Troisième collaboration entre Jean-Marc Foussat et l’alto portugais João Camões. Après le trio Bien Mental au côté de l’accordéoniste Claude Parle (Fou Records, 2015) puis le duo A la Face du Ciel (Shhpuma/Clean Feed, 2016), la paire d’improvisateurs s’adjoint, dans une nouvelle formation tripartite, la sensibilité du trompettiste Jean-Luc Cappozzo et, au contraire des précédents travaux qui privilégiaient les mouvements heurtés et contractés, travaille sur la finesse et la retenue du geste.
Jouant de la chaleur grave de son instrument, Camões distribue avec finesse les orientations à prendre et amorce des cheminements sans pour autant imposer une direction unique. Ses propositions sont d’ailleurs fines au point que chacun peut s’en saisir et y investir le caractère qu’il souhaite. Jean-Luc Cappozzo, à la trompette ou au bugle, ne prend la parole que lorsque la dramaturgie du moment le réclame et laisse s’élever comme une respiration une mélopée au son clair qui se mêle et embrasse les contrechants frottés de l’altiste, parfois crissants mais jamais acides.
Dès qu’un duo s’installe, le troisième s’efface. Avec délicatesse et tempérance, Foussat, plus réservé qu’à l’accoutumée, apporte des sonorités étranges ou familières (chiens, oiseaux, pièce de monnaie qui tombe) et peint quelques motifs fugaces qui animent l’arrière-champ. Il résulte de ces échanges non imposés une spatialisation aérienne qui affleure à la lisière du silence et joue avec l’attention de l’auditeur. Les climats oniriques, caressants ou quelques fois plus durs dessinent un monde flottant le long des trois longues pistes qui suspendent le temps.
L’utilisation parcimonieuse mais efficace du duduk (par Camões) et de la flûte harmonique (par Cappozzo) pour clôturer le disque ouvre plus encore l’imaginaire et renouvelle l’invitation au voyage avec beaucoup de poèsie.
Nascido em Coimbra em 1983, João Camões estudou viola no Conservatório de Música de Coimbra e, já em Lisboa, descobriu a cena improvisada e experimental. Herdeiro musical de Carlos Zíngaro (pioneiro da improvisação em Portugal, com quem tem trabalhado), Camões explora na viola d’arco uma combinação de abordagens criativas com técnicas clássicas, sempre com fluência improvisacional. Actualmente integra os grupos Open Field, Earnear e Nuova Camerata – quinteto “all-star” com Zíngaro, Ulrich Mitzlaff, Miguel Leiria Pereira e Pedro Carneiro.
Camões teve uma recente estadia em Paris onde desenvolveu contactos com a cena improvisada local e este disco é o resultado desse trabalho. Neste novo disco a viola d’arco de João Camões tem a companhia do trompete de Jean-Luc Cappozzo e da electrónica de Jean-Marc Foussat. Se, pela própria natureza instrumental, o trio por vezes se aproxima de uma vertente camarística (característica que se assume de forma mais clara sobretudo num seu outro projecto, a Nuova Camerata), a integração da electrónica vem adicionar um carácter de originalidade e diferença.
Ao longo das três peças longas que enchem o disco (todas com mais de quinze minutos), a viola de Camões parece ser a principal instigadora do trio, muito activa a lançar ideias, com o trompete de Cappozzo a seguir, também respondendo, também provocando. A electrónica de Fousssat começa por assumir um papel mais secundário, mas vai aumentando a sua relevância à medida que cada tema evolui, crescendo na sombra.
Um dos momentos mais memoráveis surge ao meio do terceiro tema, com a viola a estabelecer a tensão em fundo e o trompete a desenhar linhas claras, polvilhado com uns pozinhos de electrónica. Os três músicos trabalham num permanente equilíbrio, num diálogo sem atropelos, uma rica improvisação “neo-camarística” que se desenvolve pela união de esforços.
Gard Nilssen has made quite a name for himself in the potent Scandinavian jazz scene as a member of powerhouse bands like Cortex (they had my album of the year in 2016 with Live in New York, and took second place this year with Avant-Garde Party Music) and the always exciting Bushman’s Revenge. This is a triple disc set of Nilssen’s excellent Acoustic Unity band with the addition of some special guests, and it never overstays its welcome, because the music is challenging and exciting throughout, and the musicians are playing their hearts out in each setting, performing improvised music in its purest form, live and without any safety net. Acoustic Unity played in the North Sea Jazz Festival, the Ljubljana Jazz Festival and the Oslo Jazz Festival in 2016 and their full sets were recorded at each of those venues. The main band consists of Nilssen on drums, Petter Eldh on bass and André Roligheten on tenor and soprano saxophones. They are assisted by Fredrik Ljungkvist on tenor saxophone and clarinet during the Ljubljana concert and Kristoffer Berre Alberts on alto, tenor and baritone saxophones and Jørgen Mathisen on tenor saxophone and clarinet during the Olso concert. This band plays a tight and muscular form of modern jazz with aspects of free improvisation and deep group empathy. During their set from the North Sea Jazz Festival, it is just the core trio and their music has been honed by the length of time they have been playing together and powerful wallop of the band’s sound comes for the crucible of playing many concerts together and developing a telepathic mindset. There improvisations are very powerful, and they are able to move in an a continuously impressive manner whether the music comes in a melodic or freely improvised format. The final track of the Ljubljana Jazz Festival concert shows how lyrically subtle the band can be. Although they may be at their most exciting at full throttle, this performance shows that they can conjure emotion at a hushed silence, with the horns playing quietly and the rhythm section playing with the utmost tact and respect. The Oslo concert opens with a wonderfully over the top free jazz wailer with the band reaching for the stars as the horns play unforgettably raw and vibrant music and Nilssen and the bassist shovel in the rocket fuel in the form of a relentless rhythmic powerhouse. They drop down to a stoic and well earned bass solo which is very impressive and thoughtful, leading into the second track of the concert where the horns raise the roof with raw and fascinating playing. The expanded three horn front line gets a massive sound, creating sub-themes to explore, ad launching individual members into solos that are true voyages of discovery. The music on this album is frenetic and exciting, with a powerhouse rhythm section and an excellent front line that are very generous when playing solos and ensemble passages.
