J.Peter Schwalm and Arve Henriksen, Rob Mazurek Exploding Star Orchestra, and Bill Evans

Artist: J.Peter Schwalm and Arve Henriksen

Title: Neuzeit

LabelRarenoise Records

Release Date: 11/27/20

Personnel: J. Peter Schwalm – piano, drums, electronics, programming; Arve Henriksen – trumpets, percussion, voices

Impression: Schwalm’s ghostly production aesthetic is the perfect backdrop for Henriksen’s lilting, noir-ish delivery which is apropos during this pre-winter 2020 environment.

More Info: Schwalm site and RareNoise Records

Listen Here:

Buy Here: Bandcamp and RareNoise Records Store

 

 

Artist: Rob Mazurek Exploding Star Orchestra

Title: Dimensional Stardust

Label: International Anthem / Nonesuch Records

Release Date: 11/20/20

Personnel: Rob Mazurek – director, composer, piccolo trumpet, electronics; Damon Locks – voice, electronics, texts; Nicole Mitchell – flutes; Macie Stewart – violins; Tomeka Reid – cellos; Joel Ross – vibraphone; Jeff Parker – guitar; Jaimie Branch – trumpet; Angelica Sanchez – acoustic piano, electric piano; Ingebrigt Håker Flaten – bass; Chad Taylor – drums, percussion; Mikel Patrick Avery – drums, percussion; John Herndon – drum machines

Impression: Mazurek continues to raise the bar with his Exploding Star Orchestra by hitting that sweetest spot between accessible and challenging, routine when you have one of the most fire contemporary ensembles in your employ.

More Info: Nonesuch Records site

Listen Here:

Buy Here: Bandcamp and Nonesuch Records store

 

 

Artist: Bill Evans

Title: Bill Evans Live at Ronnie Scott’s

Label: Resonance Records

Release Date: 12/4/20

Personnel: Bill Evans – pinao; Eddie Gomez – bass; Drummer Jack DeJohnette – drums

Impression: Any excuse to hear more late 60’s Evans is just fine by me, but this dexterous set is hitting the spot right now.

More Info: Resonance Records

Listen/Watch Here:

Buy Here: Resonance Records store

 

André Gonçalves, Ingrid Laubrock, and The End

Artist:  André Gonçalves

Title: Instrumentals

Label: ShhPuma Records

Release Date: 10/20/20

Personnel: André Goncalves – compositions and sounds

Impression: Instrumentals showcases Gonçalves as a kind of enlightened musical sand-artist who fashions arresting works out of malleable and eroding sound elements, and it is striking for both it’s sublime simplicity and the meticulous attention to detail AG has given.

More Info: André Gonçalves website and ShhPuma Records

Listen Here:

Buy Here: Bandcamp and ShhPuma Store

 

 

Artist: Ingrid Laubrock

Title: Dreamt Twice, Twice Dreamt

Label: Intakt Records

Release Date: 11/20/20

Personnel: Intakt; 11/20; Disc 1: EOS Chamber Orchestra w/ Soloists: Sam Pluta – Electronics: Cory Smythe – Piano, Quarter-Tone Keyboard; Robert Landfermann – Double Bass; Tom Rainey – Drums; Ingrid Laubrock – Tenor and Soprano Saxophones; Disc 2: Ingrid Laubrock – Tenor and Soprano Saxophones; Cory Smythe – Piano and Quarter-Tone Keyboard; Sam Pluta – Electronics + Zeena Parkins – Electric Harp; Adam Matlock – Accordion; Josh Modney – Violin

Impression: Laubrock utilizes both chamber-orchestral and smaller ensemble arrangements of a new set of positively revelatory pieces to navigate the cloudy world of oneiric logic through music, not unlike how Freud did using psychoanalysis…though the reward for undivided attention to her method far outweighs anything he could have offered.

