Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tim Berne's Snakeoil, Shadow Man

Tim Berne's Snakeoil band continues and perfects the long evolution and development of his music. The new album Shadow Man (ECM) makes it clear that he is still moving forward. Tim puts together the compositional-conceptual forms as you would expect, plays the alto and fronts a quartet that sounds much denser than a four-person outfit usually does.

That is in great part so because of how Tim and ensemble give you intensely worked out multiple sounding motival rubato often enough. There can be a pulse involved but it is plastic, malleable. In a way Tim Berne has been working out his own group logic from such roots as Trane's Sunship, and perhaps some of Braxton's classic pattern repetition pieces, and maybe Roscoe Mitchell of Nonaah, though the music sounds nothing like any of the three, exactly. There is almost a four-way, subtle-ized free-modern fanfare going on in the music, a way to approach the long-form of modern improvisational music by freeing the ensemble of the standard post-bop role-playing and having each player develop an integral part of the improvised-composed whole. Then there are endlessly counterpointed ensemble passages too, which ultimately work around variable patterns of intervals that extend outwards, potentially into infinity. Soloing on top of either form further extends the long-range, long-term possibilities of a work and yet gives you a feeling like you are still in the "head" mode. Or at least that is what I hear happening.

It helps to have a foursome with excellent improvisational instincts and imagination. Tim of course, Oscar Noriega on clarinet and bass clarinet, Matt Mitchell on piano and Ches Smith on drums, vibes and percussion. This is a group where each member is totally key to the compositional-concept sound, not spelling rhythm or harmonies as much as actively entering the four-way musical discourse.

And so that's what I am hearing. It is Tim Berne's own way and Snakeoil is perhaps the ideal player combination for hearing it. Shadow Man has a breathtaking beauty-in-hardness to it. It is one not-to-pass-by. Tim Berne is here in the present-future and we cannot ignore the music because it is fundamental to OUR present-future, I think. Mind you I am not saying that Maestro Berne is THE next thing. He is clearly A next thing, an important music-maker to coexist alongside some other key cats today. But you listen four or five times yourself. New music, jazz, call it what you want. But don't ignore it!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Lama + Chris Speed, Lamacal

Not every musical collaboration is "made in heaven". Some have their moments but maybe aren't as productive as they might seem on paper. Others have that extra something, where all involved share the performative act as sympathetic equals, dedicated to a singular undertaking. I would definitely put the meeting of Chris Speed and Lama, on their recent live disk Lamacal (Clean Feed 275), in that second category.

The foursome hold forth at the 10th Edition of the Portalegre Jazz Festival in a full set of sonic adventures. Chris plays tenor and clarinet throughout, then it's Susana Santos Silva on trumpet and flugel, Goncalo Almeida on double bass, effects and loops, and Greg Smith on drums and electronics. The non-acoustic/effects elements have an integral, inclusive role to play at points in the program, coloring the ensemble sound, most obviously the bass. It's the acoustic playing (whether over, around or [mostly] by itself) in the end that brings it all together.

What's good about this encounter? Plenty. One thing is how well Susana and Chris work together as the front line soloists. Ms. Silva has good ideas and execution and Chris complements her well. Chris on clarinet is something to hear (and I'll admit I haven't paid enough attention to that side of his playing until now). Of course his tenor work has stamina and vision--and it combines effectively with Silva's trumpet, whether they are playing around with compositional elements or doing a dual-improvisational thing.

The composition/sound landscaping gives the music dramatic longevity. Your ears do not tire because there is pace-changing diversity in a freely-avant yet structured setting. Almeida writes four of the seven; the others contribute one apiece.

Almeida and Smith have very nice push and subtle interplay as needed. And Almeida often plays a pivotal role in the structure of the compositional framework through ostinatos and such. And he solos with intent and results, then gets some good wood on the ensemble passages consistently, too. Smith has creative force in his playing and does not resort to any of the free cliches you can sometimes hear overdone elsewhere.

The music can kick it up well to a more frenetic level when it is time. The feels and melodic modes are worthy of hearing and put all the improvising on a hear-it-over-again basis.

Very nice effort. These four got something going on that gig. You should find it very stimulating--like I did.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Road to Jajouka: A Benefit Album

Ever since Brian Jones of Rolling Stones fame recorded and released an album of music by the Master Musicians of Jajouka, Morocco, the group of wind players, drummers, etc., has been an important part of the musical map we who take note of such things have in our heads.

