Kris Davis - Duopoly


Kris Davis: piano; Bill Frisell: guitar; Julian Lage: guitar; Tim Berne: alto saxophone; Don Byron: clarinet; Craig Taborn: piano; Angelica Sanchez: piano; Billy Drummond: drums; Marcus Gilmore: drums.

Kris Davis is a forward-thinker Canadian pianist and composer who has combined innovation and sophistication in the modern music universe. Displaying an uncompromising style and unique musical trademarks, Davis is a confessed adept of exquisite linear notes in detriment of traditional chords.
Her new album, Duopoly, is a fantastic follow-up to the well-accepted Save Your Breath, gathering eight irreverent improvisers – guitarists Bill Frisell and Julian Lage, pianists Craig Taborn and Angelica Sanchez, drummers Billy Drummond and Marcus Gilmore, and reedists Tim Berne and Don Byron - with whom she plays two duets each. The tracks' alignment obeys to some rules, in a sort of mirror distribution. The first eight pieces are written material while the last eight, adopting the names of the guest musicians as titles, are totally improvised.

The guitarists are responsible for the most enjoyable pieces. In “Prairie Eyes”, the unmatchable Bill Frisell knocks us out with his typical folk-jazz approach. His alluring sound comes from the eccentricity of the chords and the incredible choice of notes. Davis’ flowing left-hand ostinato is an essential key for this cinematic merge of mystery and beauty. And what a dark lyricism they create!
Collaborating with the pianist for the very first time, Julian Lage excels in a different way, playing his acoustic 1939 Martin in “Surf Curl”. He does it with mastery and intelligence, taking advantage of Davis’ rhythmic stimulus.

Two pianos being played simultaneously can be weird and we have that sensation from time to time when listening to the creative soundscapes of the nebulous “Fox Fire”, which makes us ask the question: are Davis and Taborn twin pianists? Not really, but their lines of vision are full of intersections. “Beneath the Leaves”, composed and co-performed by Angelica Sanchez, compresses classical, avant-garde, and flamenco sketches into the same recipient.

Now, the drummers! Billy Drummond is featured in “Eronel”, a cool piece that Monk co-wrote. Responsive and classy, Drummond manages to find the best way to accompany Davis’ textural rambles. 
Eric McPherson’s skittish drumming creates unrestrained steam in “Dig & Dump”.

Pushing the limits of compulsiveness, “Trip Dance for Tim” invites the irreverence of Tim Berne, who neither curbs nor shies away when manipulating extended techniques to thrill. The almost unrecognizable rendition of Duke Ellington’s “Prelude to a Kiss”, apart from some dispersion, infuses an attractive romanticism.
From the improvised pieces, which still follow a logic structure, I was particularly impressed with “Tim Berne” and “Julian Lage”.

The 16 tracks of Duopoly, probing action-reaction reflexes, certificate Kris Davis as one of the most brilliant pianists around. Due to an elastic approach, her textural densities enlarge and shrink in favor of the circumstances. We’re before a charming, present-day jazz of elevated artistry.

         Grade  A

         Grade A

Favorite Tracks: 
01 – Prairie Eyes ► 02 – Surf Curl ► 05 – Eronel

Steven Kirby - Illuminations

Steven Kirby: guitars; Bill Vint: saxophone, flute; Aubrey Johnson: vocals; John Funkhouser: piano, keyboards; Mark Shilansky: piano; Steve Hunt: keyboards; Greg Loughman: acoustic bass; Ed Lucie: electric bass; Mike Connors: drums, percussion.


Steven Kirby, a guitarist of exemplary technical quality and thorough compositional skills, is not obsessed with taking the center stage in Illuminations, his third album as a leader. He rather works hard for the consistency of the whole, a goal accomplished with distinction.
Not so prolific as we wanted to (his previous recording was North Light, dated from 2003), Kirby had the chance to record with Chris Potter, Scott Colley, Bruce Barth, Matt Wilson, Harvie S and George Schuller. Since 2006, he has been dedicated to teaching at several locations, including the Berklee College of Music, where he is an associate professor. 

Parabola”, the opening track, is a mirror of what I’ve just stated. Considerably complex melodies, validly reinforced by Aubrey Johnson’s warm voice, are arranged over attractive harmonic progressions. They take us in the direction of mesmerizing improvisations delivered by the adroit saxophonist Bill Vint, the bandleader himself, who boasts a finely reverbed sound, and the pianist John Funkhouser.
The widely known “I Hear a Rhapsody” doesn’t abstain from swinging cadences, but gains a fresh vigor through breathtaking improvisations. 
A tenuous sunray is emitted during the first minute of the title track, right before shifting into a contagious Brazilian rhythm intensely mounted by guitar, bass and drums. Johnson’s voice works as another valuable instrument while Pat Metheny’s influence can be detected in Kirby’s airy sound and soloing approach.

Beautiful Rain”, set in the form of a broody lament, can make you shed some tears through the lyrical, soft sounds drawn by Kirby, who beautifully plays the acoustic guitar. He’s well complemented by Loughman’s melodiousness and Connor’s effective brushwork. Also enriched by acoustic guitar sonorities are “A Luz das Estrelas” (meaning: the light of the stars), a modern classical piece played solo, and “Returning”, where we can hear a hint of Flamenco attached to the guitarist’s phrasing. 
Lake of Stars”, a 7/4-meter journey, pulsates with a comforting melodic-harmonic cohesiveness, anchoring in a sort of collective liberation by the end. It differs in tempo and mood from “May the 4ths Be With You”, a swinging 6/8 maneuver bolstered by an enchanting bop-based melody and eloquent solos by Vint and Kirby. The latter resorts to an ingrained distortion to vent his improvisational creativity.

