VWCR - Noise Of Our Time

Label: Intakt Records, 2018

Personnel - Ken Vandermark: saxophone, clarinet; Nate Wooley: trumpet; Sylvie Courvoisier: piano; Tom Rainey: drums.

Noise of Our Time is the debut album by VWCR, a recently formed quartet with some of the most formidable avant-gardists out there – the notably articulated Ken Vandermark on saxophone and clarinet, the enigmatic Nate Wooley on trumpet, the captivating Sylvie Courvoisier on piano, and the trustworthy Tom Rainey on drums. With the exception of the latter, each member brought three compositions to the recording.

The band’s creative vein and improvisational flair are immediately felt on Courvoisier’s “Check Point”, which prompts Vandermark to embark on wild activity, having patterned melodic conductions running underneath. When Wooley steps ahead, he is offered wonderful support by the nonpareil bass-less rhythm team.

Vandermark’s “Track and Field” comes to life in a brooding, droning legato. An apparent erratic direction leads to consistent horn counterpoint, prepared piano attacks, and mind-boggling pulses from Rainey’s quirkily tuned drums. Although the piano work is crucial here, none of the musicians claim the center because they are already there, contributing with their own insight. The tune ends with sparse drum beats counterpointing compulsive horn accents.

Sparks” is one of my favorite pieces and a brilliant invention from Courvoisier’s musical mind. It features bright unisons, intersecting improvisations, and synchronized movements loaded with elegance and playfulness.

The vital flame that envelops “Tag” is initially lit by Rainey’s skittering tom-toms and cymbal work, but then the spotlight rotates, firstly concentrating on Vandermark, who blows out deft phrases with extraordinary intensity, then on Courvoisier, always edgy without losing that soft gliding appeal, and finally Wooley, whose abstract impromptu incorporates sketchy lines and terse remarks. The trumpeter wrote “Songs Of Innocence” with nearly philosophical sagacity, creating a fascinating framework where the suspenseful and the dreamy combine. The mood is perfect for Vandermark’s fast rides on clarinet, having a more serene Wooley contributing to the continual energy flow.

Despite the silences and fragmented phrasing, “Truth Through Mass Individuation” is rich in tonal colors. It has something impulsive in its ways, spilling out a panoply of musical figures that dance either in frictional counterpoint or amiable partnership. If Rainey’s snare activity marches on with rattling effervescence here, then on “Simple Cut”, the divergent yet fittingly accomplished closing track, he adopts a low-key posture, a circumstantial condition shared by his bandmates.

Traversing challenging paths together and exploring them with distinctive class, these four experienced players are at the peak of their powers in an unmissable avant-jazz session to revisit many times. 

Grade  A

Grade A

Favorite Tracks:
03 - Sparks ► 05 - Tag ► 06 - Songs of Innocence


Ken Thomson - Sextet

Label: Panoramic/New Focus Recordings, 2018

Personnel - Ken Thomson: alto saxophone, clarinet; Anna Webber: tenor saxophone; Russ Johnson: trumpet; Alan Ferber: trombone; Adam Armstrong: bass; Daniel Dor: drums.

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Alto saxophonist/clarinetist Ken Thomson, a reputable member of New York’s Bang on a Can All-Stars and Asphalt Orchestra, squeezes excellent ideas into Sextet, an album that often swirls post-bop with classical elements. He plays alongside a wonderful set of horn players that includes tenorist Anna Webber, trumpeter Russ Johnson, and trombonist Alan Ferber, and a rhythm section that glues everything together with Adam Armstrong on bass and Daniel Dor on drums.

Dominated by rich polyphony, Gyorgy Ligeti’s “Pasacaglia Ungherese” opens the recording in the classical fashion. The wide tonal range leans on melancholy here, contrasting with “Mysery In The New Hope”, in which drums and bass hold together to set a hasty, urban pace enlivened by relentless rhythmic accents in an unquiet contrapuntal activity. After the bandleader’s solo, mostly shaped within the boundaries of the implicit harmony, Johnson promotes dynamism in the call-response communication established between him and elements of the horn squad.

On the vibrant “Icebreaker”, the horn section explores labyrinthine melodic paths, evincing the same affinity for rhythmic punctuation as its precedent piece. The flow becomes swingingly Latinized, accommodating Ferber’s wise lines, and the finale brings an exciting dialogue of saxophones to the table.

The swinging vibration continues with rhythmic crosscurrents and phrasal juxtaposition on “Phantom Vibration Syndrome”, an embroidering jazz fantasy meandered by a perpetual confluence of accents and patterns. This energetic current is discontinued for a minute by a musing unison passage that occurs after Thomson’s pronouncement.

At first, “Resolve” depicts tranquil landscapes with chamber classical poise, but then veers into deep solemnity just before Dor's jubilant percussive sparks take us to avant-garde vicinities. That’s when Webber shines by delivering a sturdy solo that also breathes conveniently whenever necessary. She leads the way to the motivic and synergistic section that concludes the piece.

If the placidity of “Helpless” lives from a set of loopy lines that induce a sensation of curtains in perpetual movement, “Turn Around” bristles with flawless interplay in an animated collective dance impregnated with jazz punch.

Thomson guides the crew with a firm pulse and sheer ambition, assuring that the arrangements hybridize genres with a personal musical stylization and influential narrative force. Sextet is a solid effort.

Grade  A-

Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
02 - Misery in the New Hope ► 04 - Resolve ► 07 - Phantom Vibration Syndrome


Greg Ward's Rogue Parade - Stomping Off From Greenwood

Label: Greenleaf Music, 2019

Personnel - Greg Ward: alto saxophone; Matt Gold: guitar; Dave Miller: guitar; Matt Ulery: bass; Quin Kirchner: drums.

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Saxophonist Greg Ward has been a ubiquitous presence in the Chicago jazz scene for some years now. He is a terrific bandleader, composer, and arranger and his sophomore Greenleaf album, Stomping Off From Greenwood, features a new quintet with guitarists Matt Gold and Dave Miller, bassist Matt Ulery, and drummer Quin Kirchner. Together, they are Rogue Parade.

The record opens with “Metropolis”, an exciting ode to New York and Chicago, cities that are in the heart of the bandleader. Things are kept intensely contemporary throughout the route, and from its epicenter, located midway between a busy free-funk and floor-filling electronica, branches out guileless breakbeats, rolling guitar ostinatos, and expressive melody. The quieter passages resemble a melodic symphonic rock, oozing into atmospheric moments where the guitarists entwine textural work.