Evocative in title and content, The Sea, the Storm and the Full Moon was committed to record when Amsterdam-by-way-of-Buenos-Aires reedist Ada Rave was pregnant with her now-toddler son Lucero. Several years later it’s now in circulation and a vibrant summation of both the roots and branches of her career as an improvising musician. Colleagues Wilbert De Joode on bass and Nicola L. Hein on prepared guitar are both recruits from her adoptive home and each man throws himself wholeheartedly into the opportunity of supplying their employer with spontaneously-engineered support that both bolsters and challenges.
Countryman Gato Barbieri gets name-checked on the accompanying one-sheet as an indelible influence, but Rave goes her own way from the cliff jump that is “Inner Chaos.” Hein and De Joode pick a tangled forest of bent and hooked tones for her tenor to bounce off and around and the clarity of the studio recording brings even their densest, most barbed passages into bold and bracing relief. “Primitive Dance” moves to moist and eructative breath sounds and textured string manipulations that staunchly resist conventional structuring. It’s a mileage-may-vary piece, but one where the concerted convictions of the purveyors never come into question.
“Breathing the Ocean’s Air” turns to Rave’s uncanny ability at making her tenor sound akin to a clarinet and an intriguing tonal overlap with Hein’s amplified strings. “The Journey of the Little Being” and features her on the latter instrument for point of comparison. De Joode plucks from the margins on both pieces in variable speed commentary that is at once spatially apart and completely in accordance with his partners. “Comes from a Dream” is another instance of chameleonic transformation as Rave’s tenor sprouts metallic spines and harmonic feelers through a combination of dampening and extended embouchure techniques. De Joode and Hein switch to collective creaking and sawing in response.
The closing title piece returns a transitory equilibrium and as with the album as a whole is sourced from a poem of Rave’s invention. Sans words the sound imagery follows the titular referents from a roiling, churning atonality steeped in feedback-laced percussive guitar, scuttling bass and whistling overblown tenor to a cumulative place of relative calm as the players lurch uneasily into a shared moon-drenched slumber. A relative unknown stateside, this sharply-rendered, reliably rousing broadside is likely to win her more than a few admirers among those for whom the best free improvisation is a contact sport.
French pianist Eve Risser and Slovenian, Amsterdam-based pianist Kaja Draksler have proved again and again in recent years that they are distinct and compelling pianists, improvisers, and composers like no other. Both blur common distinctions between free improvisations, free jazz, and contemporary music, often experimenting with extended techniques and assorted preparations on the piano strings. Risser did it on her solo piano album, Das Pas Sur La Neige (Clean Feed, 2015), with the En Corps trio (the self-titled album and En corps-Generation, Dark Tree, 2012 and 2015) and with her White Desert Orchestra (Les Deux Versants Se Regardent, Clean Feed, 2016). Draksler did so on her solo piano album, The Lives of Many Others (Clean Feed, 2013), her duo with Portuguese trumpeter Susana Silva Santos (This Love, 2015), and with her Octet (Gledalec, Clean Feed, 2017).
Pedro Costa, the manager of the Clean Feed label and the artistic co-director of the Ljubljana Jazz Festival, invited Risser and Draksler to perform at the festival. To Pianos was recorded live on Risser’s and Draksler’s ‘world premiere’ performance on the festival’s main, glamorous stage in July 2016 and exactly a year after, in the Gallus Hall of Cankarjev Dom in Ljubljana. Since then Risser and Draksler have continued to perform in this format.
Risser writes in her short liner notes that she wanted to listen to the sound of the two Steinway pianos “without pianists”. Just the sounds themselves as “transported by air, walls, rooms, materials, sometimes microphones and electricity, and, of course, emotions”. The pianos and the hall allowed Risser and Draksler to explore new possibilities of resonances, echoes, sound illusions, new dynamics and expressions. Risser remarked that, “I don’t think we even used one percent of the possibilities offered by this amazing live context.”
