Chris Pasin - Ornettiquette

Label: Planet Arts Recordings, 2018

Personnel - Chris Pasin: trumpet; Adam Siegel: saxophone; Karl Berger: piano, vibraphone; Ingrid Sertso: vocals; Michael Bisio: acoustic bass; Harvey Sorgen: drums.


Chris Pasin is a proficient trumpeter that feels equally comfortable in the avant-garde and straight-ahead jazz currents. When listening to the ecstatic Ornettiquette, his fourth album as a leader and a gorgeous tribute to Ornette Coleman/Don Cherry conjoint work, it’s hard to remember that his versatility made him collaborate with celebrated singers such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Nancy Wilson, and Sarah Vaughan.

To achieve the adventuresome fluidity required for a tribute of this kind, Pasin hired competent musicians, two of which had worked together with Coleman and Cherry in the past, namely, vocalist Ingrid Sertso and pianist/vibraphonist Karl Berger. While the bandleader teams up with alto saxophonist Adam Siegel in the frontline, the foundation is entrusted to bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Harvey Sorgen, who effortlessly disseminate swing and shuffle rhythms throughout the recording.

The album opens and closes with Pasin compositions, “OCDC” and “PTU”, respectively. The former, titled with the initials of the avant-jazz pioneers who are honored here, thrives with typical exclamations of the genre and has Pasin exploring with evocative melodic ideas after catching the tail of Siegel’s solo. Showing his mastery of the lower registers, Bisio embarks on a fine pizzicato narration, yet he sounds even more attractive on Coleman’s celebrated “Lonely Woman”, where his rasping, legato arco bass claims the spotlight. The song is earnestly sung by Sertso, who also shines on Albert Ayler’s “Ghosts”, an all-favorite free jazz piece, here piqued by the direct communication established between Pasin and Berger. Sertso, who wrote the lyrics, finishes it with ‘we love you, Albert Ayler’.

The blues-based free bop of “Tomorrow Is The Question”, the balladic intonations of “Just For You”, and the linear bop curves of “When Will The Blues Leave” can be enjoyed in this recording, however, no Coleman composition sounds better than “Jayne”, which overflows with joy and emotion while carrying an inherent Latin touch. If Berger harmonizes it with heart and extemporizes with inspiration after responding to his colleagues’ provocations, then Siegel flies high with a swaggering, raucous tone adorned here and there with cheeky squeaks.

By blending freedom and lyrical intensity with panache, Pasin and his bandmates provide us with ear-catching moments that are colorful and jubilant at the same extent. Ornettiquette is a competent revival of classic avant-jazz from the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.

Grade  B+

Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
02 - Jayne ► 03 - Ghosts ► 07 - Lonely Woman

Michael Formanek Elusion Quartet - Time Like This

Label: Intakt Records, 2018

Personnel – Tony Malaby: tenor and soprano saxophones; Kris Davis: piano; Michael Formanek: double bass; Ches Smith: drums, vibraphone, Haitian tanbou.


Michael Formanek surfs avant-garde waves with the freedom and astuteness that always characterized his playing, either statically open-toned or changeably groove-laden. The bassist/composer/bandleader built his new CD, Time Like This, with the help of respected figures in the New York’s modern creative current: saxophonist Tony Malaby, pianist Kris Davis (a member of his Ensemble Kolossus), and drummer Ches Smith, who doubles on the vibraphone. As excellent improvisers and adepts of acoustic elasticity, we find them concentrating efforts in texturizing with logic and maintaining the ears wide open to promptly react to one another’s moves.

Down 8 Up 5” bursts forth on the opening track, with the title disclosing Davis’ repetitive movement of thirteen notes, eight ascending and five descending. Malaby divagates independently, supported by timely bass plucks, cymbal colors, and piano voicings conjuring up intriguing dreams and mystery. The excellence of Smith on vibraphone increases this sense of sinking into a subliminal dream. It’s a tremendous composition indeed.

If bass and percussion initiate a strange dance together on “Culture of None”, a piece propelled by a consistent groove and marked by the strong, creative presences of Davis and Malaby, then bass and sax do the same as a point of departure on “The New Normal”, which has Malaby reeling off swinging lines adapted to his own style. Smith is also on focus here transitioning from vibraphone to drums with dexterity. The portentous young drummer creates whirlwinds of rhythm on “The Soul Goodbye”, joining forces with the bandleader to form a well-oiled rhythmic gear. Within a free jazz environment, Malaby’s extemporization evokes a beseeching Coltrane and a fervent David S.Ware through a spiritual parade of notes and rhythmic figures. Cathartic, this tune contrasts with the following number, “That Was Then”, whose lighter nature encompasses the rhythmic tenacity of rock and the sinuous harmonization of jazz.

A Fine Mess” is actually a very neat song uttered with passionate expression, while “This May Get Ugly” feels loose and vibrant, painting assorted landscapes that can range from compactly urban to spaciously idyllic.

Time Like This is a worthy effort from a gifted bassist who deserves all our respect and admiration, not just for this particular great outing but for all the work done so far.

Grade  A

Grade A

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Down 8 Up 5 ► 05 - The Soul Goodbye ► 06 - That Was Then

Harriet Tubman - The Terror End of Beauty

Label: Sunnyside Records, 2018

Personnel - Brandon Ross: guitar; Melvin Gibbs: electric bass; JT Lewis: drums.


Powerhouse trio Harriet Tubman (named after the African-American slave turned abolitionist and political activist) - Brandon Ross on guitar, Melvin Gibbs on bass, and JT Lewis on drums - continues to trail an audacious path in modern music without confining themselves to a particular genre. Notwithstanding, jazz, blues and rock, in its written and improvised forms, can be considered their strongest motivations, especially if we take a closer look to their newest album The Terror End of Beauty, a great addition to the Sunnyside Records’ catalog.

Gibbs penned the opening track, “Farther Unknown”, and shaped it as a danceable psychedelia, plotted with a steady, highly charged tribal African pulse and Hendrixian distorted guitar sounds. Call it acid Afro-rock if you like.

The bassist shows his compositional versatility by setting a completely different mood on the title track, a tribute to guitarist Sonny Sharrock and one of the hippest tracks on the record. There’s a balladic jazz vision here, but also the dirty texture associated with the alternative rock music genre, which is indisputably alluring. It evolves into something ampler, with Lewis’ kinetic drumming underpinning a massive noise-rock experience.