Inspired by boxing, “The Contender” flaunts an odd groove in seven, worthy of the best prog-rock attributes. Ward and Gold deftly delineate their solos, while Kirchner gives wings to his percussive creativity on a strenuous vamp installed after the final theme. A different, quieter route is taken on “The Fourth Reverie”, a spacious cosmic-like enterprise into the unknown marked by atmospheric guitar. A disciplined ebullience returns with “Let Him Live”, a piece showcasing Ward’s rapid-fire phrases diffusing tension over a relentless Afro groove accommodating guitar strokes in counterpoint.

Black Woods” is one of my favorite compositions and opens with a personal pizzicato statement by Ulery. He later employs arco in support of a more mysterious ride. Collectiveness abounds exemplified by earnest unison phrases in a Paul Motian-esque electric setting that also offers synergistic tradeoffs between saxophone and guitar.

The band transforms “Stardust”, a jazz standard, into a feel-good pop/rock experience with waltzing cadences. Its energy is extended to “Sundown”, whose initial languid tone is reinforced by a detached backbeat and guitar fingerpicking. The song rises amiably, setting a determined yet relaxed mood with circular harmonic movements and plenty of melodies.

Two numbers, “Excerpt1” and “Excerpt2”, resulted from Ward’s daily compositional routines. While the first piece turned out somber, even when the drummer crashes the cymbals with a bold efficiency, the second, more playful in nature, is a mixed bag of African and R&B flavors.

In this recording, Ward’s appealing jazz-centered music takes several directions, achieving cohesiveness as a whole. Regardless of the ambience, his improvisations stand out, eventually ramping up to elevated levels of adventure while seeking new outfits to dress the jazz according to our days.

Grade  B+

Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
03 – The Contender ► 05 – Let Him Live ► 06 – Black Woods


Endangered Blood - Don't Freak Out

Label: Skirl Records, 2018

Personnel - Chris Speed: tenor saxophone; Oscar Noriega: alto saxophone; Trevor Dunn: bass; Jim Black: drums.

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The quartet known as Endangered Blood boasts a creative frontline with Chris Speed and Oscar Noriega on tenor and alto saxophone, respectively, and a powerful rhythm team composed of Trevor Dunn on bass and Jim Black on drums. Their third work of originals, Don’t Freak Out, is a melange of well-integrated genres, consisting of eight compositions with equal parts humor and bite.

Dunn’s stalwart round bass launches “Passion Fruit Birthday Cake”, a sympathetic, utterly motivating song gearing towards a calypso-like rhythm. The sumptuously seductive “Koreana” relies on a melody that recalls Ravel’s “Bolero”. The sound is pure and the character affable.

The stretchable “Easy Blues” sounds naturally familiar, but causes some apprehension on the account of being played in five. The loose, groovy feel that comes from Dunn and Black’s interaction impels the reedists to deliver nimble phrases impregnated with ins and outs. Also played in five and brimming with fine melodies and ostinatos, “Waiting For Marni” provides you with a breezy classical/jazz experience.

With “Varmints” and “Complimenti”, the band jumps confidently into the avant-garde. The former piece commits to a gutsy-saxophone-lines-meet-spunky-rhythms aesthetic, whereas the latter glides with smoothness, throwing in unisons that gravitate with joy and in abundance on top of a swinging pulse.

The pronouncedly folk theme of “Diego Partido” is spelt with classical-like articulation and finds the band in full dance form. In contrast, the improvisations are unrestrainedly eccentric, bursting with energy while evoking the works of greats such as Albert Ayler and Frank Lowe.

By closing out the album with “Bella V”, a ballad that practically touches the mainstream, the quartet made me think of Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood” due to some similarities in the melodic contour.

Tidier and more accessible than in previous efforts, Endangered Blood varies dynamics and mood while maintaining the vivid spark of creativity.

Grade  B+

Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Passion Fruit Birthday Cake ► 03 – Easy Blues ► 04 - Varmints


Lucas Pino No Net Nonet - That's a Computer

Label: Outside In Music, 2018

Personnel – Lucas Pino: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Alex LoRe: alto saxophone; Nick Finzer: trombone; Mat Jodrell: trumpet; Andrew Gutauskas: baritone saxophone; Rafal Sarnecki: guitar: Glenn Zaleski: piano; Desmond White: bass; Jimmy Macbride: drums + guest Camila Meza: vocals.

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Lucas Pino is a great horn player who makes use of his well-developed sound to brighten up concert rooms in New York (I saw him playing twice, at Smalls and Cornelia Street Cafe). He formed his No Net Nonet band in 2009 and since then, the group has released three albums - No Net Nonet (2015), The Answer Is No (2017) and recently That’s a Computer (2018). With the exception of the debut album, which features a different drummer, all of them share the same musician lineup.

The new album opens with “Antiquity”, a delightful composition by altoist Alex LoRe, whose sophisticated orchestration does justice to its attractive legato and harmonic riches. The piece features fluttering orchestral passages and awesome solos by the two saxophonists, both ravishing lyricists with the ability to construct emotionally stirring statements.

Showcasing solos by almost everyone in the band, “Horse of a Different Color” carries an empathic swing with moods comparable to Joe Lovano’s. Pino on tenor and trombonist Nick Finzer start expansively over a swinging tapestry. After them, comes trumpeter Mat Jodrell, whose slower, bluesier tones ease the navigation, and then Zaleski demonstrates why he is a first-call pianist. LoRe is followed by Andrew Gutauskas, who delivers rock-solid hooks with the baritone and welcomes guitarist Rafal Sarnecki, who concludes the cycle with Grant Green’s airiness.

Cumulative layers of elongated held notes introduce “Film at 11”, a ballad that attains a peak when Zaleski hits a higher register. Abundant doses of tradition can be found everywhere throughout the record and “Look Into My Eyes” is another composition shouldering typical twists and churns of the past without making an extra effort to stretch into bolder new affairs.

Both “Frustrations” by Pino and Sarnecki’s “Sueno De Gatos” feature guest Camila Meza on vocals. Regardless of the songs’ different natures - the former is a ballad; the latter is a mutable Latin-tinged endeavor with lyrics in Spanish by Pablo Neruda - none of them really stuck. The album finalizes in a festive pop-ish mood with “Baseball Simulator 1000”, a Nintendo game theme whose composer is unknown.

Experiencing a decrescendo in terms of interest while listening to the album, I deduce that some tunes lack in the tension-release department, with the band adopting a neater, bland, and somewhat commercial approach that failed to make a better impression.

