). Drummer Williams has an impressive jazz history and his decades spanning experience with some of the giants of the jazz world translates into a mix of modern jazz, fusion and south american rhythms. Robson, in particular, shines with a lyrical approach and a great tone.  I have not crossed paths with Arcoleo before but I am impressed by his playing which has a breathless urgency at times. Williams is an excellent drummer leading a fine quintet and the albums comes with a strong recommendation from this listener.

Bass player Matt Ridley’s second album on Whirlwind “Mettã” is released on 26th February and is a far more relaxed affair than the other two Whirlwind releases reviewed above. Almost straying into ECM territory the quartet of Ridley, pianist John Turville, drummer George Hart, and soprano saxophonist Jason Yarde, offer an introspective, reflective journey of listening. The playing is understated, mellow, and engaging. The music is delivered as rolling expressive extemporisation, soloing feels part of an organic whole, rather than as adjunct to a specific melody. Yarde is impressive throughout and needs to be investigated further. Ridley can deliver a solo passage without overplaying, indeed his ear for melody is excellent and unlike a lot of bass players who attempt to impress through technique rather than content he does deliver strong solo work which fits perfectly with the music. This album is my favourite of the three Whirlwind releases and comes with a very strong recommendation.

2015 was a busy year for Dave Douglas and he concluded it with an interesting album with the Melbourne based Monash Art Ensemble, which in typical fashion is a long way off musically from the other releases preceding it in the year. It’s been a while since we have had something from Dave with a larger ensemble, in this case a fifteen strong team. The music is reminiscent of the Third Stream jazz/classical movement. Essentially you have an improvising chamber orchestra which is described as drawing inspiration from composers of the early 14th century French Ars Nova, most notably Guillaume De Machaut. The compositions utilise techniques such as hocket (a single melody is shared between two or  more voices so that alternately one voice sounds while the other rests), isorhythm, and modal counterpoint to create a dizzing array of sounds, moving from medieval to modern with little regard for convention. Entitled “Fabliaux” I guess this one will divide the jazz crowd somewhat. I found it most entertaining, not as good as “High Risk” or “Brazen Heart” but as part of a trio of 2015 offerings from Douglas an impressive indication that he is still up there as one of the best current jazz musicians.

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1000 JAZZ ALBUMS YOU REALLY OUGHT TO HEAR – 0004 : DAVE DOUGLAS – THE INFINITE

RCA

2002 (CD)

  • Dave Douglas: trumpet
  • Chris Potter: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet
  • Uri Caine: Fender Rhodes
  • James Genus: bass
  • Clarence Penn: drums

His 19th album proved to be a landmark, in no small part down to the stellar line-up assembled for the set.

Recorded over three days on December 16–18, 2001 at Avatar Studios, New York City, and including three eclectic covers of tunes by Rufus Wainwright, Bjork and Mary J. Blige, Douglas explores that Miles Davis inspired gap between post-bop and fusion first heard in 1968. To some degree there is a parallel, especially in band configuration, with the second great Davis quintet, and at times you could be listening to “Miles In The Sky” and to some extent “Filles De Kilimanjaro”. Caine’s use of the Fender Rhodes is a bit of a give-away in this respect. However by the same token in terms of structure and feel there is a nod back to the “Birth of the Cool Sessions” (“Boplicity” gets referenced in the lengthy track “Penelope”), and forward to “In A Silent Way”.  Douglas can include a European feel into a lot of his work and to some extent that input stops the album from being a direct Miles pastiche.

Overall then this is a Douglas album and a clear indicator of a mammoth body of work that was to follow. Douglas brings the best out of his band and Potter is in some of his best form and the leader at his most lyrical. The three pop-tunes on the album are radically re-engineered to the extent that they feel like brand new compositions. Overall this to my mind is one of his best albums although the critical reaction was not as strong as it was for the preceding “Witness” which I always felt was too wound up in the polemical undertone of the material.

The quintet would return two years later with “Strange Liberation” and a lot of the material on the album would turn up in the mammoth 12 CD set “Live at the Jazz Standard” albeit with Donny McCaslin replacing Potter. This then is the entry point for some of his most successful work and a good place to start if his music is new to you.

Next year there would be yet another change in direction with the more fusion oriented “Freak In” demonstrating his relentless quest for new forms of expression. The only other release in 2002 was as a sideman for Patricia Barber’s “Verse” album.

Exceptional modern jazz, beautifully played which both references the history of the music but sets markers for future development.