The remaining compositions are credited to the trio and their producer, Scotty Hard, except “Redemption Song”, a noir, free-form reading of Bob Marley’s song of freedom, here turned into a harmonically clear rock anthem. Although we can’t pronounce the latter tune as reggae, even coming from Marley, we can identify the genre disguised on the playful “Five Points”, which overlaps tempos and also melds funk and electronic music in an experimental crossing between Front Line Assembly and Parliament-Funkadelic.

3000 Worlds” also sprawls some funk through the work of Gibbs and Lewis, who stick to a rounded funky ostinato and a hi-hat-centered rhythm, respectively. In contrast, Ross dives in dark expressive melodies.

The Green Book Blues” is another danceable, hardcore, yet relentlessly groovy piece in the line of The Prodigy but with occasional percussive thumps instead of a highly syncopated rhythm. Regardless of the change in the groove, the arcane mood is maintained. Unlike this piece, “Unseen Advance of the Aquafarian” doesn’t have the word blues in the title but is heavily rooted in the genre. It also displays a strong electronic-like vibe.

Not conflicting with the rest, but definitely closer to a prog-metal à-la Nine Inch Nails, “Protoaxite” sort of suffocates in a raucous, rock-powered atmosphere.

By intelligently interspersing moments of opaque obscurity and sheer beauty, Harriet Tubman achieves a perfect balance in its incisive and concise writing. The record, not too dense but not too immediate, never refrains in emotion and rewards in abundance after multiple listenings.

Grade  A

Grade A

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Farther Unknown ► 07 - Redemption Song ► 09 - The Terror End of Beauty

Jacob Sacks - Fishes

Label: Clean Feed, 2018

Personnel – Jacob Sacks: piano; Ellery Eskelin: tenor saxophone; Tony Malaby: tenor and soprano saxophones; Michael Formanek: acoustic bass; Dan Weiss: drums.

Pianist/composer Jacob Sacks has been an important voice in the adventurous jazz with the stamp ‘made in New York’. Although revealing dynamic writing skills, he doesn't record as much as a leader, preferring to disseminate his irresistible sonic zest in projects of likes such as David Binney, Dan Weiss, and Eivind Opsvick or co-leading duos (with singer Yoon Sun Choi) and quartets (Spirals, 40Twenty, Two Miles a Day). The exceptions to this rule are his quintet albums Regions (1999) and No Man’s Land (2013).

Always leaning on the avant-garde without neglecting traditional forms and sounds, Sacks now convenes a pungent new quintet with provocative saxophonists Ellery Eskelin and Tony Malaby, bassist Michael Formanek, and drummer Dan Weiss, the only one who remained from the former group.

Released on Clean Feed label, Fishes features eleven tracks, five of which are sketchy, relatively short collective improvisations with Carnegie in the title. The ambiguity of these sonic canvases usually comes from two disparate melodic threads created by the reed players, fulminant single-note drives and disarming chords that sometimes lead to whimsical piano textures, and an unimposing bass-drums flux.

The stimulating “Saloon” kicks in with a mix of gabbles and cackles in the frontline after which a majestic, swinging groove installs to welcome Sacks’ atonal inflections, illustrated with a strong rhythmic feel. The saxophonists shine one at the time, juxtaposing their sounds for brief moments as the tune comes close to the final.

The highly motivic “This Is A Song” swings even faster, creating a flickering curtain of instrumental forces prior to setting the improvisers free. It’s curious how the pianist, with all his probative legato cascades and staccato attacks, has a sure sense of swing. It’s all modern in its construction.

Displaying tangible themes and perceptible structures, both “The Opener” and “III Blues” strive with unisons and spiky improvisations. Whereas tenor, soprano, and piano inflame the former piece, which also features Weiss with his expressive drumming style, the latter is navigated at a triple time with fragmented, Monk-like deconstructions.

Five Little Melodies” has the reedists’ circumnavigating a romantic classical axis with nonchalant melodies. In opposition, the more obscure “Chopped In” is introduced by Formanek’s quietly weeping arco bass, with Sacks’ non-invasive pianism gradually taking control of the scene. It’s a moody chamber exercise with a prevalence of timbre and cinematic quality.

The creative ideas either take seductively cerebral or emotionally spontaneous forms. Even though it carries some complexity, Fishes is still an approachable outing from an adventurous pianist in full bloom and at the helm of his own group.

Grade  A-

Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Saloon ► 03 – This Is a Song ► 11 – III Blues

Myra Melford's Snowy Egret - The Other Side of Air

Label: Firehouse12, 2018

Personnel – Myra Melford: piano; Ron Miles: cornet; Liberty Ellman: guitar; Stomu Takeishi: bass guitar; Tyshawn Sorey: drums.


Myra Medford, a singular pianist, composer, and bandleader (Be Bread, Trio M, Snowy Egret), continues to depict new landscapes and narrate interesting stories with innovative sounds. On The Other Side of Air, the members of Snowy Egret - a quintet featuring Ron Miles on cornet, Liberty Ellman on guitar, Stomu Takeishi on bass guitar, and Tyshawn Sorey on drums - create unpredictable fusions within the legitimate compositional aesthetic of the pianist. The virtuosity and intuition of the group are immediately perceptible on the opening track, “Motion Stop Frame”. The attractive melody, either uttered in unison or counterpoint, is laid over a stealthy bass groove that anchors further sonic layers. Miles and Melford find the space they need for their respective impromptu discourses; the former enjoys a serene, more rudimentary backing, whereas the bandleader reacts particularly colorful by engaging in busy single-note trajectories, patent rhythmic figures, and harmonic chains filled with tension.

City of Illusion” is one of the most appealing songs on the record with its shifting, eclectic outlines. It is set in motion with a meditative, lyrical piano composure, adjusting its direction halfway as a result of danceable and uncompromising Latin jazz and funk insinuations. Miles' purity of sound and Ellman's idiosyncratic phrasing can be fully enjoyed before the placidity brought in the beginning is restored.

A common feature on “Chorale” and “Turn & Coda” is that they are more piano-oriented pieces with a notable integration of discordant guitar notes for a tangy seasoning. The latter tune, which closes out the recording, boasts this illuminating aura that is particularly beautiful.

The title track is divided into two parts; the first is like an abstract canvas denoting pale colors and sketchy lines, while the second, featuring Takeishi’s slides and harmonics, goes deeper in terms of group coloration while flowing within a temperate environment.

