Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Jacob Chung, Epistle


Tenor Sax Hard Bop and Postbop adept Jacob Chung scores big with his Quintet and this most attractive set entitled  Epistle (Three Pines Records) which came out in late 2021 but seemingly stands the temporal test and gladly so as far as I am concerned. So this comes to us as a tight knit and swinging tenor-trumpet-piano-bass-drums unit that includes Christian Antonacci, Felix Fox-Pappas, Thomas Hainbuch, Petros Anagnostakos in a lively album of hard charging Postboppers out of the Blue Note mould of New-Thing-Eve offerings, updated with a new cast of swinging cats.

All six numbers have a sort of anatomically correct bearing and a goodly hipsonic attack. It reminds me obliquely of the Lee Morgan Blue Note middle period album I found  at the Sam Goody Sale Annex  in midtown Manhattan when I was a budding listener in my adolescence years ago. Not that this album is a ringer for that one in any way, but it could have been in that same bin and would not have alarmed me as being out of place were I to have somehow heard it back then. I only set the scene to give you a context for this music. It assuredly refers back to those heady days of the music yet holds its own as a first-tier tenor vehicle to appreciate whether you go back to earlier days or do not.

One thing is certain. Jacob Chung is a tenor star to watch. Meanwhile he has a great sound, motility facility and the guy could be one of keys in the action avenues of Jazz soloing in the years to come,

It is a good bet and I happily recommend it to you. For some additional considerations listen to him on some select videos and such. https://jacobchungmusic.com/

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Amjad Ali Khan, Music for Hope


If there are good musical ideas out there, I hope someone will hip me to them. In the old days I might frequent a hip record store and maybe as I went in there was a new Don Cherry album on, and I got it musically, so I got it! Nowadays someone might send me a review copy in the mail. So that latter happened happily with Amjad Ali Khan and his album Music for Hope (Zoho ZM202207).

This is sarod master Amjad Aki Khan/s good idea of pairing himself and his two sarod playing disciple sons Ayaan Ali  Bangash and Amaan Ali Bangash with Chinese Pipa  virtuoso Wu Man and Indian-Mideast-Asian drum specialist Shane Shanahan. All get together to play music with compositional and rhythmic frameworks primary of Hindustani origins but then free wheeling improvisations that allow each instrumentalist personal leeway. And so truly we experience a synergy between North Indian and Classical Chinese commonalities.

The album clocks in at 35 minutes of pungent compositional improvs that thanks to all concerned truly punches in for a genuine fusion of two local art brilliances.

It is an album that actually is what it purports to be and in very winning ways. Nice compositions, vital improvisations. So do not miss it! Here is a taste of the music and a little more about it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_Y0vf9KXMY

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Sara Caswell, The Way to You


Every so often I catch up with somebody who I have missed in the years of isolation I have endured when some significant miles away from the urban centers of Jazz. Happily I have recently connected with such a luminary in violinist-Jazz composer Sara Caswell and her quartet in her first outing as a leader in more than 17 years. It is the album entitled The Way to You (Anzic Records ANZ-0085-02) and I am very glad to have gotten to know it in the last few weeks.

If you go back a few years in your listening it might strike a resonance in you if I say that this music reminds me nicely of the sort of lyrical melodic jazz that was practised by Gary Burton in his fertile middle period with Steve Swallow, Keith Jarrett, Sam Brown, violinist Richard Green, etc. Then also some of the more memorable early ECM records by Eberhard Weber come to mind as well. Sara and her tight-loose sympathetic quartet bring you significant performative elements that set off the songful niceties of Sara's pieces with a Jazz immediacy that gives them vibrant life.

Sara's violin understandably is a central component of it all and a marvelous voice for Jazz it is. She handles the written-melodic and the improvised passages with a special ease and beauty that sets her apart. But then a critical voice in it all too is electric guitarist Jesse Lewis in a sport of post-Friswellian post-Abercrombie-like universe makes for especially attractive ballsy lyrical flow soloing throughout. Ike Sturm is a marvelously anchoring bass component who can give us a lovely solo too without hesitation. Drummer Jared Schonig has a loose Swing-Rock feel that sets each piece apart and breathes periodic charm always. Finally on about half of the numbers here the quartet is joined by vibist virtuoso Chris Dingman to give us that classic Rock-Jazz interwovenness we have so happily heard in years gone by on Burton albums, etc.The program of originals and nicely turned cover arrangements stand out as terrific vehicles for Sara and the artists to shine forth.

When it comes to this kind of expressive  harmonically impressive fare I must say it is the very nicest sort of music in this style that I have heard in years. Very recommended.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Jeff Arnal, Curt Cloninger, Drum Major Instinct


What is next in the sequence of the sounding virtually of everything we can guess at but never know 'til it is there, and today's example is as unexpected as anything right now. What is it then? A duet of drummer  Jeff Arnal and Curt Cloninger on modular synthesizer for a thoughtful and sonically alive full album entitled Drum Major Instinct   (Mahakala Music CD MAHA-034).

As you listen you immediately grasp that this is spontaneous in its three segmented part improvisations, yet they manage to remain extraordinarily inventive and varied in what they weave moment-after-moment. Jeff's drumming owes something to the Eddie Blackwell sort of time plus continuous set adornment solo material in ever inventive and sonically diverse ways. On top of this is Curt's rather psychedelic drone and minimal sonic landscaping. He varies all he does in every sequence so we feel time passing and music endlessly pouring with enchantment from a fountainhead of intelligent spirit.

The key is perhaps obvious but not in any way routine in the continual brilliance of the evolving musical moments. It reminds of Terry Riley John Cale, Robert Wyatt in their finer moments yet very much with  the duo's own heady mix of possibilities, and there is a noisey sonic element too that thickens everything much of the time without a question of abandoning the harmonic trance set-up and slowly evolving until the next organized moment of new ground.

Outstanding job! Highly recommended, one of the finest electronic and percussive clusters of improvisational brilliance I have heard lately. Bravo, molto bravo!

Monday, January 16, 2023

Satoko Fujii, Hyaku, One Hundred Dreams


The incomparable pianist and jazz composer Satoko Fujii never to my ears fails to deliver a superb and original devotion to expressive sound in the Freedom Jazz mode. To celebrate some 100 of what I have heard as beautiful albums of all heard to date Ms. Fujii gives to us the latest, Hyaku, One Hundred Dreams (Libra Records 209 021).

It balances in her special way compositional and freely improvisational moments and you will hear one of her earlier works in triumphant return towards the end. Throughout it is a special ensemble of musicians who fully celebrate with feeling and musicality this remarkable journey thus far. This is a star-studded gathering who belong to this music as few might at this level. The full cast consists of Ms. Fujii, of course, at the piano, plus Sara Schoenbeck on bassoon, Ingrid Laubrock on tenor sax, Wadada Leo Smith and Hatsuki Tamura on trumpets, Ikue Mori on electronics, Brandon Lopez on bass, with Tom Rainey and Chris Corsano on the drums.

Every moment counts on this program, from unaccompanied solos by various artist--not the least from Satoko herself, naturally--plus various ensembles of improvisers and then compositional frameworks, all of the highest caliber and best heard than described.

More than this I can say, certainly, that whether you have been following Satoko Fujii's career assiduously or are new to her, this is an album on the must-have-and-hear list. It is a joy and you simply need to immerse yourself in it. This volume reaffirms her pianistic importance and her brilliance as a jazz composer and a bandleader. It is all here to hear on a single CD. Amen, amen.