They've had a number of albums over the years and also been collaborators in meta-fusion encounters, notably with Ornette Coleman. And now there's a new album out, put together especially as a benefit for them and the funds they need to keep on, The Road to Jajouka (Howe).

This is a fascinating collection of collaborations between Jajouka musicians and contemporary jazz and rock musicians of note. The participants include Ornette Coleman, Marc Ribot, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Flea, John Zorn, Lee Ranaldo, Mickey Hart, etc.

It places the Jajouka tonality and playing style in a variety of Euro-American rock and jazz modes and does so with consistent success. And, best of all, you'll be helping them by getting the CD. Ultimately you should hear an album of their music in the North African context, but that can be something you can do later. This one is a kind of great adventure of musico-cultural integration and stands on its own with some very different twists and turns!

Friday, October 25, 2013

SOS, John Surman, Mike Osborne, Alan Skidmore, Looking for the Next One

SOS only released one album during their brief but productive lifetime on the '70s British jazz scene. So the uncovering and release of another two full-CDs of music is quite welcome. That is what we have on Looking for the Next One (Rune 360-361). SOS was the product of a three-way collaboration between John Surman, Mike Osborne and Alan Skidmore.

All three were (and are) primarily known as saxophonists and of course all three have a strong presence in that department. For the set Osborne is on alto, Skidmore on soprano and tenor, and Surman on baritone, soprano and bass clarinet. One of the things that makes this trio unique though is the way Skidmore can switch over to drums, Surman to synthesizers and keyboards, and Osborne to percussion at any given point to give us a sound that has many facets and seems--and is--much more than a three-sax gathering.

The other factor that makes this group stand out is the compositional side of the performances. Skidmore, Surman and the trio as a whole construct very interesting compositional materials out of folk roots and more avant leanings. All serve to frame the improvisations fully and provide a continuous evolution of feels and moods. It's free music with a structured backbone, so to say.

The first disk is a product of two London studio dates from 1974 and 1975. Tony Levin joins the band on drums for the last two cuts to give even more fullness to the sound. The second disk is a live set well-captured at the Balver Hoehle Jazz Festival, Germany, from the summer of 1974.

The music is in full fidelity and contains much that is remarkable. The synth/keys and drums give the band the ability to stray into more electric territory--like later Soft Machine in some ways, and they do so to good effect. The three-horn interaction and individual soloing are impeccable and rousing, all that one could hope for from these three.

This is a release that opens up the listener to a new, fuller understanding of how talented the three were and how intriguing and exciting was the music they made together. They deserved more attention, surely, than they got as SOS back then. But we have this set now and we can fully appreciate them in some depth. Grab this!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Raquel Bitton, Rhythm of the Heart

There is never a shortage of unexpected combinations out there in musicland. Here we have one today, singer Raquel Bitton and her album Rhythm of the Heart (self-released RB 4302-2). It's Raquel and a 20-piece Latin-cabaret group doing songs associated with Latin singer Tino Rossi. There are tangos, boleros, cha chas, sambas, bossas, merengues, danzons, all arranged nicely for the large group in classic '40s-'50s nightclub fashion. Rossi was especially a French sensation during his lifetime.

So Raquel singing these songs in French is definitely not a stretch. She has the voice of a chanteuse, well nuanced and well presented.

This is the sort of thing that left me at first hearing scratching my head, but a few listens later I fell into its spell and there I remain.

It's not exactly jazz, so don't expect a swinging band and lots of solos. There are strings, a Latin rhythm core and some nicely turned horn parts. Not jazz, no, though Xavier Cugat is not so far away when you hear it. What you get is total charm and a Cuban-French combination that sticks in your head after a while. And Raquel can sing.

Different!! Nicely so...

Monday, October 21, 2013

UTSAV! Arghyam (The Offering), Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, Celebrating Ravi Shankar

Continuing the UTSAV! series of music inspired by and in tribute to Ravi Shankar is this volume by singer Ashwini Bide Deshpande, an acclaimed member of the Jaipur-Atraulli Gharana and someone Maestro Shankar stood in relation to as Guru.

She performs a series of compositions-ragas, all of which were created by Ravi Shankar with the exception of one, which Ms. Deshpande created herself.

