martes, 1 de septiembre de 2015

Message to the ROJ family

Hi folks, just to tell everyone that Ive started my own blog, filled with jazz and jazz/fusion new/recent releases, waiting/hoping that master Domi show up again. Feel free to grab what you want and don't forget to support the artists, if you can. 



lunes, 1 de junio de 2015






lunes, 25 de mayo de 2015






martes, 19 de mayo de 2015

Toni Solà - The Heart of Jazz (2015)

01. A Blakey’s Touche (Solà) 5:16
02. Lush Life (Strayhorn) 5:00
03. Impulsive (Hodges) 5:20
04. You Make Me Feel So Crazy (Baker) 5:27
05. Wabash (Adderley) 6:16
06. Rapid Shave (Burns) 8:18
07. Sharing a Cigarette (Solà) 6:08
08. Bell Bottoms (Solà) 6:04
09. Just an Excuse to Play the Blues (Solà) 8:36

All compositions by Toni Solà, except where's noted

Toni Sola (tenor sax)
Ronald Baker (trumpet on #1,5 & 8; vocals on #4)
Gerard Nieto (piano on #1-5,7 & 8; organ on #6 & 9)
Ignasi Gonzalez (double bass; except #8 electric bass)
Jean Pierre Derouard (drums)

Recorded at Estudi Laietana, Barcelona, September 4 & 5, 2014

Sound engineer: Jordi Vidal
Cover photo: Antonio Porcar
Backcover & inside photos: Natalia Cedrés

Arranged and Produced by Toni Solà

Executive Producer: Jordi Pujol

"Hearing is Everything" Peter Watkins


Stanley Cowell - Juneteenh (2015)

Juneteenth est la fête traditionnelle de la liberté pour les Noirs américains.

L’appellation provient d’une date, le 19 juin 1865, jour où les Noirs du Texas apprirent que l’esclavage était aboli. Aujourd’hui Juneteenth est toujours célébrée par les Noirs dans tout le pays. Démonstration rituelle de fierté culturelle et de perpétuation de la tradition, elle rappelle que, malgré tant de difficultés, les Noirs américains se sont efforcés de forger leur propre destin et leur propre culture.

La quête de la liberté est étroitement liée à la construction de l’identité pour les gens qui ont souffert de l’oppression. Trouver le moyen de faire la fête malgré l’adversité donne aux gens l’espoir et la force de penser que, grâce à l’action collective, ils ont le pouvoir de changer le sens de l’Histoire.
(Manning Marable & Leiht Mullings, in Freedom, PHAIDON PRESS, 2002)

Stanley Cowell, piano

01. We Shall 2 (3:29)
02. Introduction (1:19)
03. Proclamation (2:04)
04. Reality Dreams Echoes (2:42)
05. Anticipation Of The Coming Of (3:10)
06. Commentary On Strange Fruit (6:57)
07. Nostalgia For Homelands (4:47)
08. Proclamation Interruptions (2:53)
09. Darkness Transforming (2:03)
10. Finale (3:47)
11. Resolution (1:03)
12. Ask Him (3:20)
13. Juneteenth Recollections (17:24)


domingo, 17 de mayo de 2015


Como describe nuestro amigo RONALDO ALBENZIO...





sábado, 16 de mayo de 2015

David Chesky: Jazz in the New Harmonic - Primal Scream (2015)

Once again pianist/composer David Chesky courts a dark, masterful muse on this second recording by his Jazz in the New Harmonic quintet. The noirish atmosphere prevails from his first dissonant stabs at the keyboard with cool solos from veteran jazz artists Javon Jackson and Jeremy Pelt, while Peter Washington and Billy Drummond lock down the time. This is a different kind of cool jazz, one that grooves along steadily. Close your eyes and you can feel the pulse of the New York streets colliding with 21st century ethereal classical harmony.

Davi Chesky, piano
Javon Jackson, saxophone
Jeremy Pelt, trumpet
Peter Washington, bass
Billy Drummond, drums

1. Check Point Charlie
2. Cultural Treason
3. Quiet Desperation
4. Kill The Philharmonic
5. Primal Scream
6. Isolation
7. Sleepless In New York

"Hearing is Everything" Peter Watkins


Joey Alexander - My Favorite Things (2015)

“a thoughtful musician as well as a natural one, with a sophisticated harmonic palette and a dynamic sensitivity.” – New York TImes

An extraordinary and uniquely gifted pianist from Bali, Joey Alexander marks his recording debut with the release of My Favorite Things (May 12, 2015). Joey brings a delicate, profound and soulful touch to his own interpretation of such classics as “My Favorite Things”, “Giant Steps” and “Over the Rainbow” and showcases his talents as an arranger, composer and bandleader.