Grade  C

Grade C

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Antiquity ► 02 - Horse of a Different Color ► 03 - Film at 11


Jason Stein's Locksmith Isidore - After Caroline

Label: Northern Spy Records, 2018

Personnel - Jason Stein: bass clarinet; Jason Roebke: acoustic bass; Mike Pride: drums.

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Chicago bass clarinetist Jason Stein has been putting a lot of effort in the command of his reed instrument, from which he unearths mind-boggling sounds ranging from innocuously undisturbed to gutturally wild. His long-running power-trio Locksmith Isidore hadn’t put a record out since 2008, but a few months ago the group released After Caroline, a versatile work where they expand and contract rhythms and textures with a broad sense of adventure.

The album opens and closes with sturdily groovy pieces. If the brawny opener, “As Many Chances As You Need”, composes a rock-imbued setting saturated with scorching lines, multiphonic cries, and altissimo squeals, then the closing title, “We Gone”, emits a raucousness in the true spirit of rockers, incorporating catchy melody over the winning rhythmic drive offered by bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Mike Pride. The latter distributes resolute chops, filling the transitions with lively energy. Yet, his posture totally redirects toward textural softness on “You Taught Me How To Love”, a melodious, poised poem propelled by brushes.

Conjuring up the styles of Monk and Steve Lacy, “Ekhart Park” bounces resolutely with fragmented boppish lines and complementary drum stretches along the way, landing on a robust bass solo before the restitution of the short theme. This song feels somewhat related to Coltrane’s “26-2”, the album’s sole cover. Heavily steeped in the hard-swinging bop tradition, this celebrated number doesn’t renounce to spirited individual statements.

Strenum” and “Walden’s Thing” have little in common. Whereas the former is a purely spontaneous trio creation that feels at once minimal and abstract, the latter, tumultuous and vociferous in its narrative, is a rhythmically dense experiment written for the late saxophonist Donald Walden.

Through After Caroline, Stein and his trio mates claim a higher position within the freer side of the jazz spectrum. Their key elements are mellifluous angularity, a broad sense of groove, and the substantial thrills of the ride.

Grade  B+

Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
01 - As Many Chances As You Need ► 06 - Walden’s Thing ► 08 - We Gone


Sunjae Lee - Entropy

Label: Self produced, 2018

Personnel – Sunjae Lee: tenor and soprano saxophones; Peter Evans: trumpet; Chris Varga: vibraphone; Minki Cho: bass; Junyoung Song: drums.

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Entropy is the first studio album by saxophonist/composer Sunjae Lee since moving to Korea in 2014. Besides deeply committed to experiment and discover in music, the Boston-born musician is a part-time painter and a full-time acupuncturist. Here, he delivers a raw, spiky set of tunes shaped through diverse group formations. In addition to regular trio mates, Minki Cho on bass and Junyoung Song on drums, Lee summoned American musicians Peter Evans and Chris Varga, trumpeter and vibraphonist, respectively.

Daedalus”, the opening tune, and “Icarus” are totally improvised sax-trumpet duets prone to timbral variation. The type of phrases emitted by Evans’s trumpet provides a wonderful, gritty foil for the saxophonist’s long notes and eloquent circularity designed with some cool, jarring effects. Both musicians are in perfect command of their instruments, attaining high levels of comfort while playing them.

Mounted in a classic saxophone trio format, “Alternative Facts” complies with a 32-bar form, conjuring up the dynamically swinging avant-jazz of Ornette Coleman. In the same way, “Agent Entropy”, written for Lee’s two-year-old son, brings a natural fluidity of movement to the free-bop context where it lives. The ghost of Charlie Parker seems to influence the lines, and drum stretches take place before the final theme.

Exclamatory unisons introduce “Foxdeer”, which also features Song’s responsive drumming. The musicians work under a guided improvisatory method with the density toggling between the compact and the airy. If Evans is relentlessly sprightly in his intervallic endurance, Lee discourses with a Liebman-esque ferocity for a while.

Tenderly harmonized by vibraphone, the title cut offers amiable melodies designed with occasional, dispersed accentuation. In truth, each musician is following a diagrammatical chart from which they pick a sequence to create random atmospheres of juxtaposed phrases. The sonic clouds swirl away without sounding duplicate or overworked. The harmonic glow of the vibraphone also varnishes the ground of “World on Fire”. This composition was written during the time that fires consumed the Columbia River George in Oregon, one of Lee’s favorite places to go while living in Portland. The tune lives from interesting horn statements immersed in extended techniques and suffused with timbral heftiness.

In the epilogue, “Body”, Lee confers a new melody to the famous standard “Body and Soul”. The word soul is purposely missing from the title, in an attempt to alert for today’s soulless lifestyle. Composing with openness, Lee experiences serendipity through the randomness of the moves, even when the band follows a developmental logic in the process. As a consequence, they systematize free itineraries in an engaging, controlled way.

Grade  B+

Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Daedalus ► 02 - Alternative Facts ► 07 - World On Fire


Ivo Perelman - Strings1 + Strings2

Label: Leo Records, 2018

Personnel - Ivo Perelman: tenor saxophone; Mat Maneri: viola; Mark Feldman: violin (Strings1); Jason Hwang: violin (Strings1); Ned Rothenberg: bass clarinet (Strings2); Hank Roberts: cello (Strings2).

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Ivo Perelman’s transformation here has nothing to do with the art of improvisation, which he continues to dominate effortlessly, but rather with the new-found sense of compelling narrative expressed entirely in the company of strings on Strings1, and side-by-side either with bass clarinet or cello (and sometimes both) on Strings2. As has been common in his groups, the music is made in the spur of the moment, and the musicians have no preconditions whenever they set foot in the studio.

Following a variety of modern classical ephemera, the first track on Strings1 (all the tracks are untitled) dances unorthodoxly throughout, presenting collective cries and finishing with saxophone punctuations in the form of altissimo squeals and occasional popping sounds over the solid high-pitched curtain created by violist Mat Maneri, a longtime associate, and violinists Mark Feldman and Jason Kao Hwang, a new addition and a re-encounter, respectively.

At some point, “Track 4” introduces some Eastern fragrances in its pointillism, also conveying a breezy insouciance in Perelman’s rambles, which come garnished with sporadic air notes and reiterated phrases. Open to textural flexibility, the quartet keeps defining surfaces and changing densities in a constant fluctuation of ideas and sounds. “Track 6” captures Perelman plunging into a sea of violins with the contrasting timbre of his instrument, whereas the energized “Track 8” seems to use ritualistic ways to emulate capoeira music.