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Fascinating Things Issue 23

Lo-fi pop from Sweden, Summer Heart releases a new single on 16th October

Prolific jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas has announced a new album Brazen Heart – the quintet for this recording is Dave Douglas – trumpet and compositions, Jon Irabagon – saxophones , Matt Mitchell – piano , Linda Oh – bass and Rudy Royston – drums.

London based We-Are-Z have a new single called Knucklehead out on 16th October

Grievances is the forthcoming new full-length from San Francisco’s Kowloon Walled City. Set for release next month, the band’s first offering under the Neurot Recordings banner and third studio recording overall finds the eclectic collective at their artistic apex, shifting even further from their sludgy post-hardcore roots towards a sparser, more melancholic heaviness. Nothing to embed at this stage but stay tuned. Grievances will be released worldwide on October 9, 2015 on Neurot Recordings, with vinyl on Gilead Media. Preorder bundles are currently available avia Neurot Recordings.

On September 21, UK shoegazer The Virgance will be releasing Paradigm 3, his third LP in a little over 18 months, on the El Vals del Conejo label.  The Virgance is Nathan Smith, formerly guitarist with nineties UK indie band Ripley, which saw BBC Radio 1 and MTV Europe airplay, and co-producer of noughties electronica outfit Loveless. Smith’s first solo LP as The Virgance was ‘Lost Continent’, which was released in February 2014, followed by the ‘Hiko Shrine’ LP in January 2015. Both received critical acclaim in the shoegaze community and blogosphere.

German Shepherd have re-issued Seedhill Bruiser’s Granite Fists and Seedhill Folk Songs albums with improved mixes and clearer sound. Highly recommended!

Glasgow band The Deadline Shakes release their debut album ‘Zealots’ this November. The result of two years of recording and production by Greg Dingwall in the band’s “Den” studio, the album is preceded by a double A side single ‘Frozen Out / Sweeten the Deal’.

The irrepressible trio Le Butcherettes will be embarking on a headlining tour across Europe this autumn, in support of their upcoming album A Raw Youth which sees release on September 18th via Ipecac Recordings. The only UK date is London, Underworld, Camden on 16th November.

(Photo credit: Monica Lozano)
(Photo credit: Monica Lozano)

The latest single to be taken from The Cathode Ray’s highly acclaimed “Infinite Variety” album is “This Force of Nature“, which is due out on 14th September. It will also exclusively feature DJ Tony McQue’s radical remix of “Resist” as a bonus track and will be available from all good download sites including iTunes, Amazon, eMusic and Bandcamp. A glorious pop song.

…and the new album from Ought is excellent, expect a seperate and glowing review soon!

Fascinating Things : Issue 17

Montréal chamber rock ensemble Esmerine return with the new full-length album “Lost Voices”, described as  “the most dynamic and incendiary record of the group’s career”, following its highly-acclaimed and Juno award-winning 2013 release Dalmak. Led by co-founders Bruce Cawdron (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) on various mallet instruments and Rebecca Foon (Thee Silver Mt. Zion, Saltland) on cello, Esmerine also includes drummer/percussionist Jamie Thompson (The Unicorns, Islands, Little Scream) and multi-instrumentalist Brian Sanderson.

Lost Voices is the result of multiple recording sessions led by Vid Cousins (Kid Koala, Amon Tobin, Colin Stetson) and was mixed/produced by Jace Lasek (The Besnard Lakes) at his Breakglass Studio in Montréal. The album features several tracks that are hands down among the band’s most rocking, making newfound use of electric guitars (courtesy a variety of guest players) alongside the group’s nucleus of marimba, strings and percussion. Expanding from Dalmak’s core quartet, Esmerine also welcomes bassist Jeremi Roy (who began touring with the group in 2013) as an official member; his contrabass work adds potent low-end to the heavier and more muscular jams on the new album. Lost Voices is equally notable for the appearance of GY!BE/Silver Mt. Zion violinist Sophie Trudeau as a featured guest.

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It is released on Constellation on October 16th, here is a link to a  taster with the track Neighbourhoods Rise

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With only a few weeks to go until Helen’s debut LP “The Original Faces” is released, the band have shared a second teaser from the album in the form of ‘Violet’. ‘Violet’ perfectly captures the dreamy pop-rock essence of Helen, with Harris’ airy vocals dancing atop the fuzzy guitar textures and rhythmic bass tones.

Helen is a pop group from Oregon. Liz Harris (vocals/lead guitar), Jed Bindeman (drums/tambourine), Scott Simmons (bass/guitar), and Helen (back up vocals).