On May 12th, jazz piano wunderkind Joey Alexander will release his highly anticipated debut album ‘My Favorite Things’ on the Grammy-winning Harlem-based label Motema Music. The album finds Alexander playing everything from Coltrane to Rodgers and Hammerstein with a deft touch, adventurous spirit and improvisatory verve. ‘My Favorite Things’ was produced by Grammy-winning producer Jason Olaine. 

Accompanying Joey on the album are bassist Larry Grenadier (Stan Getz, Brad Mehldau, Pat Metheny) and 2-time Grammy-winning drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. (Kurt Elling, Wynton Marsalis, Christian McBride) as well as three talented young players from the New York scene: Russell Hall (bass), Sammy Miller (drums) and Alphonso Horne (trumpet).Joey will perform throughout 2015 including at the Newport International Jazz Festival, a record release concert at Jazz At Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in NYC, and a TED Talk performance on March 17. He will also tour extensively in the US (September + October) and Europe (July + November) with specific dates to be announced shortly.

Driven by Alexander’s imagination, sophisticated arrangements and dazzling playing, ‘My Favorite Things’ is soulful and joyful. It is also statement of intent, a compelling introduction to a budding young leader, performer and composer, who plays with power and elation. From his impressionistic introduction to “Giant Steps” to the spirited interplay with his band mates on “It Might As Well Be Spring,” to his singular closing rendition of “Over The Rainbow,” Joey proves himself a true and distinctive jazz professional.

Born on the island of Bali in the city of Denpassar in 2003, Alexander first encountered a piano at the age of six, and was immediately able to pick out the melody of Thelonious Monk’s “Well, You Needn’t” and other jazz standards from his father’s record collection by ear. Despite no formal jazz education, Joey rose quickly in the Indonesian jazz scene and beyond. In 2013 he was featured at jazz festivals in both Jakarta and Copenhagen, and won the international improvisation contest in Odessa, Ukraine – besting over 200 adult contestants.  

He now counts Wynton Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Billy Crystal and Bill Clinton among his many fans. In 2014, Joey performed at star-studded galas for Jazz At Lincoln Center at the Rose Room, The Jazz Foundation of America at the Apollo and the Arthur Ashe Foundation. In addition to signing with the rising Motema label, Alexander has also penned deals with a top jazz booking agency and is rapidly growing in demand on the international circuit. The sky appears to be the limit for this soulful young artist.

Joey Alexander (piano)
Larry Grenadier (bass)
Ulysses Owens Jr. (drums)
Sammy Miller (drums)
Russell Hall (bass)
Alphonso Horne (trumpet)

01. Giant Steps (10:12)
02. Lush Life ( 8:10)
03. My Favorite Things ( 6:11)
04. It Might As Well Be Spring ( 5:24)
05. Ma Blues ( 6:46)
06. 'Round Midnight ( 6:47)
07. I Mean You ( 4:11)
08. Tour De Force ( 5:46)
09. Over The Rainbow ( 4:27)

"Hearing is Everything" Peter Watkins


viernes, 15 de mayo de 2015

Zach Brock - Serendipity (2015)

Violin virtuoso Zach Brock's third session is, like its predecessors, Almost Never Was (Criss 1349) and Purple Sounds (Criss 1366), a tour de force of modern swing expression.

Joined by New York A-listers Aaron Goldberg (piano), Matt Penman (bass) and Obed Calvaire (drums), Brock addresses a stylistically varied program, showcasing his command of a broad timeline of violin styles that he refracts into his own individualistic argot.

The repertoire includes Jean-Luc Ponty (Sunday Walk), Charlie Parker (Segment), the American Songbook (the Leonard Bernstein ballad Some Other Time), and several substantial originals.

"The music world surely does not lack for jazz fiddlers who mistake schmaltz for expression, melodic ornamentation for real improvisation and ostentatious display for commanding technique. But Brock, a former Chicagoan who lives in New York, represents the polar opposite of all this, and always has" -- Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune, 2013

Zach Brock (Vi / Baritone Vi)
Aaron Goldberg (P)
Matt Penman (B)
Obed Calvaire (D)

1. City Of Spring (Zbigniew Seifert)
2. Serendipity (Zach Brock)
3. Swansea (Joanna Newsom)
4. Sunday Walk (Daniel Humair)
5. Some Other Time (Leonard Bernstein)
6. Segment (Charlie Parker)
7. Sally's Song (Danny Elfman)
8. Summer Dance (Zach Brock)

Total Time: 54:15

"Hearing is Everything" Peter Watkins


Adam Rogers & David Binney - R & B (2015)

From his many Criss Cross dates as a leader to his extraordinary sideman work with Chris Potter, the late Michael Brecker and many more, Adam Rogers continues to blaze a path as one of jazz's most compelling guitarists. His longtime associate David Binney, alto saxophone great and an influential composer and producer, has also distinguished himself with numerous innovative sessions for Criss Cross and others.