Illuminations is Kirby’s best work so far and lives up to the hype. 
There are diversified chops and interesting approaches throughout the recording to make us tuned from start to finish while continuing to experience the light it has to offer.

         Grade  A-

         Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 – Parabola ► 04 – Beautiful Rain ► 07 – May the 4ths Be With You

Francisco Mela - Fe

Leo Genovese: piano; Gerald Cannon: bass; Francisco Mela: drums. Guest - John Scofield: guitar.


Francisco Mela, an invigorating Cuban-born drummer, percussionist, and composer, releases a powerful new album entitled Fe (faith), which works as a tribute to his late parents and a way of gratefulness toward the masters who believed in his capacities. He recorded it with his Crash Trio, which includes the Argentine pianist Leo Genovese and the American bassist Gerald Cannon. The master guitarist John Scofield appears on two tracks as a very special guest.

Ancestros”, a breathtaking tune initiated in rubato and delivered at a complex tempo, makes us alert and features the inventively dazzling touches of Genovese, deeply immersed in the robust web created by the elastic rhythm section that paddles toward a grandiose finale. Here, one can have a glimpse of Chick Corea’s initial phase.
Mr. Alden” is a frolicking and unstoppable swinging piece that shows how Genovese can sound dashingly percussive, resorting to the use of several octaves to punch us in the face. The gentle beginning of “Don McCoy”, a richly textured tune that salutes McCoy Tyner, interrupts this animation. It precedes the title track, which marks the first intervention of Mr. Scofield, whose jubilant tones and vibes change the mood presented until then. The guitarist returns, later on, to unchain another sizzling improvisation in “Just Now”, a bop-influenced exercise that also features brilliant musical expressions by Genovese and Cannon.

Romeo and Juliette” is a ballad that conveys the same dramatic sentiment as the Shakespeare’s novel characters that served it as inspiration.
Mela’s songcraft can be appreciated in the flowing “Reflections” is peppered by the percussive abilities of the bandleader, while “Lovano’s Mood” honors the legendary saxophonist Joe Lovano with resoluteness.  
Stepping on avant-garde territory, “Curcuros” brings Mela’s restless drumming below a repetitive piano idea. The climactic tones are increased when Cannon starts to bow his upright bass. The album comes to a conclusion with “Open Dance”, a thriving piece adorned with Brubeck-ish melodies and bouncing improvisations.

Each track warrants its place on this edgy album, arising different emotions in accordance with the mood embraced. High quality is assured, and Mela’s faith is also our faith that he can be definitely validated as one of the most valuable drummers of the contemporary jazz.

          Grade  A

          Grade A

Favorite Tracks:
01 – Ancestros ► 07 – Curcuros ► 09 – Just Now

Aziza - Aziza (Holland / Potter / Loueke / Harland)

Dave Holland: bass; Chris Potter: tenor and soprano saxophones; Lionel Loueke: guitar; Eric Harland: drums.


Aziza is the name of a brand new jazz supergroup of snappy influence that includes the bassist Dave Holland, the guitarist Lionel Loueke, the saxophonist Chris Potter, and the drummer Eric Harland.
Their self-entitled debut album is a remarkable artistic pearl that exhales both collective creativity and crisp individual improvisations.

It opens with the groundbreaking funk of “Aziza Dance”, a semi-robotic jubilation that features Potter and Loueke in sharp unisons and affirmative solos on top of the groove laid down by the grandiose rhythm section. The inventive guitarist, and author of this piece, whose quirky approach never lets me down, stands out by improvising with aplomb and originality while using a mesmerizing guitar effect.
The predominance of African and exotic rhythms are observable throughout the record. “Summer 15” is emulsified by Potter’s soprano during the initial melody and then tenor for the final theme; “Finding the Light” is peppered by the saxophonist’s in/out concept and Harland’s intelligent rhythm patterns; in “Sleepless Night”, Loueke shows his enormous influence and versatility, singing and opting for guitar distortion to exchange compelling phrases with Potter.

Even if the title suggests a walking bass, don’t expect to find it in “Walkin’ the Walk”, which thrives with an effervescent groove that obeys to a complex meter. Holland, simultaneously leader and team player, clarifies why he is the most desirable bassist on Earth. Potter and Harland channel their energy to provide unflagging verve.
In “Aquila”, the quartet changes the tempo, passing from a 6/8 to a 4/4 in the final section. Most of its flavor comes from Loueke’s aromatic comping. 
An alternative approach was used in the rhythmically acrobatic, “Blue Sufi”, which grabs influence from rock music while occasionally scatters eastern innuendos translated by Potter’s steadfast phrasing.

Using the jazz language as an intermediary, Aziza celebrates different cultures through a consummate liaison. The brilliance of these top musicians translates into a rewarding, nimble album. Indubitably, this is one of the year's best.

Favorite Tracks:
01 – Aziza Dance ► 03 – Walkin’ the Walk ► 08 – Sleepless Night

Joshua Redman & Brad Mehldau - Nearness

Joshua Redman: saxophone; Brad Mehldau: piano.


Only wonderful things could happen when the saxophonist Joshua Redman and the pianist Brad Mehldau, two longtime friends and creative minds of equal caliber, joined forces and let it out what their musical souls contain.
Recorded live during their European tour, Nearness touches an absolute emotional richness and its six duets - three originals and three covers - are to be cherished as real treasures.

This memorable celebration starts with Parker’s “Ornithology”, here transformed into a stylish neo-bop stretch that brings the flavors of the past mixed with a contemporary vision presented in the form of a superior musical wit. 
The mood changes with Mehldau’s “Always August”, a beautiful tune that went straight under my skin, aiming to the heart with all its influential assertiveness. Heavenly piano chords carry a vital, soulful pulse from which is impossible to stay indifferent. Redman is an unconditional giver, fulfilling the spaces with clever melodic delineations while Mehldau is better than ever, lighting up a consistent fire that lasts from the first to the last minute.

