Jakob Bro - Returnings

Label: ECM, 2018

Personnel – Jakob Bro: guitar; Palle Mikkelborg: trumpet; Thomas Morgan: double bass; Jon Christensen: drums.


Danish guitarist Jakob Bro might not be a heavyweight like Rosenwinkel, Frisell, or Metheny, but is a legitimate owner of a sui generis sound whose rich tones usually translates into intimate musical settings.

On Returnings, his third release on ECM, the guitarist plays alongside the sought-after American bassist Thomas Morgan, a regular in his bands, and a pair of veteran musicians: Danish trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg and Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen. The latter returns after a one-year hiatus, retrieving the drum chair that, two years ago, was occupied by Joey Baron on the previous recording, Streams. 

The album starts with “Oktober”, a compassionate, stagnant song previously recorded in the album Gefion, and rearranged at this point with a combination of idyllic, cordial, and intensely emotional manners. The balmy trumpet-led melodies tell a story, conveying a comforting tonality and reinforcing what Bro had delivered in the original version.

On the following tune” Strands”, the quartet presses on with the contagious languor that characterizes their routines. Sticking to light textures, Bro fingerpicks beautiful voicings while Morgan’s touches show how wide can the possibilities be when he’s around. The percussion, simultaneously unobtrusive and unflashy, really makes the difference in the creation of an ultrapolished fascination that gains further emphasis throughout the melodious routes of “Lyskaster”, another original from Gefion. The piece, strongly influenced by folk and pop idioms, have all the four instrumentalists taking part in a circular congruity.

Although composed for the Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun, we can picture icy landscapes while listening to “Hamsun”. This guitar/bass duet, partly inspired by Paul Motian, has the bassist nodding to the lyric suggestions of the bandleader.

Standing out from the remaining tunes due to a more experimental sonority, the title track features Bro’s curious electronic effects, Christensen’s unflappable drumming, Morgan's unremittingly spot-on bass notes, and the precise trumpet lines uttered by Mikkelborg, often mirroring or matching the guitarist’s melodic suggestions. Mikkelborg co-wrote this song with Bro, but also supplies a couple more compositions of his own: “View” and “Youth”. The former defies form as it operates outside the conventional, having drums and bass pairing down to create moments of orbital suspension. The latter, solely outlined by guitar and trumpet, sheds tears as it evokes nostalgia, wistfulness, and abandonment.

With mood transcending any language or tempo, Returnings draws emotional vulnerabilities from the prevailing, slow-moving instrumental streams. This is a great record to have at hand whenever you need to disconnect from the ‘outside’ world.

        Grade  A-

       Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Oktober ►05 - Lyskaster ►07 - Returnings 

Hal Galper Quartet - Cubist

Label: Origin Records: 2018

Personnel - Hal Galper: piano; Jerry Bergonzi: tenor saxophone; Jeff Johnson: bass; John Bishop: drums.


Despite having recorded with names such as John Scofield, Michael and Randy Brecker, Cannonball Adderley, and Lee Konitz, it’s very seldom to see the name of Hal Galper on lists of top-notch jazz pianists. However, he proves people wrong through a bunch of phenomenal albums released in an exciting career spanning fifty years.

On his most recent recording, Cubist, he is joined by longtime associates Jerry Bergonzi on tenor saxophone, Jeff Johnson on bass, and John Bishop on drums, who, together, form a very compact quartet. Their music carries much of the jazz tradition, but they are capable of garnishing those delicious plates with fresh scents and contemporary flavors.
A revamped rendition of Miles Davis’ “Solar” couldn’t be a better example. It poses with a marvelous rubato introduction from piano, followed by Bergonzi’s daring bop-ish language, which wisely expands in other directions in order to shine beyond the conventional. Galper keeps the cool pose, playing the harmonic changes with skill, even when intense bass and drums set a hectic swing in motion. In the course of the first couple choruses of his improvisation, Johnson works around the theme's melody and then takes off toward a different galaxy, which he paints with attractive rhythmic figures and stunning patterns.

The proficient bassist brings four of his own compositions to this session, namely, “Artists”, a ballad whose apparent faintness doesn’t hamper the artists’ force of speech; “Kiwi”, a 3/4 piece with discerning harmonic and soloing work from the bandleader; the title track, “Cubist”, where saxophone and bass fly in unison (with the piano assisting them in the phrase completions) before a speedy swinging verve is triumphantly installed; and “Scene West”, which sort of recreates a Freddie Freeloader-like atmosphere with startups and halts.

If the latter piece comes close to Miles Davis, Galper’s sole tune, “Scufflin” is definitely more Coltrane style, recalling the intro of “Moment’s Notice” in its melodic statement. Elated, this shifting tune has the drummer trading bars with the rest of the band.

The quartet delves into “Israel”, a song composed by John Carisi and popularized by Miles Davis in his Birth of the Cool phase, with passion and nicety. Bishop’s brushing perception interlaces with Johnson’s booming bass, underpinning Galper’s geometric figures brilliantly sketched with a bluesy, post-bop insouciance. Still, it was with the risk-taking blows of Bergonzi that I got that sense of sonic fulfillment. His language, built with a ferocious technique, is influenced by John Coltrane and Joe Henderson, yet his extensive timbral possibilities and energy make us think of Charles Lloyd.
There’s so much activity, adherence, and taste in the quartet’s moves that feels great to simply abandon ourselves to the music. Cubist is a contemporary record that sparks like a classic and demonstrates how cool is to bring the past into the present with charismatic momentum.

         Grade  A

        Grade A

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Solar ► 02 – Israel ► 05 – Cubist

Anat Cohen / Fred Hersch - Live in Healdsburg

Label: Anzic Records, 2018

Personnel - Anat Cohen: clarinet; Fred Hersch: piano.


On their debut duo record, world-class instrumentalists Anat Cohen and Fred Hersch, clarinetist and pianist, respectively, included originals and carefully selected repertoire, whose variety enriches sonic possibilities as it supplements their creative vein. This intimate recording session was part of the 2016 Healdsburg Jazz Festival's lineup and comes in the sequence of very personal works recently put out by the two artists - Cohen gathered a skillful tentet to bring Happy Song (Anzic, 2017) to life, while Hersch orchestrated the enchanting Open Book (Palmetto, 2017) alone at a piano.

Produced by Cohen’s longtime musical partner Oded Lev-Ari, Live in Healdsburg starts with two compositions by Hersch. The opener, “A Lark”, which first appeared on the album Trio +2 (Palmetto, 2004), has the affectionate melody outlined by the clarinet, sliding over chord changes or ever-changing textures. Spinning with as much pleasure as free abandonment, Hersch, mostly conducting his accompaniment over the mid and high registers, achieves a further grandiosity whenever he hits the supporting bass notes. 

The duo's gentleness continues on the following piece. “Child’s Song” holds a rubato piano introduction that takes us to a 6/4 tempo put on hold by a staccato pianism. Brief pedals are combined with folk and classical movements in a middle passage that sometimes feels enigmatic without losing the sweetness of tone.