Fellow-pianist Alexander Hawkins, who performed last year at the Ljubljana Jazz Festival, expands in his liner notes on this unique meeting. “as pianists, we’re almost always the only one of us on stage; so that on those rare occasions where we do get to play with other pianists, there’s something thrilling about the particular type of selflessness which the situation requires. This, then, is perhaps even more remarkable: that the pianists you hear on these two pianos remain so individual and distinctive, and the same time as they are able to come together to forge something so completely new, shared and selfless.”
It is quite easy to be drawn by the beautiful, enchanting sounds of Risser’s and Draksler’s pianos. But To Pianos stresses that it is much more than the mere exploration of sounds and investigation of such sounds. It is more how these sounds are shaped, channeled and balanced between the two pianists in so many unexpected and disarming manners, creating an insightful yet coherent program.
To Pianos begins with a ceremonial tone, as Risser and Draksler let their pianos ring, resonate and echo each other as an abstract church bells on the repetitive, Steve Reich-ian “Dusk, Mystery, Memory, Community”, composed by Draksler. The following, improvised title-piece sketches an almost silent, deep meditative soundscape, comprised of minute and gentle touches and brushing of the piano strings, with no attempt to let this experimental soundscape to sound familiar or even accessible. Risser’s “Eclats” is the first piece where both Risser and Draksler search for a melodic motif, but in a kind of mischievous, chaotic play. Both do not surrender to the harmonic options of this motif and often rebel against its conventional choices and instead opt to charge this delicate piece with dense overtones. This playful vein continues with the improvised “Sestri (To a Sister: Two Sisters)”, here in an imaginative, game-like manner.
Risser’s “Kallaste, La Ville Abandonnée (The Ghost Town)” develops patiently as both Risser and Draksler wrestle their way to sketch kind of a dramatic, enigmatic hymn. The improvised “To Women” already sound like an advanced version of a much larger, orchestral composition, possessing the “Ellington-ian conception of symphonic piano playing”, as Hawkins notes. The cover of Carla Bley’s “Walking Batterie Woman” does sound like a multiplying of Bley’s one-of-a-kind piano playing, with the eccentric humor, mischievous wisdom and arresting elegance. The last, short and improvised, piece, “To You” is an emotional homage of both these exceptional, innovative musicians to each other.
Naturally. there are not many opportunities, or venues where you may experience, live such a unique duo. But consider yourselves very fortunate if you may happen to watch the fantastic Risser and Draksler on stage.
Initial draft collected on Nov. 16, 2017. The file will be updated as additional worthy records are found (although updating may lag behind the official 2017 list). Last year’s list was never frozen (OK, let’s say it was frozen on Nov. 16, 2017). There also exists a parallel list of The Best Non-Jazz of 2017.
Note: numbering of lists (aside from A/A-) is only temporary, to make it easier for me to tally up stats.
For A-list only: [*] indicates that I reviewed this on the basis of an advance, often a CDR copy (a good thing, I might add, for vinyl-only releases). [**] identifies a record that I’ve only heard via download or through a streaming service like Rhapsody/Napster.
For all lists, I’ve included 2016 (and in rare cases earlier) records that I discovered after last year’s freeze date, but I’ve only included such records if they were so little known that they received less than five points in the 2016 metacritic file. These are marked, e.g., -16, after the label.
1.William Parker Quartets: Meditation/Resurrection (AUM Fidelity 2CD)
2.Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo: Peace (Libra)
3.Gonçalo Almeida/Rodrigo Amado/Marco Franco: The Attic (NoBusiness)
4.Aki Takase/David Murray: Cherry Shakura (Intakt)
5.Rich Halley/Carson Halley: The Wild (Pine Eagle)
6.Rocco John: Peace and Love (Unseen Rain)
7.Buffalo Jazz Octet: Live at Pausa Art House (Cadence Jazz)
8.François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Alexey Lapin: Freedom Is Space for the Spirit (FMR)
9.Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Loafer’s Hollow (Hot Cup)
10.Barry Altschul’s 3Dom Factor: Live in Krakow (Not Two)
11.Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society: Simultonality (Eremite)
12.Miguel Zenón: Típico (Miel Music)
13.Free Radicals: Outside the Comfort Zone (Free Rads)
14.David S. Ware Trio: Live in New York 2010 (AUM Fidelity)
15.Matthew Shipp Trio: Piano Song (Thirsty Ear)
16.Trio 3: Visiting Texture (Intakt)
17.Ellery Eskelin/Christian Weber/Michael Griener: Sensations of Tone (Intakt) 18.FCT = Francesco Cusa Trio Meets Carlo Atti: From Sun Ra to Donald Trump (Clean Feed)
Recorded Nov. 23, a few weeks after the apocalyptic American election. Cusa is a drummer from Italy, discography back to 1997, someone I don’t know but most likely should. Trio adds Gabriele Evangelista on bass and Simone Graziano on piano, while Atti plays sax. Titles mostly show interest in economics from Smith to Keynes, but for good measure they toss in a “wrestling bout, refereed by Roland Barthes.” Still, no words, just well structured tunes with the sax sharpening the edges. **
19.Harriet Tubman: Araminta (Sunnyside)
20.Gorilla Mask: Iron Lung (Clean Feed)
Avant-jazz sax trio, the leader alto saxophonist Peter Van Huffel (Canadian, Belgian roots, based in Berlin), with Roland Fidezius (electric bass, effects) and Rudi Fischerlehner (drums). The bass gives this a certain rockish foundation, which the saxophonist regularly blows up.