If still among us, Thelonious Monk would be certainly grateful for the fantastic rendition of his tune “In Walked Bud”, which boasts distinguished variations. Sporadically, the improvisers throw in fragments of the original’s main theme, permitting us to recognize the tune without falling in the obvious. Mehldau’s piano work attains a perfect balance through the inspiring and complementary sounds extracted by his left and right hands. By the end, the duo embarks on trades of eight, and then four bars, letting me more and more speechless with the coherence of their conversations.

The melancholy insinuated in the title “Mehlsancholy Mode” is only true until a certain point. In truth, I felt more alert than ever, in an attempt to absorb every idea suggested and the prompt responses that arrived from the other side.
Following “The Nearness of You”, a renowned jazz standard played with tasteful intimacy, we have Mehldau’s “Old West” whose pop music connotations are totally appropriate to conclude. This tune insists in cyclic harmonic sequences and unobscured melodies, evolving to irresistible solos that sweep the sky, whether as soft breezes or controlled wind gusts.

Mature, freeing and sophisticated, Nearness is a colossal record that will spin for a long time around here. I hope you can also feel this vibrant nearness that Redman and Mehldau are now sharing with the world.

Favorite Tracks:
02 – Always August ► 03 – In Walked Bud ► 06 – Old West

Ron Stabinsky - Free For One

Ron Stabinsky: piano.

Ron Stabinsky - Free For One

Ron Stabinsky, a pianist from Pennsylvania who likes to extemporize, releases his debut solo album Free for One on Hot Cup Records.
Adaptable, Stabinsky has been highly influential in successful projects such as Most Other People Do the Killing and Peter Evans Quintet.
For this recording, he comes equipped with impeccable technique and artistic power, presenting eight solo piano improvisations from 2015.

When the notes of “…After It’s Over” started to echo, I had the impression I would be taken somewhere surrounded by magic and mystery. The pianist’s articulated, and somewhat somber textures came to life from a nuanced blend of neo-classical and avant-jazz.
The cathartic “31” goes right to the gut. The pianist’s rapid right-hand attacks are counterpointed with the lightness of the low notes on his left hand. Everything is bundled in complexity. 
“Viral Infection” moves between Cecil Taylor and Monk, unveiling rhythmic ideas that eventually surprise. It differs from the puzzling four-minute meditation “Gone Song”, as well as from “For Reel”, the avant-garde twin of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee”.

The longest track of the record is “Not Long Now/Long Now”, which presents a multitude of variations and moods after taking us to the imposing “Rapture”, a blow of animated, and sometimes disperse piano chops.
The unagitated “Once, But Again” is the recording’s last piece and the most accessible one, detaching from any complexity and diving deliberately into agreeable jazzy waters. 

Adopting a freewheeling attitude, Free to One is limited to audiences whose ears are receptive to infinite explorations. If you’re an explorer yourself, you’ll certainly find something to admire throughout these very personal divagations.

Favorite Tracks: 
01 – … After It’s Over ► 03 – Viral Infection ► 08 – Once, But Again

Adam O'Farrill - Stranger Days

Adam O’Farrill: trumpet; Chad Lefkowitz-Brown: tenor saxophone; Walter Stinson: bass; Zack O’Farrill: drums.

Adam O'Farrill - Stranger Days

Young and extremely talented, Adam O’Farrill is a modern jazz trumpeter from Brooklyn, NY, who comes from a lineage of marvelous musicians. His father, the widely known Cuban pianist, composer, and bandleader Arturo O’Farrill, has all the reasons to be proud of a son who, at the age of 21, has collaborated with Rudresh Mahanthappa, Vijay Iyer, Ambrose Akinmusire, Joe Lovano, and more recently Stephan Crump’s Rhombal.
For this recording, Adam had the company of his brother Zack on drums, Chad Lefkowitz-Brown on tenor saxophone, and Walter Stinson on bass.

Outlined for quartet, Stranger Days was pretty much influenced by film and theater. Each tune attempts to paint a scene whose variable natures are somehow connected.
Sturdy and concise, the 6/8 “A & R Italian Eatery” relies on precise unisons and simultaneous improvisations, while the rhythm section flows through a fleet-footed bass and elegant brush drumming. 
“The Stranger”, inspired by Albert Camus’ novel, is one of the strongest tunes of the record, starting with Adam’s intro and evolving into a beautifully melancholic march that alternates with passionate swinging passages. The effective improvisations succeed one another with color and feeling.
Highlighting Stinson's basswork and Zack's dry drumming, “Survival Instincts” appears as an awkwardly disconcerting dance that gets epic contours. It opposes to the simplicity of movements revealed in Stinson’s “Why She Loves”. 

“Alligator Got the Blues” is another high point, showcasing a leisurely-paced introductory section before exploring alternative beats with a strong foundation in rock music. The mood is animated and the horns’ feast is no less vibrating.
Melodic repetition seems to have a purpose in “Forget Everything You’ve Learned at School”, contrasting with “Building the Metamorphosen Bridge”, which deals with a curious rhythmic complexity as it privileges interaction. “The Cows and Their Farm Walt”, stepping on a scenic ground, precedes the album's last tune, “Lower Brooklyn Botanical Union”, a contrafact of Billy Strayhorn’s “UMMG” that mixes bop and post-bop elements.

In this wonderful debut as a bandleader, Adam O’Farrill shows off all his qualities both in composition and arrangements. Because modernity in jazz is not always synonym of weird sounds, Stranger Days can be simply described as accessible freshness for our ears.