On R & B, Rogers and Binney unite to co-lead a lean and hard-swinging quartet with bassist Reuben Rogers (no relation) and drummer Gerald Cleaver. 

In a departure from their usual focus on original material, Rogers and Binney aim straight for bebop, ballads and classics by Thelonious Monk, Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter, among others. The feel is rock-solid, the improvisations bracing. It's a fresh, unexpected take on the jazz tradition, viewed through a modern prism.

Adam Rogers (G)
David Binney (As)
Reuben Rogers (B)
Gerald Cleaver (D)

1. Ah-Leu-Cha (Charlie Parker)
2. Introspection (Thelonious Monk)
3. In Love In Vain (Jerome Kern)
4. Africaine (Wayne Shorter)
5. Don't Misunderstand (Gordon Parks)
6. Sippin' At Bell's (Miles Davis)
7. Skydive (Freddie Hubbard)
8. My Ship (Kurt Weill / Ira Gershwin)
9. I Feel A Song Coming On (Jimmy McHugh)

Total Time: 67:24

"Hearing is Everything" Peter Watkins


The Rodriguez Brothers - Impromptu (2015)

A working unit since 2002, The Rodriguez Brothers -- trumpeter Michael Rodriguez (Reverence - Criss 1356) and pianist Robert Rodriguez -- present their kinetic, masterfully rendered concept of "Jazz Latin," incorporating traditional and modern Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, bolero and hardcore jazz flavors.

The brothers, each in their mid-thirties, are virtuoso storytellers on their respective instruments, as are their generational peer group bandmates Carlos Henriquez (the bassist with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra since the early '00s after several years with Gonzalo Rubalcaba), Cuban traps drummer Ludwig Afonso, and the eminent Columbian-born percussionist Samuel Torres.

Michael Rodriguez (Tp / Flh / Pandeiro [5] / Perc [8])
Robert Rodriguez (P / Perc [8])
Carlos Henriquez (B)
Ludwig Afonso (D)
Samuel Torres (Congas / Perc)
Roberto Rodriguez (D) [8]

1. Impromptu (Michael Rodriguez)
2. La Guaracha (Robert Rodriguez)
3. Fragment (Robert Rodriguez)
4. Descargation (Michael Rodriguez)
5. Love Samba (Robert Rodriguez)
6. Latin Jacks (Michael Rodriguez)
7. Tu Mi Delirio (César Portillo de la Luz)
8. Minor Things (Robert Rodriguez)

Total Time: 59:31

"Hearing is Everything" Peter Watkins


jueves, 14 de mayo de 2015

Joshua Breakstone - 2nd Avenue (2015)

Label: Capri Records
Gab's Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ 

 A touch of nostalgia as I glanced at the sleeve - "Joshua Breakstone uses Ernie Ball strings exclusively". If I'd had a lousy dime for every set of Ernie Ball Super Slinky's I'd sold during my 30 year incarceration in Newcastle's Central Arcade I'd be worth a bob or two (well maybe one bob).
I don't suppose Joshua Breakstone ever bought any Super Slinkys from me, him being 3000 miles away, which is a pity because, if he had done, I'd have been able to claim to have had some involvement in one of the most listenable guitar albums I've heard since Charlie Christian showed the way.
This is guitar playing as cool as Stan on tenor or Chet on trumpet, music that makes you want to lay back and luxuriate in the sounds with maybe a G & T to hand.
We've also got a cello in the mix which is great. I've long advocated the cello - not as a double bass substitute - but as a frontline horn which is what we get here.
Bass players such as Harry Babasin, Oscar Pettiford and Sam Jones have dabbled with cello so it is far from being a first. Nevertheless, it's a worthy successor to these earlier efforts although I'd have preferred more arco and less pizzicato (I find I made a similar comment in my review of their previous album - With the Wind and the Rain) - still, I doubt if the boppy heads would have been as clean if the instrument had been bowed so what do I know!
The five tracks with cello are Thingin' (Konitz); Home (Cannonball); I'm an Old Cowhand (Mercer); Evergreenish (Dexter) and Hit It by bassist Atkinson..
The trio numbers are I Wish I Knew (Harry Warren/Mack Gordon); The Lamp is Low (Ravel and others); My Conception (Sonny Clark) and a Breakstone original 2nd Ave: Blues For Imahori.
Breakstone describes the quartet as A Chamber Jazz Foursome and I see no reason to quibble although I would have referred to it as The Chamber Jazz Foursome!