21.Velkro: Too Lazy to Panic (Clean Feed)
Recorded in Portugal but mixed in Norway, don’t know anything about the trio — Bostjan Simon (sax, electronics), Stephan Meidell (guitar, bass, percussion, electronics), and Luis Candelas (drums, percussion) — other than that their 2014 debut blew me away. They describe this one as “a step forward and a dive inward,” which is to say the deep sound of their dense fusion takes much longer to sink in.
22.Roots Magic: Last Kind Words (Clean Feed)
Italian group, second album: Alberto Popolla (clarinet, bass clarinet), Errico De Fabritiis (alto/baritone sax), Gianfranco Tedeschi (double bass), Fabrizio Spera (drums), plus guests on organ/piano (4 tracks), cello (2), and dub effects (1). Plumbs a deep blues base drawing on Charlie Patton and similarly influenced jazz musicians like Julius Hemphill and Marion Brown, tuned up to a fine fury. **
23.Jimmy Greene: Flowers: Beautiful Life Volume 2 (Mack Avenue)
24.Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 5: Rhea (Leo)
25.Satoko Fujii: Invisible Hand (Cortez Sound, 2CD)
26.Jason Stein Quartet: Lucille! (Delmark)
27.Vector Families: For Those About to Jazz/Rock We Salute You (Sunnyside)
28.Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 3: Pandora (Leo)
29.Large Unit: Fluku (PNL)
30.The Microscopic Septet: Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues (Cuneiform)
31.Chicago/London Underground: A Night Walking Through Mirrors (Cuneiform)
32.Quinsin Nachoff/Mark Helias/Dan Weiss: Quinsin Nachoff’s Ethereal Trio (Whirlwind)
33.Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 1: Titan (Leo)
34.Yoko Miwa Trio: Pathways (Ocean Blue Tear Music)
35.Trio Heinz Herbert: The Willisau Concert (Intakt)
36.Jack DeJohnette/Larry Grenadier/John Meddeski/John Scofield: Hudson (Motéma)
37.Ernest McCarty Jr. & Jimmie Smith: A Reunion Tribute to Erroll Garner (Blujazz)
38.Made to Break: Trebuchet (Trost)
39.Nicole Mitchell and Haki Madhubuti: Liberation Narratives (Black Earth Music)
40.Evan Parker & RGG: Live @ Alchemia (Fundacja Sluchaj)
41.Chicago Edge Ensemble: Decaying Orbit (self-released)
42.Wadada Leo Smith: Najwa (TUM)
43.DEK Trio: Construct 1: Stone (Audiographic)
44.Kirk Knuffke: Cherryco (SteepleChase)
45.Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet: Diablo en Brooklyn (Saponegro)
46.The Rempis Percussion Quartet: Cochonnerie (Aerophonic) 47.Samo Salamon Sextet: The Colours Suite (Clean Feed)
Guitarist from Slovenia, has consistently produced interesting records. Wrote eight pieces named for colors, and brought this sextet for Jazz Festival Ljubljana, with “two of my favorite drummers” (Roberto Dani and Christian Lillinger), Pascal Niggenkemper (bass), Achille Succi (bass clarinet), and Julian Arguelles (tenor and soprano sax). The horns contrast well, the sharper sax piercing the airier bass clarinet, most impressively when they crank it up.