If “Attic” is melodically playful and propelled by a Brazilian-flavored rhythmic pulse, then “Living Music” plays in a similar way but with fun marching rhythms in its base. This pair of postmodern pieces is a showcase for Sorey’s inventive percussion articulations, with the group adding a startling array of instrumental voices on “Attic” to stimulate a denser avant-gardish passage. Typically Melford's, I would say.

The tight structures of this jazz-influenced new music encapsulate a fluid amalgam of composition and improvisation that strikes you with the force of a thunder. This is another elegant work from an accomplished pianist.

Grade  A-

Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 – Motion Stop Frame ► 02 - City of Illusion ► 10 - Turn & Coda

Jason Kao Hwang's Burning Bridge - Blood

Label: True Sound Recordings, 2018

Personnel - Jason Kao Hwang: violin; Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet, flugelhorn; Steve Swell: trombone; Joseph Daley: tuba; Sun Li: pipa; Wang Guowei: erhu; Ken Filiano: bass; Andrew Drury: drums.


Violinist Jason Kao Hwang has been a continuous presence in the New York’s Lower East Side avant-garde scene. His last recording, Sing House, deserved the respect of the media, featuring a quintet whose members, with exception of pianist Chris Forbes, are also part of his newest work, Blood, a composite of creative jazz, free improvisation, and Chinese traditional music. Thus, in addition to trombonist Steve Swell, bassist Ken Filiano, and drummer Andrew Drury - the eight-piece Burning Bridge ensemble includes tuba player Joseph Daley, cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, pipa player Sun Li, and erhu artist Wang Guowei.

Hwang meditated upon the emotional traumas of war, taking into consideration the tormenting experiences of fellow musicians Billy Bang and Butch Morris in Vietnam as well as his own mother’s in WWII. The album consists in a continuous track that was divided into five pieces and titled for convenience.

Breath Within The Bomb” kicks off with warlike percussion, which mixed with the severe, serrated sounds of Filiano’s bowed bass and Swell’s deep notes, augments the claustrophobic sensations of being trapped in a devastating reality. As it moves forward, the tune acquires a passive Asian-flavored taste, only to become moderately cacophonous in a passage where Drury’s drum activity exhibits a ferocious, kinetic energy. Tranquility returns at the end with an Eastern-infused dialogue between violin and erhu.

Divided into two parts of approximately seven minutes each, “Surge” is initially designed through orchestral slides and rhythmic accents before granting fine improvisations by Hwang, Bynum, and Guowei over a Sun Ra-inspired rhythm. Daley’s deep tuba sounds populates the second part with an extemporaneous urge.

If, to this point, haunting pictures were created through chiaroscuro sonic treatments, then “Evolution” eases things up by rooting a groovy jazz bass in American soil. The blues-based structure becomes an excellent vehicle for Bynum’s explorative yet melodically charged solo, Sun Li’s dissertation, as well as for Hwang’s bluesy stretches with fair responses from the band. The concluding “Declarations” encompasses Filiano’s outstanding arco rumination and Daley’s extended tuba stretch, among other things.

By constantly alternating the density of the orchestrations, Hwang suggests different scenarios that correspond to transformative states of mind. The thrills of spontaneity come from individual statements but also from interspersed interlocutions with two or three musicians. After all, this is music of exploration and reflection.

Grade  B

Grade B

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Breath Within The Bomb ► 02 – Surge Pt. 1 ► 04 - Evolution

Aaron Goldberg - At The Edge of The World

Label: Sunnyside Records

Personnel - Aaron Goldberg: piano; Matt Penman: acoustic bass; Leon Parker: drums, percussive vocals, EmbodiRhythm.


American pianist/composer Aaron Goldberg justified the attention given by the jazz community in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s both as a leader and sideman of artists like Joshua Redman, Guillermo Klein, John Ellis, Jimmy Greene, and Omer Avital (a co-leading partner in the OAM Trio). Three years ago, The Now came out on the Sunnyside Records, in which he was featured in a trio with Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums. Now, for his sixth album as a leader At The Edge of the World, Goldberg remains faithful to the trio formation but changes the pieces, having bassist Matt Penman teaming up with drummer Leon Parker, two colorists assigned to renew the songs' undermost layers. The band takes on five covers drawn from multiple stylistic sources and a pair of Goldberg originals, while the pianist completes the song lineup with a pensive solo interpretation of “En La Orilla Del Mundo”, a composition by Cuban guitarist Martín Rojas, which here sounds like one of Michel Legrand’s laments.

Luaty” and “Tokyo Dream” are products of Goldberg’s compositional efforts. The former, a special dedication to Angolan political activist and rapper Luaty Beirão, waltzes with uncomplicated elegance, whereas the latter pumps in the fragrances of the blues.

Whatever the mood, style, or tempo, the trio sounds pretty solid. “Poinciana”, for instance, is a breezy, neat re-imagination of the Cuban folk-influenced tune popularized by pianist Ahmad Jamal. Goldberg’s delicacy of touch and clarity of speech obtain even more expression with Parker’s stunning percussive methods, which include voice and body techniques (EmbodiRhythm). The drummer’s rhythmic vocalization also comes to the forefront when the trio slides into smooth Brazilian territory with Luiz Bonfa’s “Manhã de Carnaval”, the main theme of Marcel Camus’ romantic tragedy Black Orpheus. Guillermo Klein’s arrangement for this song (from their conjoint album Bienestan) was transformed and adapted to fit the trio setting.

They incur in post-bop gems with supple textures, achieving the desired tri-directional reciprocity with McCoy Tyner’s “Effendi”, a steamer that, without losing its original vibrancy, spotlights the drummer trading eights with the band; and two Bobby Hutcherson numbers: “Isn’t This My Sound Around Me”, which ends up swinging aplomb with Penman and Parker in the pocket after proposing a modal approach, and the ballad “When You Are Near”, launched by Penman and displaying a melody that reminded me of Toquinho & Vinicius’ “Samba em Preludio”.

This is a likable recording from a cohesive piano trio whose irresistible sound will make you revisit the album over and over again.

Grade  B+

Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Poinciana ► 04 - When You Are Near ► 05 - Effendi

Jostein Gulbrandsen - Looking Ahead

Label: Curling Legs Records, 2018

Personnel - Jostein Gulbrandsen: guitar; Megumi Yonezawa: piano; Mike McGuirk: bass; Mark Ferber: drums.