Favorite Tracks: 
01 – A & R Italian Eatery ► 02 – The Stranger ► 05 – Alligator Got the Blues

Stephan Crump - Stephan Crump's Rhombal

Ellery Eskelin: tenor saxophone; Adam O’Farrill: trumpet; Stephan Crump: acoustic bass; Tyshawn Sorey: drums.

Stephan Crump - Rhombal

Stephan Crump, an extraordinary bassist/composer of great sophistication, puts together a brand new quartet whose freshness, robustness and creativity are to be praised. 
Rhombal showcases a two-horn frontline composed of Ellery Eskellin on tenor saxophone and Adam O’Farrill on trumpet, and a persuasive rhythm section with Crump and the drummer Tyshawn Sorey. They integrate funky grooves and avant-garde artistry in a fascinating way.

“NoD for Nelson” makes a strong entrance. The initial vamp boasts a gracing urban groove that consistently supports the reedists’ work, whether playing in unison or individually. If the ingenious young O’Farrill stands out on this opening tune, the astute Eskelin is impressive in “Grovi”, which gently flows with its laid-back posture and luscious melodies. It also shows a pretty active Sorey, who enriches the scenario with delicious and insightful percussive details.
With the frolicking “Skippaningam”, it’s time for a slice of hard-bop at full speed, all enveloped in a swinging mood that eventually shifts to more exploratory territories during the sax-trumpet improvisational rite. 
“Loose Bay” captivates through enigmatic undertones. Crump’s occasional bowed bass intensifies the atmosphere while O’Farrill and Eskelin deliver beseeching and steadfast solos, respectively.

A danceable funk-rock returns with “Eskima Dream”, vigorously delineated by the obliging rhythm section and adorned with terrific horn unisons and counterpoints. 
“How Close Are You”, a dainty ballad of complacent melody, opposes to the confidently swinging “Tschi”, just before we get to “Birdwhistle”, the only tune exceeding ten minutes long, which levitates with a sort of hiccupped melodic phrases. Crump’s fluidity and tempo, together with Sorey’s combustible drumming, weave an exciting foundation for the improvisers. Throughout Eskelin’s raucous solo, the tune plunges into avant-garde territory before returning to the groovy head.
The enchanting “Pulling Pillars-Outro for Patty” closes the cycle in a well-marked 6/8 time signature.

Expeditious yet never aggressive, Rhombal makes its moves with perseverance, unity, and self-expression. This collective accomplishment is already in the competition for the grooviest album of the year.

Favorite Tracks: 
01 – NoD for Nelson ► 02 – Grovi ► 08 – Birdwhistle

Anna Webber's Simple Trio - Binary

Anna Webber: tenor saxophone, flute; Matt Mitchell: piano; John Hollenbeck: drums.

Anna Webber Simple Trio - Binary

Anna Webber, a genuine Brooklynite reedist, reconvenes the Simple Trio - Matt Mitchell on piano and John Hollenbeck on drums - and releases Binary, her second album of originals on Skirl Records.
Focusing on a strong collective improvisational concept, Webber and her valuable peers often exercise in tension and release, building up intense musical moments and avoiding conventional approaches or structures.

A provocative, dark-hued exaltation can be felt in “Impulse Purchase”, a tune that constantly balances the light and the heavy, the thoughtful and the impulsive, the contemplation and the action. It starts with Webber’s serpentine saxophone phrases, which are joined by the broken comping of Mitchell, a master in the harmonic deconstruction, and the urgent vitality of Hollenbeck’s exciting drumming. The trio gradually galvanizes energies toward the end.
In “Underhelmed”, Hollenbeck finds his way into a muscled rock, while Mitchell remains devoted to his philosophy of generating breathtaking harmonic passages brewed up together with giddy rhythmic intentions. Webber, in turn, holds onto a state of intense melodic-rhythmic creativity. The tune’s energy switches on our body movements for a spasmodic dance.

The compositional nature of “Tug O’ War” and the choice of flute, calls Henry Threadgill to the scenario. Yet, the reinforcement of the iterative musical ideas translated into an organic compound of sounds is reminiscent of Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet’s explorations. After the storm, the trio slows down for a sober finale.
The title track, alternating between mournful and effusive, starts to be shaped with the help of Mitchell’s melancholic piano textures, the dark timbre of Webber’s beseeching saxophone, and Hollenbeck’s alert brushwork. The inherent tension initially created is widely expanded as the tune moves forward, bringing us short, and often surprising, rhythmical transmutations and mood discrepancies.
Scattered throughout the record, six energizing short tracks named “Rectangle” share similar melodic patterns, cyclic harmonic progressions, and relentless rhythms.

A fervent freedom can be felt in Binary, an avant-garde vessel that navigates among ripe ideas and pugnacious sounds.

Favorite Tracks: 
02 – Impulse Purchase ► 05 – Underhelmed ► 08 – Binary

Matthew Shipp Trio - Piano Song

Matthew Shipp: piano; Michael Bisio: bass; Newman Taylor Baker: drums.

Matthew Shipp Trio - Piano Song

JazzTrail had the privilege to listen to Matthew Shipp’s luminous new album, Piano Song, to be released on January 27, 2017. Recorded in trio with the bassist Michael Bisio and the drummer Newman Taylor Baker, this will be Matthew’s last record on the Thirsty Ear label. These groundbreaking musicians display a tremendous sound as they continue to embrace hypnotic textures within an idiosyncratic universe.

Shipp’s elegant solo piano captivates in the solemn “Links”, the opening tune, while “Cosmopolitan” brings Miles Davis’ “So What” to mind through Bisio’s evocative bass line and Shipp’s suggestive melodies. Both the bassist and the drummer had the opportunity to express themselves individually here, as well as in the piano-less “Scrambled Brain”. 
Baker’s swell hip-hop beats stand out in the memorable “Flying Carpet”, which erupts gradually into an upheaval as Shipp increases tension through his vehement playing. A similar impetuosity is put on the kinetic “Gravity Point”, a loud, rhythmic extravaganza that may take your feet off the ground.