Cohen also shows to be a serious connoisseur and adept of the jazz tradition on her waltzing, classical-tinged “The Purple Piece”. Although she rarely explored rhythmic ideas that go beyond the expected on the weightless rendition of Billy Strayhorn’s “Isfahan”, her improvisation was fantastic on Hersch's bebop-inspired “Lee’s Dream”, a tune harmonically based on “You Stepped Out of a Dream” that served to honor saxophonist Lee Konitz. Still, the true emotions were left to “The Peacocks”, where the clarinet digs deep into the essence of our soul. Bill Evan’s interpretation of this tune might be insuperable, but this ego-less duet also captures and exposes the grandeur of the piece based on a flawless instrumental alliance.

After Fats Waller’s emblematic “Jitterbug Waltz”, here re-invented with a playful intro from piano, expressive musical smiles, and loose-limbed interplay with some rhythmic wallops, the recording comes to an end with the amicable serenity of Ellington’s classic “Mood Indigo”.

Inspiring each other and divinely ingratiated by their natural talent and musical sophistication, Cohen and Hersch make effortless music. This cute live recording, warmly temperate and melodic, makes for a pleasant listen.

         Grade  B

        Grade B

Favorite tunes: 
01 – A Lark ► 05 – Lee’s Dream ► 06 – The Peacocks

Sara Serpa - Close Up

Label: Clean Feed, 2018

Personnel - Sara Serpa: vocals; Ingrid Laubrock: tenor and soprano saxophone; Erik Friedlander: cello.


The incomparable Portuguese vocalist/composer Sara Serpa remains faithful to her own musical signature, receiving universal acclaim with recent projects such as Sara Serpa’s Recognition (with harpist Zeena Parkins and saxophonist Mark Turner), Serpa/Matos duo, and now this fantastic new trio, whose first album, Close Up, is the subject of this review. Whether creating textural consonance or embarking on precise contrapuntal effects, the work of German-born saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and American cellist Erik Friedlander coexists beautifully and pacifically with Serpa’s flawless phrasing and multi-sensitive tone.

Like in some past works, this album includes many references to literature, a deep-rooted passion now extended to film, with Abbas Kiarostami’s 1990 masterpiece Close-Up surfacing as an extra inspiration.
Object” shows the threesome dancing in different ways, using distinct cadences yet perfectly integrated as a group. Brief cello slashes provide a thin tapestry for both Serpa’s lyrical buoyancy and Laubrock’s world music-inspired inflections on the soprano. The vocalist perambulates since the moment that sax and cello agree on standing side-by-side, anticipating a grand finale delivered in unison.

Quiet Riot” is clearly hooked on Serpa’s style. Elegant parallel motions and counterpoints, phrase complementations, and Laubrock’s soprano knottiness over the groovy bends and swift drives imposed by Friedlander. These bright moments make you want to go back and re-listen to them again.

Exhibiting multiple ostinatos and the words of the Portuguese poet Ruy Bello, “Pássaros”, is a furtive chamber-jazz effort with a well-defined identity. Still, it couldn't match the irresistible enunciation of “The Future”, a poignant, unswerving song awaken by a continuously reiterated sax-vox pointillism and cello wails. Inspired by Virginia Woolf, the song merges light and darkness in genial moments of metrical defiance. This is naked music where the words mean highly focused sounds.

Friedlander’s seductive fingerstyle drives “Sol Enganador”, a meditative cinematic odyssey where Godard’s philosophical freedom gets in touch with a Fellini-esque flamboyance. Laubrock’s air blows, percussive and invasive at the same time, end up falling into short, feverish phrases that contrast with Serpa’s syllabic patterns, sparsely laid down with an infallible precision.

Floating like a breezy folk song, “Woman” was devised with a sort of angelic flair and erudite expressiveness, meaning that the spirit of Luce Irigaray, who inspired the composition, was properly captured and relocated into the music.

The album closes with “Cantar Ao Fim”, a spellbinding piece with a strong connection to nature, whose freedom erupts from all the pores of its smooth skin. The natural, impromptu vocal chant that inaugurates this piece is followed by a blossoming groove that pushes us into a rapturous sonic orb.

Composition-wise, Serpa is ahead of the curve, establishing her ideas with one foot on the avant-garde and the other on the new music. Categorization can be a difficult task, but what’s really relevant here is that Close Up guarantees an arresting affirmation of her artistic maturity.

        Grade  A-

       Grade A-

Favorite Tracks: 
03 - Sol Enganador ► 04 - The Future ► 09 - Cantar Ao Fim

Rob Clearfield - Wherever You’re Starting From

Label: Woolgathering Records, 2018

Personnel - Rob Clearfield: piano.


Wherever You’re Starting From is the sophomore solo album by Chicagoan pianist Rob Clearfield, whose classical purity of tone gives life to an intimate set of originals plus two renditions of renowned compositions, one classical and one jazz.

While working/touring with drummer Makaya McCraven, Clearfield formulated a new approach to music that consists in improvising complete pieces by focusing on individual moments. That same methodology is employed successfully here.

Multidisciplinary if strongly influenced by classical music, the pianist wraps his “Prologue” in an entangling evanescence, mesmerizing with the lightness of the movements, even when some dreamy uncertainty lurks around the corner. We find his left hand busy with rapid arpeggiated intricacies and the right one completely loose to create across the upper register.

Searching while exploring, he weaves “Starchild” with aural textural layers formed by melodic phrases in suspension and diffused broken chords. Controlled swirls and consecutive sweeps sketched with dexterity and emotion over several octaves of the instrument are reserved for the finale of a piece whose modernistic touch makes it more tempting than the classical inflections of the “Minor” and “Major” studies, symbols of cheerlessness and optimism, respectively, due to the nature of their contrasting modes.

Melody is passionately revered throughout the reading of Brahms’s “Intermezzo No. 2 In B Flat Minor, Op. 177”, a romantic, perfectly articulated piece set with a delicate touch. However, it was with the extravagantly unorthodox, Chick Corea-like groove of “What Was Your Name Again?” that he most excelled. A bold murmuring is well secured by the independence and dexterity of both hands.

The second ‘cover’ on the album, an inscrutable version of Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”, declares lost the jazz vibrancy of the original, which is totally engulfed by the wider abstraction of the classical confinement that better serves the performer’s intentions.

Blues in C” comes dissimulated by enigmatic cadences and undeviating melodic ideas, while “Alice”, a graceful lyrical song, aims its gentle bends directly at our ears. The album finishes with “Epilogue”, a different narrative of the opening tune. 

Sometimes squeezing his music into narrow alleys and back streets, sometimes expanding it into highways and vast lands, Clearfield always brings something very personal attached to his rides. The development of his voice is undeniable and this album can be seen as a sonic self-portrait of the artist.

         Grade  B

        Grade B

Favorite Tracks:
02 - Starchild ► 04 - What Was Your Name Again? ► 11 - Alice

Kairos Sextet - Transition

Label: Dafnisonmusic, 2018

Personnel - Sam Neufeld: trumpet; Tom Kelly: alto and soprano saxophones; Sean Johnson: tenor saxophone; Nick Lamb: piano; Jon Dadurka: upright and electric bass; Johnathan Hulett: drums.


