Listed below are another 12 great jazz records of 2015.
Part 2 out of 3.
HENRY THREADGILL'S ZOOID - IN FOR A PENNY, IN FOR A POUND
Henry Threadgill: alto saxophone, flutes; Jose Davila: tuba, trombone; Liberty Ellman: guitar; Christopher Hoffman: cello; Elliot Humberto Kavee: drums.
Henry Threadgill, together with his compatible quintet Zooid, continues probing uncommon jazz grounds with the same voracity for improvisation and a distinct conception of instrumentation. The outlandish musical pieces that compose this Pulitzer-winner double album are intriguing and fascinating. Here, the amorphous meets the convoluted, and the tones fluctuate from jubilant and animated, to mysterious and dark. Despite never obvious or accessible, there are moments of pure genius in the best Threadgill’s in years.
01 (cd2) – Off the Prompt Box
02 (cd2) – Tresepic [For Trombone and Tuba]
03 (cd2) – Unoepic [For Guitar]
RUDRESH MAHANTHAPPA - BIRD CALLS
Rudresh Mahanthappa: alto saxophone; Adam O’Farrill: trumpet; Matt Mitchell: piano; Francois Moutin: acoustic bass; Rudy Royston: drums.
The NY-based alto saxophonist, Rudresh Mahanthappa, has found inspiration in Charlie Parker and released “Bird Calls”, a fantastic and vigorous album that enriches his upright career as a leader. Constantly playing in and out of focus, Mahanthappa shows how fluid, and often fiery, is the language he speaks. O’Farrill is great at counterpointing and creating a positive equilibrium while the muscled rhythm section is flawless.
01 – Bird Calls #1
02 – On the DL
06 – Talin is Thinking
THE BAD PLUS JOSHUA REDMAN
Ethan Iverson: piano; Reid Anderson: double bass; Dave King: drums; Joshua Redman: saxophone.
The celebrated trio from Minneapolis, The Bad Plus, definitely got a plus with the addition of the saxophonist Joshua Redman, whose precious improvisations encourage us to levitate. The album is a triumph in all its conception, conquering us through classy harmonic passages and lyrical incursions of refined quality.
The trio’s laid-back grooves and dry rhythms were ideal for Redman’s persuasive eloquence. A perfect match!
02 – Beauty Has it Hard
08 – Friend or Foe
09 – Silence is the Question
STEVE COLEMAN - SYNOVIAL JOINTS
Steve Coleman: saxophone; Jonathan Finlayson: trumpet; Tim Albright: trombone; Miles Okazaki: guitar; David Bryant: piano; Anthony Tidd: electric bass; Marcus Gilmore: drums; Jen Shyu: vocals; other.
Steve Coleman immerses us in his rich musical universe, which often features solidly established structures, collective synergies, inside/outside improvisations, and a dynamic, spontaneous approach that makes his music both recognizable and appealing.
For more than a decade he led a group called The Five Elements, but in “Synovial Joints” he debuts another collective baptized as Council of Balance, which finds exactly that special balance to bring this record to the forefront.
03 – Synovial Joints (Suite): Part I - Hand And Wrist
08 – Harmattan
09 – Nomadic
LIBERTY ELLMAN - RADIATE
Steve Lehman: alto saxophone; Jonathan Finlayson: trumpet; Jose Davila: tuba, trombone; Liberty Ellman: guitar; Stephan Crump: bass; Damion Reid: drums.
Liberty Ellman’s fourth album, “Radiate”, incurs in post-bop fantasies and free funk whims. Defying conventions and genres, the tunes we are offered take us to the elaborate discourses of Henry Threadgill, with whom Ellman has been collaborating along the past few years, and also Steve Coleman’s M-base raids.
Invigorating rhythmical contrasts and sharp melodic counterpoints are part of the plan.
01 – Supercell
05 – A Motive
07 – Vibrograph
LIONEL LOUEKE - GAIA
Lionel Loueke: guitar; Massimo Biolcati: bass; Ferenc Nemeth: drums.
Loueke shows competence and versatility in his outstanding record entitled “Gaia”, which, due to a variety of approaches and impressions, never sounds boring.
The guitarist strolls comfortably and passionately through arresting landscapes.
His explorations are rooted in a contemporary straight-ahead jazz, which is occasionally adorned with African and other influences.