Strings2 is naturally darker in tone due to the fortunate addition of bass clarinetist Ned Rothenberg on four tracks and cellist Hank Roberts on six. The drone-imbued “Track1” feels circumspect in nature in opposition to the brazen “Track2”, where agitated activity leads to serious turbulence. The recording lives from contrasting timbres, becoming candidly atmospheric through wails and laments, and sometimes resolutely rambunctious with incisive lines bursting in color.

To me, the great surprise arrived when Perelman and Rothenberg set up a spontaneous groove on “Track4”, later diluted in the swiftness of Maneri’s circular movements. This particular moment, together with the capoeira incursion (deliberate or not) proved that the concept of groove could be further explored without compromising Perelman’s unguarded passion for timbre, texture, and free improvisation. A possible next step?

Grade  B+

Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
Strings1 - Tracks 1, 4, 8
Strings2 - Tracks 1, 2, 4


Nypan - Big City

Label: Losen Records, 2018

Personnel - Oyvind Nypan: guitar; Ben Wendel: tenor saxophone; Taylor Eigsti: piano; Joe Martin: bass; Justin Faulkner: drums.

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Norwegian guitarist Oyvind Nypan traveled to New York City with the dream of recording his own tunes with some of his favorite music makers. And the dream came true and with a happy ending, which is the album in question, suggestively entitled Big City and featuring eminent musicians such as saxophonist Ben Wendel, pianist Taylor Eigsti, bassist Joe Martin, and drummer Justin Faulkner.

For a quintet that had never played together before, there’s a gluing essence in their musical narrative and an exceptional energy associated with the city. This is particularly noticeable not only on the opener, “The Greeting”, which combines a cool bass groove, exquisite backbeat, and mercurial solos by Wendel and Nypan, but also on “Come What May”, an elated post-bop with labyrinthine spirals and expeditious diagonals, and “Grasstopper”, a playful if twisted blues with bop fragments and hard-swinging eruptions. Both these tunes bridge tradition and innovation with an infallible sense of freshness.

Nypan develops an urban glow as he navigates guitar frets. Despite the simplicity in structure, he’s definitely out of the so-called Scandinavian jazz where a more contemplative approach is usually taken. Nonetheless, he can certainly dig a charming ballad like “Starfall” and convey a great deal of emotional fragility.

Getting a look at the title “You Old Tasmanian Devil You”, one may expect to find some irreverence and swiftness, but, instead, the song transpires an airy, laid-back spiritual aura that assuredly steps into modal territory. “Close To The Sun” keeps the affirmative vibe going with a brisker 6/8 time signature and quick-witted statements by the bandleader and Eigsti, who comfortably convert sequences of notes into emotions.

Another tune that immediately caught my ear was “Kung Kong”. Besides the heart-on-sleeve classical lyricism brought in by Eigsti’s comping, you will definitely enjoy the eloquent interplay between saxophone and guitar.

Big City marks an important next step in the continuing evolution of Nypan, a gifted guitarist who deserves more opportunities to shine. I’m glad that New York and its musicians gave him what he needed for now.

Grade  A-

Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 - The Greeting ► 02 - You Old Tasmanian Devil You ► 05 - Kung Kong


Maria Grand - Magdalena

Label: Biophilia Records, 2018

Personnel – Maria Grand: tenor saxophone, vocals; David Bryant: piano; Fabian Almazan: piano; Mary Halvorson: guitar; Rashaan Carter: bass; Jeremy Dutton: drums + Jasmine Wilson and Amani Fela: spoken word.

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Tenor saxophonist Maria Grand, a native of Switzerland, is currently based in New York, to where she moved in 2011 to pursue a more exciting musical career. After receiving deserved attention in projects of altoist Steve Coleman, one of her mentors, Ms. Grand resolved to step forward as a leader, releasing the self-produced EP Tetrawind last year. Two members of the luxurious quintet that played in the cited recording - pianist David Bryant and bassist Rashaan Carter - were summoned again to participate in Magdalena, her first full-length output. Remaining bandmates in the current working group are guitarist Mary Halvorson, pianist Fabian Almazan, and drummer Jeremy Dutton, who contribute significantly to portray modern family relationships with strict connections with Egyptian and Christian myths and the work of family therapist Virginia Satir.

Despite the quality of Jasmine Wilson’s narration on the opening statement, the first big astonishment was felt during the following tune, an oddly lyrical duet called “Imani/Walk By”, to which Grand’s beautiful, nearly inharmonious voice lends an irresistibly enchanting dimension. Here, it’s Almazan who creates the haunting piano voicings and textures behind her chant, while on “Last Year” and “Sing Unborn”, also duets, is Ms. Halvorson weaving the attractively clashing, effect-drenched underpinning that supports the bandleader’s agile vocalization.

There’s a central instrumental block on the album composed of three related compositions, each of them devised with gravitas and constructed around a particular triad while evoking mythical feminine prowess. They are “TI:Isis”, where brisk and graceful saxophone phrases decorate a solid M-Base template; “TII:Maria”, loosely built with neo-boppish idioms and rigorous dark timbres; and the spiritual “TIII: Magdalena”, a light-emitting contemplation of transparent beauty.

A remarkable achievement in Grand’s new body of work is that even static moments don’t sound stiff, thanks to the group’s unconventional rhythmic notions and evasive fluidity. There’s a conspicuous openness to different genres, like on the jazz-meets-hip-hop “Ejes Y Deseos”, yet her jazz roots are underscored on pieces such as “Where is E”, written for her sister Eleanora with a mature, fully-developed dialogue between piano and saxophone; and “Demonium”, a rhythmically mischievous exercise with clear-cut accents, amusing individual statements, and responsive interplay. Showcasing an effective blend of jazz and free funk, “Pyramid Sphere” sparks with Bryant’s rhythmic ideas, encompassing first-class motifs and opportune whirls, which, later, become affiliated with curly, fragmented saxophone lines.

There’s something magnetic and exquisitely offbeat in Grand’s compositions. Carving a niche for herself, the saxophonist speaks with an authentic voice in a fascinating album that deserves repeated listenings.