1 Thingin'
2 Home
3 I'm an Old Cowhand
4 I Wish I Knew
5 Evergreenish
6 The Lamp Is Low
7 Hit It
8 My Conception
9 2nd Ave: Blues for Imahori

Joshua Breakstone (gtr)
Lisle Atkinson (bs)
Andy Watson (dms)
Mike Richmond (cello)

"Master your instrument, master the music 
& then forget all that & just play."
 - Charlie Parker -

Felice Clemente Trio - 6:35 AM (2015)

Biological or artistic, every birth is an Event

Each event has a precise beginning, a moment, even an hour where everything turns on, takes shape and becomes irreversibly real. Sometimes this epiphany turns your life around. Nothing will ever be the same as before and the future seems to offer new exciting chances. Something unheard of runs over your being and you have no choice but letting yourself go with its vital flow. This happens in music as it happens in life.

My daughter’s birth, to whom I dedicate my latest work, has been an Event for me. Her birth made my soul waving thanks to extraordinary feelings and internal changes that have restored my self totally. Since that moment, 6:35 a.m., July 22nd, nothing has been taken for granted anymore, “improvisation” has become undeniable, exactly as it happens in jazz music. I have badly wanted to transfer this event into music.

Therefore, my 10th CD represents my will to try and keep going further, without accepting what has been already done or experimented. I wanted to “risk”, taking nothing for granted, both in compositions, structure and roles. I wanted to keep my mission and my desire to touch the sensitive part of my listeners intact, through the catchy melody, supported by the variety of rhythm and timbre.

With the addition of marimba and vibraphone tracks, our trio allows to play several textures which are more flexible and free. All this has been possible thanks to the choice of extremely sensitive, capable, and kind musicians, who have truly believed in this vision of music and life and with whom we were able to create a great feeling.
The final product is an authentic, honest, and dynamic kind of music, that goes from wild improvisation to extremely soft moments. It’s a music of emotion and wonder, similar to the feelings that you experience when someone or something comes to life, and even in its fragility, it changes everything. Every birth, biological or artistic, is an Event.

01. Enjoy It (8:29)
02. Canguri Urbani (4:20)
03. To Sara (7:55)
04. The Wave (6:01)
05. Mal D'africa (9:11)
06. Secret Love (8:34)
07. Minoranze (5:49)
08. Triade (8:20)
09. The River (5:31)

Felice Clemente | tenor and soprano sax
Paolino Dalla Porta | double bass
Massimo Manzi | drums

Special guest Daniele Di Gregorio | vibes and marimba


Massimo Colombo, Peter Erskine, Darek Oleszkiewicz - Trio Grande (2015)

The new Massimo Colombo album Trio Grande (Crocevia di Suoni CDS 011, IRD distribution) will be released on april, 30 2015.

Recorded in Los Angeles (USA) with Darek Oleszkiewicz (double bass) and Peter Erskine (drum).

All compositions are original.

Happy day in the recording studio with pianist Massimo Colombo and bassist Darek Oleszkiewicz, wonderful trio music…Life is good. Peter Erskine

…I entered the Studio directly from LA airport: Erskine and Oleszkiewicz were already waiting for me, everything sounded good. Erskine asked me which tune I’d like to start playing with and I answered: “ Anna Magdalena”, he sad “Ok!” looking at the engineer sound, than he added: “Let’s do it! This is the way all the session was going on.

Anna Magdalena
Valzer all'indietro
Trio Grande
La mia spalla sinistra
Bah and Boh
Una ragione in piu

Massimo Colombo | tenor and soprano sax
Peter Erskine | drums
Darek Oleszkiewicz | double bass

Crocevia di Suoni Records CDS011

April, 2015

"Hearing is Everything" Peter Watkins


Filip Augustson - Viva Black (2015)

Filip Augustson - double bass
Eva Lindal - violin
Christopher Cantillo - drums

01: Desperadon!
02: Glissando para Juanes
03: Flying Flyers
04: Ituri
05: The Butterfly Left the Flower
06: Stuff by stuff
07: Repetitivo Acrimasa
08: Viva el Ritmo
09: Tensta Tango
10: Triss i Trä