More Info: Ingrid Laubrock website and Intakt Records

Listen Here:

Buy Here: Bandcamp and Intakt Records Store

 

 

Artist: The End

Title: Allt Är Intet

Label: RareNoise Records

Release Date: 11/13/20

Personnel: Sofia Jernberg – Voice; Kjetil Møster – Tenor Sax, Clarinet, Electronics; Mats Gustafsson – Baritone Sax, Flute, Live Electronics; Anders Hana – Baritone Guitar, Langeleik (Norwegian Zither); Børge Fjordheim – Drums

Impression: One of the fiercest and most pummeling collections of music this year also happens to contain some of the most poignant musical moments in recent memory due in no small part to the expressive proficiency of Sofia Jernberg.

More Info: Mats Gustafsson website and RareNoise Records

Listen Here:

Buy Here: Bandcamp and RareNoise Records Store

 

The Warriors of the Wonderful Sound, Stephan Thelen, and Ennio Morricone

Artist: The Warriors of the Wonderful Sound

Title: Soundpath

Label: Clean Feed Records

Release Date: 10/30/20

Personnel: Marty Ehrlich – conductor/alto saxophone; Bobby Zankel – alto saxophone; Julian Pressley – alto saxophone; Robert DeBellis – tenor and soprano saxophone; Hafez Modirzadeh – tenor saxophone; Mark Allen – baritone saxophone; Dave Ballou – trumpet; Dwayne Eubanks – trumpet; Graham Haynes – cornet; Josh Evans – trumpet; Steve Swell – trombone; Michael Dessen – trombone; Alfred Patterson – trombone; Jose Davilla – bass trombone; Michael Formanek – bass; Tom Lawton – piano; Chad Taylor – drums

Impression: Soundpath is a Muhal Richard Abrams-penned, Bobby Zankle-comissioned piece consisting of a number of majestic vignettes for big band that premiered in 2012, was recorded in 2018, and is presented now for the first time so that we might all listen in awe at MRA’s total compositional mastery as executed by a like minded and boffo ensemble.

More Info: Clean Feed Records

Listen Here:

Buy Here: Clean Feed Records Store and Bandcamp

 

 

Artist: Stephan Thelen performed by Al Pari Quartet, and Kronos Quartet

Title: World Dialogue

Label: RareNoise Records

Release Date: 10/30/20

Personnel: KRONOS QUARTET: David Harrington – Violin 1; John Sherba – Violin 2; Hank Dutt – Viola; Sunny Yang – Cello + AL PARI QUARTET: Marta Lucjan – Violin 1; Alicja Miruk-Mirska – Violin 2 ;Magdalena Maier – Viola Elzabieta Rychwalska – Cello

Impression: In all honesty, I came for Kronos and the hypnotizing syncopation Thelen has showcased in his wicked ensemble Sonar, but I am staying for the delicious melodies adorning his signature brand of minimalism, all beautifully performed by both quartets on this recording.

More Info: Stephan Thelen’s Site and Rarenoise Records

Listen Here:

Buy Here: Bandcamp and RareNoise Records

 

 

Artist: Ennio Morricone

Title: Morricone Segreto

Label: CAM Sugar Records and Decca Records

Release Date: 11/6/20

Personnel: various

Impression: No one excelled at putting music to film like Morricone and a collection of the less-orchestral, more tripped-out and groovy side of the maestro circa late 60s-early 80s, seven tracks heretofore unissued ’til now, is cause for celebration in a time that is short on celebration of any sort.

More Info: Ennio Morricone’s site

Listen Here:

Buy Here: Decca Records shop

 

2019 NPR Jazz Critics Poll

Happy new year and best wishes to everyone for a beautiful 2020!  I have been decidedly inactive on this site for some time now, but I thought I would drop a note to reflect one last time on 2019.

The 2019 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll has now been published, and Francis Davis has again let me chime in.  Go buy all of this great music!