She has a marvelous voice, warm and expressive, and extremely dexterous as called for the the later sections of the ragas. She is ably accompanied by excellent practitioners on harmonium and tabla.

As a bonus the last track features Ravi Shankar himself, performing Raga Mishra Gara in a recording made some years ago and previously unreleased.

Ashwini Bhide Deshpande is a marvel. The disk will be pure delight to those who love the North Indian Hindustani classical music style.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Utsav! Raga & Raj, Barry Phillips, Linda Burman-Hall, Lux Musica Ensemble, Celebrating Ravi Shankar

To honor and celebrate the life and music of Ravi Shankar, several new and highly interesting CDs have been produced, all under the general series title Utsav! Today a look at Raga & Raj (East Meets West Music 1011), a fascinating compellation of Western Classical-Indian Classical hybrid fusions, which of course Ravi Shankar himself did much to promote through his deservedly acclaimed recordings with Yehudi Menuhin, and with many of his film scores.

Today's compilation features the Lux Musica chamber ensemble with noted jazz musician Barry Phillips on cello and Linda Burman-Hall on harpsichord. The two co-direct the musical proceedings. It's a series of compositions from various periods that utilize ragas and classical Indian melodies in combination with Western classical elements. So we have the tabla (much of the time) in tandem with Euro-classical instruments and some really fascinating music.

There is Barry Phillips' own "Eight Ragas" from 2010, William Hamilton Bird's collection/arrangement "Hindoostanee Airs" going way back to 1789, Lou Harrison's suite "Jala Journey" and Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar's "Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram," composed sometime before 1931.

It's a wonderful set of works that evoke the singular past of the Raj and the Euro-Indian cultural cross-fertilization that begun centuries ago and of course continues today. Each work is unique, excellently performed and beyond simple description. This is an East-Meets-West conflation fully in keeping with Pandit Shankar's lifelong preoccupation with such constructive amalgams, yet a fascinating CD in its own right.

You should hear this one, definitely!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

KAZE, Tornado, with Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura

KAZE is a dynamic new quartet that blazes trails while they blaze. It perhaps is what you expect from pianist-composer Satoko Fujii and her trumpeting-composing cohort Natsuki Tamura, but maybe not exactly? Actually this is the second album by KAZE, but they sound so together it could be the tenth. Along with the two are trumpeter Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins. The four together meld with single-minded creativity.

It's free-avant music but very much directed by compositional arches. There are five numbers performed on the disk, two by Fujii, two by Orins and one by Tamura. There is something Zen-rock-garden-like in this music, only set on fire at times. Every note has concentrated power and the spaces in between no less so.

The performances are exhilarating. From Orins' sensitively dynamic drumming, Satoko's highly supercharged, creative, well-timing piano outbursts to the edge-of-the-sound-and-back trumpeting of Tamura and Pruvost, this is outstanding avant music.

One of the best I've heard this year!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Paul Bley Trio, Closer, 50th Anniversary Edition Remaster

It is possible that pianist Paul Bley is not as recognized as an important figure in the development of free jazz now as he was years ago. I do not claim to have my finger on the pulse of consensus out there, partially because I don't really care what the world thinks and it does me no good to heed the "no, we don't recognize that" jazz police that claim to be the sole tastemakers. Why would I care?

In my own thinking Paul belongs to a small handful of piano innovators in "new thing" evolution. Of course the other would be Cecil Taylor. And of course there are others, but the influences of Taylor and Bley seem especially critical in what went after.

And of all the albums Paul has made, one of the most seminal surely is Closer (ESP 1021), a trio date from 1965 that has been nicely remastered on CD for ESP's 50th Anniversary series. The trio included the wondrous bass wielding of Steve Swallow. On drums was a young Barry Altschul, at the very start of his free drumming career and already an extraordinarily sensitive drummer for the trio context.

And on this album Paul was making a pretty clean break from bop roots--in just 27 short minutes covering some seven very excellent Carla Bley compositions, a number written by Ornette Coleman, one by Annette Peacock and one of his own.

These are classic head structures that allow Paul and the band to break free of changes and let themselves create free tonality and chromatic improvisations that of course owe much to Ornette's harmolodic approach yet have an unmistakable originality.

Keith Jarrett most certainly paid close attention to what was going on with Paul in this stage and built his early style around it. Then of course many others have followed in the path since.