Grade  A

Grade A

Favorite Tracks:
02 - Imani/Walk By ► 06 - Last Year ► 07 - Pyramid Sphere


Kamasi Washington - Heaven And Earth

Label: Young Turks, 2018

Personnel includes: Kamasi Washington: tenor saxophone; Dontae Winslow: trumpet; Ryan Porter: trombone; Patrice Quinn: vocals; Cameron Graves: piano; Brandon Coleman: keyboards; Miles Mosley: bass; Thundercat: bass; Ronald Bruner Jr.: drums; Tony Austin: drums; Robert Searight: drums; and more.

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Kamasi Washington’s new double-disc Heaven And Earth boasts a sound that is completely identifiable with the saxophonist’s previous creations, but definitely doesn't match them in terms of grooviness and excellence. Catching up with today’s musical trends, Kamasi combines traditional jazz and retro-funk elements with contagious beats and synth-infused layers. Occasionally, on top of it, there are heavy string orchestrations and chants carried out with a luxuriant opulence that may or not affect the existing idea of nostalgia.

Perhaps the best illustrators of this concept are the openers of each disc: “Fists Of Fury”, the theme of a Bruce Lee movie from the 70s, where he adds his personal stamp through hot samba rhythms and pungent funky bass lines; and “The Space Travelers Lullaby”, whose orchestration feels dismal and dense.

An Afro-Latin backbeat drives Freddie Hubbard’s hooky and hallucinatory “Hub-Tones”, here reshaped with mellifluous post-bop riffery and astounding improvisations.

Can You Hear Him” is one of the many incursions into jazz-funk, but in the case, spiced with neo-soul rhythms and spatial synth sounds. A similar ambiance is created on “The Invisible Youth”, which shows off a surprisingly turbulent avant-garde intro before fixating the definitive pace. These numbers differ from “Connections”, where soul jazz and smooth funk merge in the interest of a relaxed, breezy flow that is regularly interrupted by dreamlike orchestral passages.

Artfully integrating melody, groove, and spirited motifs in his improvisations, the bandleader builds in intensity to eventual cathartic effect on tunes like “Song For The Fallen”, a piece marked by puissant instrumental layers; “The Psalmist”, a deep funk exercise penned by trombonist Terry Porter; and “Show Us The Way”, a wonderful modal engagement in spirituality.

The rhythmic hip-hop energy of “Street Fighter Mas”, featuring Snarky Puppy’s drummer Robert Searight, diverges from the syncopated Afro-Brazilian rhythms of “Vi Lua Vi Sol”, which falls under a futuristic crossover jazz. Both pieces convey strong melodies that resurface and are developed with a sense of meaningfulness.

Patrice Quinn comes to the forefront with her voice and lyrics on “Testify” and “Journey”, two easy-listening songs that, leaning on the soul and gospel from the ‘70s, respectively, aim to reach a broader set of listeners.

Even not venturing into new ground, Kamasi remains with an intact and eclectic vision. Even expecting more from this album, I found that the connection of the group as a whole is never put into question.

Grade  B+

Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
02 (disc1) - Can You Hear Him ► 03 (disc1) - Hub Tones ► 07 (disc2) - Show Us The Way


Zack Clarke - Mesophase

Label: Clean Feed, 2018

Personnel: Zack Clarke: piano, electronics; Charlotte Greve: saxophone, clarinet, flute; Chris Irvine: cello; Nick Dunston: double bass; Leonid Galaganov: percussion, waterphone, shakuhachi.

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Pianist Zack Clarke, an inveterate explorer who likes to push musical boundaries by distilling his creative ideas into new music, has a new album where electronic and acoustic elements converge in an attempt to sonically portray daily life in New York City. Mesophase, the follow up to Random Acts of Order (Clean Feed, 2017) is another challenging recital given in the company of other artisans of the textural invention: Chris Irvine on cello; Charlotte Greve on saxophone, clarinet, and flute; Nick Dunston on double bass; and Leonid Galaganov on percussion, waterphone, and shakuhachi.

The majestic opener, “Curtains”, shows the group immersed in thematic abstraction with entangling segments that meld contemporary chamber jazz, modern classical, and traces of world music with decorative electronic sounds. The initial fluctuations between flute and cello generate some forlornness that vanishes when the pianist incurs in a faster, bolder and continuous countermove that can be described as a blizzard of patterned replications.

Generative” ruminates till the end, swimming in contemporary classical waters whose reoccurring streams have the sonic oceans of Messiaen and Reich as sources. Here, the drummer’s sketchy drawings are palely colored by the clarinet.

A rich cello sound resonates in consonance with Clarke’s pastoral pianism on “Beggar”, where the procedures feel a bit more grounded and less uncertain.

Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” came to my mind as soon as “Tilted” began. Lots of tension was put in the harmonic progression, taking us to an avant-garde realm that we recognize. Still, the exploration continues with other creative aesthetics.

Reticence” carries a jazzy vibe that comes specifically from the often-motivic piano, ably supported by the responsive bass/drums accompaniment. This frenzied clarity mutates gradually as Greve takes over on flute.

Frontier” sounds like a cogitative chamber crusade enlivened by a pulsating bass pedal, entering in a dulcet pianistic suspension in its concluding section. A similar unbind sentiment can be extracted from “Bridge”, an Arvo Part-ish exercise that glows with saxophone lines over the ebbs and flows created by the pianist.

Density and space permeate the conceptual Mesophase, which is not for every casual listener. Still, you might be able to find profundity in complex passages leading to further discoveries.

Grade  B+

Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Curtains ► 06 - Reticence ► 07 - Frontier


Florian Ross Quintet - Swallows & Swans

Label: Toy Piano Records, 2018

Personnel – Florian Ross: piano; Kristin Berardi: vocals; Matthew Halpin: saxophones; Dietmar Fuhr: bass; Hans Dekker: drums.

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Florian Ross is a German pianist, composer, and arranger whose debut as a leader goes back to 1998. Since then, he has dedicated much effort and attention to small and large ensembles, but you could still find him arranging pieces for Martial Solal with WDR Big Band and Craig Brenan, orchestrating for the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, or playing Hammond in Nils Wogram’s Nostalgia project.

Presently, he put together a cross-country, inter-generational quintet, featuring Australian singer Kristin Berardi, Irish saxophonist Matthew Halpin, and Dutch drummer Hans Dekker. Rounding out the group is German bassist Dietmar Fuhr, a longtime co-worker. The resultant output is a 12-track record entitled Swallows & Swans.

Deliciously nuanced in tempo and rhythm, “Midway” is first introduced by Dekker’s brushes, to which piano cascades and voice/saxophone unisons are gradually added. Not being a ballad, the tune, nonetheless, surrounds itself by a velvety smoothness that is maintained even after the flow is rearranged.