The overview results are here

Davis’ commentary is here

…and my contribution is here

My favorite part of this poll is reading each of the contributor’s picks, which can be done here

My best of 2019 are as follows…

NEW RELEASES

  1. David Torn-Tim Berne-Ches Smith, Sun of Goldfinger (ECM)
  2. Anna Webber, Clockwise (Pi)
  3. Camila Meza & the Nectar Orchestra, Ambar (Sony Masterworks)
  4. Bill Frisell, Harmony (Blue Note)
  5. Timespine, Urban Season (Shhpuma)
  6. Tyshawn Sorey & Marilyn Crispell, The Adornment of Time (Pi)
  7. Gregg Belisle-Chi, Book of Hours (Ears & Eyes)
  8. Kris Davis, Diatom Ribbons (Pyroclastic)
  9. Sonar With David Torn, Tranceportation (Volume 1) (RareNoise)
  10. Stefan Aeby, Piano Solo (Intakt)

REISSUES/HISTORICAL

  1. Eric Dolphy, Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions (Resonance -3CD)
  2. Nat “King” Cole, Hittin’ the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943) (Resonance -7CD)
  3. Paul Bley-Gary Peacock-Paul Motian, When Will the Blues Leave (ECM)

VOCAL

  • Camila Meza & the Nectar Orchestra, Ambar (Sony Masterworks)

DEBUT

  • Nick Dunston, Atlantic Extraction (Out of Your Head)

LATIN

  • Camila Meza & the Nectar Orchestra, Ambar (Sony Masterworks)

 

Anna Webber, Cyrille Aimée, Chris Potter, Julian Lage, and Marilyn Mazur

Anna Webber – Clockwise (Pi Recordings)

Taking influence from percussion pieces by Xenakis, Feldman, Varése, Stockhausen, Babbitt, and Cage – the Big-6 of 20th century composition, maybe – composer and saxophonist/flutist Anna Webber descends like a friggin’ superhero onto new home Pi Recordings with Clockwise.

This music is heavy, like King Crimson or Don Caballero-heavy. No surprise here, considering the propulsive capacity of three-headed beast Matt Mitchell, Chris Tordini, and Ches Smith. In choosing master improvising soloists/extended technicians Jeremy Viner, Jacob Garchik, and Christopher Hoffman for the project, Webber has deftly adorned and accentuated the proceedings’ weight. According to Webber, “The goal was not to re-contextualize the composers’ original intents or ideas, rather it was to find hidden sympathetic points of resonance within the primary compositions that I could abstractly develop into new works.” Riffin’ on the germs of the ideas of the oldies, perhaps? On Clockwise, pitch and harmony take a back seat to texture/timbre and rhythm/meter, just like in the best, heaviest rock music. This does much to make Clockwise some of the most accessible highly complex music imaginable.

Webber has created an environment so wonderfully conducive to solo and group improvisation with these inspired pieces, which is particularly exciting with such a creative and skilled group of players. Clockwise is a total grand slam!

learn more at Webber’s site and Pi Recordings and buy at your local record store, bandcamp, or Amazon

 

 

Cyrille Aimée – Move On: A Sondheim Adventure (Mack Avenue Records)

Acclaimed vocalist Cyrille Aimée seems to have found in the work of singular Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim more than sufficient material with which to tell her own story. With Move On: A Sondheim Adventure tell it she does, and with great aplomb. Her first studio recording since moving from New York to New Orleans, Move On features a cast of nearly twenty musicians masterfully supporting Aimée’s personal statement of journey and transition. In addition to a literal “moving on”, Aimée has gone through the significant personal changes of ending relationships with both band mates and a significant other.

The core group on this session is comprised of the French trio of pianist Thomas Enhco, bassist Jérémy Bruyère, and drummer Yoann Serra. Additional top shelf work came from the hands of Brazilian guitarist Diego Figueiredo, as well as from keyboardist and Aimée’s old friend Assaf Gleizner, who also co-produced and beautifully co-arranged the album. There is an infectiousness on MO that seemingly only comes from an artist’s full immersion in the creative act: the pained reverie of “I Remember”, augmented in no small part by Warren Walker’s electronically processed saxophone, is profound, and the gospel-tinged delivery of “No One Is Alone” is supremely affecting.

The album ends with an up-tempo samba version of “With So Little To Be Sure Of”, the cherry on the top of this weighty testament to the therapeutic and redemptive power of music.

learn more at Aimee’s site and Mack Avenue and buy at your local record store or Amazon

 

 

Chris Potter – Circuits (Edition Records)

As one of the most accomplished and in-demand improvisers for the past nearly three decades and twenty-some-odd leader records later, Chris Potter needs no introduction, but there you go with one anyway.