But even if others had not been influenced in the years that followed, this album would still hold up as an avant classic. It is that--and anyone who hasn't heard it really should check it out.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Offiong Bassey

Today's CD is not the sort of thing that finds its way onto these blog pages that often. Mostly that's because I do not receive this kind of music that often. The world music releases I get in the mail and like have migrated over from the Guitar and Bass Blog to this site though, and so from time-to-time I'll be exploring such music here. The CD in question is by one Offiong Bassey. The CD is self-titled (Moonlit Media Group 0346).

Offiong Bassey is a singer who has a beautiful voice and uses it to very good musical advantage. She is of African extraction and takes full advantage of her rich heritage, with harmonies suggestive of South Africa, and vocal choruses and rhythms that often have a West African feel (her family is originally from Nigeria). The music is an all-original set of Offiong songs, well arranged by Blethy Emmanuel Tiegnon.

The music sometimes has a religious theme, and in the process combines contemporary Afro-American Soul/R&B, Hip-Hop/Rap, Afrobeat and otherwise African influences, not all coming to the fore in every number, but rather working together in various degrees depending on the song. It's music that has an accessible element throughout so that one might call it "radio friendly."

What hits me about her album is the rhythmic vitality of the music and the excellence of her vocal style. The songs have memorability too. There is both sophistication and a soulful directness.

It's bringing me a good deal of pleasure. Give her album a listen.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Lina Allemano Four, Live at the Tranzac

Out of Canada today comes the Lina Allemano Four and their CD Live at the Tranzac (Lumo). Lina is a primo trumpetiste with a good sense of form, fine chops and a pleasingly brassy attack, a Barbara Donald for today. Her quartet is a good one with voices of merit in Brodie West on alto, Andrew Downing on double bass, and Nick Fraser on drums.

The CD brings you a set of their music from the Tranzac club in Toronto. Each of the seven pieces was written by Lina, combining avant and post-hard-bop elements in ways that set up the improvisations well. Lina has something to say and says it. Brodie comes across with a piercing free-post-Bird passion that acts as a nice foil to Lina's extroverted brass effusions. The rhythm section works together very well throughout.

It's an album that gets better the more you listen. Lina Allemano has brass power. It's a good one to hear. Check this one by all means.

The Curators, Heavy Metal Spartacus, Free Album Download Available

Avant jazz group The Curators want you to hear their music. They are so eager for that to happen that they are offering you their album Heavy Metal Spartacus as a free download. Go to click on "Buy Now" and then either list a donation of whatever you choose or simply type in zero and you promptly will get a link for the download.

I was not familiar with this band previously but I have listened closely to Heavy Metal Spartacus and I find definite merit there. It's not heavy metal; the title is a kind of joke. Instead it is heavy in its own way but more in the realm of open form freely articulated jazz improvisation. Mikko Innanen plays saxophones, especially sounding well on baritone, James Ilgenfritz is on acoustic bass, and Joe Hertenstein is on drums. The date is live at a club in Brooklyn, with decent sound, and gives you a good idea of where they are at. They have a certain punkyness along with an adventurous sense of group interplay. All are players and bring something of themselves to the stage.

They have a studio album coming out next month on Engine, so of course they hope you will like this one and buy the new one when available. I find them quite interesting. Hey, for free, what can you lose?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Satoko Fujii, Gen Himmel, Solo Piano

Satoko Fujii has recorded something approaching 60 albums since she first came on the scene out of New England Conservatory in 1996. That is remarkable in itself, but of course it is the very personal, original quality of her music for ensembles large and small that has made those many albums worthy of our attention.

For the recent album Gen Himmel (JASRAC 1330800) she pairs down to just herself and a piano. In it we get a very direct version of her music as she hears it and communicates it to all of us. What perhaps is remarkable is how, in the course of this long program, she channels her own muse with little direct reference to a "jazz tradition," or any wider sense to a "solo piano tradition." There are haunting refrains, both jazz-inflected and new music-classical elements, mood moments, prepared piano sequences that evoke at moments the Japanese koto, but none of it references the direct influence of player-composer-improvisors that have preceded her.

What that comes down to is that you must approach Satoko and her music with a refreshed mind and the expectation that she will fill your ears with music that comes directly and pristinely out of her own creative being.

And that is indeed the case on Gen Himmel. This is music that has freedom and compositional structuring in more or less equal measure. It is avant without trying to "take it out" so much as explore ideas. With Satoko Fujii's fertile musical imagination that turns out to be a delightful proposition.