Transition, the debut album from Kairos Sextet - Sam Neufeld on trumpet, Tom Kelly on alto and soprano saxophones, Sean Johnson on tenor, Nick Lamb on piano, Jon Dadurka on upright and electric bass, and Johnathan Hulett on drums - homages the Cuban drummer Dafnis Prieto, their mentor and inspiration. The latter, who also served as executive producer, contributed with a composition, “Triangles and Circles”, which opens with a drum statement and develops to a glorious epiphany, reaching a finale with multiple horn trills and rhythmic punch. Another flagrant tune in which the collective captures the compositional style of Prieto is “Dafnison”, a waltz penned by Johnson. 

Every single member of this band penned at least one tune for this work, which also contains an interesting reinvention of the standard "I Remember You". The arrangement by Kelly is fabulous, altering the traditional chord progression, favoring post-bop modulations, and still sticking to the most common swinging drive that normally characterizes the song.

Performed with vividness and carrying powerful rhythmic accents, the title track is a shape-shifting amalgam of rock and jazz with a tango-ish feel on the piano. The solos, embellished with horn fills, are attractive in language and suffused with abundant energy. By the end, there is a brief cacophonous passage before Hulett's adroit metrics are demonstrated.

Another pressurized song is Johnson’s “(No) Time to Spare”, inspired by saxophonist Brice Winston. The band actually spares quite some time stretching this one out, generating enough steam to keep you warm. While Johnson speaks loud and unreservedly, Kelly, catching the tail of his solo, delivers irresistible hooks, focusing on immediate rhythmic figures.

Dadurka’s “On and On” starts with an electric bass ostinato designed on an upper register. Unhurried unisons lead to trumpet melodies that, officially opening the improvisational section, stir emotions while sounding pleasant to the ear.  

The sextet proves to have that desirable rapport that allows them to scintillate with creativity. Each individual statement feels hand-in-glove with the written material and Prieto has all the reasons to be flattered and proud of this band.

        Grade  B+

       Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Transition ► 03 - (No) Time To Spare ► 07 - I Remember You

Julian Lage - Modern Lore

Label: Mack Avenue, 2018

Personel - Julian Lage: guitar; Scott Colley: double bass; Kenny Wollesen: drums; Tyler Chester: keyboards; Jesse Harris: maracas, casio, acoustic guitar.

Guitarist Julian Lage recorded his new album, Modern Lore, with a quality lineup of musicians that include bassist Scott Colley, drummer Kenny Wollesen, keyboardist Tyler Chester, and Jesse Harris, who besides producing, also plays maracas, casio, and acoustic guitar. Lage digs deep into the American roots, presenting us something distinct, perhaps even more personal than in his previous Arclight (Mack Avenue, 2016), an album conceived in the typical guitar-bass-drums trio format.

Fusing country, rockabilly, and jazz, “The Ramble” takes you to a spine-tingling rollercoaster, erupting in a stunning guitar solo whose point of entrance is impactful enough to make you alert. Lage’s Fender Telecaster fills the air with its robust Western sound, and Colley, in addition to the groove, drives an intelligible if short bass solo before the reinstatement of that sort of Wild West foray.

The softness of “Atlantic Limited” is generated by a blend of country-pop and early rock n’ roll, in the same line of “Wordsmith”, which touches a bit further the roots rock before being wrapped up in distortion.

Different yet complying with the mood, “General Thunder” flows with a rock-steady beat, enlightened by the harmonious lines drawn from the country and folk-rock genres. The smoothness of its texture doesn’t lose the fine balance between the American roots and the modern lore that the band claims, feeling perfect for a dusty road trip. It’s like if the adult rock of Dire Straits had melded with the progressive country of Johnny Cash. It doesn’t have that funky wit of “Roger the Dodger” though, a ternary composition that explodes with bluesy screams and poignant outcries.

With techniques, styles, and lucid tones being constantly cross-wired and recombined, we can appreciate the easy listening pop/rock of “Splendor Riot”, the bluesy rodeo style of the hard-swinging “Look Book”, the Roy Orbison-esque lament of “Whatever You Say, Henry”, and the free state of mind of “Earth Science”, where the musicians endorse exploration. Far more reflective is the closing tune, “Pantheon”, abandoning the tradition in favor of a modern harmonization and shifting tempos.

Regardless if this is your style or not, it’s undeniable the superb instrumental outfits created by an ambitious rising-star who, without wasting time, is carving out his own space. He's making his way with a sui generis sound and a sure sense of direction, just like Bill Frisell and Pat Metheny did.

        Grade  A-

       Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
03 - General Thunder ► 04 - Roger the Dodger ► 06 - Splendor Riot 

Megumi Yonezawa / Masa Kamaguchi / Ken Kobayashi - Boundary

Label: ESP-Disk

Personnel - Megumi Yonezawa: piano; Masa Kamaguchi: acoustic bass;  Ken Kobayashi: drums.


New York-based Japanese pianist Megumi Yonezawa co-leads a sharp new trio with fellow countrymen, bassist Masa Kamaguchi and drummer Ken Kobayashi. Integrity, freedom, and an extraordinary improvisational facility are part of the group’s philosophy, and Boundary proves their individual and collective value in the process of creating spontaneously from predetermined ideas.

Toggling between the fragile and the firm, the title track is a sparse, unhurried, and deeply explorative piece that is ultimately taken by a stubborn tension. While pianist and bassist paddle in the same direction, the drummer, immersed in a precipitate brushwork, seems to get his own way without putting in cause the cohesiveness of the whole. “Meryon” is driven by a similar calm/tension duality. The initial vagueness and ambiguity, triggered by floating bass notes, will drive you to search the palpable, and yet, little by little, our ears begin to dig the virtuosic communication process between these three ramblers. Their steadfast actions end up in a compulsive dance of short high-pitched piano flurries, instinctive bass attacks, and intensive drumming.

Alone and confident, Yonezawa slowly cooks a blend of fragmented phrases, loose notes, and parallel motions to compose the introductory section of “Alchemy”, a pure avant-garde exercise that grows considerably in intensity toward the end. The pianist creates fantastic shapes over the bass-drums foundation, which, despite vigorous, feels constantly unobtrusive to her moves. This is also audible on the energizing “Tremor”, a song that achieves a punchy rhythmic infatuation through a propelling, nearly swinging groove that supports the assertive exclamations and affirmations uttered by the pianist, who develops her phrasing from a specific rhythmic figure.

Another stirring moment arrives with “Onement”, where a relentless note on the piano becomes the axis that will allow Kamaguchi to revolve around it with multiple acrobatic moves. Yonezawa brings in occasional counterpoint with the nuanced comping before the tune turns into a kaleidoscopic showcase for hypnotizing timbres. The language, rich and highly articulated, includes trilling obliques, penetrating harmonic progressions, and epic rhythmic strolls.

Even the most reflective moments convey an intrinsic complexity whose wide emotional range feels enthralling. It happens not only on “I’ll Be Seeing You”, a jazz standard captured with the freedom of a non-standard and piqued by the background stimulus of Kobayashi’s chops, but also on the wishful “Veil” and “Nostalgio”.