In opposition to the lamenting tones of “Horologue of Eternity”, which features the words of American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow by the voice of Ms. Berardi, “Recurring Dream” lives in a weightless state of bliss, carrying a patiently built piano solo and reaching a climax with Halpin’s impressionistic soprano narrative.

The catchy riff at the center of “Solid Air” is firstly echoed and then occasionally revisited. The drummer’s rich pulsation becomes more salient here than in the previous tunes, especially during the strong solo contributions from saxophone and piano.

Sometimes lyrics can be a limiting factor for me and maybe that’s why the melancholic “Looking Inward” and “The Silver Swan” didn’t impress me all that much. Their musical nature is worthy of a Disney movie soundtrack, though. Conversely, “Cold Smoke”, a showcase for nimble piano movements in counterpoint with the bass, radiates light through the charming vocalization of Berardi, who is all the more convincing on “Albatros”, a piece airing a familiar Latin vibe, and “Trip To The Watercooler”, a dashing post-bop ride.

Taking simple and direct routes for most of its duration, the album comes to an end with a glossy voice-piano duo version of the traditional Irish song “The Lark In The Clear Sky”.

Grade  B-

Grade B-

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Midway ► 05 - Solid Air ► 08 - Albatros


Andrew Rathbun - Character Study

Label: SteepleChase, 2018

Personnel – Andrew Rathbun – tenor saxophone; Tim Hagans: trumpet; Gary Versace: piano; Jay Anderson: acoustic bass; Bill Stewart: drums.

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Unquestionably, 2018 was a positive, busy year to Canadian saxophone stylist Andrew Rathbun, who, in the aftermath of his Atwood Suites, a jazz-orchestra project released on the Sunnyside label, collaborates once more with trumpeter Tim Hagans on his latest SteepleChase outing, Character Study. The quintet album, inspired by the idea of character and the political situation in America, is entirely composed of originals with the exception of “EtCetera”, in which Rathbun takes Wayne Shorter’s sound palette to something of his own. Starting in a trio setting with helical saxophone flames flying above the restless rhythm laid down by bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Bill Stewart, this classic piece also exhibits Rathbun’s motifs being replicated by the bassist. The swinging flux that persists while Hagan improvises is discontinued in favor of a looser texture, urging pianist Gary Versace to express his ideas against a funk-inclined background.

The Golden Fool” prescribes a neo-bop steadfastness presented in the form of crisp unisons before a strong swinging foundation is installed. Hagans employs his often-spirited terminology with no harmony underneath, whereas Versace sneaks up on the scene, employing a docile, feel-good lyricism that breaks the flux. The reappearance of the theme separates his short intervention from Rathbun, who shuffles modernity and tradition in his discourse.

Versace is in evidence once again with a clean, measured piano work on “Team of Rivals”, which, together with the subsequent piece “Alphabet Deaf and Forever Blind”, consents to an uncomplicated behavior; and also on the Shorter-esque “The Long Awakening”, where the preliminary classical pianism doesn’t give away the sparkish musical surface that comes afterward. Here, one can acknowledge an ampler sense of orientation by Hagans and the bandleader when they’re on the fly.

Descriptive melodic statements flow from the title track, foiled against Stewart’s fizzing snare drum and Anderson’s punctual bass kicks. The final vamp allows the dexterous drummer to slightly expand his course of actions. He does it again, yet this time profusely on “Turmoil”, whose vividness comes not only from the driving virtuosity of the rhythm section but also from the soloists.

Rathbun’s challenging writing requires an attentive execution from his cohorts. All the same, the theoretical complexities turned spontaneous moves keep sounding natural, also due to the musicians’ ability to create a bond with the listener.

Grade  B+

Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
01 – The Golden Fool ► 05 - EtCetera ► 06 – The Long Awakening


Ingrid Laubrock - Contemporary Chaos Practices

Label: Intakt Records, 2018

Personnel includes Ingrid Laubrock: saxophone, composer; Eric Wubbels: conductor; Taylor Ho Bynum: conductor; Mary Halvorson: guitar; Nate Wooley: trumpet; Kris Davis: piano; and many more.

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Not everything is chaotic in Contemporary Chaos Practices, the new visionary work from immensely talented saxophonist/composer Ingrid Laubrock, an indispensable name whenever creative jazz is the topic. Ms. Laubrock, who is German but Brooklyn-based, ventures into the large ensemble format (42 musicians), conceiving two works for orchestra with two conductors - Eric Wubbels and Taylor Ho Bynum - and first-line soloists such as guitarist Mary Halvorson, pianist Kris Davis, trumpeter Nate Wooley, and herself.

The first work gave the album its title and is divided into three tracks that decrease in time but not in motivation or vitality. The opening piece “Part 1 & Part 2” is affected by a magical gravity that will take you to a different dimension where eerie vibrations are commingled with punchy frisson. After Halvorson’s introduction, the bandleader sounds as expressive as ever on tenor, filling the air with excited exclamations uttered with a solid tonal control and spiced by an effective usage of extended techniques. Each distinct segment is shaped by a careful selection of instruments, which ably move through different stages, leading to moments of whether composed candor or organized orchestral convolution.

We find deep sounds on “Part 3”, which contrast with Davis’ shrill punctuations. This happens before a rushed collective passage breaks out, carrying a wide sense of urgency and urbanity that may be associated with the city of New York.

Lasting approximately three minutes, “Part 4” completes the so-called practices, having vibraphone, strings, and woodwinds bestowing a dreamy intonation apart from the sensation of danger and restlessness that substantiates its cliché-free orchestration.

The nearly 18-minute “Volgelfrei”, meaning outlaw, is an independent composition on the album, a cinematic narration with two distinct sides: one ethereal, here reinforced by the vocal choir, and one earthly, whose matrixes of sound fall somewhere between the clean and the dirty. In this odd framework of splendor and drama, be ready to come across with unheralded rhythmic manifestations, unrelenting circular movements, and glorious crescendos subjected to abrupt fractures. The final section decelerates like a locomotive when is almost reaching its destination.

Continually oozing energy and following an impressive narrative arc, this progressive big band recording is a one-of-a-kind experience.

Grade  A-

Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Part 1 & Part 2 ► 02 - Part 3 ► 04 - Volgelfrei


Adam Hopkins - Crickets

Label: Out Of Your Head Records, 2018

Personnel - Anna Webber: tenor saxophone; Ed Rosenberg: tenor and bass saxophones; Josh Sinton: baritone saxophone and bass clarinet; Jonathan Goldberger: guitar; Adam Hopkins: bass; Devin Grey: drums.