More I need not say, except by way of the invitation to listen. This one will repay your attention with a wealth of good sounds.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Kristin Slipp & Dov Manski, A Thousand Julys

I think I can say the obvious to start off this post without fear that I am being, well, obvious. That is, that an album can be somewhat imperfect and still be interesting and well worth hearing. I would have to say that this applies to the album at hand this morning, namely Kristin Slipp and Dov Manski's A Thousand Julys (Sunnyside 1347).

Kristin Slipp sings, Dov Manski plays piano and a vintage Wurlitzer electric piano. They tackle a bunch of worthy standards, "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," "I Cover the Waterfront," "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love," "Violets for Your Furs," and so on.

The key here is that the influence of Ran Blake lingers offstage. Like Maestro Blake and his many innovative collaborations with singers from Jeannie Lee on, there is a freely rethought accompaniment (in this case most of the time) with avant or simply improvisationally creative recreations, reharmonizations, re-contextualizations. The singer's role is to give out with the melody line of the song and, as she feels it, vary it with the sort of nuances jazz singers do.

That is what is happening here. They are a couple of younger artists. They are not without what I suppose you could call talent. Manski does interesting things much of the time. Ms. Slipp has a very youthful sounding voice, more in the realm of New Bohemians Edie Brickell than, say, later Billie Holiday. It's a pristine instrument. It sounds innocent, maybe even naive. Now we all know nowadays that virtually nobody who has made it through their teen years, gotten an education (in this case musical) and has been thrown into the world we are all in the middle of, that virtually nobody at that age hasn't experienced some amount of pain and uncertainty. Yet the one thing that struck me first about Kristin's voice is that, in spite of tackling some world weary standards and such, that she does not sound like the world has punched a hole in her well-being. There is a contrast between the lyrics sometimes and her bell-like voice.

And actually that does create something interesting. She is at this point no Billie or Carmen, putting the lyrics so dramatically you KNOW they've lived every minute of it. Well and so? There are opera singers with wonderful voices but a lesser ability to dramatize, to act out what they are singing. Then there are the Maria Callas types, who appear to be living the story out in every note. There is something to be said for an attractive voice that gets so heavily into the notes that the lyrics are downplayed. There is no rule that says we have to put the heart on the sleeve all the time. Sarah Vaughan was an excellent example of a "pipes before lyrics" singer that we can have hardly asked more of, because she had it all in that voice.

Well and so Kristin's voice has a beauty, perhaps not yet a finalized beauty, and a matter-of-factness that when joined with Dov's adventurous pianism makes for a kinetic strangeness. Kristin does take some risks in what she does with a line, too. There is no safety net here so that every shot out of the vocal cannon does not hit dead center. But hey, jazz is the sound of surprise and the courage to be imperfect. So there we are.

All that said I actually found this CD quite interesting. The Mingus gives me a continued appreciation of his genius. And the standards of standard provenance sound fresh. Not perfect. Fresh. OK?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Jessica Jones & Connie Crothers, Live at the Freight

Connie Crothers is one of the living masters of the jazz piano legacy, no question. She has made album after album of original cutting-edge piano jazz, yet she also encompasses the entire tradition. Lately she hasn't channeled as much of that tradition on disk as she used to. But then enter Live at the Freight (New Artists 1056). It's Connie and the rather under-recorded Jessica Jones on alto sax, in a series of duets recorded live at the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse in Berkeley, summer 2011.

It's a studied, exciting exercise in rethinking bop-and-after tradition, freely interpreted for the avant sensibilities of today. They tackle some of the old chestnuts like "All the Things You Are" and "There Will Never Be Another You," go full throttle into some free improvisations, and end with a Jessica Jones original.

In the process you hear some first-level interaction between Jessica and Connie. Jessica turns out to be quite well matched with Ms. Crothers. Like Connie, Ms. Jones has thoroughly absorbed the tradition and makes of it something very personal and modern-free. It's a wonderful series of dual improvisations to be heard here. Connie is on a roll with all the considerable pianism she has to devote to the music. She encompasses the harmonic implications of both the music channeled and the immediacy of her freely inventive partner, melodically countering Ms. Jones' very creative line weavings with those of her own. They play their way in and out of the melodic-harmonic particulars of the standards with a thoughtful vibrancy, then soar in the freely devised sections.