48.David Weiss & Point of Departure: Wake Up Call (Ropeadope)
49.Noah Kaplan Quartet: Cluster Swerve (Hatology)
50.François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Rafal Mazur: Oneness (FMR)
51.Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition: Agrima (self-released)
52.Katie Thiroux: Off Beat (Capri)
53.Amok Amor [Christian Lillinger/Petter Eloh/Wanja Slavin/Peter Evans]: We Know Not What We Do (Intakt)
54.Matthew Shipp Quartet: Not Bound (ForTune)
55.Irreversible Entanglements (International Anthem/Don Giovanni)
56.Craig Taborn: Daylight Ghosts (ECM)
57.Tomas Fujiwara: Triple Double (Firehouse 12)
58.Roswell Rudd/Fay Victor/Lafayette Harris/Ken Filiano: Embrace (RareNoise)
59.Omri Ziegele: Where’s Africa: Going South (Intakt)
60.Sebastien Ammann: Color Wheel (Skirl)
61.Silke Eberhard Trio: The Being Inn (Intakt)
62.Tyshawn Sorey: Verisimilitude (Pi) 63.Eric Revis: Sing Me Some Cry (Clean Feed)
Bassist, played for Betty Carter and Branford Marsalis but has tended to be more avant on his own albums. Quartet here with Ken Vandermark (tenor sax/clarinet), Kris Davis (piano), and Chad Taylor (drums) — an explosive combination, most often moderated by the bassist but extraordinary when he cranks them up. **
64.Tommy Smith: Embodying the Light: A Dedication to John Coltrane (Spartacus)
65.Chris Speed Trio: Platinum on Tap (Intakt)
66.Nate Wooley: Knknighgh (Minimal Poetry for Aram Saroyan) (Clean Feed)
Avant trumpet player, records a lot, here with a pianoless quartet: Chris Pitsiokos (alto sax), Brandon Lopez (bass), Dre Hocevar (drums). I’ve forgotten whatever I once knew of Saroyan’s poetry, and none is actually used here — at least in verbal form, but I gather it was fragmented and abstract, something like the jazz here. **
67.Tom Rainey Obbligato: Float Upstream (Intakt)
68.Die Enttäuschung: Lavaman (Intakt)
69.François Carrier/Michel Lambert: Out of Silence (FMR)
70.Borderlands Trio [Stephan Crump/Kris Davis/Eric McPherson]: Asteroidea (Intakt)
71.DKV Trio: Latitude 41.88 (Not Two)
72.Colin Stetson: All This I Do for Glory (52Hz)
73.Steve Coleman’s Natal Eclipse: Morphogenesis (Pi)
74.Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 2: Tarvos (Leo)
75.Randy Weston/African Rhythms: The African Nubian Suite (African Rhythms, 2CD)
Also added the following 2016 albums after freezing the 2016 year-end file:
1.John Escreet: The Unknown: Live in Concert (Sunnyside)
2.Ellery Eskelin: Trio Willisau Live (Hatology)
Additional jazz rated B+(***), listed alphabetically.
Espen Aalberg/Jonas Kullhammar/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Susana Santos Silva: Basement Sessions Vol. 4 (The Bali Tapes) (Clean Feed) **
Akmee: Neptun (Nakama) **
Anemone [Peter Evans/John Butcher/Frederic Blondy/Clayton Thomas/Paul Lovens]: A Wing Dissolved in Light (NoBusiness)
Sam Bardfeld: The Great Enthusiasms (BJU) **
Tim Berne’s Snakeoil: Incidentals (ECM) ** Carlos Bica & Azul: More Than This (Clean Feed)
Raoul Björkenheim Ecstasy: Doors of Perception (Cuneiform) **
Jane Ira Bloom: Wild Lines: Improvising Emily Dickinson (Outline, 2CD)
Burning Ghosts: Reclamation (Tzadik) *
Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: All You Zombies Dig the Luminosity (Avant Groidd) **
Alex Cline’s Flower Garland Orchestra: Oceans of Vows (self-released, 2CD) *
Club D’Elf: Live at Club Helsinki (Face Pelt, 2CD)
Anat Cohen Tentet: Happy Song (Anzic) **
Richie Cole: Latin Lover (RCP) Cortex: Avant-Garde Party Music (Clean Feed) ** CP Unit: Before the Heat Death (Clean Feed)
Ernest Dawkins New Horizons Ensemble: Transient Takes (Malcom)
Jon De Lucia Group: As the River Sings (Fresh Sound New Talent) *
DEK Trio: Construct 2: Artfacts (Audiographic) **
DEK Trio: Construct 3: Ovadlo 29 (Audiographic) **
Marc Devine Trio: Inspiration (ITI)
Whit Dickey/Mat Maneri/Matthew Shipp: Vessel in Orbit (AUM Fidelity) **
Christoph Erb/Jim Baker/Frank Rosaly: . . . Don’t Buy Him a Parrot . . . (Hatology) **
ExpEAR & Drew Gress: Vesper (Kopasetic)
Adam Fairhall: Friendly Ghosts (Efpi) **