Rising Norwegian guitarist Jostein Gulbrandsen, a New York resident since 2001, releases “Looking Ahead”, its third album and first in quartet formation, with the help of mates he has been gigging with lately, namely: pianist Megumi Yonezawa, bassist Mike McGuirk, and drummer Mark Ferber.

The album, comprising eight Gulbrandsen originals, brims with the modern mainstream he advocates. The opening track, “Gee Wheez”, blends the energy of John Scofield and the soulful, bluesy feel of Grant Green. The bandleader opens the improvisational section with bopish fluidity, followed by Yonezawa and McGuirk. Each of them provides the listener with nice melodies and pronounced rhythmic insight.

Cold Times”, probably the most engaging tune on the record, also evinces a Scofield-esque bite, never eschewing that smell of immortal, country-ish blues that characterize most of his work. Enthusiastically, guitarist and pianist exchange ideas before the final theme is put back.

Other two compositions that include bar trades are the energetically swinging “Unbroken Circles” and the 12-bar blues “Monkey Biz”. Besides the expected solos, both songs highlight Ferber, whose versatile attacks and rhythmic agility are further adorned with subtle fills on the former piece. On the latter, he alternates entire choruses with McGuirk.

The guitarist has a penchant for medium-tempo waltzes - “Psalm”, “New Tune”, and the album’s closer “Another Waltz” are tunes controlled by a steady 3/4 signature meter. However, it was with the title track, a relaxing Metheny-influenced exercise, that the guitarist impressed me the most, composition-wise. Yonezawa, an emerging talent who moves into avant-garde territories in her own projects, solidly flanks him here, perfectly adapted to the more familiar post-bop atmosphere.

Gulbrandsen’s music is to the point, revealing tasteful moments where there’s no necessity of camouflaging his numerous influences. This is an unavoidable process that makes him search for his own identity and look ahead.

Grade  B

Grade B

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Gee Wheez ► 02 - Looking Ahead ► 05 - Cold Times

Mia Dyberg Trio - Ticket!

Label: Clean Feed, 2018

Personnel - Mia Dyberg: alto saxophone; Asger Thomsen: double bass; Dag Magnus Narvesen: drums.


Ticket!, an artful statement from Berlin-based Danish alto saxophonist Mia Dyberg makes an interesting entry into the chord-less free-jazz trio panorama. With the creative writings of William S. Burroughs as part of her inspiration, Dyberg drives melodically while the foundation is entrusted to fellow countrymen bassist Asger Thomsen and Norwegian drummer Dag Magnus Narvesen.

The title track, the first of six improvisations with concepts by Dyberg, opens the session with artifice-less spontaneity. The saxophonist interacts with the bassist before an athletic groove, reinforced with ebullient drumming, sustains motionless, multi-timbral long notes uttered with a punkish rebelliousness.

Thomsen penned three of the fourteen tracks, including “Party Its Vorbei”, a circular, lazy-paced ballad that integrates simple sax melodies and singing bass lines; and “Tropical”, which swings with a scruffy posture, regardless the quantity of melody thrown in by Dyberg. This melody actually diffuses a tropical flavor, like those Brazilian songs tweaked and twisted by tenor saxist Ivo Perelman in the early phase of his career. If she doesn’t explore so much timbre here, then she does it in collaboration with her music cohorts on “Chinese Laundry”, another conceptual improvisation.

The swing comes back on “Wil’s Swing” as its title suggests, only unorthodoxly at first. And then, there is this quick-witted entrance by Narvesen, who contributes to Dyberg’s bursts of energy with fast attacks and fidgety moves. The trio finishes it with rock-derived accents.

Claws Out” is rampantly motivic and shudders with restless drumming, opposing to “Silversmoke”, where sparse bass motions meet kaleidoscopic cymbals and unhurried sax phrases declared with occasional air notes.

The First Track” is by far the longest piece on the record, clocking at 12 minutes. It is launched in a ruminative, abstract way with drifting arco bass, evolving into unisons of sax and bowed bass, and then, closer to the end, into a raw, hot, yet swinging punk verve. The album finishes in an abrupt way with “How Do You Know When You Are Through?”, a controlled cacophonous chant that lasts 1:24 minutes.

Dyberg’s versatile approach to the instrument allows her to produce light and dark sounds with full-throated diction and a variety of timbres. Ticket! made me curious about Dyberg’s next explorations.

Grade  B

Grade B

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Ticket! ► 03 - Wil’s Swing ► 09 - Tropical

Bill Stewart - Band Menu

Label: Self produced, 2018

Personnel - Walter Smith III: tenor saxophone; Larry Grenadier: acoustic bass; Bill Stewart: drums.


The heightened sense of musicality displayed by drummer Bill Stewart is vividly felt on Band Menu, a trio album where saxophone, bass, and drums live in artistic communion. The bandleader, whose name immediately brings John Scofield groups and Pat Metheny Trio to mind due to their fruitful associations, gets together with bassist Larry Grenadier, an old rhythm mate, and saxophonist Walter Smith III, who first recorded with the drummer in 2015 on Danny Grissett’s The In-Between.

The title track opens the session with melody, simmering in a 4/4 reduced pressure. Bringing further motivic energy and embracing a funk rock glow, “F U Donald” is a politically mordant, rhythmically enticing piece, which is pretty suggestive of Stewart’s political position in the face of America’s current situation.

Grenadier and Stewart dive into swinging virtuosity on “Think Before You Think”, one of the drummer's earliest pieces, and “Good Goat”, both stylish neo-bop statements that thrive with Smith’s fleet discourses filled with tempered tonal glides, Grenadier’s confident phrasing within the groove, and Stewart’s pulsating excursions, whether expressed over a vamp or aggregated into the final theme.

Hair and Teeth” is an amiable, grooving, and unfaltering jazz funk that opposes to its adjacent number, “Invocation”, earnestly shaped with modal balladic contours. On the latter, Grenadier’s delicate extemporization comes across with Smith’s melody at the very end, and they naturally coalesce to a fully integrated finale. The following composition, “Modren”, shifts mood and pace once again, and Stewart soars, appending vigorous rim shots and inventive beats for a multi-timbral feast.

While Bill Evans’ “Re: Person I Knew” was a great choice for the repertoire, here recuperated as a celestial contemplation that verges on the magical, Smith enriches the song lineup with his “Apollo”, a post-bop marvel included in his 2014 CD Still Casual and the longest tune on the record. The manner in which saxophone and bass are conducted almost makes us hear the chords coloring the skeletal core of the song. Scintillating drumming keeps them company.