Originally started with the intention of being a thrash band, it turned into something else entirely. The Original Faces was recorded over a period of several years in Portland by the band members, their friends Nick, Chris and, largely, Justin Higgins. The record was written together, with some songs based on Liz and Scottʼs demos.

The Original Faces will be released 4th September via kranky.

I don’t normally post jazz related things in this part of the blog but Dave Douglas‘ new one “High Risk” contains sufficient elements of improvised music to warrant a look. It’s been out a month now, and it will be a strong front runner for my jazz album of the year. The band is Dave on trumpet with DJ producer Shigeto, bassist Jonathan Maron, and drummer Mark Guilianah, The video below, of the excellent “Tied Together”, contains a great tune which marries Dave’s warm tones with some fascinating electronica from Shigeto and a great rhythm section performance. Note the use of echo on the trumpet in places to great effect. Nils Petter Molvaer has been doing similar for years so it’s not exactly ground-breaking (despite some critics getting a little tipsy about it) but Dave always brings something new to the table and that’s certainly true of this album.

Excellent work by Tony Thornborough here below in capturing the excellent Flies On You live at The Crescent in Salford. As I have posted. at length, previously Tony and Steve Nicholson are putting on some great nights at the venue and Jim Watts has to be best sound man in the conurbation at the moment.

PPNW Records have announced the release of “13 O’CLOCK”, a limited-edition compilation album that you CAN’T download from iTunes! Lovingly compiled by the Atlanta-based company, it stand for Post Punk New Wave Records, “13 O’Clock” revives the spirit of 80’s DIY, a sound & aesthetic which can still be heard today in Franz Ferdinand, The Horrors, The Bravery, Ladytron and many more…

Featuring exciting previously unreleased tracks from 80’s cult favourites Uur Daughters Wedding (recorded live!), European hit makers B-Movie and French electro-punk pioneers Metal Urbain, the album also features the post-punk classic “Agent Orange” by Ski Patrol (w/Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman) and the EPIC track “Galapagos” by European music collective Family Fodder (full tracklisting below).

The label has taken the bold move of not making the album available on iTunes, and is available exclusively as a limited-edition CD (500 copies only!) via the PPNW Records website.

 

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World of Jazz – 18th October 2012

You can listen to the show here

…..and this is what I played

1 Jaco Pastorius Big Band Havona Word of Mouth Revisited
2 Banbara Shack Up Pts 1 & 2 Blue Break Beats Vol 4
3 Bill Evans When You Wish Upon A Star The Interplay Sessions
4 Kenny Garrett Brother Hubbard Songbook
5 Kalil El Zabar’s Ritual Trio Africa N’Da Blues Africa N’Da Blues
6 Buddy Rich The Beat Goes On Blue Break Beats Vol 4
7 Dave Douglas Going Somewhere With You Be Still
8 Herbie Hancock Olilloqui Valley Blue Break Beats Vol 1
9 Jaco Pastorius Liberty City Invitation

World of Jazz – 27th October 2011

On this show a focus on the last three digital releases from Dave Douglas with various bits and pieces in between:

  • Horace Silver – Dameron’s Dance – Silver ‘n’ Brass – 1975 – The first of five LPs that feature Silver’s usual quintet  augmented by other instrumentalists, this recording includes   trumpeter Tom Harrell, tenor-saxophonist Bob Berg,  joined by five brass players and two reed specialists.
  • Dave Douglas Brass Ecstasy – Night Growl – Rare Metals – 2011 – In the early winter of 2011, trumpeter/composer Dave Douglas convened an informal recording session in Brooklyn with his group Brass Ecstasy. They were to record the first volume in a string of digital releases that Douglas dubbed the Greenleaf Portable Series (GPS). Greenleaf Portable Series Volume 1: Rare Metals finds Douglas — a prolific composer — adding five new compositions and a new arrangement of Billy Strayhorn’s, Lush Life, to an ever-expanding Brass Ecstasy music book.
  • Laika – Essence (Isle of Java) – Nebula – 2011 -“Born in Paris of an Ivory Coast father and a Moroccan-Spanish mother, Laïka was raised mainly by women (her grandmother, mother, and aunt) in a Moroccan Jewish family. She leans towards her maternal Sephardic culture, open to different styles of music in the Mediterranean.”
  • Patrice Rushen – What’s The Story – Before the Dawn – 1975 – Rushen’s second album – mostly fusion oriented jazz – features Josie James on vocals.
  • Dave Douglas – Frontier Justice – Orange Afternoons – 2011 – The second volume of the Greenleaf Portable Series (GPS), Orange Afternoons features Dave Douglas, Ravi Coltrane, Vijay Iyer, Linda Oh, and Marcus Gilmore. This informal session in Brooklyn yielded six new Douglas compositions for this special quintet.
  • George Benson – Naima – Guitar Man – 2011 – Benson revives his jazz chops for this most recent album – as exemplified by this excellent version of Coltrane’s beautiful tune.
  • Michael Urbaniak’s Fusion – Ilex – Atma – 1975 – Poland’s most promising import in the heady days of the  jazz-rock mad 1970s. Urbaniaks violin is complimented by the vocals of his wife  Urszula Dudziak.
  • Dave Douglas with So Percussion – Time Leveller – Bad Mango – 2011 – The third volume of the Greenleaf Portable Series (GPS), Bad Mango features Dave Douglas with So Percussion. This session delivers a sound palette  unlike any other in the Douglas discography. Pai†ring his   trumpet with a myriad of percussion instruments including marimba, drumset, glockenspiel, and a whole host of nontraditional percussion like musical saw, toy bells, shruti box, crotales, et al, Douglas leads this unique ensemble through new compositions and revisitations of songs from his works catalog.
  • Mario Pavone – Burnt Sweet Orange – Orange – 2003 –  released on the Playscape label during late 2003, this album features Pavone’s trio with regular collaborator, pianist Peter Madsen, and Gerald Cleaver in the drummer’s chair, augmented by trumpeter Steven Bernstein and tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby
  • Doug Hammond – Reflections  – Reflections on the sea of Nurnen – 1975 – a rare album from the M-Base drummer.
  • Luca Flores – Toy Town – Love for Sale – 1991 – One of Italian keyboard virtuoso Luca Alex Flores’ special guests on this  release is  saxophonist David Murray who performs on several tracks along with Flores’ fellow countrymen.
To listen click the link below

World of Jazz – 22nd September 2011

On this show :

  • Lee Morgan – CTA – Candy (1957) – A 19 year old Morgan demonstrating his flair and virtuosity even at such an early age. A great reading of Jimmy Heath’s bop standard.
  • Dave Douglas – Unison – The Infinite (2002) – Douglas  in a Miles Davis mood on this  the first album by his then New Quintet.  He focuses on the era marked by Miles’ departure from post-bop and entrance into fusion, around 1968 and 1969. Douglas gives us his reading of a Bjork song.
  • Tonbruket – Balloons – Dig It To The End (2011) the second album from Dan Berglund post-EST. A more rock oriented feel to this one and the band coming more to the fore. Interesting textures to this very modern album.
  • Charles Lloyd with Maria Farantouri – Requiem – Athens Concert (2011) –  a double live disc with the legendary Greek contralto Maria Farantouri. The tune “Requiem” is a jazz number with lyrics by the famed writer/lyricist Agathi Dimitrouka.
  • Mathias Eick – Skala – Skala  (2011) – Norwegian trumpeter/multi-instrumentalist Eick is an  ambient-leaning jazz musician. He has performed with a variety of name players and is a member of the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra and the progressive jazz/electronic ensemble Jaga Jazzist.
  • Enrico Rava – Count Dracula – New York Days (2009) typical ECM fayre with great support from Larry Grenadier and Paul Motian.
  • Skalpel – Konfusion – Konfusion (2005) Skalpel are Marcin Cichy and Igor Pudlo DJs/producers from Wroclaw, Poland. This is  their second album for Ninja Tune and it’s a  darker  journey into the roots of Eastern European jazz and breaks than their previous releases.
  • Mulatu Astatke – The Way To Nice – Mulatu Steps Ahead (2010) this recent  album is very different from his work with the Heliocentrics (some of whom do feature here), or with the Either/Orchestra — it centres around a  laid-back groove that looks at music from two viewpoints — the Western and the Ethiopian.
  • Lee Konitz  & Warne Marsh – Donna Lee – Lee Konitz with Warne Marsh (1955/2005) On this 50th Anniversary reissue Konitz and Marsh lead a  strong group that  includes pianist Sal Mosca, guitarist Billy Bauer, bassist Oscar Pettiford and drummer Kenny Clarke.
  • Jamaaladeen Tacuma – For the love of Ornette Fort Worth Funk Stomp Movement 3 – For the love of Ornette (2011)  Though led and largely written by electric-bassist Tacuma, this is basically a new Ornette Coleman recording. It’s an octet studio session recorded  last year, with Coleman playing alto alongside the UK’s Tony Kofi on tenor, and Wolfgang Puschnig on flute.
To listen in – click the link