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The evidence that Baltimore-born, Brooklyn-based bassist Adam Hopkins is a true rocker is in the nature of his compositions. Moreover, he assures that his sextet rocks as one. The band members - saxophonists Anna Webber, Ed Rosenberg, and Josh Sinton; guitarist Jonathan Goldberger; and drummer Devin Grey - infuse their searing energy in the eight tracks that compose Crickets, the bassist's auspicious debut record.

The first track, gorgeously entitled “They Can Swim Backwards But Sometimes Choose Not To”, lasts less than two minutes, but stirs your soul with a shifting ostinato uttered by an active horn section operating on top of a tenacious, sturdy and asymmetric groove. Even standing firm on its own, the concise piece can also function as an introduction to “Crickets/Crime Of The Year”, which starts off as a noisy chamber continuum before a dazzling, additive groove declared by guitar/bass unisons takes over. This is part of an atmosphere that deftly integrates melodic jazz tact and pulsing rock muscle. There’s a succinct, unorthodox dialogue between saxophone and bass clarinet that I wished it was kept going, and a blazing rock-infused guitar solo with enough spiky edges to keep us on the lookout for further finds. To simplify: it packs a punch first and then makes you want to dance at the end.

The same spunky grit and insatiable urgency are displayed on “Mudball”, an alternative rock number professed with a punkish attitude. The textural foundation is securely established by guitar, bass, and drums, before an extravagant tenor solo appears, well supported by blatant guitar strokes and skittish drumming. Guitar and bowed bass work together, promoting a crescendo that rises to a spectacular cacophony, a victorious conclusion.

Shrouded in a lucid, slowcore instrumentation, “Heaven of Bliss” is dug with a casual posture, furnishing its passages either with indie pop riffery or free-form avant-jazz intent. A contrary mood is devised on “I Think The Duck Was Fine”, which finds the band indulging in exuberant horn spirals and fluid rhythms. The piece is invigorated by Rosenberg’s stout improvisation on bass saxophone.

Scissorhands” is tweaked with the pungent volleys and angular hyperactivity of the frontline, placed over a virulent noise-rock tapestry. In anticipation of this tune, a solitary Hopkins creates “The Minnow”, a personal statement.

Hopkins employs adroit compositional strategies throughout the recording, aiming at an inviting hybridity, which he has all the reasons to be proud of. This is a wonderful start for him as a leader.

Grade  A-

Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
02 - Crickets/Crime Of The Year ► 04 - Mudball ► 08 - Scissorhands


Don Byron / Aruán Ortiz - Random Dances And (A)tonalities

Label: Intakt Records, 2018

Personnel - Don Byron: clarinet, tenor saxophone; Aruán Ortiz: piano.

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Random Dances and (A)tonalities, the synergetic duo effort from American clarinetist/saxophonist Don Byron and Cuban pianist Aruán Ortiz, seduces us with an inviting and diversified repertoire that, besides a few originals, includes very personal renditions of tunes by Duke Ellington, Federico Mompou, Geri Allen, and J.S. Bach.

The album starts off with the magnetic incantation of “Tete’s Blues”, an Ortiz piece baptized in honor to Spanish pianist Tete Montoliu. Patterns with different coloration are part of a taut pianism that is slightly blurred by atonal strokes. The mystique comes from Ortiz’s left-hand with which he creates awe bass movements, while the disquieted dreamy tones are drawn from a series of tone clusters played in the middle register. Byron’s clarinet phrases are set against this background, expressing a luscious spontaneity.

Ellington’s “Black and Tan Fantasy” peeks into a different era, striding throughout with a bluesy feel and ending in Chopin’s mode with a citation of his funeral march. Byron plays tenor on this one, opting for a more diatonic approach in comparison with his duo mate. He also plays this instrument on his playful “Joe Btfsplk”, an invitation to free exploration where he establishes a magnificent, nonstop communication with Ortiz, and on the following “Numbers”, an obscure essay influenced by pianist Muhal Richard Abrams’s musical concepts.

Their love of classical music bifurcates into the baroque and the contemporary. The former current is represented through a sublime solo clarinet interpretation of J.S. Bach’s “Violin Partita No.1 in B Minor”, and the latter with the formal rigor of a somewhat balletic variant of Federico Mompou’s “Musica Callada”, in which a methodical bass pedal underpins Byron’s unhurried phrases.

All those complex intervallic leaps in the melody of Geri Allen’s “Dolphy’s Dance” are enunciated in unison. Freewheeling improvised lines with motivic flair are also part of this tribute to the late pianist.

Byron’s “Delphian Nuptials” has much to do with pure lyricism and elegant simplicity. The piece was composed for a documentary about African-American playwright Lorraine Hansberry and both the motif-based melody and the chord progression are illuminating.

Before “Impressions on a Golden Dream”, an unrecognizable, amorphous take on Benny Golson’s “Along Came Betty” that closes out the album, we have Ortiz’s “Arabesques of a Geometrical Rose (Spring)” from his Hidden Voices album, which the duo excavates in search of avant-garde treasures.

Nurturing an uncanny affinity for eccentric texture and dissonance, Ortiz found an excellent accomplice in Byron, whose unpredictable trajectories contribute for a musicality that radiates freedom.

Grade  A-

Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Tete’s Blues ► 06 - Dolphy’s Dance ► 08 - Delphian Nuptials


Dan Arcamone - X

Label: Artists Recording Collective, 2018

Personnel: Dan Arcamone: guitar; Tony Grey: bass; Steve Pruitt: drums.

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Hailing from Norwalk, Connecticut, guitarist Dan Arcamone leads a new trio, with bassist Tony Grey and drummer Steve Pruitt, into an electric fusion foray. On the new album, X, he sets his mind into a combination of powerhouse rock, improvised jazz, and virtuosic folk ideas, sometimes evoking the work of exceptional guitarists such as Mick Goodrick, Ralph Towner, John Abercrombie, and Pat Metheny.

Nediam” starts out with thick round bass lines, rattle-instilled drumming, and an expeditious guitar work agglomerating scales, patterns, and nimble rhythmic figures. “Slings” maintain this predisposition, combining alternative rock and folk jazz elements in well discernible passages that sometimes slide into funk.