Joe Fiedler: Like, Strange (Multiphonics Music) ** Joana Gama/Luís Fernandes/Richardo Jacinto: Harmonies (Shhpuma)
Kate Gentile: Mannequins (Skirl)
Terry Gibbs: 92 Years Young: Jammin’ at the Gibbs House (Whaling City Sound) Jean-Brice Godet: Lignes De Crêtes (Clean Feed)
Gordon Grdina Quartet: Inroads (Songlines)
Ross Hammond + Jon Bafus: Masonic Lawn (Prescott) **
Louis Hayes: Serenade for Horace (Blue Note) **
The Heliocentrics: A World of Masks (Soundway) **
Fred Hersch: Open Book (Palmetto)
Eric Hofbauer: Ghost Frets (Creative Nation Music)
Eric Hofbauer: Prehistoric Jazz Volume 4: Reminiscing in Tempo (Creative Nation Music)
Joseph Huber: The Suffering Stage (self-released) **
Jason Kao Hwang: Sing House (Euonymous)
Vijay Iyer Sextet: Far From Over (ECM) **
Dylan Jack Quartet: Diagrams (Creative Nation Music)
Diana Krall: Turn Up the Quiet (Verve) **
Michel Lambert: Alom Mola (Jazz From Rant)
Allegra Levy: Cities Between Us (SteepleChase)
Liebman/Murley Quartet: Live at U of T (U of T Jazz)
Charles Lloyd New Quartet: Passin’ Thru (Blue Note) **
Doug MacDonald: A Salute to Jazz Composers: Jazz Marathon 2 (BluJazz, 2CD)
Roberto Magris Sextet: Live in Miami @ the WDNA Jazz Gallery (JMood)
Brian McCarthy Nonet: The Better Angels of Our Nature (Truth Revolution)
Makaya McCraven: Highly Rare (International Anthem) ** Joe McPhee/Pascal Niggenkemper/Ståle Liavik Solberg: Imaginary Numbers (Clean Feed) **
Bob Merrill: Tell Me Your Troubles: Songs by Joe Bushkin (Accurate)
Ron Miles: I Am a Man (Yellowbird) **
Roscoe Mitchell: Bells for the South Side (ECM, 2CD) **
Charnett Moffett: Music From Our Soul (Motéma) **
Marcus Monteiro: Another Part of Me (Whaling City Sound)
Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Paint (Hot Cup)
Kyle Motl Trio: Panjandrums (Metatrope)
The MUH Trio [Roberto Magris/Frantisek Uhlir/Jaromir Helesic]: Prague After Dark (JMood)
Doug Munro and La Pompe Attack: The Harry Warren Songbook (GotMusic)
The Necks: Unfold (Ideologic Organ) ** Gard Nilssen’s Complete Unity: Live in Europe (Clean Feed, 3CD) **
Paal Nilssen-Love/Frode Gjerstad: Nearby Faraway (PNL) **
Linda May Han Oh: Walk Against Wind (Biophilia)
Eivind Opsvik: Overseas V (Loyal Label)
Eddie Palmieri: Sabiduria/Wisdom (Ropeadope) **
Elan Pauer: Yamaha/Speed (Creative Sources) Mario Pavone: Vertical (Clean Feed) **
Gary Peacock Trio: Tangents (ECM) **
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 4: Hyperion (Leo)
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 6: Saturn (Leo)
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 7: Dione (Leo)
Lewis Porter/Phil Scarff Group: Three Minutes to Four (Whaling City Sound) [**]
Noah Preminger: Meditations on Freedom (self-released)
Mike Reed: Flesh & Bone (482 Music)
Dave Rempis: Lattice (Aerophonic)
Jason Rigby: Detroit-Cleveland Trio: One (Fresh Sound New Talent)
Stephen Riley/Peter Zak: Deuce (SteepleChase) **
Riverside [Dave Douglas/Chet Doxas/Steve Swallow/Jim Doxas]: The New National Anthem (Greenleaf Music)
Adam Rudolph’s Moving Pictures: Glare of the Tiger (Meta/M.O.D. Technologies)
Samo Salamon/Szilárd Mezei/Achille Succi: Planets of Kei: Free Sessions Vol. 1 (Not Two)
Jenny Scheinman: Here on Earth (Royal Potato Family) **
Irène Schweizer/Joey Baron: Live! (Intakt)
Oliver Schwerdt: Prestige/No Smoking (Euphorium, 2CD)
Matthew Shipp: Invisible Touch at Taktlos Zürich (Hatology) **
Jared Sims: Change of Address (Ropeadope)
Steve Slagle: Alto Manhattan (Panorama)
Martial Solal & Dave Liebman: Masters in Bordeaux (Sunnyside) **
Lyn Stanley: The Moonlight Sessions: Volume Two (A.T. Music)
John Stein/Dave Zinno: Wood and Strings (Whaling City Sound)
Klaus Treuheit/Lou Grassi: Port of Call (NoBusiness) *
Trichotomy: Known-Unknown (Challenge)
Throttle Elevator Music: Retrospective (Wide Hive) **
Ken Vandermark/Klaus Kugel/Mark Tokar: Escalator (Not Two) **
Cuong Vu 4-Tet: Ballet (Rare Noise) *
Jürg Wickihalder/Barry Guy/Lucas Niggli: Beyond (Intakt)
Carl Winther & Jerry Bergonzi: Inner Journey (SteepleChase LookOut) **
Lizz Wright: Grace (Concord) **
Additional new jazz records rated B+(**) or below (listed alphabetically by artist).