The plenitude of a fully integrated trio sounds like this. Boundary takes you to unimaginable places, making you not to want to return to your point of origin. Consequently, I hope this visionary Japanese trio has plans to continue experimenting together in the future.

        Grade  A-

       Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
03 - Tremor ► 05 - I’ll Be Seeing You ► 08 - Onement

Dr. Lonnie Smith - All In My Mind

Label: Blue Note Records, 2018

Personnel - Dr. Lonnie Smith: organ; Jonathan Kreisberg: guitar; Johnathan Blake: drums.


An ace of the B-3 Hammond organ, Dr. Lonnie Smith, is back on the Blue Note Records, this time with All In My Mind, a live record in which he tackles covers and originals with the same devotion. Accompanying him on this groovy journey are guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg and drummer Johnathan Blake, whose exceptional musicality could be heard on Smith's last year’s Evolution. Hence, the trio keeps well anchored in the groove, only here the guests are much less than on the cited album, which counted on Joe Lovano, John Ellis, Joe Dyson, and Robert Glasper, just to name a few.

All the fervency of Wayne Shorter’s “JuJu” is left intact in this absolutely stirring version. Throbbing at a swift 3/4 tempo, this modal exercise sparkles with a wondrous reverb-drenched guitar improvisation by Kreisberg, who, revolving around the melody, injects occasional rhythmic convulsions and jaw-dropping patterns within the limpid phrasing that characterizes his playing. Smith and Blake follow him with solos involved in brightness.

Elegantly atmospheric, “Devika”, an old original, offers up a polished slice of jazz-funk wrapped in blue tonalities. The relaxation identified with this number opposes to Paul Simon’s pop hit “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover”, whose buoyant spirit makes it instantly accessible. The song starts off with guest Joe Dyson’s colorful press rolls imposing the pace, while the melody is shared between the guitarist and the organist, who dig the A and B sections, respectively. By the end, after the bandleader’s organ explosion, we have vibrato guitar inflections and the amazing marching chops devised by the drummer.
The deft brushed drumming of Blake sets in motion Tadd Dameron’s ballad “On a Misty Night”, but it was with Smith’s never-recorded original “Alhambra” that his burning-hot style comes to the forefront. Rooted in Spanish music, the piece displays a rich sonic palette with horn and woodwind emulations mixed with egregious synth chords, electronics, and semi-acoustic guitar. Its flow is an invitation to discover new places and new sounds, and everything culminates in a fusion cocktail spiced by a cool Latin/samba rhythm. 

The title track, another Smith’s classic, features the guest singer Alicia Olatuja duetting with the bandleader, whereas Freddie Hubbard’s “Up Jumped Spring”, a piece that first saw the daylight in 1962 through Art Blakey, closes the session in a bohemian hard-bop gaiety.

Produced by Don Was, the recording is presented with the finest quality, so every move or expression can be heard clearly and crisply. In a remarkable shape, the emblematic Dr. Lonnie Smith showcases his peculiar sounds, having fun with the beneficial organ-guitar-drums format.

        Grade  B+

       Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Ju Ju ► 03 - 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover ► 05 – Alhambra

Keith Jarrett / Gary Peacock / Jack DeJohnette - After The Fall

Label: ECM, 2018

Personnel - Keith Jarrett: piano; Gary Peacock: double bass; Jack DeJohnette: drums.

keith-jarrett-after the-fall.jpg

The Standards Trio consists of the incredibly talented Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, and Jack DeJohnette, on piano, bass, and drums, respectively. Together, they show off an insuperable communication on stage, playing almost with their eyes closed and letting their creativity to be guided by pure instinct. These respected bandleaders play together for 40 years, and still evince the same gusto for exploration, rendering tunes from The Great American Songbook, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins, and John Coltrane, among others.

After The Fall, a double-disc album, was recorded live in a special concert that signaled the return of the pianist from a forced two-year interruption in his brilliant career due to chronic fatigue syndrome. The gig took place in 1998 at the NJPAC in Newark and the pianist himself expressed surprise when heard how well the music worked.

Possessing an incalculable knowledge of the jazz history and being savvy enough to embrace freedom and play these songs backward or in 50 different ways, the trio opens the 4-track disc one with a nearly 16-minute version of “The Masquerade Is Over”. Taking the plunge with a sensational piano overture, the song is a lesson on melody, harmony, expression, emotion, and technique. What could we expect more from music? When the bass and drums are incorporated, paces and moods are re-defined and the colors become even brighter and intense.

Dazzling rhythmic ideas flow from Jarrett’s nimble fingers on Parker’s “Scrapple From The Apple”, an explicit reawaken of bebop carrying that refined swinging affinity that leaves nobody indifferent. Peacock delivers a prodigious, woody solo while DeJohnette trades eights with his associates, drawing mainly elegance from his stunning chops.

The remaining tunes on the first CD are “Old Folks”, a ballad that breathes serenity with heart-rending melodies, on-spot bass lines, and shimmering brushwork, and the fully-explored “Autumn Leaves”, which gains a fresh perspective as it is designed with atmospheric passages and seasoned with the savor of Latin by the end. 

Disc two comprises eight diversified tracks. There's another bebop incursion with “Bouncing With Bud”, a nice and bluesy swing ride with Sonny Rollins’ “Doxy” (DeJohnette’s drumming is a true delight) and Pete La Roca's “One For Majid”, affectionate ballads such as “I’ll See You Again”, “When I Fall in Love”, and Paul Desmond’s “Late Lament”, in which Jarrett grants his solo a laid-back heave, and a steamy rendition of Coltrane’s “Moment’s Notice”, here packed with kinetic sequences of notes.

Although “Santa Claus is Coming To Town” can be seen out of context at this time, there’s plenty of groove attached, with the pianist exhibiting his impressive and effortless capacity to create well-conjugated melodies and rhythms.

With a trio that has nothing more to prove and plays totally from the heart, we can only expect wonders. After The Fall is a record of unhesitating steps that renew our appetite for jazz standards and other known songs.

         Grade  A

        Grade A

Favorite Tracks:
01 (CD1) - The Masquerade Is Over ► 02 (CD2) - Doxy ► 07 (CD2) – Moment’s Notice

Mathias Eick - Ravensburg

Label: ECM, 2018

Personnel – Mathias Eick: trumpet; Hakon Aase: violin; Andreas Ulvo: piano; Audun Erlien: electric bass; Thorstein Lofthus: drums; Helge Andreas Norbakken: drums, percussion.


Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick owns a very characteristic sound that has been applauded not only in his personal projects but also in works of other respected authors such as Jacob Young, Iro Haarla, and Manu Katché. From 1998 to 2014, he was a legitimate member of the peculiar big band Jaga Jazzist, artisans of an adventurous electronic jazz.

On Ravensburg, his fourth release on the ECM label, Eick delves into his original compositions with the habitual discipline and composure he has developed throughout the years. The eight tunes were shaped with the grandiose support of a musical crew that includes violinist Hakon Aase, pianist Andreas Ulvo, electric bassist Audun Erlien, and a pair of competent rhythm stylists such as Thorstein Lofthus and Helge Andreas Norbakken, who play together for the very first time.