Stewart’s efficiency and exceptional taste are everywhere, whether when he hits the drums with roiling emotion or when slows down to a relaxed pace. He is a drummer with big ears, who categorically makes his co-workers sound better.

Grade  B+

Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
02 – F U Donald ► 03 - Re: Person I Knew ► 08 - Apollo

Joe Locke - Subtle Disguise

Label: Origin Records, 2018

Personnel - Joe Locke: vibraphone, piano; Jim Ridl: piano, Fender Rhodes, synth; Lorin Cohen: bass; Samvel Sarkisyan: drums + guests David Binney: alto saxophone; Adam Rogers: guitar; Raul Midón: guitar, vocals; Alina Engibaryan: vocals.


In a career spanning nearly four decades, vibraphonist Joe Locke conquered a high-ranking place among the most versatile mallet men in jazz. On his latest album, Subtle Disguise, he is edgier than ever, presenting two covers and seven original compositions, which are elevated to a superior dimension by the presence of exceptional colorists such as saxophonist David Binney and guitarists Adam Rogers and Raul Midón.

The eloquent saxman makes use of his complex phrasing to inundate “Red Cloud” with energy. The tune, named after the Oglala Sioux leader, bounces around with Samvel Sarkisyan’s dynamic drumming and an anchorable ostinato shared by pianist Jim Ridl and the bandleader, who improvises with sophisticated swoops of melody and rhythmic sense.

Midón, equally efficient on vocals and guitar, is featured on both cover songs, Bob Dylan’s “Who Killed Davey Moore?” and Blind Willie Johnson’s “Motherless Child”. While the former - a compound of funk, jazz, and R&B - is shaken by Lorin Cohen’s slick bass conduction and vibrant solos from Locke, Ridl on Fender Rhodes, and Midón on acoustic guitar; the latter features Rogers improvising with bluesy feeling in accordance to the tune’s gospel-blues essence. This flexible guitarist has the spotlight again on the title track, a triple rhythmic patterned song derived from an old Miles Davis’ original, where he interacts with Locke by running phrases in parallel and slightly shifted in tempo, and eventually fascinates through a solo by way of final theme.

The sweet-tempered “Make Me Feel Like It’s Raining” is devoted to the late master vibist Bobby Hutcherson, and has its vocal version on “A Little More Each Day”, which features Locke on piano and Russian-born singer Alina Engibaryan in a Stevie Wonder-esque style.

There is also a couple of jazz churners well worthy of mention: “Rogues of America”, whose obvious political connotations find expression in a sparkling rhythm that underpins effusive solos - including Binney, who starts by dancing neurotically on top of a percussion-only tapestry; and “Blondie Roundabout”, a crossover jazz number that borrows part of its intensity from the rock genre.

Locke’s lavishly textured compositions, often associated with imaginative post-bop trajectories, get to the top whenever its round edges are bent by contrasting stimuli. This is how the fiery lineup of special guests on this album brings extra flavor to the vibraphonist’s sweeping contemporary technique.

Grade  A-

Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Red Cloud ► 03 - Subtle Disguise ► 05 - Rogues of America

Mark Masters Ensemble - Our Métier

Label: Capri Records, 2018

Personnel includes – Mark Masters: composition, arrangements, conduction; Mark Turner: tenor saxophone; Oliver Lake: alto saxophone; Gary Foster: alto saxophone; Tim Hagans: trumpet; Dave Woodley: trombone; Bob Carr: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Anna Mjoll: vocals; Craig Fundyga: vibraphone; Putter Smith: bass; Andrew Cyrille: drums; and more.


American bandleader and trumpet player Mark Masters has been establishing a reputable career mostly with works released on Capri Records. Our Métier, his new album on that label, comprises eight originals specifically composed for an elite of top-notch soloists, cases of saxophonists Mark Turner and Oliver Lake, trumpeter Tim Hagans, and trombonist Dave Woodley. In fact, their stylistic range brings additional grandeur to Masters’ compositions, starting with the first track, “Borne Toward The Stars”, a vibrant swinger inspired by the conclusion of Malcolm Lowry’s novel Under the Volcano. It's cautiously introduced with atmospheric suspensions and furtive glances, exploding when Lake blows the alto with the atonal fervency that characterizes his playing. The coalition of Putter Smith’s swinging bass and Andrew Cyrille’s straight rhythm serves as the sole backdrop until horn riffs are added. Lake is followed by another meticulous sculptor: Hagans, who upholds the enthusiasm, even when employing a more standardized articulation.

The same soloists are featured on the Shorter-esque title track, a richly orchestrated bluesy waltz that closes out the album, and in between they make use of their in-the-moment creativity, collaborating with other artists on two collective improvisations: “A Précis of Dialogue” and “In Our Time”.

With lots of humor, “51 West 51st Street” shines with that busy jazzy feel of Midtown New York, featuring vocalist Anna Mjoll and bass clarinetist Bob Carr in a gently funky first phase, and then turning the focus to the muted trombone of Dave Woodley and the trumpet of Tim Hagans, both telling individual yet congruent stories.

The Icelandic jazz singer sweetens “Lift”, a 12-bar blues, with an upfront improv just before Lake invades the space by sliding out of the conventional and bringing necessary tension. His sayings are supported by the glorious vibes of Craig Fundyga, who closes out the improvisations with a distinctive sound. Before him, the bass player had his word.

Ingvild’s Dance” is a sprightly medium-tempo waltz written for trombonist Art Baron’s wife. Tenorist Mark Turner excels, and not only here. Owning a formidable vocabulary enhanced by timbral faculties, he also takes “Luminescence”, a blues with a relaxed posture, to another level. He and Hagans challenge each other after the latter’s solo, sharing the sonic space with an enthusiastic conversational disposition.

Masters has the entire band having fun with his compositions and arrangements where the presence of jazz tradition is as important as it is the modern infiltration. The aesthetics of his music, built with passages that alternate between the adventurous and the predictable, have the soloists carrying much of the flame.

Grade  B

Grade B

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Borne Toward The Stars ► 04 - Ingvild’s Dance ► 10 - Our Métier

Florian Weber - Lucent Waters

Label: ECM Records, 2018

Personnel – Florian Weber: piano; Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Linda May Han Oh: double bass; Nasheet Waits: drums.