Functional minimalism is associated with titles such as “Blue Desert” and “Void on”, opposing to “Mind Space”, which invites us to another hallucinating trip into the abstract. 
Even distinct in nature, the exclamatory “Micro Wave” and the wandering “The Nature of”, have motivational energies in common. The former, blossoming as an extravagant march filled with complex melodic replicas, while the latter boasts a piano soliloquy that fills our ears with great, unobvious melodies. 
The album culminates with the title track, in which a solo piano gently pushes us into an imperturbable serenity.
Matthew Shipp Trio will open the New Year spreading magical moments of grandiose musicality. 
Piano Song is an album to get lost in; a bottomless well of impactful creativity and divine inspiration that consolidates Shipp as a forward-thinker with a radiant, unique voice. 

Favorite Tracks: 
02 – Cosmopolitan ► 05 – Flying Carpet ► 07 – Micro Wave

Mark Dresser Seven - Sedimental You

Nicole Mitchell: soprano and alto flutes; Marty Ehrlich: clarinet and bass clarinet; David Morales Boroff: violin; Michael Dessen: trombone; Joshua White: piano; Mark Dresser: bass; Jim Black: drums.

Mark Dresser - Sedimental You

The experienced American bassist Mark Dresser, who has worked in the past with modern-creative luminaries such as Anthony Braxton, Tim Berne, and John Zorn, continues serving up astounding original music. “Sedimental You” only reinforces the idea that he's a giant of the avant-garde jazz scene.

To start, let me tell you that the accentuated and contrapuntal “Hobby Lobby Horse” is a magnificently orchestrated overture that balances stamina and charm through its unconventional grooves, tortuous tempos, regular disruptions, and witty improvisations. Every peer had the opportunity to speak their souls, stirring different emotions and generating an intricate complexity that is more enriching than puzzling.
Everything stated above is brought to the title track, an abstract ten-minute rendition of the jazz standard “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You”, here infused with metric modulations and a myriad of odd sounds. 
The expressionistic trades of the politically-charged “TrumpinPutinStoopin” first gains foundation through the intelligible textures created by piano, bass, and drums. At some point, the texture thickens as the horns and strings intensify its manifestations, adding extra color.

Ravishingly beautiful is “Will Well”, a melodic incantation dedicated to the respected 80-year-old trombonist Roswell Rudd, which starts as an ensemble chant before taking the form of a spiritual prayer led by piano and bowed bass. The trio's devotional harmonic cycles extract the best of Ehrlich and Mitchell, whose controlled discourses are followed by the young Boroff's more outgoing approach on the violin. All is gratifying and compatible. 
Inspired by memories of the late singer Alexandra Montana, “I Can Smell You Listening” spreads scented chamber sounds over the air while working as a receptacle for eloquent improvisations and rhythmic disturbances.
In turn, Dresser sought inspiration in darker places for “Newton Char” - the mass shootings in Newton and Charleston. This composition, engulfed in unpredictable clouds, boasts perplexing solos by all the magnificent seven, under a propelling bass-drums groove. This dashing posture heavily contrasts with the closing tune, a short chamber piece named “Two Handfuls of Peace”, composed in honor of the saxophonist, pianist, and composer Daniel Jackson.

Incredibly adventurous without discarding the rigor of the written material, this is Dresser’s best record in years. Indeed, it's a thought-provoking body of work.

Favorite Tracks: 
01 – Hobby Lobby Horse ► 04 – Will Well (for Roswell Rudd) ► 06 – Newton Char

Mehmet Ali Sanlikol & Whatsnext? - Resolution

Lineup features: Mehmet Ali Sanlikol: conduction and multiple instruments; Dave Liebman: soprano saxophone; Anat Cohen: clarinet; Tiger Okoshi: trumpet: Antonio Sanchez: drums.

Mehmet Ali Sanlikol - Resolution

Turkish-born Mehmet Ali Sanlikol, a Grammy-nominated composer, vocalist, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist based in Boston, has been getting wide recognition through his palpitating fusion of modern jazz and world music. 
His new installment with the project Whatsnext?, whose new additions include Dave Liebman, Anat Cohen, Tiger Okoshi and Antonio Sanchez, is now out and fully grown to conquer more listeners. 
Sanlikol demonstrates his true value when he puts together a 13-piece jazz combo and a 17-piece big band, and makes them sound amazingly articulated.

The opening title, “The Turkish 2nd Line”, is a glorious concoction that besides Ottoman influences has the New Orleans scene in perspective. Driven by electric guitar and embellished by the horns, it makes transitions into funk, reggae, and a pleasurable swinging jazz that serves as a vehicle for Anat Cohen’s dashing improvisation on clarinet.
 “A Dream in Nihavend” is an appealing vocalized lament conducted by sparse piano harmonies, but Sanlikol’s sublime compositional character and stylistic vision are much more in evidence throughout the three-part “Concerto for Soprano Saxophone and Jazz Orchestra in C”. The first part, “Rebellion” is a medium funk shuffle that expands its horizons by stepping onto a catchy crossover jazz; the part two, entitled “Reminiscence”, is a soulful ballad that flows serenely at the sound of Mr. Liebman’s delightful melodies while occasionally exhibiting guitar/piano fillings; and the part three runs up-tempo and swings with aplomb.
In turn, “The Niyaz Suite” is subdivided into two movements. The first savors the eminent Antonio Sanchez exhibiting his consistent drumming skills, just before a floating dance of woodwinds takes the lead. The stimulating second one works as a showcase for the trumpeter Tiger Okoshi who draws a portentous solo.