The program begins with “Family”, a sedate and monochromatic song whose harmonic alignment brings more pensiveness than enthusiasm. Completely antagonistic in the mood, “Children” adds a lot more elements to an uplifted rhythmic dance that, still unaggressive and picturesque, brings in a sort of jazz-house feel. The bandleader uses his clear voice alongside the violin before embarking on unisons with the trumpet. He follows exactly the same procedures on “August” and “Parents”, two pieces that stick to a similar line of action. The former, a soothing ballad, features Ulvo’s acute statements and the drummers’ gorgeous effects with snare drags and cymbal slashes; the latter shows us the band generating a simple backbone with the drummers deserving all our attention for the valuable nuances induced in the pulse. If there’s any predictability in Eick’s musical moves, it's definitely not extended to the inventive rhythmic patterns.
One of the most interesting tracks is “Friends”, where we can spot calm, beautiful, and easy melodies delivered in unison within passages that flow naturally.  Some of those passages thrive with curious samba-like pulsations and bass lines that jump from scattered groovy plucks to asymmetric heart poundings. It stands between the undisturbed and the excitable, like the tortuous water of a river when meeting the immense tranquility of the sea.
Girlfriend” has a natural splendor, feeling like a crisp, ethereal acid jazz tune with smooth funk allusions and world percussion in the mix. The trance-like groove hails from bass and piano, whose work on the lower register is flawlessly coordinated, while Aase’s violin sounds in perspective with the flow.

Settling predominantly over the 4/4 time signature and avoiding knotty exchanges, Mathias Eick highlights the power of the collective instead of any individual proclamation. With dynamics that are as natural as they are low-key, Ravensburg brings his unique perspective and idiosyncratic personality into another engaging album.

         Grade  A-

        Grade A-

Favorite Tracks: 
03 - Friends ► 04 - August ► 06 – Girlfriend

Wanja Slavin Lotus Eaters - Salvation

Label: Why Play Jazz, 2018

Personnel – Wanja Slavin: alto saxophone; Philipp Gropper: tenor saxophone; Tom Arthurs: trumpet (#1); Erik Kimestad Pedersen: trumpet (#2-7); Rainer Bohm: piano, rhodes; Andreas Lang: acoustic bass (#1); Bernhard Meyer: electric bass (#2,3,4); Petter Eldh: acoustic and electric bass (#5,6,7); Tobias Backhaus: drums (#1); Nasheet Waits: drums (#2,3,4); Ivars Arutyunyan: drums (#5,6,7).


Wanja Slavin is a first-call German saxophonist who has been a beacon of small groups operating mostly in the avant-jazz and prog rock genres. His most charismatic group, The Lotus Eaters, has changed members and became more flexible. The new album, Salvation, comprises five originals plus one standard and features three different formations of old friends. Each note plays a big role in the process, just like each chord fills us with its richness and resonance.

The title track opens doors for a relevant modern music that is both fulfilling and evolutionary in the way jazz is heading these days. This piece can be dark and feathery at the same time, bringing Andrew Hill’s cryptic universe to my mind. A crystalline trumpet that evokes Kenny Wheeler strikes with an ingratiating emotional punch while the saxophonists' language articulates with quality and displays an engrossing tone. Indeed, the well-hooked horn section works nice and tight, emitting squeaks and squawks at the end.

WS1” and “WS2” are dressed in fantastic arrangements. The first version, boosted by Nasheet Wait’s syncopated beat, carries a unique, intermittent vibe that seems equal parts inspired by funk and electronic music. The melodic lines are complex and sometimes jarring, befitting the idiosyncratic atmosphere created. Everything is modern creative with tantalizing prog-rock incursions. Even presenting three alterations in the band for the second version, which is also prone to syncopation, the sound is fueled by a searing heat and a fully adjusted drive.

On “Melancholy1” and “Melancholy2”, the band paints the same feeling with different brushstrokes. Whereas the former is an Eberhard Weber-like symphony with epic avant infusions, supportive synth texture, and a dashing piano improvisation, the latter floats with poignant melody, suggesting an idleness that feels more mysterious and obscure than relaxing.

On Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Moonlight Becomes You”, Slavin shines a bright new light on a classic piece. Preserving the original romantic touch, the song comes configured with pure and sophisticated refinement and features frontal improvisations from bass and piano.
The recording comes to an end with the ternary “Love Song”, where the band attractively blurs the line of balladry with intentional precision.

This is what I call intelligent jazz. Without assuming a spotlight-craving role, Slavin assures a responsive treatment to his compositions and still makes everyone shine. Salvation got me hooked on its contemporary charm.

         Grade  A

        Grade A

Favorite Tracks: 
01 - Salvation ► 02 - WS1 ► 04 - Melancholy2

Martin Wind - Light Blue

Label: Laika Records, 2018

Personnel – Martin Wind: upright bass, acoustic bass guitar; Ingrid Jensen: trumpet; Scott Robinson: saxophones, clarinet, taragota; Anat Cohen: clarinet; Gary Versace: organ, piano; Bill Cunliffe: piano; Maucha Adnet: vocals; Matt Wilson: drums; Duduka Da Fonseca: drums.


German-born, New-York based bassist Martin Wind, a regular in the bands of Matt Wilson, is also a respected bandleader whose first work was released 25 years ago.

His new album, Light Blue, was divided into two different parts/recordings, showing flexibility in the personnel. For the first five compositions, he leads a more robust quintet with Ingrid Jensen on trumpet, Scott Robinson on saxophones and clarinet, Gary Versace on piano and organ, and Matt Wilson on drums. The remaining five tunes are held by a new group with strong Brazilian accent called De Norte a Sul, featuring Bill Cunliffe on piano, Anat Cohen on clarinet, Maucha Adnet on vocals, Duduka Da Fonseca on drums, and again Scott Robinson, who works as a bridging element together with the bassist.

The six-minute kickoff, “While I’m Still Here” is a harmonic replication of “Sweet Georgia Brown”, bringing together the blues, bebop, funk, and swing with sprightliness. The soloists do their jobs with a kickass attitude, starting with a woody dissertation by the bandleader and proceeding with Robinson, Versace, and finally Wilson, whose resolute actions are surrounded by compacted horn fills.

Melody commands on “Rose”, a sober, good-natured song when compared to the sassy “Ten Minute Song”, an old bebop original that, after all, runs only for 5:41 minutes. The piece, devised with plenty of bite and carrying a joyous feel, makes us jump into the ballroom and swing. The artisans of improvisation step to the forefront one after another, with the spotlight turned to Robinson, who wields his bass saxophone with muscle while having a deluxe carpet weaved by only bass and drums under his feet. As an exception, the quintet is transformed into a sextet here with the addition of Ms. Cohen, whose sinuous lines cause the colors to saturate even more.

The band creates a vibrant rock-like density on “Power Chords”, a kaleidoscopic collage of mixed idioms and the most exciting track on the album. There’s an intriguing intro before a catchy, funky groove is installed to accommodate Versace’s inventive organ and Robinson’s forceful blows on bass sax. The rhythm section whips ahead and the trumpet of Jensen is particularly appealing here, with the tune acquiring a briefly swinging flow before reinstating that punchy rock stamina, based on roots and fifths, that leads to the final statement. 