All music by Filip Augustsson, except track 2, 5, 8 and 10 by Augustsson, Lindal and Cantillo

Release date: April 1, 2015

Recorded and Mixed by Johan Berke at Glömsta Studio, Huddinge
Mastered by Thomas Eberger at Stockholm Mastering

Produced by Filip Augustson
Executive producer: Joakim Simonsson

Photos by Miki Anagrius and Viktor Wallström
Art direction by Patric Thorman


miércoles, 13 de mayo de 2015

Luis Perdomo & Controlling Ear Unit - Twenty-Two (2015)

Source: Jazzdagama
Gab's Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Once you stop trying to find the significant allusion to “Controlling Ear Unit” you will have a much easier time enjoying the absolute grandeur of this album by Luis Perdomo. The world of Twenty-two is a private one. It refers to the time Luis Perdomo has spent in the United States after his sojourn from Caracas. Some of this time has been shared by a number of musicians with whom Luis Perdomo has shared the innermost machinations of his music, as it unfolded from Venezuela to the United States of America. But there is much more existing in the interior landscape of Mr. Perdomo’s mind. Both the calm and the restless existential anxiety of introspective worlds have uncanny ways of expressing themselves in the world of aural art. Luis Perdomo found a breathtaking way of expressing himself here. Dark hued and full of dramatic mood shifts, his pianism soared through introspection finally bursting through into the open with profound beauty. For this reason – and this reason alone – Twenty-Two is a priceless record.

Luis Perdomo Twenty Two 2There is dynamism and a swirling energy in the music of this record. Piano, bass and drums are locked hand-in-glove in a dramatic collaboration. Luis Perdomo has never been one for pointless, frilly pianistic work. But he is not workman-like in his approach to his instrument either. His heart dictates how his fingers will strike the keys. And so ebony and ivory is caresses in sensuous motions. It is amid this romantic dalliance that Luis Perdomo creates his music. Phrases jump at you as often as they sneak up on you. Lines might be long and full of serpentine twists and turns, but they might just as easily dart excitedly sparking dramatic and explosive chain reactions. In his hands the piano basks in beautiful burnished tonal coloration. Music is brought to life with vaunted melismas. When a pianist plays with as much energy and naked beauty as Luis Perdomo does, it is impossible for the rest of the musicians – in this case bass and drums – not to respond in kind.

Mimi Jones’ playing is absolutely lustrous. Her pizzicato is electrifying, speaking her monstrous technique. Her playing con arco is simply ravishing. It has a fabulous swell that wells up in a proverbial vortex consuming all in its path. Ms. Jones works her bass violin as if were astutely harnessed to her body. Its contours become her contours almost as if the two become a sort of couple waltzing beautifully to the music that she creates in another dimension. Rudy Royston is the third character in this dramatically unfolding play. His playing is warm and sparkling, but beneath it all is a well-balanced piece of engineering involving snare, tom-tom, timpani and bass drum and a myriad of cymbals. The manipulation of this battery of instruments comes together as if by magic, becomes with great sleight of hand, a priceless work of art. Imagine what can happen when all of this comes together… What unforgettable music comes out of the swirling eddies of this ensemble – from “Love Tone Poem” to “Days Gone Days Ahead”. And it’s all on this disc, a memorable issue form Mimi Jones’ own label.

1. Love Tone Poem
2. Old City
3. Weilheim
4. A Different Kind of Reality
5. Two Sides of a Goodbye
6. Light Slips In
7. Looking Through You
8. How Deep Is Your Love
9. Aaychdee
10.Cota Mil
11.Brand New Grays
12.Days Gone Days Ahead

Luis Perdomo - piano
Mimi Jones - bass
Rudy Royston - drums

"Master your instrument, master the music 
& then forget all that & just play."
 - Charlie Parker -

Claes Andersson - Sketches (2015)

Sketches is a jazz project together with my favorite musicians, drummer and renaissance man Reinis Zarins, pianist Torbjoörn Gulz and bassist Filip Augustson. The music was recorded in just a few hours with some sketches – ideas and short themes – as a basis.

Claes Andersson, sax

Beat Rice
Miss Universe
Monkey Proof
Go Went Gone
From Where?