Greg Abate/Tim Ray Trio: Road to Forever (Whaling City Sound) [B+(*)]
Rez Abbasi: Unfiltered Universe (Whirlwind) [B+(**)]
John Abercrombie Quartet: Up and Coming (ECM) ** [B+(*)]
Antonio Adolfo: Hybrido: From Rio to Wayne Shorter (AAM) [B]
Yazz Ahmed: La Saboteuse (Naim) ** [B+(**)]
Laura Ainsworth: New Vintage (Eclectus) [B+(**)]
Ambrose Akinmusire: A Rift in Decorum: Live at the Village Vanguard (Blue Note, 2CD) ** [B+(*)]
Carol Albert: Fly Away Butterfly (Cahara) [B+(**)]
Alfjors: Demons 1 (Shhpuma, EP) ** [B+(**)]
Tony Allen: A Tribute to Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers (Blue Note, EP) ** [B+(**)]
Tony Allen: The Source (Blue Note) ** [B+(*)]
Fabian Almazan: Alcanza (Biophilia) ** [B-]
AMP Trio: Three (self-released) [B]
Angles 9: Disappeared Behind the Sun (Clean Feed) [B+(**)]
Jason Anick & Jason Yeager: United (Inner Circle Music) [B+(**)]
Bill Anschell: Rumbler (Origin) [B+(**)]
Atomic: Six Easy Pieces (Odin) ** [B+(**)]
Sheryl Bailey & Harvie S: Plucky Strum: Departure (Whaling City Sound) [B+(*)]
Ballister: Slag (Aerophonic) ** [B+(*)]
Ballrogg [Klaus Ellerhusen Holm/Roger Arntzen/Ivar Grydeland]: Abaft the Beam (Clean Feed) [B+(**)]
Heather Bambrick: You’ll Never Know (self-released) [B+(**)]
Denys Baptiste: The Late Trane (Edition) ** [B+(**)]
Rahsaan Barber: The Music in the Night (Jazz Music City) [B+(**)]
João Barradas: Directions (Inner Circle Music) ** [B+(**)]
Django Bates: Saluting Sgt...
If there is such a thing as a “Clean Feed sound,” Slow is Possible are probably not the best spokesband for it. All of the ingredients are there, sure: cello (André Pontífice), alto sax (Bruno Figueira), piano (Nuno Santos Dias), double bass (Ricardo Sousa), electric guitar/electronics (João Clemente), and drums (Duarte Fonseca). The difference, as always, lies in the execution – whereas many groups on the Clean Feed roster use similar combinations of instruments to produce dizzying swirls of improvisation, compositional complexity, and icy abstraction, Slow is Possible take a slightly different route. There are elements of all of those aforementioned things, of course, but there are also healthy portions of post-rock and cinematic music thrown into the mix, as well as abrasive, overdriven outbursts that wouldn’t be out of place on one of Zorn’s early Naked City albums. Moonwatchers, their latest release, sidesteps and subverts the expectations and assumptions that even free jazz listeners tend to hold at times, and the end result is a cohesive, and often gorgeous, collection of music.
“The Lion Dance” opens with an uneasy drone from Pontífice’s cello, a smattering of piano notes, and guitarist Clemente’s sinister insinuations of melody. That melody, when it finally coalesces from amongst all the stray whirlwinds, is an interesting one, indeed; like some of the late-period work of instrumental doom-rock band Earth, it seems to carry shades of Americana and “Wild West” brutalism. At the track’s mid-point, it segues into a hard-driving blues that acts as something of a showcase for the band’s excellent use of dynamics. Figueira’s wounded sax lines weave in and out of the piece like stiching thread crisscrossing a wound, capable of both pained cries and guttural bellows. Drummer Fonseca can only be described as a force of nature – in the quieter moments, he keeps time with a gentle and measured consistency. In louder moments, however, he pummels the kit and matches, as best he can, the explosive guitar-work of Clemente. “Catching Bukowski” is perhaps the most immediately accessible track on Moonwatchers, with its noirish spy-jazz aesthetic and rollicking, exuberant “chorus.” As the piece develops, though, things start to come off the rails a bit: Pontífice, in particular, starts to exhibit a raw physicality that offers an interesting contrast to the precise interplay going on between the others. And at some points, those allusions to Zorn’s Naked City I mentioned become more apparent, with occasional explosive chords from Clemente helping to create a “hardcore” intensity that belies the track’s seemingly traditional approach.
Interspersed amongst these heavier moments are stretches that, while maintaining the same sense of urgency, are more understated and delicate. “At Land” opens with a diaphanous duet from Clemente and pianist Dias – it’s decidedly somber, but eventually gives way to (what sound like) tribal drums, a lone bird-call, and menacing cello figures from Pontífice. From here, the tension only rises, and the piece reaches something of a climax with rasping wails from Figueira and a wild, percussive attack by Dias that, even after hearing the track several times, comes as a mild shock. “At Land” is another huge chunk of evidence that Slow is Possible are incredibly adept at making dynamics work to their advantage. The next piece, “Barely Visible,” is quite possibly the centerpiece of the album, with its odd and alluring chord changes that, even though they only appear in tantalizingly brief snatches, keep the listener invested in the way that everything unfolds. Sousa’s loping bass-line, static washes of sound from Clemente, and Figueira’s affecting lamentations provide the hypnotic backdrop – compositionally speaking, it’s not terribly complex, but the sextet have a tight control of the structure, speed, and power of the piece, and they know when to pull back and when to go barreling forward. The title track is cut from similar cloth; over fourteen minutes, the band uses repetition to their advantage, lulling you into a reverie only to yank the rug out from beneath your feet with unexpected melodic twists and slow-growing displays of force. As in the previous piece, those louder moments of catharsis always get reeled back into silence – and as before, this expansion-and-contraction prevents things from becoming overbearing or, worse, boring. The final track is a reprise; somber and subdued, it closes the album on an undoubtedly melancholic note, but its cinematic atsmosphere is the perfect way to cap off a collection of music that, due to the evocative melodies and constant exploration of different moods, often seems like the soundtrack to a lost film.