Live at the Freight has it all. Jessica Jones at her impressive best, a post-Bird flying gracefully, skillfully, creatively. Connie Crothers taking the music apart and putting it back together in her very own way, confirming why she is so important to the scene.

This one takes flight and takes you far. You will not be disappointed.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Jonathan Moritz Trio, Secret Tempo

Time today for some free yet structured and compositionally astute blowing from a very good trio. Jonathan Moritz is the bandleader here, wrote the compositions and plays tenor and soprano; Shayna Dulberger is on contrabass; and Mike Pride is on drums. The album is named Secret Tempo (Hot Cup 126), which according to Jonathan refers to unstated contrasting tempos one can evoke during improvising in spite of the particular pulse that dominates overall.

Jonathan is full of good ideas and his compositional frameworks seek to realize some of them. He looks to combine the jazz tradition with modern classical and free elements. He succeeds nicely. This he does with three kinds of compositions: those centered around tempo, those especially concerned with melody, harmony and rhythm, and one focusing on meter. Of course these things overlap but his conceptualization gives the trio a well contrasting variety of avenues into their art.

Jonathan plays saxes in ways that live up to his promise. He can bring out a big, yet whispering tenor sound a la Webster (and Shepp channeling Webster), he can have that dramatic Rivers-and-beyond projection on soprano, can take it out with good torque and he can do many things in between, with a high invention level maintained all the way through.

Shayna Dulberger sounds beautiful throughout, with a rich woody timbre and an iron-fingered attack that sometimes suggest Mingus and Haden at once. Her arco playing is excellent as well. Those and other sounds have the originality of her own musical head in play. Then of course Mike Pride...a drummer perfect for this widely wheeling date. He can go anywhere and everywhere needed and give it all his special creative thrust, swinging, finessing, freetiming, rocking it in straight-eights. He is the man.

And combined in this free-threesome the trio really gets some fine music going. Moritz is a happy confluence of tradition and innovation. Ms. Dulberger and Mr. Pride are right there with him.

Excellent set!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Charles Evans, Subliminal Leaps, with David Liebman

Baritone saxist, compositionally minded Charles Evans has been doing some very interesting albums over the last several years. He comes through once again with his Subliminal Leaps (More is More 132). This time out he fields a quartet that includes the presence of his mentor David Liebman on soprano, along with pianist Ron Stabinsky (who is also on the new MOPDTK, see entry of a few days ago) and bassist Tony Marino.

This one has a very well-turned chamber jazz feel to it, with very adventurous soloing from all juxtaposed with and contained within a six-part composition (the album is named after it). There is a AACM feel to this music, along the lines of classic Braxton, Mitchell and Abrams without sounding derivative. It has its own, originally slanted new music architectual heft and improvisational avant sweep. It bodes well for where Charles Evans is headed, for movement most certainly is a part of his career thus far and there is a long ways he can travel given his relative youth.

Charles chose the right people. Maestro Liebman excels in this setting, as he does in almost any setting he becomes a part of, but then Stabinsky and Marino are expressively integral, too. Charles Evans sounds his usual lucid, inventive self.

So what more is there to say? Only that the no-joke advanced music proffered here is an excellent start on who Charles Evans is. It is pretty essential avant chamber jazz whether you know his other work or not. Get it while you can!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Ahmad Jamal, Saturday Morning

From his classic trio sides in the fifties and sixties on, Ahmad Jamal has always had a distinct, almost big-band division of labor vision of how piano, bass and drums should work together. Seminal is a word that may be overused, but it certainly applies to those earlier sides.

The good news is that Ahmad and his new incarnation of the trio (plus congas/percussion on occasion) sound as good as ever, yet in close touch with the present. His Blue Moon release (see earlier post by typing in the title in the search box) established that strongly. Now with Saturday Morning (Jazz Village) we have a fine continuation of the revived Jamal.

The program of ballads, standards and a few rock-funk beat numbers brings out the very best in Jamal and the trio. Throughout you hear that pioneering use of space, the inventive smarts of his solo interjections and the rhythm section's heightened role, the ostinatos that set up Jamal's entrances, and of course Jamal's chordally full contrasts with single note expressions; it's all there. But it has evolved, too. He has not stood still.

And it's a true pleasure to hear. Viva Mr. Jamal and his group. Hear this one and you will be made happy, I suspect.