Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Maykel Elizarde Group, South County, Music of Cuba

The dance music of Cuba is as beautiful to me, when well done, as anything I've heard. And when dance elements combine with a pronounced jazz flavor, so much the better. This holds true of the Maykel Elizarde Group and their recent album South County (Ansonica AR0004). It features the exceptional tres guitar of the bandleader, the fine vocals of Yudelkys Perez Jure, and a very together ensemble that includes six other fine musicians and some welcome guests.

The music is very lively, with the tres holding forth nicely, percussion and bass laying down a rock solid foundation and flute and ensemble embellishing it all while Yudelkys' voice soars atop in those numbers where she is featured. Tres solos sprinkle the music with a brilliance anyone can recognize.

In short this is contemporary Cuban music of real distinction, something that sounds great any time of day, any season, whenever you are in the mood to groove and stretch your soul. Recommended. Viva Ansonica Records for bringing this to us.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Rob Schneiderman, Tone Twister, Brian Lynch's Hollistic MusicWorks Presents

Jazz, excellent jazz can still be found. You may not be able to comb the stacks of a trusted record store this day and unearth something that causes you to try out an unknown possibility. Yet we still can take a chance and open up another set of fine musicians that interconnect. I get an awful lot as a reviewer and so get exposed to things in bulk. What emerges from all the listening I must do are various "finds," new worlds of jazz that my ear hears and appreciates whereas in earlier times I had less exposure to this much new music. So I try and help you with various possibilities you might not otherwise be hipped to.

Such an album is most definitely Brian Lynch's Hollistic MusicWorks Presents Tone Twister by Rob Schneiderman (Hollistic MusicWorks HMW 16). It is finely honed quintet jazz capturing the essence of classic Blue Note hard bop in the finely composed, arranged and nicely improvised mode. The piano-trumpet-tenor-bass-drums instrumentation of course is venerable. It is made concrete by the fine players who form Hollistic MusicWorks: Rob Schneiderman on piano, Brian Lynch on trumpet, Ralph Moore on tenor, Gerald Cannon on bass and Pete Van Nostrand on drums. All very good players well suited for the music Schneiderman envisions.

"Unforgettable" is the one standard we hear, and it forms a familiar island in a sea of inventive hard bop. The rest are Schneiderman-penned numbers, each with an element of style known well to us, Latin-tinged,  loping, swinging funk, boplicitous excursions, mid-Trane-ish, Tyneresque feels, Monk-Duke modes, in short a good variety of moods and grooves. Within the whole there are nicely tight interlocking horn voicings, piano strengths and subtleties, and a continual powering by the rhythm team.

A happy confluence is what we get throughout. Put it on and engage!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Denny Zeitlin, George Marsh, Expedition, Duo Electroacoustic Improvisations

Nothing can be taken for granted in music or in life. Yet Denny Zeitlin and George Marsh have been playing together off and on so long and so productively that we might be guilty of overlooking just how much they have grown as individuals and as musical partners over the years. It has not been a continuous unbroken association since Denny had George on hand as a part of an excellent trio in the late '60s.

So with a new installment of their work together at hand, Expedition, Duo Electro-Acoustic Improvsations (Sunnyside SSC 1487), we are well served by listening closely.

Denny, of all the pianists that expanded from just acoustic piano to a live combination of the acoustic instrument and multiple synths, etc., has been one of the most brilliant exemplars of maintaining a very high level of musicality while orchestrating the notes with a composer's sense of variation in timbres and textures.

George in the meantime has become the ideal drummer in such a setting, with a sure sense of swing and a beautiful full and varied drum set sound.

The new one flows so well and so musically that I feel we are in the presence, that a lifetime of talent, and musical soul and brains is culminating in some of the very best "electro-acoustic" jazz ever! This one really ravishes our musical senses and gives us a virtual jazz orchestra that will make a believer out of the mouldiest figs of acoustic purity. This is above all integrated spontaneity, with complete timbral mastery joining fittingly with free jazz inventiveness of the highest order.

In the listening is the confirmation. Expedition is one of the finest jazz albums of the year!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Eric Revis, Sing Me Some Cry

Anyone who reads this column regularly should be familiar with Eric Revis. He is a new jazz freedom bassist, composer and bandleader whose music has been addressed in several review articles over the years. We come back to him happily with a recent release of his entitled Sing Me Some Cry (Clean Feed 428).

The album features an excellent quartet in Revis on bass, Ken Vandermark on tenor sax and clarinet, Kris Davis on piano and Chad taylor on drums. All four have a hand n the compositional frameworks, with four of nine by Revis, one each by Vandermark, Taylor and Davis, one by Adam Rogers, and one a collective quartet venture.

The frameworks set up some cutting-edge improvisations by the foursome, who are rooted in the music yet determined to move forward. Each is an important voice on her or his instrument. And at the same time there is a pronounced four-way confluence to be heard.

Perhaps most impressive over the last few years is the emergence of pianist Kris Davis as a central and cogent contributor to a good number of fruitful sessions. She is a central voice here as well. Eric bears close listening too for his bass smarts. And really there is centrality to all, though Vandermark and Taylor one always expects over the years to make important contributions to whatever date they are on. That is very true on Sing Me Some Cry.