For his first outing for England’s Edition Records imprint, Potter, as is his wont, dons many hats: ​composer, tenor and soprano ​saxophonist, clarinetist, flutist, sampler guru, guitarist, keyboardist, and percussionist. He also recruited some players of the highest order: keyboardist James Francies, drummer Eric Harland and bassist Linley Marthe. The playing by all on Circuits is, no surprise, clairvoyant and spectacular, but it is the locked interplay within the rhythm section that really shines here. Harland tests the limits of a groove’s relationship to meter in signature fashion while Francies and Marthe reside splendidly in the pocket. Though Circuits is a decidedly rhythm-forward affair, it is also one in which the players are given the high sign to go off. And go off they do, none more than Potter himself, who nearing 50, is doing some of the sharpest playing of his life.

Truth be told, I’m not easily wowed in the presence of technically proficient playing, but Circuits is really quite impressive, and quite unique in that these guys are on another plane of skill and are also saying something quite compelling. It’s heartening that Potter is off to such a swell start at his new home of Edition Records.

learn more at Edition Records and buy at bandcamp or Amazon

 

 

Julian Lage – Love Hurts (Mack Avenue Records)

I have plenty of time for a record that kicks off with the musical centerpiece of cinematic juggernaut Eraserhead, David Lynch’s “In Heaven”.   Love Hurts is one such collection, and fortunately, there is much more to guitarist Julian Lage’s new one than a cool bookend.

At 31, Lage has already carved out an illustrious career, working with some of the greatest musicians on the planet including Gary Burton, John Zorn, Nels Cline, Dave Douglas, Charles Lloyd, and Fred Hersch. On top of his side-work, he has released several records under his own name, included two trio records with bassist Scott Colley and drummer Kenny Wollesen. For LH, Lage recruited bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Dave King, effectively opening wide the door to an elevated scrappiness that was perhaps missing on his two previous trio recordings. The song selection on LH is impeccable, including a sating triptych of “pairs”…1) original numbers: “In Circles” and “Lullaby”, the almost Ayler-esque highlight of the record; 2) Keith Jarret tunes: “The Windup” and “Encore (A)” 3) Roy Orbison-associated classics: “Love Hurts” and “Crying”. According to Lage, “the covers on this record are like when you move into a new apartment, the last thing you do is hang your pictures on the wall…. those pictures define your aesthetic in a way. So the tunes we chose kind of define the aesthetic I natively love but hadn’t put on a record yet.”

Julian Lage’s trajectory is one that is impossibly ever onward and upward, given the ashes of excellence and innovation that are still smoldering in its trail. One can only imagine what wonders he still has in his bag, and how much fun it will be to find out.

learn more at Lage’s site and Mack Avenue and buy at your local record store or Amazon

 

 

Marilyn Mazur – Shamania (RareNoise Records)

If you’re like me (ill-informed, lazy, etc.), the name Marilyn Mazur might not ring a bell at first. Upon further digging, it turns out she is the same Danish percussionist who played on Miles Davis’ Aura record, a pair of Gil Evans releases, a handful of Jan Garbarek’s albums, and in fact, has numerous recordings under a variety of monikers on ECM, Storyville, and Stunt Records. In sum, she is a seasoned professional who has been kicking ass since well before many listeners were born.

Mazur began making adventurous music back in the mid-1970s with her multi-discipline music/theatre group Primi Band. More than forty years later, she has resurrected that concept with Shamania, a collective of ten of Scandinavia’s most creative female musicians who, according to their new label, draw “from a deep well of primal energy and experimental audacity”. What Mazur and co have created on their eponymous RareNoise Records release is somewhat indescribable given their holistic approach to music making. The reed/percussion/string/vocal music grooves, floats, bobs, weaves, and it quenches. Suffice it to say, and this is no secret, the best music throws genre to the wind, and that is what Mazur has done with Shamania.

I’m not saying we should leave it to women to do it right, but far more often than not, given the opportunity, they will. More appropriately, we should let women show the world what it could be and then the world can and will likely fall in line. Big ups to RareNoise for again presenting terrific sounds to a world filled with noise.

learn more at Mazur’s site and RareNoise Records and buy at your local record store, bandcamp, or Amazon