The classically trained German pianist Florian Weber is equally proficient within low-key ambient styles and more agitated jazz atmospheres. However, his second ECM work, Lucent Waters, reveals a steeper inclination to haunting, if occasionally stirring, contemplation. Weber, who is accompanied by a stellar trio of musicians with Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Linda May Han Oh on double bass, and Nasheet Waits on drums, procures to have his eight originals purely layered, describing mostly serene landscapes with transparency and sharp focus.

On the short opener, “Brilliant Waters”, the quartet sails pacifically and continues doing it on “Melody of a Waterfall”, whose percussive introduction prepares us for a classical-influenced water channel where Rachmaninoff’s swift nimbleness comes to mind. Ms. Han Oh dexterously moves her fingers on the fretless bass, articulating an intricate dissertation before Weber takes over.

Ralph Alessi displays his unique, quietly crisp tone on “From Cousteau’s Point of View”, which unfolds with a crystalline beauty without ever stirring the waters. This composition was inspired by recent diving experiences.

A bit of agitation arrives with “Time Horizon” where the delicate virtuosic shimmering of the piano operates over the hearty rhythmic net weaved by Oh’s palpitating bass pedal and Waits’ revolutionary whirls. Weber finishes it with strong, appealing chords.

If “Schimmelreiter” brings a bit of Satie’s classical melancholy, then “Butterfly Effect” is a mesmerizing voyage to a melodic universe that reminds me of Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava. You will feel surrounded by smooth sonic surfaces while enjoying deep moments of breathiness. This predominant tranquility also dominates during the first minutes of “Fragile Cocoon”, however, the intensity is increased during another creative solo by Alessi, who finds harmonic backing in Weber’s tense movements.

Melding disparate influences - from Lennie Tristano’s ideas about lines and counterpoint to Karlheinz Stockhausen’s polyphony-inspired drawings - Weber dedicates “Honestlee” to mentor Lee Konitz, with whom he always learns something new whenever they meet.

The concept is democratic on Lucent Waters, allowing everyone to shine at some point, and a steady balance is achieved through an effective application of control and freedom. Even if not always emotionally warm, the tunes are delivered with heart.

Grade  B

Grade B

Favorite Tracks:
03 - From Cousteau’s Point of View ► 05 - Butterfly Effect ► 07 - Fragile Cocoon

Dave Ballou & BeepHonk - The Windup

Label: Clean Feed, 2018

Personnel - Dave Ballou: trumpet; Anthony Pirog: guitar; Adam Hopkins: bass; Mike Kuhl: drums.


Trumpeter Dave Ballou has been a ubiquitous presence on the avant-jazz scene, participating in projects of likes such as bassist Mario Pavone, French hornist Tom Varner, pianist Satoko Fujii, and drummer John Hollenbeck. His second Clean Feed outing, The Windup, features a quartet that first played together in 2011 at the Windup Space in Baltimore, Maryland, where the bassist Adam Hopkins used to organize weekly concerts to promote collaboration between improvisers. Breaking the initial purpose of a one-time-only performance, the ensemble that played at that time - Ballou, Hopkins, guitarist Anthony Pirog, and drummer Mike Kuhl - reunited recently at the same place to explore Ballou originals.

Fluffer Nutter” kicks in with trumpet and guitar asserting a phrase that keeps being suggested throughout, even after the musicians disperse their attention to focus on alternative yet still-communicative ostinatos. While Kuhl employs jittery ride cymbal, Hopkins sticks to a methodical pizzicato, completing a foundation that invites the guitarist and the trumpet player to persevere interaction. Before the peaceful ending, Pirog devises a crackling, exploratory, acid-rock-driven improvisation suffused with electronic momentum.

BeepHonk” borrowed the title from the band’s name, taking us to a ruminative 15-minute journey initiated by bass alone. Hopkins’ thumping pizzicato is followed closely by the drummer and ultimately drizzled with bird-like electronic noises and curt remarks of a muted trumpet. At some point, the music earns a strong chamber feel that couldn’t be held out due to the uncanny synth vibes created by Pirog, a true specialist in digital manipulation.

Lasting for more than 26 minutes, the final piece, “Nice Spot - Another Fool” recuperates that chamber aura that places the band somewhere between fragility and sturdiness. By giving the rhythm a bit more profundity, the band designates Pirog as its catalyzer, and he responds by whether intensifying texture or pacifying the waters with the use of relaxed harmonic sequences. Serene passages, adorned with homespun electronic effects and mysterious dark drones, alternate with inharmonic gravitational spins. The last five minutes are marked by a rhythmic effervescence, promptly roughened by distorted guitar.

This is a rewarding effort from Ballou and his peers, who knew how to stuff the inventive structures with enjoyable musical moments.

Grade  B

Grade B

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Fluffer Nutter ► 03 - Nice Spot - Another Fool

Andrew Cyrille - Lebroba

Label: ECM Records, 2018

Personnel – Andrew Cyrille: drums; Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet; Bill Frisell: guitar.


Andrew Cyrille, 78, is a veteran jazz drummer that doesn’t need any kind of pyrotechnics to stand out. Instead, he instinctively hits the different parts of the drum kit with disentangled discernment, almost in a search of the perfect minimalism to rhythmically drive a tune.

On this new outing, Lebroba, he is joined by two other giants of the modern jazz scene: trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and guitarist Bill Frisell. All three explorers contribute with compositions and there’s also an improvised number, “TGD”, signed by the collective. This piece unfolds in a crossing of spontaneous trumpet gusts, communicative distorted guitar, and refined percussive enchantment, all disturbed by electronic manipulation. Exhibiting an analogous posture in terms of abstraction of sound and unprompted communication is Wadada’s 17-minute “Turiya: Alice Coltrane/Meditations and Dreams: Love”. It’s definitely a ‘free’, changeable, and unpredictable journey. Whether with melancholy or frisson, the trumpeter is constantly seeking new avenues to explore; conversely, Frisell’s incredible harmonic work sometimes melds with folk and blues melodies; whereas Cyrille's thoughtful tom-tom figures encompass a mix of wet and dry sounds. He’s definitely not a timekeeper but rather a time breaker and rhythm explorer.

The remaining trio of compositions is utterly melodic. Frisell’s “Worried Woman” is a charmer, displaying trumpet phrases echoed by guitar in a spiritual communion, while the drummer sounds magnificently offbeat as only the masters can do. It’s stunning how everything comes effortlessly into focus both rhythmically and melodically.