In the end one is struck by the vibrancies of the frameworks as well as the cohesive movement of the improvisations. There is individual and collective totality on all nine pieces.

There is every reason to check this music out if you want to know what is new about new avant jazz. It is a bright moment on a continuum of continual effervescence out there. Grab it and spin it and you'll no doubt get it!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Bambu, Alexandra Grimal, Benjamin Duboc, Valentin Ceccaldi

An open-ended, hard-edged trio excels in creating dramatic presence on the recent CD Bambu (Ayler Records 152). There is a European sort of new music-avant garde jazz confluence to be heard on this recording. The lower strings-plus-saxophones in the right hands makes for pronounced sonarity.

Benjamin Duboc has become to my mind one of the primary forces in avant garde double bass on the continent these days. He reminds us why here. Valentin Ceccaldi on cello holds forth as an extension and inner respondent-equal to Duboc. Alexandra Grimal tops the bottom or adds to it depending on which saxophone she is playing and its range. She establishes herself as a full creative co-respondent and in her vocal ruminations a sort of additional instrument.

You might say that this kind of music is a "thinking person's" free improv. There are some moments when there is a meditative care and hushed expectancy. Other segments burst forward in vivid timbral colors. Never does the music seem  rote. On the contrary we have a freshening both lyrical and other-earthly.

This is surely a music beyond category. It does not care what it is called. It sings itself. We join in. Worth your time and attention is this album! And you'll help out a label of real importance. Get it.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Michala Petri, Marilyn Mazur, Daniel Murray, Brazilian Landscapes

Some music to appreciate fully you have to let breathe inside of you for a space. That is true certainly of Michala Petri, Marilyn Mazur and Daniel Murray's Brazilian Landscapes (Our Recordings 6.220618). It needs to breathe inside your musical mind because it has a beauty made up of unusual parts that in turn form an unusual whole.

To start there is the instrumentation and the musical personalities at hand. Recorder, classical guitar and percussion? That in itself is unusual. And then the peopling of the instruments is special. Marilyn Mazur has been for years a very accomplished and innovative percussionist. She shows on this recording that she is ever more resourceful and brilliant in her use of congas and all sorts of percussive instrumental possibilities. Michala Petri plays a very vibrant and contemporary kind of recorder sounding. In her hands it is an instrument of jazzy provenance, very fluid and timbrally diverse. Classical guitarist Daniel Murray plays in a fully blossomed contemporary manner that takes into account the rich tradition of Brazilian and jazz-oriented possibilities without being unaware an unversed in the state-of-the-art stylistic parameters of the classical guitar art per se.

Put these three together with some very ingenious and moving arrangements that allow for and sound with a jazz-like spontaneity. The interactions of the three within the well-worked out arrangements gives us an unusual sonic depth and presence that plays out fully and meaningfully.

And then there is the repertoire, a good mix of classics and lesser known Brazilian classics and lesser known pieces along with a few nice Daniel Murray originals. The Brazilian derived fare includes songs and works by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Egberto Gismonti, Hermeto Pascoal, Heitor Villa-Lobos, plus Paulo Porto Alegre, Paolo Bellinati, Ernesto Nazareth, and Antonio Ribeiro. All of the material has substance and the Brazilian tinge both rhythmically and otherwise.

The result spans chamber classical structure-form and Brazilian jazz heat and drive.

It is beautiful. It needs a few hearings to encompass and then you are there. That is, if you respond to it like I did. I cannot say that there is anything quite like it. Anyone who favors things Brazilian will take to it. Or even those who simply love good music.

Very recommended. A sleeper but a keeper!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Daunik Lazro, Jean-Luc Cappozzo, Didier Lasserre, Garden(s)

We drift along in time while new and worthy music can fill our ears and does if we take the time to listen to what is at hand. Today one such album offers itself up for consideration, namely Daunik Lazro, Jean-Luc Cappozzo and Didier Lasserre's Garden(s) (Ayler Records AYLCD-150).

It is a trio date from France that calls upon some standards and some free originals to suspend our everyday mundane concerns and catapult us into an ozone strata of improvisational futures laced with classics of past tenses spoken in the present-future tense.

There is a sort of oscillation between rethought classics and new ground. So we have Duke's "Sophisticated Lady," and the lesser-known "Hop Head,"  Coltrane's "Lonnie's Lament," Ayler's "Angels." They rub shoulders with the strictly new improvs that this trio so readily fabricates.

Lazro has a true voice on baritone. It is both classic and future directed. His tenor has a different feel, as can often be the case with multi-reedists. Cappozzo interacts well with Lazro and as expected from him creates his own improvisational space. Lasserre drums with a dynamic confidence that works well in the space he naturally gets from a spare threesome without blanketing harmonic instrumentation.

The results are moving, motional, never static. And in the end it is firmly a part of the jazz continuum, yet in itself an original statement. That's a very good thing. Listen and I think you will dig what you hear!