"Hearing is Everything" Peter Watkins


Michael Wolff & Mike Clark: Wolff & Clark Expedition 2 (2015)

The band without boundaries, the WOLFF & CLARK EXPEDITION, with leaders pianist MICHAEL WOLFF & drummer MIKE CLARK, presents their second release on RANDOM ACT RECORDS. Featuring bassist supreme CHRISTIAN McBRIDE (Tracks 1, 2, 5, 6, 8 & 12), young bassist DARYL JOHNS (Tracks 3, 4, 9 & 10), trumpet giant WALLACE RONEY (Tracks 4 & 10) and rising jazz star saxophonist HAILEY NISWANGER, EXPEDITION 2 includes tunes from Monk, Ornette, Prince, Cream, Dizzy, Jimmy Heath, and Johnny Carisi, as well as formidable originals by Wolff and Clark.

The leaders sizzle on two Piano/Drums duets on Tracks 7 & 11. Pure invention, chops, soul and powerful rhythms are the hallmark of this group. Building upon their last RAR outing, their first EXPEDITION with bassist Chip Jackson, WOLFF & CLARK continue to deconstruct familiar tunes to create their own incredibly unique versions.

There are four Trio tunes with McBride: Wolff’s opener, “CLARK BAR,” an obvious homage to his partner, swings mightily; “MONK’S DREAM” is a funky romp; “STRAY” is Wolff’s gorgeous ballad for Billy Strayhorn; and “IN WALKED BUD” burns from beginning to end, even in a complicated time signature.

Cream’s “SUNSHINE OF YOUR LOVE” is indicative of the W&C approach: With Niswanger on alto, the rock opus becomes pure up-tempo jazz. “ISRAEL” is given a compelling arrangement, with Clark playing without sticks at the onset, Wolff digging the blues and Niswanger wailing away.

The Mikes’ nod to Nelson Mandela, “MADIBA,” shines a light on the great Wallace Roney – Almost a mini-suite, it tracks the South African icon’s life and travails. The alto/trumpet parts are reminiscent of Wolff’s former employers, Cannonball and Nat Adderley. Roney blows the roof off on Dizzy’s tune, too…Prince’s trivial pop tune is utterly transformed into a seriously enjoyable, musical event with Wolff waxing Bulgarian and Niswanger wielding her soprano.

With their years of experience playing with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins, Nancy Wilson, Joe Henderson and others, the WOLFF & CLARK EXPEDITION continues to inspire and to explore broad swaths of musical territories.

01. Clark Bar 7:37
02. Sunshine of Your Love 4:37
03. Israel 4:08
04. Madiba 8:28
05. Monk’s Dream 5:26
06. Stray 4:55
07. Gingerbread Boy 3:13
08. Mulgrew 6:23
09. 1999 4:56
10. A Night In Tunisia 5:50
11. Invisible 3:30
12. In Walked Bud 5:25

"Hearing is Everything" Peter Watkins


Michael Wolff & Mike Clark: Wolff & Clark Expedition (2013)

Source: GLENN ASTARITA / allaboutjazz

This jazz piano trio date by world-class musicians is all about the groove. Drummer Mike Clark, revered for his slippery jazz-funk beats, hearkening back to this tenure with Herbie Hancock's Headhunters, is touted as one of the most sampled drummers of the digital age. However, he is first and foremost a jazz drummer, as his resume includes stints with a list of greats too lengthy in scope to cite here. Teaming with fellow jazz giant pianist, Michael Wolff and first-call session ace bassist Chip Jackson, the trio generates a spunky set, awash with soul-jazz inflected overtones amid driving R&B, swing and bop frameworks via a democratic engagement, augmented with brute force and artful dynamics.

The band kicks off the festivities with an up-tempo spin on The Beatles' "Come Together," as Clark puts his own stamp on Ringo Starr's infamous tom-tom patterns —serving as a catalyst here and throughout. Wolff, a onetime member of sax great Julian "Cannonball" Adderley's band , gives "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" a funky makeover, solidified by Jackson's booming bass parts. Indeed, it becomes easily apparent that the band is having fun along the way.

The musicians use space as a vantage point during many of the open-air like improvisational sprees. They impart counterpoint, and gel to a throng of call and response dialogues. And on "Flat Out," the trio teeters on the free-jazz schema with a loose demeanor. But Clark dances across his hi-hat and snare drum while dishing out a complex rhythmic fabrication on "Is There a Jackson in the House," where Wolff's rippling harmonics and reverse engineering mechanisms deftly contrast Latin-jazz vamps and rock beats. But they temper the pitch and close it out with a sequence of airy and nimbly devised choruses. Other than the anticipated high-level of musicianship, the trio broadcasts a convivial aura during the course of these alluringly, revved-up musical proceedings.