Cyrille’s 8-bar blues “Lebroba” has some melodic connotations with Mingus’ “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” and suggests a march, which the drummer never validates overtly. The luminescent muted trumpet of Wadada, who offers plenty of long notes, combines with Frisell’s witty comping to design poetic sketches. Following the same parameters, the closing piece, "Pretty Beauty", also a product of the drummer's mind, is a sheer delight - a rubato ballad infused by plaintive chords and poignant melodicism, almost channeling John Lennon’s “Imagine” in slow-mo and having Cyrille coloring it beautifully with brushes.

Cyrille already made history in jazz, but keeps enriching his discography with great recordings and marking the scene with his grandiose presence and availability. His collaborators here are equally outstanding.

Grade  A+

Grade A+

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Worried Woman ► 03 - Lebroba ► 05 - Pretty Beauty

Ran Blake / Christine Correa - Streaming

Label: Red Piano Records, 2018

Personnel: Ran Blake: piano; Christine Correa: voice.


Idiosyncratic veteran pianist Ran Blake is not only known for enjoying the freedom of playing alone but also for his fruitful collaborations with legitimate female singers such as Jeanne Lee, Dominique Eade, Sara Serpa, and Christine Correa. It is the latter who joins him on Streaming, an avant-garde album of mostly non-original Third Stream repertoire where piano and voice intersect in a privileged communication.

Blake exerts mordant clusters on Billie Holiday’s “Don’t Explain”, which takes the shape of a mysterious dream through spacious piano phrases and a hushed vocal candor. It’s a strong opening by the duo, whose tactile contingencies are increasingly pronounced on Ornette Coleman’s classic, “Lonely Woman”. Correa starts alone with a powerful Africa-inspired chant, followed by the rubato roams of the pianist. The transformation of the piece - dusky, erratic, deeply atmospheric - deserves admiration.

Without diverging too much from the jazz standard format, but offering plenty new things to be discovered, “Out Of This World” and “Bebopper” feel very accessible. The former is intuitively textured, allowing enough room to Correa’s remarkably controlled voice; the latter, swinging resolutely in an inexplicit way, has the pianist quoting the first notes of “Lullaby of Birdland” in his solo.

Unaccompanied, Blake presents three short variations on George Russell’s “Stratusphunk”, while Correa also claims a solo moment on “Wende”, probably Blake’s most known original.

Not without surprising us with a two-note piano pedal sustaining the expansive vocalization on “Ah, El Novio No Quere Dinero”, a lusty if static traditional Shephardic song, the duo closes out the album with “No More”, another composition intimately connected to Billie Holiday.

Blake, an unmatched genius in the art of deconstructing the obvious with trancelike dissonance, has in Correa a great accomplice in another work of inspired improvisational spontaneity.

Grade  B

Grade B

Favorite Tracks:
02 - Out Of This World ► 03 - Lonely Woman ► 04 – Stratusphunk I

Jerome Sabbagh / Greg Tuohey - No Filter

Label: Sunnyside Records, 2018

Personnel – Jerome Sabbagh: tenor saxophone; Greg Tuohey: electric guitar; Joe Martin: acoustic bass; Kush Abadey: drums.


French-born, New York-based saxophonist Jerome Sabbagh co-leads a new quartet with his longtime buddy and collaborator, guitarist Greg Tuohey. Both worked together in another quartet, Filpside, in which they teamed up with bassist Matt Penman and drummer Darren Beckett. However, for this new outing, the bandleaders are joined by bassist Joe Martin, a core member of Sabbagh’s quartet (together with Ben Monder and Ted Poor), and drummer Kush Abadey, a recent discovery.

No Filter, which was recorded in New York with no edits or overdubs, includes three compositions from Sabbagh and four from Tuohey. The journey is initiated with the former’s “Vicious”, where a relatable guitar ostinato is drawn from the power rock compendium, conveying a cinematic Mission-Impossible-like vibe. Moreover, eccentric guitar strokes are part of the comping as the saxophonist slides outside the diatonic scale without losing the nice melodic flow of the song. Whereas Tuohey discloses his jazz-rock technique, Abadey awaits the last section of the tune to improvise with brio.

A great harmonic treatment is given to Tuohey’s “Lurker”. The guitarist employs a slightly dirtier sound and delivers a personal statement enriched with motivic ideas. The atmosphere, which was built upon an amalgamation of post-bop and pop/rock, favors Sabbagh’s creative phrasing.

Possessing authentic compositional styles, the bandleaders have musical personalities that allow for an effective musical match. They are able to play with dynamism but are also proficient when cooking beautiful ballads. That is the case of Tuohey’s “No Road”, whose sweet contagious torpor invades and conquers with a strong lyrical sensibility. He totally changes posture on “Chaos Reigns”, a shifting composition that starts by waltzing discreetly with a feeling of near sadness, passing through an unconfined yet minimalistic atmosphere marked by saxophone cries, and ultimately, as the title suggests, delving into a more chaotic urbanity. That's when the electric guitar infuses gripping tension and a distorted toxicity.

Cotton” and “You Are On My Mind” are contrasting Sabbagh compositions. The former is a snail-paced lament stimulated by dark mallet propulsions, whereas the latter displays a joy-filled melody in a bright, saturated post-bop fashion.

No Filter provides an engaging experience filled with alluring melodies and harmonies and dexterous transitions. It translates into inspired, grown-up music with a fresh taste of youth.

Grade  A-

Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Vicious ► 03 - No Road ► 04 - Chaos Reigns

Ben Wendel - The Seasons

Label: Motema, 2018

Personnel – Ben Wendel: saxophone, bassoon; Aaron Parks: piano; Gilad Hekselman: guitar; Matt Brewer: bass; Eric Harland: drums.


The Seasons is not a new conceptual project by saxophonist and bassoonist Ben Wendel, a founding member of the eclectic band Kneebody, whose expressive tone jabs as much as bewitches. Still, this is the first time he presents it on record. For that purpose, he gathered a remarkable quintet harmonically driven by pianist Aaron Parks and guitarist Gilad Hekselman, and all propelled by the rhythmic bond of bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Eric Harland. In 2015, the saxophonist released 12 music videos on YouTube, corresponding to 12 original chamber duets that aimed to describe each month. The idea, introduced by classical Russian composer Tchaikovsky in 1876, gains now contemporary proportions with Wendel’s fluid stream of songs.

On “January”, despite the wintry connotations that the month implies, there’s a total absence of coldness in its ternary fluency due to the ardent way Hekselman and Wendel conduct their improvisations. Instead, that wintry torpor is left to “August”, a grey ballad that becomes darker and agitated as it moves forward.