Rays of light penetrate the sonic grey cloud hovering above “Gamma”, a compound of styles marked by a lively rhythm. Pruitt drives a few tunes with a powerful beat, forming a potent understructure with Grey to better serve the bandleader’s improvisatory zest. The better examples are “Loop”, whose easygoing guitar ostinato soon evolves into a restless improv, and “Luster”, which ends in an invigorating rock excursion.

The thing with this album is that the natures of the songs are practically equivalent, which narrows variety, while the soloing relies on unvarying mercurial procedures that often limit the space to breathe. “Phases” is an exception since it was given a wonderful harmonic treatment, encouraging group dynamics and stirring further emotion.

Although outlined with simple melodic ideas, “Luge” and “Lag” exhibit plucky rhythms, persisting in constant stretches where the tense and the lyrical meet.

Enclosing crafted compositions in its alignment, the cerebral X will certainly attract followers of guitar-driven fusion.

Grade  B-

Grade B-

Favorite Tracks:
02 - Slings ► 06 - Phases ► 10 - Lag


Russ Johnson - Headlands

Label: Woolgathering Records, 2018

Personnel - Russ Johnson: trumpet; Rob Clearfield: piano, keyboards; Matt Ulery: bass; Jon Deitemyer: drums.

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Russ Johnson is a cutting-edge trumpeter whose thoughtful approach to music makes him a distinguished composer and instrumentalist. After spending 23 years in New York, Johnson relocated to Chicago, the city that also shelters the remaining members of the Headlands Quartet: pianist/keyboardist Rob Clearfield, bassist Matt Ulery, and drummer Jon Deitemyer.

Johnson had distanced himself from the mainstream long since, and his two previous releases, Meeting Point (build with a different Chicagoan quartet) and Still Out To Lunch (mostly composed of exciting takes on Eric Dolphy’s tunes) drew effusive reactions from the media. His fourth CD as a leader, Headlands, consists of a 12-movement suite and is predestined to attain the same success as it reflects the improvisational tendencies of the performers allied to a tight interplay. The music was captured live at the Hungry Brain in Chicago.

The title track initiates and also wraps up the program, carrying a cool groove with a methodical posture. The shorter opener leads directly to “Serpent Kane”, which, brimming with sinuous trumpet melody and clever rhythmic accentuations, has its flow disrupted with keyboard interjections. Clearfield sets off for his own world of improvised inspiration, having a bass pedal as support. Johnson follows him, boasting a facile articulation that many trumpet players would like to have.

Four solo transitions, one for each musician, serve as introductions for longer numbers. Johnson blows his horn with authenticity as he takes us to a special place: “Fjord”, whose idyllic nature easily brings tranquil landscapes to mind. The melody is simply beautiful and the comping, expressed with reserve and resolution, does it justice. Before the theme is reinstalled, Deitemyer shines, filling a vamp with brushed chops and cross-rhythms. With a similar inclination to serenity, “Kapoj” feels a bit more static due to the imposed circular harmonization and tenuous melodic observations. The intensity is heightened in a bubbling reaction that occurs in the last minutes.

The antithesis of the above may be observed on pieces like “Mons Calpe” and “Wallenpeitshen”. The latter is based on a vainglorious vamp that shoulders a Spanish-like melodicism, while the former carries a funky routine with playful melodic manifestations that are reminiscent of works by Dave Douglas and Andrew Hill.

The drummer clearly brings up the odd-metered “Isthmus” in his introductory solo effort. The confined energy of the piece is gradually liberated with intention and sleek tempo variations.

Ceaselessly seeking the lyrical in his advanced musical conception, Johnson carefully structured the suite to interpolate personal statements in the cohesive ensemble practices. Headlands is a winning work.

Grade  A-

Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
02 - Serpent Kane ► 04 - Fjord ► 11 - Isthmus


Gabriel Zucker - Weighting

Label: ESP Disk, 2018

Personnel – Gabriel Zucker: piano; Eric Trudel: tenor saxophone; Adam O’Farrill: trumpet; Tyshawn Sorey: drums.

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Weighting, the fourth studio album by pianist Gabriel Zucker consists in an extended composition divided into eight movements. The music, inspired by excerpts of Rachel Kushner’s novel The Flamethrowers, is performed by a bass-less new quartet whose frontline is composed of Eric Trudel on tenor saxophone and Adam O’Farrill on trumpet, two members of Zucker’s big band Delegation. Rounding out the group is the excellent drummer Tyshawn Sorey, who has no problem in adding creativity while adjusting his playing to the composer’s intentions.

The album kicks in with “Would It Come Back To You”, where the consummate polyphony generated by O’Farrill and Trudel soon turns into a parallel movement. It is untied after a while, favoring a motivic call-response activity with variations in timbre. Percussive elements are inserted in a lower voice on the eve of a rampant entry point that bursts with harmony and percussion. Zucker and Sorey contribute considerably from then on with sensational piano textures and exuberant rhythmic drive, respectively. It’s a triumphant opening.

The Uselessness of Truth / Not To Be Anything More” offers hymnal piano, complemented with spiraling moves and a wide range of percussive sounds. Yet, the spotlight is on Trudel, who combines air notes, coiled cries, and pithy popping sounds. For the following movement, “The Stream of New York / And Art, Of Course”, Zucker initially holds a one-note pedal on a higher register while designing nebulous chords with the left hand. The tune advances with a bracing fervency, ending up in a strapping vamp, provocatively stirred by Sorey and serving Trudel’s explorative voice.

From the moment that O’Farrill launches “Missing Our Appointment With Each Other”, one is touched by contemplation. Saxophone adds further melody into a classical chamber piece that cools off the listener with its lyricism. The last half minute, already with the virtuosic pianist on board, prepares the way to the alluring “What’s Left / The Future Was a Place”, a subtle, organic blend of modern classical and dreamy jazz, where the line between written score and improvisation is blurred by the quartet’s exhilarating sense of freedom. There’s a ragged sort of elegance in this outstanding movement that translates into trancing sounds of touching beauty.

The luminous “A Movie, A Lover” goes through different phases. It starts off with push-pulls of rhythmic irreverence, passes by a zone of serenading balladic intimacy, and climaxes in a taut rock irruption replete of fierce avant-garde jabs.

Zucker's advanced compositional work is knotty, unpredictable, and utterly satisfying. Spinning with freshness and maturity, Weighting is put forward with a sterling avant-garde posture that reflects the artistry and commitment of the musicians involved.

Grade  A

Grade A

Favorite Tracks:
01 – It Would Come Back To You ► 03 - The Stream of New York / And Art, Of Course ► 05 - What’s Left / The Future Was a Place