01 – Broken
02 – Sleepless Night
05 – Aziza Dance
MATTHEW SHIPP QUARTET - OUR LADY OF THE FLOWERS
Matthew Shipp: piano; Sabir Mateen: tenor saxophone, clarinet; William Parker: double bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums.
Matthew Shipp is a resourceful and innovative pianist/composer that never lets us down.
In “Our Lady of the Flowers” (the title pays tribute to the writer Jean Genet), he wanders through mesmeric environments whether solo or accompanied by this experienced quartet.
Actually, the song titles are pretty suggestive about what you can expect from this record – ‘atomic note’; ‘new tension’; ‘a different plane’; and ‘silence blooms’ are good examples.
02 – New Tension
03 – A Different Plane
09 – Cosmic Joke
BEN WILLIAMS - COMING OF AGE
Marcus Strickland: saxophones; Christian Scott: trumpet; Stefon Harris: vibraphone; Matthew Stevens: guitar; Masayuki Hirano: fender Rhodes; Christian Sands: fender Rhodes, piano; Ben Williams: bass; John Davis: drums.
There’s a lot to like in Ben Williams’ sophomore album. Diving in a mix of crossover-jazz and post-bop, the compulsive “Coming of Age” is packed with wonderful atmospheres, remarkable improvisations, and an enviable coordination among the musicians.
Here, groove and lyricism radiantly live together as Williams’ round sound fills the air. Plus, there’s a cool solo bass cover of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.
02 – Strength & Beauty
07 – Forecast
11 – Coming of Age
CHRIS LIGHTCAP'S BIGMOUTH - EPICENTER
Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone; Chris Cheek: tenor saxophone; Craig Taborn: Wurlitzer, piano, organ; Chris Lightcap: bass, acoustic guitar, organ; Gerald Cleaver: drums.
These harmonious compositions authored by the adaptable bassist Chris Lightcap, exhale sophistication, readiness, and vehemence. It was like this in the previous “Deluxe”, and the story repeats itself now in “Epicenter”.
Lightcap’s Bigmouth reappears in big and the fabulous five musicians (this time without Andrew D’Angelo), are evenly the artisans of the stupendous material.
01 – Nine South
06 – Stillwell
08 – All Tomorrow's Parties
ORRIN EVANS - THE EVOLUTION OF ONESELF
Orrin Evans: piano; Christian McBride: bass; Karriem Riggins: drums.
Outbursts of sensitive hard-bop arise from the pianist Orrin Evans’ ways of expression.
While the standards get a personal touch in order to gain the desired freshness, his original compositions feel actual, quite flavored, and bewitching.
02 – For Miles
09 – Iz Beatdown Time
16 – Professor Farworthy
WILLIAM PARKER - GREAT SPIRIT + FOR THOSE WHO ARE, STILL
"Great Spirit" - Rob Brown: alto saxophone; Lewis Barnes: trumpet; Eri Yamamoto: piano; William Parker: bass; Hamid Drake: drums; Leena Conquest: voice.
"For Those Who Are, Still" - Rob Brown: alto saxophone; Darryl Foster: saxophones; Charles Gayle: saxophones; Klaas Hekman: bass saxophone, Ravi Best: trumpet; Cooper-Moore: piano; William Parker: bass, flutes; Hamid Drake: drums; JT Lewis: drums; Mike Reed: drums; Leena Conquest: voice; other.
I’ve lost the count of the records that William Parker, a bassist with a predilection for free and avant-garde territories, has been participating throughout the years, both as a leader and sideman.
When it comes to his own projects, he often counts on the aptitude of the alto saxophonist Rob Brown, the monumental drumming skills of Hamid Drake, the harmonic richness of the Japanese pianist Eri Yamamoto, and the endeavoring voice of Leena Conquest.
All of them have participated in “Great Spirit”, an emotional ode to the intangible, and “For Those Who Are, Still”, a 3 disc-box set featuring many collaborators who help to give form to the bassist’s fertile (and sometimes super long) compositions and arrangements.
Favorite Tracks (Great Spirit):
01 – Bowl of Stone Around the Sun
02 – Doson Ngoni Blues
05 – Prayer-Improv
Favorite Tracks (For Those Who Are, Still):
01 (cd1) – For Fannie Lou Hamer
02 (cd2) – Souls Have Fallen Like Rain
03 (cd2) – The Giraffe Dances