Still instrumental, “A Genius and a Saint” is a waltz suavely danced by two clarinets. It makes the bridge to the remaining four pieces sung by Adnet, whether in Portuguese or English, and propelled by the warm rhythms of Da Fonseca. The Brazilian musicians prevail on “Seven Steps to Rio”, a song that, inspired by soccer, mixes the mid-70s fusion of Wayne Shorter and the Brazilian jazz of Flora Purim. 

Another two old songs were added to the lineup, “Sad Story”, a cruising ballad melodically adorned with bowed bass and clarinet, and “De Norte a Sul”, whose instrumental version has the title “The Cruise Blues”.

Mostly sailing in straight-ahead waters, Wind makes use of formulas that brought him recognition and continue to better serve his compositional efforts. On top of that, both formations responded accordingly to the way he composes and hears harmony and rhythm, making of Light Blue a satisfying stop for fans of easy-listening jazz and amicable tropical rhythms.

         Grade  B

        Grade B

Favorite Tracks: 
03 – Ten Minute Song ► 05 – Power Chords ► 07 - Seven Steps to Rio

Dave Liebman / Tatsuya Nakatani / Adam Rudolph - The Unknowable

Label: RareNoise Records, 2018

Personnel - Dave Liebman: tenor and soprano saxophones, flutes, piri, Fender Rhodes; Tatsuya Nakatani: drum kit, gongs, percussion; Adam Rudolph: handrumset, percussion, sintir, mbuti harp, overtone flutes, Fender Rhodes, electronics.

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Prolific saxophonist/bandleader Dave Liebman, a living jazz legend and one of the most influential musicians and educators of our times, joins an imaginative duo of percussionists, Tatsuya Nakatani and Adam Rudolph. Together, they create a variety of spontaneous conversations where the reaction to stimulus is a must. Hence, communication plays an essential role throughout The Unknowable, the result of their experimental meeting.

The first and last tracks on the album are static and share the same title, “Benediction”. Both versions comprise uncanny electronics and a saxophone story recited over drones and additional atmospheric noises, yet, the opening variant adds far more percussive elements to the intriguing scenario. By the way, it was Rudolph who came up with the track titles in a post-recording phase.

The Simple Truth” thrives with hand drumming forays, diverse metal collisions, and Liebman’s cartoonish sketches formed with brief stabs of notes on soprano. He often centers his playing in the rhythmic axis, but some melodic incursions are also discernible.

Echoing brisk phrases through a delay effect and resorting to heavy electronic manipulation, the title track is filled with tremors and high-pitched clamors let loose by Liebman’s spiraling soprano. While the posture is active here, it changes to passive on the following piece, “Skyway Dream”, where the rhythm is thoroughly marked and the flute notes hang in the air.
Hand drums and metal percussion become the dominant elements on “Transmutations”, which includes a panoply of grating sounds, clashes, and creaks. It ends up in a sort of African exultation that also can be felt on “Present Time”, although the pulse here almost touches the Brazilian samba. Commanding the tenor with an impressive sense of liberty, Liebman embarks on a more familiar language, inclining his sayings toward bebop zones. Yet, the crashingly noisy assaults in the background remain active until the end.

The saxophonist’s disposition shifts again on “Premonition”, which serves as a vehicle for his timbral explorations and extended techniques. This urgency of speech combined with fragmented rhythms takes us to free jazz territory.

Flirtations with non-Western music translate into a pair of nomadic pieces, “The Turning” and “Distant Twilight”. With self-restraint, the trio resorts to meditative phrases taken from exotic scales as well as simple yet catchy grooves meticulously designed by sintir or thumb piano.

Both Liebman and Rudolph play the Fender Rhodes in one tune each, searching for the enigmatic and the atmospheric. “Cosmogram”, unpleasantly piercing at first, is a good example of how a musical piece can sound simultaneously acrid and dulcet.

The record sounds quite distinctive from what Liebman has done before and defies any categorization beyond the experimental. Abstraction they fear not, and you’ll find the adventurous threesome attempting to squeeze their individual sounds into a compact, organic whole. In some ways, they succeed.

         Grade  B

        Grade B

Favorite Tracks: 
07 - The Turning ► 08 - Present Time ► 12 – Premonition

Colin Hinton - Glassbath

Label: Self produced, 2018

Personnel – Peyton Pleninger: tenor saxophone; Edward Gavitt: guitar; Nick Dunston: electric bass; Colin Hinton: drums.


The blazing chops of Texas-born, Brooklyn-based drummer Colin Hinton are marked by raw intensity and spot-on fidelity. For his debut album, Glassbath, and despite the proficiency in a wide range of styles, his energy was canalized into a particular stratum where the avant-jazz cohabits with a panoply of alternative rock subgenres. The tunes were written under two weeks for quartet and the album recorded in a one-day studio session.

The inaugural track, “Welcome” drives us to a realm of tautness populated by saxophone grunts and interjections, noise guitar, unruly bass roams, and rambunctious drumming. The versatility of the quartet is on full display throughout the recording and the differences are noticeable when one compares the experimentalism of the opening tune to the restrained variation of the same song, entitled “Goodbye (Welcome Reprise)”, that closes the album. Just focus on the bandleader and you will find him concentrated on flavorful brushwork and spicy tom-tom inflections on the latter piece.

The sluggish rhythm of “Rontgen Smile”, exposing accents on the second and fourth beats, is reinforced by sparse bass tonics and fingerpicked guitar. The melody factor is upgraded, but the pacification ceases when the band flips out into a cacophonous turmoil that primarily passes by a forceful ska before reaching a freakish indie rock style whose sonorities resemble bands like Pavement and Half Japanese. Taking into account the refreshingly unpredictable transitions, Hinton’s fractured songwriting largely benefits his hyperactive routines. And yet, after the storm, everything returns to the initial rock-based melancholy.

Interspersed with the longer tunes, we have shorter interlude-like pieces penned by the band, such as “Wasteland”, an atmospheric toned-down orchestration with multiple gongs, chimes and metal clangs, “Cobalt-60”, a gloomier version of the previous, and the cathartic “We Are Already Dead”, where the guitarist, Edward Gavitt, stays plugged in and cranking up.

You can dance to the sound of “Felines”, assembled with prickly guitar riffs and chords burning in distortion, plus a melodic, often-groovy improvisation by Peyton Pleninger on tenor. It’s like if electrifying groups such as Sonic Youth and Wire were having a conversation with jazz explorers like David Murray and Fred Anderson. The same idea is transported to “Last Refuge”, a song with a vigorous rock pulse, while “The Great Heathen Army”, half-dark, half-heroic, presents refractory rhythms and guitar-sax interactions turned into unisons in its final section.

Oscillating between an undemanding pop ballad and a post-rock adventure, both “Partial Eclipse” and the closing tune, “Redemption Through Recovery”, show an unflappable energy, even staying among the record’s slower tunes.

. As of now, the bar is raised high for the work that will follow, which is, naturally, a very good sign.