Michael Wolff: piano
Mike Clark: drums
Chip Jackson: acoustic bass

Come Together
What Is This Thing Called Love?
Mercy, Mercy, Mercy
Flat Out
Song For My Father
Is There a Jackson in the House?
For the Love of Money

"Hearing is Everything" Peter Watkins


martes, 12 de mayo de 2015

Yelena Eckemoff Trio - Lions (2015)

For Yelena Eckemoff, finding the nexus where training and an early successful career in the classical sphere meet with the Moscow-born, North Carolina-resident pianist/composer's more recent predilection for jazz and improvised music has been a wholly natural pursuit. A meeting place where the whole is invariably greater than the sum of its parts, with Lions - her eighth jazz album in nine years - Eckemoff once again raises the bar on a very personal approach to bringing detailed composition and freewheeling extemporization together with the idea of music as real narrative.

Unlike many musicians, who title compositions out of necessity - more afterthought than intimately tied to the music - Eckemoff has long striven to make albums with underlying concepts - a premise particularly evident with her last recording, 2014's A Touch of Radiance, and now, to even greater effect, with Lions.  Lions' release may follow A Touch of Radiance, but chronologically it was recorded first - more than a year before, in fact - making it Eckemoff's first to use what she calls "three-arts-crossing," where, in addition to the music, she contributes both poetry and cover art.

"The 14-part Lions poem, where I wrote about a woman in a lioness’ body (words corresponding to the double-disc's 14 musical tracks and printed in the liner notes) was so personal that I felt like taking another step toward an even more personal approach by using my own painting for the CD cover," Eckemoff explains.

"For some musicians, music is just music," she continues. "The names of the songs are expendable and what the music expresses is irrelevant - as long as it sounds good. For me, the music has always been nothing less than captivating storytelling and a way to express my feelings and thoughts, as well as the world around me."

Still, the genesis of Lions is an unusual tale worth telling. Eckemoff had already collaborated, on 2013's Glass Song, with Arild Andersen - the virtuosic double bassist who, along with four other Scandinavians brought to international attention by ECM Records' Manfred Eicher in the early 1970s, created a paradigm shift in how jazz was viewed by incorporating a completely different cultural touchstone into a music thenlargely dominated by the American tradition.

"After the recording session for Glass Song, Arild told me that he was waiting for a special bass that was being made for him in France, with a carved lion’s head on its neck," Eckemoff recalls. "It stirred my imagination, and I came up with an idea to assemble a trio of 'lions' for my next recording project with Arild, which we had decided to do in New York the following year. As I was trying to think who would be another 'lion' to join Arild and I in a recording studio, the choice was obvious to both of us: there could be no better match than Billy Hart! I then approached Billy, asking him to join Arild and I for the trio project, and he was very much interested. Billy and Arild have never worked together before, and both were quite excited at the prospect.

"Inspired with the idea of putting together a suite of songs not only performed by 'lions,' but also about lions," Eckemoff continues, "I began writing music which would describe the many aspects of lions' lives, starting with a general idea ('Lions'); going into details about their habitat ('Night in Savanna,' 'Stars Bathing in Shallow Waters'); and their routines ('Pursuit,' 'Young at Play,' 'Simple Pleasures,' 'Instinct,' 'Surviving the Famine,' 'Joining the Pride'). As my imagination grew wilder, I started to fantasize about escaping the human world and turning into a lioness myself. My fantasies were so vivid at times that even now I have my doubts that the story of getting transported to the African savanna on the wings of migrating birds, finding myself in a lioness’ body, and then living in a lion’s pride was just a figment of my imagination...or was it for real? I hope whosoever listens to the music and reads the story might find out for him or herself."

It's hard not to be swept away by Eckemoff's vision of African vistas and wildlife from a lioness' viewpoint. Eckemoff's music finds compelling middle ground between through composition and the loose interpretative interaction that any trio bolstered by Andersen and Hart is bound to possess. The three musicians traverse considerable territory, from ethereal atmospherics both sun-charred and moonlit indigo and more grounded explorations of groove, to cinematic expanses that evoke imagery reflective of Eckemoff's experience - the soundtrack to the most personal of imaginary films. And whether it's Eckemoff's impeccable virtuosity and penchant for the impressionistic, Andersen's lithe muscularity and irresistibly singing tone, or Hart's ability to suggest time with the broadest use of color and texture, Lions is an album that continues to surprise long after it's been spun for the first time.

While there's something to be said for the chemistry of a longstanding group, there's also no doubt that a rare kind of energy can imbue first encounters, especially where, rather than writing relatively spare sketches that are grist for more open-ended improvisation, Eckemoff provides her partners with detailed compositions filled with challenging yet somehow accessible structural constructs.

