Thursday, November 30, 2017
Wadada Leo Smith, Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk
The premise is simple: turn Wadada loose in the studio with just his trumpet and some clear ideas on how solo improvisations can capture the essence of Monk's special mastery while also allowing Wadada to create art wholly his own.
This is tour de force trumpet artistry and a source of insight into Wadada the gifted improvisational inventor. Every phrase seems deliberate, nothing is as if an aside.
You hear Wadada as he is right now, an artist who in a way has come full circle through Yo Miles and ambitious jazz compositions, all of a very high order. Now once again he proudly proclaims his artistic independence as a player and in the process shows his great respect and love for the master, Thelonious Monk.
I could blather on at great length here. It is not entirely necessary. Suffice to say that Wadada Leo Smith is one of our real treasures, a giant among American artists living and excelling today, one of the world's musical wonders, so to speak.
He says it all with the utmost of inspiration and compactness, with just his trumpet and all his considerable innovative faculties.
Can I suggest you get this and live with the music for a while? You'll come away with something you would not have inside you otherwise, maybe. That is how rewarding this set is.
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Amjad Ali Khan, Peace Worshipers
This new recording, Peace Worshipers (Affetto 1706), by arguably the greatest living Hindustani exponent of the Sarod, Amjad Ali Khan, and his colleagues Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash on sarods and Elmira Darvarova on violin is very worthy of our attention. It brings to us the excitement of Jugalbandi (duet improvisations on a Raga structure) and the freewheeling compositional possibilities both inherent in Jugalbandi and beyond.
Most of the music is based on a particular Raga and composed by Amjad Ali Khan, There is also a recomposition of a Bulgarian folk song by Elmira Darvarova.
Davarova is a very fine violinist who fits in well with the Indian classicists. She and Amjad turn in some beautiful performances. And the ensemble as a whole engages in exciting and beautiful exchanges. Some of it reminds of Ravi Shankar's elaborate compositions that went into synchronized variations and thematic expositions based on but travelling beyond Indian tradition. Other have the subtle Jugalbandi interplay.
It is music in every way worth your time. Amjad Ali Khan brings brilliance to our ears in his lively and beautiful compositions. And the playing is all you could hope for. This is a stunner! Grab it by all means.
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Maykel Elizarde Group, South County, Music of Cuba
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
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
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!
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