This same filmic quality could be a weak point for some listeners, for sure; while there are plenty of fierce, exhilarating segments to be found on Moonwatchers, there are an equal number of extended passages that, rather than rouse, could have you eyeing the track times in impatience. That being said, Slow is Possible have put together a rewarding album here, and the fact that they sometimes live up to their rather enigmatic band name should be taken as a net positive. Moonwatchers is a thrilling, ambitious release, and I can’t wait to see where this group takes things next!
10. Omniae Ensemble | Pedro Melo Alves (Nischo) 9. To Pianos | Eve Risser & Kaja Draksler (Clean Feed)
Duas das mais originais pianistas da cena actual, a francesa Eve Risser e a eslovena Kaja Draksler, juntaram-se numa parceria extraordinária. Num encontro de improvisação pura, com os dois pianos como eixo, exploram as possibilidades do instrumento, do detalhe à rebentação, num contínuo diálogo.
8. A Pouting Grimace | Matt Mitchell (Pi)
7. Brightbird | João Paulo Esteves da Silva Trio (Arjuna)
6. A Rift in Decorum | Ambrose Akinmusire (Blue Note) 5. Avant-Garde Party Music | Cortex (Clean Feed)
O título promete um paradoxo. O quarteto nórdico Cortex não desiludiu e apresentou uma música festiva que não esquece a originalidade da improvisação. O grupo de Thomas Johansson (trompete), Kristoffer Alberts (saxofone), Ola Høyer (contrabaixo) e Gard Nilssen (bateria) partiu de melodias eficazes e trabalhou-as com groove, criatividade e força.
4. Harmony of Difference | Kamasi Washington (Young Turks)
3. Directions | João Barradas (Inner Circle)
2. Baby Talk | James Blood Ulmer & The Thing (Trost)
1. Far From Over | De Vijay Iyer (ECM)
They’re back. After the acclaimed “The Elephant’s Journey“, the international band consisting of Joachim Badenhorst on clarinet and bass clarinet, Susana Santos Silva on trumpet, Gonçalo Almeida on double bass, keys, effects and loops, and Greg Smith on drums and electronics. And we’re glad they’re back with an even stronger suite-like album, one that grows with each listen. All tracks are “composed”, or should I say structured around an agreed build-up and some common melodies, or melodic phrases, because the word “theme” seems too heavy in this light-textured and dark album.
Conceptually, it’s a long metamorphosis, as the tracks are called, growing out of faint nothingness, out of eery drone-like electronics, something emerges … a hard to describe sound or cluster of sounds, weird and welcoming, with whispers of wind and high vibrating tones from trumpet and clarinet. Tension mounts. Electronics and percussive screeches create a psychedelic atmosphere that shifts into a slow pulse, driven by a gentle phrase on the clarinet, a deep bass … opening fully, blossoming with Susana Santos Silva’s klezmer-like warm melody inviting the clarinet for counterpoint improvisation, sensitive and fragile and at the same time joyful and sad. Then amazingly the electronics and drums drive the whole tune away, transforming the piece into sheer agony, anger and pain, full of chaos and madness. As a listener, you’ve travelled a long way. You’ve experienced a myriad of conflicting emotions, leaving you perplexed. And it works. It works well.
The second metamorphosis starts joyfully with clarinet and trumpet weaving similar phrases together without finding the unison, increasing the tempo gradually until the whole thing becomes really violent until it shifts into slow and calm open space, density disappears as tension and expectation increase. Here again, out of seeming chaos a wonderful tune emerges – somewhat reminiscent of a Harris Eisenstadt composition on Guewel – and then you notice that it’s actually been there all along. Free improvisation and planned moments merge perfectly into each other, adding surprise and wonder as you are taken along on this wonderful journey.
Like on the band’s other albums, beauty and lyricism are contrasted with darkness and harsh sounds, or not even that, they are part of the same flow, they are the same, just in another form or shape. And that makes it fascinating.
The album also has the band’s version of Joachim Badenhorst’s “Comacina Dreaming”, a wonderful folk theme, that could have been part of the Godfather soundtrack, dark and dancing, and we have already heard on albums by Equilibrium, Mikkel Ploug, Carate Urio and Celio/Baggiani Group. Its etheric tone gets a totally different perspective here, and the theme gets one of its best renditions by Santos Silva’s deep yearning tone, alternating between growls and purity.
The album ends with a Greg Smith composition, “Dark Corners”, which flows out of the previous track like a funeral march, slow, rhythmic and sad.
The strength of this music starts with the strenghts of the compositions – and kudos to Almeida for that – combined with the four artists’ clear vision of what kind of out-of-the-box music they want to play together. There is no script for a unique sound. It requires a deep understanding of each other’s sensitivities and taste, and I would say that here the match is perfect in just doing that: to create a very special signature sound together. This is the kind of magic I like. And you should too!