Filled with intoxicating driving pulses, exotic timbres, and film noir music influences, these nine eclectic and well-orchestrated pieces are Resolution, a powerful and urgent album.

Favorite Tracks: 
01 – The Turkish 2nd Line ► 05 – Reminiscence ► 08 – An Afro Semai

Guillermo Klein - Los Guachos V

Guillermo Klein: piano; Bill McHenry: tenor saxophone; Chris Cheek: soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones; Miguel Zenon: alto saxophone; Diego Urcola: trumpet, trombone; Richard Nant: trumpet; Sandro Tomasi: trombone; Taylor Haskins: trumpet; Ben Monder: guitar; Fernando Huergo: electric bass; Jeff Ballard: drums.

Argentine-born Guillermo Klein is not merely a refined pianist but also a magnificent composer, arranger, and bandleader. In addition to these talents, he only hires musicians of superior quality to be part of his projects.
Los Guachos, an 11-piece ensemble project that has been active since 1999, has its fifth album released on the Sunnyside Records. 
Los Guachos V” interweaves postmodern jazz and modern classical, but Klein also throws in elements of Argentinean folklore to pepper his well-seasoned dishes.
The album, relying on the concepts of symmetries, patterns, and variations, is composed of two suites and two loose ballads that completely fit in the process.
Klein initiates this journey with the sophisticated three-piece suite entitled Indiana, which includes a hopping and uncompromising interpretation of Miles Davis’ “Donna Lee”, in an arrangement populated with profuse rhythmic counterpoints and featuring Chris Cheek on the baritone sax.
The following 7 tunes are portions of the rich Suite Jazmin whose symmetric ends are precisely entitled “Symmetry I” and “Symmetry II”. In the middle, we are pushed into memorable places with “Si No Sabes”, in its variations of 4/4 and in 9/8, and two 'mirrors' of Klein’s previous compositions: the hypnotically languid “Burrito Hill”, first recorded for the album “Carrera”, and the stylized “Human Feel”, a piece retrieved from “Bienestan”, an album co-led by Klein and Aaron Goldberg. Only Ben Monder and Diego Urcola had green light to improvise. All the rest is pure teamwork.
The album closes with two resplendent ballads - Andrew Hill’s little-known “Ashes” is a 19-bar form that saw the daylight in Greg Osby’s “Invisible Hands”, while Klein’s “Quemando Velas” is a touching piece layered with harmonious sounds.
Los Guachos V” is a magical record that unveils the art of reinventing jazz today with insight and finesse. Guillermo Klein, an erudite visionary, is the man to follow.

Favorite Tracks: 
02 – Donna Lee ► 05 – Si No Sabes 4/4 ► 07 – Burrito Hill Mirror

Steve Lehman & Sélébeyone - Sélébeyone

Steve Lehman: alto saxophone; Gaston Bandimic: vocals; HPrizm: vocals; Maciek Lasserre: soprano saxophone; Carlos Homs: piano, keyboards; Drew Gress: acoustic bass; Damion Reid: drums.

The remarkable alto saxophonist Steve Lehman is always immersed in interesting projects, whether under his own name or working as a sideman. 
Last year he delighted us with “Mise en Abime”, recorded with his first-class octet, and did a great job in Liberty Ellman’s “Radiate”. Now he embraces a different adventure, holding on a septet that fuses modern jazz and underground hip-hop. This wasn’t really a surprise for me, since in 2005, Lehman had incurred into more explorative beats, electronics, and turntables in “Demian as a Posthuman”. 
For the Sélébeyone project, he teams up with the rappers Gaston Bandimic and HPrizm, who sing in Wolof and English, respectively, and also with the soprano saxophonist Maciek Lasserre, who composed four of the nine tunes. The rhythm section, so fundamental in this urban environment, was entrusted to jazz diggers such as the surprising keyboardist Carlos Holms, who worked with Peter Evans in “Ghosts”, the exemplary bassist Drew Gress, and the exciting drummer, Damion Reid.
“Laamb” opens with a confident attitude, drawing a relentless hip-hop groove decorated with a piano ostinato. The cadenced lyrics are uttered in two different languages while Lehman improvises in his precise, twitchy style.
Both Lehman and Lasserre intercalate their sounds in “Are You in Peace?”, first in unison and then splitting up for another jolt by the altoist. Holms injects keyboard eerie sounds at some point while Gress and Reid remain irreproachable in their drive. This incredible synchronization continues to stand out in tunes such as “Origine”, which causes apprehension through the keyboard effects, and “Cognition”, where Lehman leads the way by throwing in numerous questions and exclamations, pushing Lasserre to the conversation. 
Balanced and well produced, "Sélébeyone" opens different horizons for both hip-hop and improvised jazz.

Favorite Tracks: 
02 – Are You in Peace? ► 04 – Origine ► 05 – Cognitio

Victor Gould - Clockwork

Victor Gould: piano; Myron Walden: tenor saxophone; Godwin Louis: alto saxophone; Jeremy Pelt: trumpet; Ben Williams: bass; E.J. Strickland: drums; Pedrito Martinez: percussion; Anne Drummond: flute; Yoojin Park: violin; Heejin Chang: viola; Veronica Parrales: cello.