"To help prepare for the recording, I always supply my musicians with comprehensive lead sheets and audio demos of the songs to be recorded," Eckemoff explains. "After Billy listened to my piano demos, he asked how much of what he heard I was going to play at the recording. My sincere answer was that I would play pretty much everything he heard. Sensing that he was very amused, I felt apologetic, saying that due to my classical music background I like to write a lot, leaving only relatively small portions for improvisation. To my surprise, he was quite excited about my written-through approach, saying that besides that he liked the music very much - that my way of music-making in jazz is prophetic, and that this is a new direction about which he is very fascinated."

Of course, how musicians prepare for a session is as different as their own approaches to playing. "Arild prefers to study my music way in advance, because he finds it quite structural, with some eccentric chord changes - way too complicated to be played on the spot," says Eckemoff.But Andersen - who was teamed with another veteran drummer, Peter Erskine, on Glass Song - reveals just how differently two musicians can approach the music. 

"Peter wanted to have all the music that Yelena had written down for the piano, and was more or less reading the piano parts during the recording," the bassist recalls. "Billy hardly looked at it. Yelena's music is pretty challenging in terms of chord progressions and bar structures, so I had to watch out all the time and keep concentrating. She is more like playing with a classical pianist. 

She writes down most of what she plays in the session beforehand, whereas I prefer to have as little as possible written down and leave everything up to improvisation. It's a strange combination, but there was still a lot of space to play in Yelena's music, and with a loose rhythm section it worked well."

And work well it does. Eckemoff describes the music (and how her trio mates interpret it) best: "In 'Migrating Birds,' Billy’s brushes sound like fluttering of the birds’ wings, and we all soar up in the sky, filled with a nostalgic desire to reach distant shores in our attempt to escape our human world. In 'Pursuit,' we - now lions - desperately try to catch our prey, infatuated with the hunting spree. In 'Night in Savanna,' Billy imitates the creepy sounds of African night life, including passing of rattlesnakes. In 'Young at Play,' we’re associated with energetic and clumsy cubs that play hard but suddenly fall asleep in the middle of the game. The odd meters of 'Sphinx' serves as a laboratory for the philosophic exploration of life’s dramatic choices.

"'Instinct,' whose melody of love is probably one of the most heartfelt tunes I've ever created, pictures a shameless mating ground for innocent lions, not in by the confines of human society," Eckemoff continues. 'Simple Pleasures' returns us to the basic things that all living creatures enjoy; to get into the carefree mood of total satisfaction, we lazily start the song off with an on-the-spot free intro. Some random roars and relaxing stretches of 'Lions Blues' feel as cozy as any blues; despite the canonic blues formula, spiked chords shift down and up in half-steps. In 'Surviving the Famine' we are fatigued from hunger, and Billy's marching pattern expresses the emptiness of our stomachs while Arild’s frantic phrases are like desperate attempts to find food. There is a triumphant spirit of winning the battle in 'Joining the Pride,' while the joyous 'Ode to Strength' sums up the courage and nobility of lions’ lives and return us virtual lions to our human world - at least, for the most part," Eckemoff concludes, chuckling.

"A week after the Lions recording session, we had the privilege of performing seven pieces from the album at New York City's Birdland Jazz Club," enthuses Eckemoff. "It was the first time Arild and I ever took the stage at this famed club, and it was quite thrilling to present this music in a live show and receive a warm and enthusiastic reception.”

With the release of Lions, Yelena Eckemoff continues to make significant strides in her goal of gaining acceptance in the jazz world on her own terms. And for those as enthralled by the pure magic of Lions as Eckemoff, Andersen and Hart clearly were, the good news is there's more to come.

Exciting news for the pianist, but also for fans and critics alike who have become increasingly captivated by Yelena Eckemoff's most personal, narrative approach to chamber-informed music-making. With an imagination as free as that of the majestic animals to whom she aspires, Lions is yet another leap forward in the career of an artist whose name may still be relatively new to the jazz world, but whose reputation is gaining ground with each successive release. By John Kelman

Yelena Eckemoff, piano & compositions
Arild Andersen, double bass
Billy Hart, drums

CD 1

Migrating Birds
Night in Savanna
Starts Bathing in Shallow...
Young at Play

CD 2

Simple Pleasures
Lions Blues
Surviving the Famine
Joining the Pride
Ode to Innocence
Ode to Strength

Recorded on March 16-17 at Sear Sound Studios, NYC

"Hearing is Everything" Peter Watkins