        Grade  A-

       Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
02 - Rontgen Smiles ► 04 - Felines ► 08 - Partial Eclipse

Adam Nussbaum - The Leadbelly Project

Label: Sunnyside Records, 2018

Personnel – Ohad Talmor: tenor saxophone; Steve Cardenas: guitar; Nate Radley: guitar; Adam Nussbaum: drums.


Adam Nussbaum’s profile as a drummer gained significant recognition when he stinted/recorded with Steve Swallow, John Abercrombie, Michael Brecker, Dave Liebman, and John Scofield.

On The Leadbelly Project, his first work as a sole leader, he draws from the American roots, focusing on treasured repertoire by the influential blues and folk singer/songwriter Lead Belly, but still adding a couple of kindred compositions of his own. Besides being a powerful singer, Lead Belly was a dedicated 12-string guitar strummer. Hence, the choice of two guitars to revive the rawness of his bluesy tones through an entirely up-to-date perspective doesn’t feel particularly surprising. Playing in tandem yet resorting to sweet-tempered counterpoint, guitarists Steve Cardenas and Nate Radley join the drummer in a bass-less quartet rounded out by saxophonist Ohad Talmor.

The latter excels on the first track, “Old Riley”, opening it alone and improvising concisely with a strong inside/outside concept. The tune, feeling like an indulgently polished minstrel song damped in folk charisma, has Nussbaum showing his habitual drumming sophistication, first with brushes and then with drumsticks.

Conceived as a subtle quadrangular conversation, “Green Corn” embarks on a harvesting folk dance propelled by the glistening brushwork of the bandleader. It feels more untreated than the recognizable “Black Girl (Where Did You Sleep Last Night)”, a traditional American folk song that was extensively recorded by Lead Belly between 1944 and 1948 and gained high popularity in the 90s with a terrific unplugged version by the grunge band Nirvana. Nussbaum’s version is played Frisell-style at a 5/4 tempo.

There’s something reggae-ish on “Bottle Up and Go”, but the rhythm is lost somewhere by the end to favor a more rock-based texture that is further emphasized on “Black Betty”, a standard of the blues, here buoyed up by a double-guitar solo.

Cutting off the bustle, “Bring Me a Little Water, Sylvie” and the strikingly beautiful original “Insight, Enlight” make room for contemplation, flowing with consecutive docile movements. If the latter piece, in all its harmonic sophistication and pervading sense of melody, dragged me into a levitating state, the blues-drenched “Sure Would Baby“ pulled me back to the earth. With an up-front drum solo, the classic “Goodnight Irene” closes the album in a suave waltzing cadence.

Nussbaum’s drumming has that kind of shining quality that rewards the collective and enhances the tunefulness of the music. Throbbing with marvelous interplay and filled with compelling tonal colors, this project provides us with an optimum revitalization of the folk and blues genres, here seamlessly merged with the exciting language of jazz.

        Grade  A-

       Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
04 - Bottle Up and Go ► 09 - Insight, Enlight ► 10 - Sure Would Baby

Matthew Shipp - Zero

Label: ESP-Disk, 2018

Personnel: Matthew Shipp: solo piano.


The music of American pianist Matthew Shipp, a modernizer who loves to color outside the lines, is widely known for being unpredictable and astonishing. I think this is even more accurate when he plays solo, whether creating angular or elliptical sonic shapes.

Zero, an experimental solo album and a trip to his idiosyncratic musical cosmos, feels at once challenging, majestic, and relatable. This is Shipp's second outing this year on ESP-Disk label, with the simultaneous release of Sonic Fiction, a quartet session. 

With an enviable independence of hands, he rapidly entangles us on the title track with an expeditious succession of nimble phrases and a few resonating bass movements to create intervallic riches of tonal complexion. The piece oozes a modern classical lyricism, but also a swinging cadence that is more implicit than explicit. Typical movements from classical are also identified on “Piano Panels” and complemented with exquisite, off-the-hook linear notes to promote abstraction and create pleasantly disorienting effects.

The intersection of expressive melody and wistful harmonic progressions makes the hauntingly beautiful “Abyss Before Zero” to flow in a sheer state of reflection. The experience is breathtaking and includes amazement, contend, resignation, and even sadness.
Both “Zero Skip and a Jump” and “Zero Subtract From Jazz” are rhythmically defiant. The former, a punctilious monologue with brisk staccatos and counterpoint, sounds organic and intriguing, while the latter, displaying traces of folk in the melody, is equally driven by agitation and contemplation. There is a recurrent tension that is occasionally released by resorting to a wider sense of melody.
Blue Equation”, a blues-based piece linguistically extended across a wide range of the keyboard, explores new possibilities as Shipp incurs into thrilling musical paths. The same happens on the closing number, “After Zero”, whose moods vary, sometimes playfully, sometimes ominously, until land in a sublime final arpeggio.

Personal and stylized, Zero was crafted with raw intensity with Shipp playing at full force.

        Grade  A-

       Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Zero ► 02 - Abyss Before Zero ► 08 - Blue Equation 

Leslie Pintchik - You Eat My Food, You Drink My Wine, You Steal My Girl

Label: Pintch Hard Records, 2018

Personnel – Leslie Pintchik: piano; Scott Hardy: acoustic bass, guitar; Michael Sarin: drums; Satoshi Takeishi: percussion + Steve Wilson: alto saxophone; Ron Horton: trumpet, flugelhorn; Shoko Nagai: accordion.


Equipped with originals, jazz standards, and a supportive combo of talents, pianist Leslie Pintchik commits to a smooth and groovy jazz on her latest album You Eat My Food, You Drink My Wine, You Steal My Girl!. Her band features Scott Hardy on acoustic bass and guitar, Michael Sarin on drums, and Satoshi Takeishi on percussion, plus some illustrious guests performing a couple of tunes each: Steve Wilson on alto saxophone, Ron Horton on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Shoko Nagai on accordion.

The title track opens with the hooky, bluesy motif that characterizes its head and a groovy insouciance rooted in the jazz funk from 70s. The soloists are Pintchik, Hardy on guitar, and Wilson, who is pretty convincing in his first of two appearances on the record. 

A pair of jazz standards attempts to enrich the lineup: “I’m Glad There is You” is a romantic ballad delivered as a honeyed bolero, and “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” is an exhausted song that seeks new colors in Brazil’s bossa/samba world. The combined rhythms of Sarin and Takeishi become the predominant stimulus within the relaxed mood adopted.

Propelled by Sarin’s warm brushing and embellished with short-lived horn fills arranged by Hardy, “Mortal” is an earnest ballad whose peak of excitement is reached during Ron Horton’s improvisation. He not only projects the sound of his instrument with crystal clarity but also emits an emerald iridescence when expresses himself freely.

Successfully emulating one of those frustrating machine-answered phone calls that frequently pisses people off, “Your Call Will Be Answered by Our Next Available Representative…” is a witty Monk-ish swinger that comes to life with hi-hat excitation, piano eloquence, and strong bass verve. The pace only winds down in the course of short middle passages, but the song regains its vividness to accommodate the improvisations. Takeishi’s shaker marks the end of the song.