Wendel is abrasively lyric in his solos, attaining climatic heights on pieces such as “February”, a confluence of vibrant post-bop and robust rock with a hint of Brazilian rhythmic flair; and “June”, a beautifully layered story influenced by post-bop and classical music, where the beseeching tenor of the bandleader reaches an extensive timbral range. The urbane pianism of Parks is not only noticeable on this latter tune, but also on “July”, a friendly and enthusiastic pop-meets-folk number melodically driven by bassoon; “September”, an exuberant funk rock title whereupon he excels in the art of comping and improvisation; and on the soulful “November”, where an indestructible pop/rock energy serves extemporizations by Brewer and Hekselman.

The guitarist, who shares an undeniable musical chemistry with the saxophonist, infuses contrasting folk textures on the Metheny-esque “May”, where the suggested crossover jazz takes the shape of a blues. Guitar and bassoon are complimentary forces on the effect-drenched “December”, a more contemplative piece that draws both mystery and enchantment. Harland’s drumming feels loosened here as required, yet, he demonstrates to have a conversational side when proclaimed sole accompanist of Wendel on the introductory section of “April”.

March” takes us to cozy places with its rich harmonies and deliberate bossa nova accent, whereas “October” carries a primordially Afro touch besides the electro surface that confers it a modernly trippy aspect.

The Seasons is a wonderful, multi-colored work, a sagacious demonstration of Wendel's capacities. It’s an album that, deservedly, will be among the natural choices for best of the year.

Grade  A+

Grade A+

Favorite Tracks:
01 - January ► 02 - February ► 06 - June

Rudy Royston - Flatbed Buggy

Label: Greenleaf Music, 2018

Personnel - John Ellis: bass clarinet, saxophone; Gary Versace: accordion; Hank Roberts: cello; Joe Martin: bass; Rudy Royston: drums.


Rudy Royston is a proficient American drummer who prefers an exemplary collective sound to any sort of ego demonstration. And that’s a rule he follows on Flatbed Buggy, the follow-up to the acclaimed Rise of Orion, a trio session recorded in 2006 with saxophonist Jon Irabagon and bassist Yasushi Nakamura.

For this new outing, dedicated to time and journeys, Royston assures a completely different sound aesthetic. Quirky chamber-folk sounds are brought by his estimable new quintet, featuring John Ellis on bass clarinet and sporadically on saxophone, Gary Versace on accordion, Hank Roberts on cello, and Joe Martin on bass.

Soul Train”, the opening track, soon authenticates the tendency for melody-centric compositions with the accordion giving it a special, flattering touch. Behind the drum kit, the bandleader maintains a sober pose during improvisations from bass clarinet, which reinforces nostalgia, and double bass, actuating within a dark chamber vamp. However, he sets out an Afro groove that is permeated by the happy folk scintillations of Roberts’ bowed cello.

The title track stands at that threshold that separates old sepia memories and the more colorful hues of contemporary days. Versace’s comping becomes reggae-ish while Ellis improvises, and Royston enters in a sort of marching pulse without embracing it deliberately.

Although related thematically, “boy…Man” and “girl…Woman” are contrasting in the mood. The former is a spiritual with shifting tempos, luminous harmonic progressions, and empathetic melody, whereas the latter is a slow, bucolic exercise with minimalistic drum work and an acquiescent solo by Versace. Both songs rock for a little bit in its respective final sections and then fade out. The accordionist introduces a fine pop melody on “Hourglass” and is promptly supported by the rest of the crew. But the tune’s final destiny is the blues, here exposed with devotion and some playfulness as well.

Royston and his partners showed they are not averse to swing; and if they do it gently on “Twirler”, then they step up the tempo for the bop-infused “Bobblehead”, in which the drummer brings something more than just simple accompaniment. Another great swinging incursion happens on “The Roadside Flowers”, probably the most attractive piece on the album, with Ellis discharging large amounts of postbop energy on tenor sax. Royston penned this skillfully arranged composition with vivid past memories of a drive through wide-open space in Texas.

The journey ends with “I Guess It’s Time to Go”, the last of four interludes scattered through the album, which marks an unusual conclusion to an inviting set of songs.
More convex than angular, the jazz profiled by Royston has a strong empathic essence and transmits an exceptional, personal charisma.

Grade  A-

Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Soul Train ► 04 - boy…Man ► 09 - The Roadside Flowers

Scott Routenberg Trio - Supermoon

Label: Summit Records, 2018

Personnel - Scott Routenberg: piano; Nick Tucker: acoustic bass; Cassius Goens III: drums.


Supermoon, the second outing of the trio led by under-the-radar pianist Scott Routenberg, is the follow up to last year’s Every End Is A Beginning. As happened in the previous CD, the new work released on Summit Records, is exclusively composed of originals and features Nick Tucker on acoustic bass and Cassius Goens III on drums.

Routenberg, who was not averse to genre explorations in an initial phase of his career (Jazztronicus), provides us with a fine collection of jazz songs inspired by his two sons, Julian and Florian.

Opening the program is the title track, which dissipates all types of positive energy. The tune was written for Florian, who was born on the evening of the supermoon, and conveys the liveliness of a child in the form of a colorful rock-based song with boiling drum fills, grooving bass lines, as well as a burning piano ride.

Things start graciously feathery on “Everything Is Alive”. Still, the rhythmic and harmonic textures stiffen up for Routenberg’s eloquent solo, eventually returning to the initial quasi-classical docility.

Florian’s obsession with trains is illustrated on “Locomotivity”, an uptempo burner in six with a subtle Latin feel and boppish motifs to be enjoyed. This one was co-written by Routenberg and his wife Sofia Kraevska.

Both “Quiet Times”, a melodious reflection requiring cohesive interplay, and the closing “Little Song”, a tranquil ballad in which the trio finds room to breathe, have soft, warm-hearted natures, in opposition to the playful “Bebop Baby”, whose swinging verve is pelted with Bird-inspired lines and a rhythmic bounce similar to Benny Green. Tucker also enchants while discoursing in sympathy with Gershwin’s classic rhythm changes.

Supermoon is a product of Routenberg’s parental and musical inspirations, but also a work of unified expression from a charismatic trio that shows enough attributes to provide us with substantial moments of gratification.

Grade  B

Grade B

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Supermoon ► 02 - Everything Is Alive ► 08 - Quiet Time