Victor Gould, a meritorious pianist who worked with Donald Harrison, Ralph Peterson, and Wallace Roney in the past as a sideman, has an auspicious debut as a bandleader with “Clockwork”, a solid album that puts into practice his pungent compositional work.
Forming a stark foundation together with the bassist Ben Williams and the drummer EJ Strickland, Gould diversifies the moods and textures of his music by constantly altering the group’s format throughout the record.
Cooked in trio, we have the eloquent “Mr. Carter”, which pays tribute to the veteran bassist Ron Carter, and “Nefertiti”, a naturally enigmatic tune composed by Wayne Shorter and disseminated by Miles Davis on his 1968 album of the same name. However, it was with “Blue Dales”, when the rhythm section was empowered with the addition of Martinez’ percussion, that the trio impressed me most, relying on a stunning piano expressiveness and sparkling interplay to punch us hard.
The horns become simultaneously prevalent and influent throughout some of the tracks with Pelt, Walden, and Louis offering us dazzling improvisations. This happens in the title track, a tune that fills the air with a percussive exuberance, “Room 416”, whose harmonization and melody also carry something from Shorter, “Apostle John”, the most striking piece of the record, which advances at a swaggering rhythm as it resorts to incisive modal detours, and “Three Souls”, an empathic spiritual celebration pelted with awesome solos occasionally intercalated with winning collective improvisations.
Even if the variables keep changing, the formula remains consistent, making us conclude that Gould’s clockwork operates with a Swiss precision. 

Favorite Tracks: 
04 – Blue Dales ► 07 – Apostle John ► 11 – Three Souls

Sebastian Noelle - Shelter

Sebastian Noelle: guitar; Marc Mommaas: tenor saxophone; Matt Mitchell: piano; Matt Clohesy: bass; Dan Weiss: drums.

Backed up by a great quintet, the German-born guitarist, Sebastian Noelle, puts up his third album on the Fresh Sound label.
Throughout the tunes that make part of “Shelter”, it’s easy to identify consistent ideas and refined sounds that occasionally step aside from the common jazz boundaries. “Ahir Bhairav”, a Hindustani classical raga, shows exactly that consistency and openness.
Another tune that called my attention was “Unlikely Heroes”, a rhythmically complex composition that inhabits in the rock genre, evincing Weiss’ great agility with the bass drum as well as a visionary improvisation by Noelle. A broken swing erupts on the spur of the moment for Mitchell’s haunting solo.
Both the polyrhythmic “Home In A Strange Land” and the strapping “Naphta vs Settembrini” display interesting dialogues between the bandleader and the communicative Dutch saxophonist Marc Mommaas. In the former tune, this interaction takes the form of a stimulating shared improvisation, while in the latter, it relies on two distinct melodies that simulate a philosophical conversation between Thomas Mann's "Magic Mountain's characters mentioned in the title.
In “Seven Up”, it’s outstanding how Clohesy and Weiss play slightly behind the tempo with sophistication. Mitchell shows his explorative side and creativity in a great solo, while Noelle, exhibiting a bright sound, picks unconventional notes to cause admiration. 
Expansive and well-founded, “Shelter” will reveal many new aspects to be discovered at every listening.

Favorite Tracks:
01 – Seven Up ► 06 – Unlikely Heroes ► 08 – Ahir Bhairav

Wadada Leo Smith - America's National Parks

Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet; Anthony Davis: piano, Ashley Walters: cello; John Lindberg: bass; Pheeroan akLaff: drums.

Wadada Leo Smith, a gritty and lyrically stunning trumpeter/composer, releases a double CD stuffed with highly-articulated music that envisions to provide historic insight and social-political conscience about the America’s National Parks. 
Similar to what had happened in “The Great Lake Suites” (2014), each disc comprises three movements. However, the band Wadada enlisted for this project was an expansion of his dream-team of veterans known as The Golden Quartet (Anthony Davis on piano, John Lindberg on bass, and Pheeroan akLaff on drums), with the acquisition of the young cellist Ashley Walters, who adds a chamberesque texture and diversified colors to the organic divagations. 
New Orleans” is an incredible 20-minute piece that advances like an enigmatic dark dance, hypnotizing us with its quasi-theatrical inflections of deep dramatic weight. Lindberg and AkLaff do a superb collective job, transforming the tune into a sort of ritual that gains a lofty expressiveness through Davis’ uncanny chords and Wadada’s emphatic attacks. Later on, the cello transfigures this prior nature into a hearty moan.
In “Eileen Jackson Southern” the levels of abstraction and introspection are considerably raised. Wadada’s trumpet, frequently hitting long high-pitched notes, opposes to the cello-piano mosaics that occur in a lower register. “Yellowstone’s intro, configured by trumpet, piano, and then cello, takes its time to engage in a fantastic 4/4 groove laid down by Lindberg, a stupendous bassist who boasts a ravishing sound. Davis also deserves an ovation for his fast-moving right-hand approach while the bandleader’s bravura comes from the soul, not from the head.
The CD2 opens with the volatile 31-minute movement “The Mississippi River”, which takes us on a dark and mournful trip to a past of awes. After a while, it brings us lusty protests delivered in the form of cyclic harmonic episodes.
The shortest tune of the record, “Sequoia/Kings Canyon”, features Wadada in great interactions with his peers, especially akLaff during the final improvised section. The brilliant suite culminates with the sparse “Yosemite”, an exercise in contemporary chamber music.
Cerebrally structured and emotionally haunting, this is a literate masterpiece that will marvel not only the trumpeter’s followers but also the avant-gardists in general.  

Favorite Tracks:
01 (cd1) – New Orleans ► 03 (cd1) – Yellowstone ► 01 (cd2) – The Mississippi River

John Scofield - Country For Old Men

John Scofield: guitar; Larry Goldings: piano, organ; Steve Swallow: bass; Bill Stewart: drums.