On “Hopperesque”, a meditative work referencing Edward Hopper’s paintings, the Japanese accordionist Shoko Nagai stows lachrymose lines over the sultry Latinized dance created by the rhythm section. She remains pretty active on the following tune, “Happy Dog”, directing her sound toward a more animated Brazilian feast, rhythmically driven by tambourine.

Even lacking the factor surprise, the album has enough diversity and flexibility to conquer audiences looking for unwrinkled post-bop.

        Grade B-

       Grade B-

Favorite Tracks:
01 – You Eat My Food… ► 04 – Mortal ► 06 - Hopperesque

Charlie Peacock - When Light Flashes Help Is On The Way

Label: Self Produced, 2018

Personnel – Charlie Peacock: Rhodes, organ, piano; Jeff Coffin: saxophones, flute; Matthew White: trumpet; Hilmar Jensson: electric and acoustic guitar; Jerry McPherson: electric guitar; Andy Leftwich: mandolin, fiddle; Jeff Taylor: accordion; Felix Pastorius: electric bass; Ben Perowsky: drums + guests.


Multifaceted Californian keyboardist Charlie Peacock, a Nashville resident, has built a personal vision of jazz deeply entangled with a myriad of styles such as funk, rock, folk, gospel, and pop, styles he continues to embrace whether as a composer, singer, instrumentalist, or record producer. 

For his most recent album, When Light Flashes Help Is On the Way, he surrounded himself with a set of competent musicians who have demonstrated creative means to step up the eclectic compositions. Among them are his regular collaborator and member of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Jeff Coffin on saxophones and woodwinds, the impeccable Icelandic guitarist Hilmar Jensson, rock-centered guitarist Jerry McPherson, the melodious trumpeter Matthew White, the exciting electric bassist Felix Pastorius, and the undeviating drummer Ben Perowsky. Depending on the mood envisioned for a song, other members join the primary crew.

The opening track, “Wendell Berry in the Fields at Night”, flashes with a gaudy African kizomba rhythm and features authoritative saxophone solos flanked by accordion glibness. It's a very danceable piece.

Blue Part II” is a free-funk exertion with Afro beats and other world music connotations. Melodically driven by trumpet, the tune acquires a special taste when Coffin, playing a heavenly flute, steps to the forefront to improvise over Perowsky’s steady drumming. The sparse fills have a very positive effect and the song ends with a trumpet-flute completion for the melody.

Dedicated to Herbie Hancock and his faithful producer David Rubinson, “Automatt” is another punch-drunk jazz-funk lifted by restless bass grooves executed with tapping technique and dipped in wha-wha effect. The electric guitar chops are dead-on, the fiddle injects a dramatic classical feel, and the pace is subjected to multiple variations before the band reaches the flamboyant finale.

If Daniel Lanois’ “Still Water” offers traditional pop textures with pronouncedly folk statements coming from the violin and the accordion, “Samuel and the Icelandic Indigo”, co-written by Peacock and Jensson, leaps into a sort of alternative jazz-rock while displaying beautiful acoustic guitar forays whose textural complexity recalls some older work by Marc Ribot. 

Emotionally strong and sank in the fulfilling plucks delineated by the guest contrabassist Matt Wigton, “The Intimate Lonely” is an imaginative, trumpet-led ballad that also showcases the bandleader’s pianistic competence. Still, the peak of the emotions occurs on Bob Dylan’s hit “Masters of War”, here packed with devotional saxophone lines, uttering violin shrieks, and bluesy guitar ululations.

The record finishes with “Gift Economy”, a psychedelic blend of Tom Tom Club's humorous post-disco, Kraftwerk’s synthpop artificiality, and a more serious current of folk-rock. It acquires jazz contortions during the feline guitar solo regardless.

Charlie Peacock makes use of his cross-genre easiness with intelligence. Bountiful, he assures there is plenty of room for his peers to stretch out, orchestrating and leading as a legit master.  

        Grade  B+

       Grade B+

Favorite Tracks: 
05 - Samuel and the Icelandic Indigo ► 06 - The Intimate Lonely ► 07 – Masters of War

Bobby Previte - Rhapsody

Label: RareNoise, 2018

Personnel – Bobby Previte: drums, percussion, autoharp, guitar, harmonica; Fabian Rucker: alto saxophone; Nels Cline: acoustic guitar, 12 string guitar, slide guitar; Zeena Parkins: harp; John Medeski: piano; Jen Shyu: vocals.


Taking into account the outstanding rhythmic skills of American drummer Bobby Previte, it came to no surprise that his new album, Rhapsody, reveals a tour-de-force storytelling that takes us into an uninterrupted journey of musical discovery while addressing pertinent subjects such as transit and migration in the current days.

The second installment of his Terminals Trilogy features an all-star acoustic sextet that includes Fabian Rucker on alto saxophone, Nels Cline on acoustic guitars, Zeena Parkins on harp, John Medeski on piano, and the one-and-only Jen Shyu on vocals.
The drummer, who described his first experience as a lyricist as terrifying, was pretty successful in this particular endeavor. The narration takes immediate effect on the opening piece, “Casting Off”, where the voice of Shyu merges with the saxophone in a robust unison. Piano and guitar arpeggios are combined with a saxophone ostinato and the tuneful erhu, a two-string fiddle from China, creating a serene, mysterious, and theatrical chamber work, later adorned with revolutionary harp sweeps.
All the World” is an incredible shape-shifting avant-prog exercise with world music connotations. The thrilling discharges from Rucker’s horn, having the magnificence of Previte’s drum chops working incessantly in the background, feels empowering, while the guitar fingerstyle moved by Cline has the perfect company in Medeski’s relentless piano ostinato. The seamlessness in tempo slowly guides us to the end, where the saxophonist strikes again with his raucous multiphonic technique.

Perfectly mirroring what the title announces, “The Lost” exposes the band creating multiple disorienting effects that lead to moments of sheer musing. It starts with prepared piano, guitar pointillism, and percussive creativity, including metal scraping sounds and dragging rattles. The tune gains a tactile soul through swift harp movements and timely piano strokes.

If “When I Land” feels like a medieval song as it embraces the emotional chant of the troubadour, “The Timekeeper” evokes classical music in its intro, only to fall into an idolatrous dance pervaded by an attractive ethnic fusion that bridges the ancient and the modern.
Undoubtedly a highlight, “All Hands” is a progressive folk-rock piece filled with fabulous slide guitar and epic acoustic power chords. Can you imagine Metallica playing a sort of mystical acoustic concert? There you are! Then, you can add the to-die-for vocalizations by Shyu, properly backed by saxophone, and to finalize, a neo-folk dissertation by Cline, who genially brings a dash of flamenco into play.

On this album, Previte’s actions are not limited to percussion. He plays guitar on the tune described above as well as autoharp and harmonica on “Last Stand/Final Approach”, a piece that also thrives with blistering saxophone improvisations.

Boasting a stupendous sound and concept, as well as an unconventional repertoire of converging influences and metaphors, this is a masterwork by a fearless musician who never ceases to innovate.

         Grade  A

        Grade A

Favorite Tracks:
02 - All The World ► 07 - All Hands ► 08 – Last Stand/Final Approach