The music of John Scofield, a technically skilled and emotionally consistent guitarist, doesn’t confine itself to just one style. 
His salutary versatility and originality have been noticeable throughout a successful career that spans more than 40 years, addressing styles such as jazz, funk, rock, M-base, post-bop, and fusion with the same unquestionable quality. After last year’s “Past Present”, a Grammy-winning masterpiece of original works, Scofield releases “Country for Old Men”, an album exclusively made of covers that pay homage to American country music. 
The first great moment of the record happens forthwith with Hank Williams’ widely known hit “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, which is fabricated with a modernistic post-boppish attitude. All the fluency and creativity of his language lies here, solidly backed by Steve Swallow’s famous swinging bass, Bill Stewart’s firm pulse, and Larry Golding’s oddly atmospheric organ comping.
James Taylor’s “Bartender’s Blues” comes wrapped in a velvety softness, a mood that is repeated in the folk song “Wayfaring Stranger”, a traditional piece that gains a bluesy feeling with Scofield’s guitar and soulful contortions during Golding’s piano improvisation. 
Wildwood Flower” is a groovy incursion into the Far West slightly deviated from its country roots during the improvisations, while the impeccably and swiftly executed “Mama Tried” by Merle Haggard, resorts to trading fours by the end, a process that we can hear again in “Red River Valley”, a rockabilly effort that also swings.
Dolly Parton’s influence during the 60’s and 70’s was acknowledged with the addition of her popular “Jolene” whose bluegrass foundation fades into a more airy atmosphere. The merry “Faded Love”, an original by Bob Willis, is geared up as a jazz standard impregnated with a pastiche of country and blues.
Keeping the integrity of his approach and amazing sound, Mr. Scofield and his associates sculpt these westerners with finely-calibrated jazz strokes and intense feeling. Even lacking the spectacularity of his original compositions, this new one is another worthy entry in Scofield’s vast and many-sided discography.

Favorite Tracks:
02 – I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry ► 05 – Wayfaring Stranger ► 08 – Faded Love

Ricardo Grilli - 1954

Ricardo Grilli: guitar; Aaron Parks: piano; Joe Martin: bass; Eric Harland: drums.

“1954” is the title of the sophomore album of originals from the Brazilian-born New York-based guitarist Ricardo Grilli, who was joined here by a tremendous team of musicians: Aaron Parks on piano, Joe Martin on bass, and Eric Harland on drums.
Following the recent trends of jazz and influenced by his own past and the Space Age, Grilli packs up nine tunes that disclose influences from diverse styles.
On the first track, “Arcturo”, his sustained guitar strumming lays anchor in rock, fantastically honed in by Harland. The guitarist uses most of the guitar arm for a brisk improvisation that encompasses several octaves, showcasing his abilities as a soloist. 
The repose of “Breathe”, a modern cha cha cha with soft harmonic textures and no improvisations, is repeated in “Rings”, a soaring ballad that finds support in the beauty of its relentless chord progression.
The galloping “Radiance”, inhabiting in a fusion universe of jazz, rock, and pop, is arranged with intrepid guitar riffs, implacable rhythms, and culminates with warmly expressive solos by Parks and the bandleader.
Cosmonauts” hits a darker side, suggesting mystery and uncertainty. Our apprehension turns into amazement when we listen to Parks’ motivating solo. One can find a certain Brazilian lyricism in the tune’s melody and glimpses of Radiohead in Grilli’s fingerpicking.
The last tune, “Pulse”, leaves behind any connotation with the pop/rock universe and swings along in a hasty pace, resorting to well-known bebop dialects. Besides the fluidity of the guitarist and composer, we have estimable improvisations by Martin and Parks.
Ricardo Grilli sharpens his voice, liberates his creativity, and delivers a consistent new album.

Favorite Tracks: 
04 – Radiance ► 07 – Cosmonauts ► 09 – Pulse

Will Vinson - Perfectly Out of Place

Will Vinson: alto and soprano saxophones; Mike Moreno: guitar; Gonzalo Rubalcaba: piano, Fender Rhodes, synth; Matt Penman: bass; Jeff Ballard: drums; + guests.

Originally from London, the saxophonist Will Vinson is a frequent presence in the fervent NY jazz clubs like the Smalls, where he recorded a live album in 2012 with a quintet that included the guitarist Lage Lund, pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Matt Brewer, and drummer Marcus Gilmore.
For his latest release, “Perfectly Out of Place”, Vinson not only convenes a new quintet, but also extends it by adding a few guests for the strings, vocals, and percussion. The cats that follow him are also respected bandleaders such as Mike Moreno on guitars, Gonzalo Rubalcaba on keys, Matt Penman on bass, and Jeff Ballard on drums. 
Desolated Tango”, which could perfectly fit in Charles Lloyd’s world-jazz repertoire, opens the doors, carrying a good amount of nostalgia and sadness at its core. Feeling like a ballad, this isn’t the only composition that invites us to sail in pacific waters. Also “Willoughby General”, featuring colorful solos by Penman and Moreno, “Limp of Faith”, in which Rubalcaba’s piano work emphasizes the initial lugubrious undertones set by sax and strings, and “Chalk It Up”, a beautiful exercise on breathing and relaxation, are tender ballads. 
Looking to attain balance among paces and moods, the quintet boasts a provocative Latin groove in “Skyrider” where strings, percussion, and especially the voice of Jo Lawry, entangled in complex phrasings delivered in unison with the sax and the guitar, contribute heavily to the impactful outcome.
Controlled chunks of funk-rock build up the straight-ahead piece “Stiltskin (Some Drunk Funk)”, while the last couple of tunes, “The Clock Killer”, retrieved from “Live at Smalls”, and the title-track, got me impressed due to Vinson’s giddy improvisational aptitudes.
This is a mature record that transpires emotional warmth. It was capable of establishing a mutual perception among the bandmates, authenticating Vinson as an accomplished composer and bandleader, in addition to the valuable sideman he has been all these years.

Favorite Tracks:
01 – Desolation Tango ► 04 – Skyrider ► 09 – The Clock Killer