Dave Anderson - Melting Pot

Label: Label 1, 2018

Personnel - Dave Anderson: soprano and alto saxophones; Dave Restivo: piano; Hans Glawischnig: bass; Memo Acevedo: drums; Roberto Quintero: percussion; Bryan Davis: trumpet; Itai Kriss: flute; Need Murgai: sitar, voice; Ehren Hanson: tabla; Deep Singh: tabla.


Saxophonist/composer Dave Anderson celebrates New York City’s cultural differences in his latest album Melting Pot, for which he convened an incredibly professional world-jazz ensemble to dispatch five eclectic originals. The pieces, elegantly woven into an integrated sonic tapestry, are personalized with his unique signature.

Anderson starts off with the three-part Immigrant Suite, suffused with Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, and Indian influences. Its first part, “Juror Number One” has the rhythm section - pianist Dave Restivo, bassist Hans Glawischnig, drummer Memo Acevedo, and percussionist Roberto Quintero - launching an irresistible Latin rhythm to sustain a blues progression that serves as a magic carpet for the jazz peregrinations of the improvisers. Propelled by an elated rhythm of drums and pandeiro, “Querida”, meaning sweetheart in Portuguese, is also the title of a Jobim song. However, there’s no relation between the two, aside from being impregnated with smooth Brazilian-jazz flavors. The suite is concluded with “A Candle For Isaac”, which additionally features Bryan Davis on trumpet, Itai Kriss on flute, Need Murgai on sitar, and Ehren Hanson on tabla. The song was penned for Anderson’s girlfriend’s father (whom he never met) and blends the vivacity of the post-bop and the distinctive aesthetics of the Indian ragas. Anderson’s tone is particularly attractive here, and his off-kilter hooks enhance the already coloristic instrumentation.

The bandleader cooks another great solo on alto on the closing “Trance-like”, discharging sequences of notes that show his propensity for combining inside and outside playing. As a product of emotional inspiration, the piece feels inebriant, lifted up by the exotic sounds of the sitar and tabla.

Mantra” is pure jazz-fusion anchored in a deft groove, departing from a funky slogan repeated by Fender Rhodes and sax. Emboldened by the presence of Deep Singh’s tabla, the band navigates chord changes with forceful impulsivity, also revealing high levels of proficiency in the art of rhythm.

Melting Pot provides memorable songs that I plan to revisit many more times. Anderson transpires integrity and versatility in a refreshing, concise work whose energizing aural vibe is also disseminated by his kindred accompanists.

Favorite Tracks:

Grade  A-

Grade A-

03 - Immigrant Suite: A Candle For Isaac ► 04 - Mantra ► 05 - Trance-like

Meg Okura - Ima Ima

Label: Self produced, 2018

Personnel - Meg Okura: violin, vocals, erhu; Tom Harrell: trumpet; Sam Newsome: soprano sax; Sam Sadigursky: bass clarinet, clarinet; Anne Drummond: flutes; Riza Printup: harp; Rez Abbasi: guitar; Brian Marsella: piano, electric piano; Pablo Aslan: bass; Jared Schonig: drums.


Japanese violinist Meg Okura records for the fourth time with her Pan-Asian Chamber Ensemble, this time having first-rate improvisers Rez Abbasi and Tom Harrell in the roster, guitarist and trumpeter, respectively. Containing seven original compositions, the album Ima Ima put on view her lucid musical vision as she explores material across the world-fusion spectrum. Thus, it’s more than common to hear timeless Eastern melodies running over contemporary jazz arrangements.

Black Rain” is one of those cases, with the Japanese pentatonic scale integrating so well with the harmonic progression of the jazz classic “Invitation”. The inaugural Oriental enchantment that stems from violin, harp, and soprano, suddenly mutates to a bolero cadence that serves the individuality of pianist Brian Marsella.

Ima”, meaning mom in Hebrew and now in Japanese, is a phenomenal opening. The beautiful piano/flute and harp/soprano combinations create cinematic tension throughout the introductory section, which is subsequently deviated to a waltzing route varnished with sporadic swinging segments. Sopranist Sam Newsome energizes his impromptu statement with literate swoops and rhythmic focus.

Brimming contemporary vibes, “A Summer in Jerusalem” displays Israeli sounds through the self-disciplined combination of Okura’s violin and Pablo Aslan’s bowed bass. Sam Sadigursky makes you tap your feet to the cadence by wielding a powerful deep-toned groove in seven. This steams up polychromatic keyboard attacks and punchy rhythmic accents that emerge from Jared Schonig’s roiling drumming. A chamber passage, vaguely resembling “Concierto de Aranjuez”, jumps at us before the discerning improvisations from Harrell, Abbasi, and Okura, who also colors with her vocal chants. Everything is so gentle and exciting at the same time. The complex structure still encompasses a vamp that brings back the trumpeter and the violinist to the spotlight before the reinstatement of that rousing, groovy theme.
A Night Insomnia” is a sophisticated fusion feast. The band keeps groovin’ aplomb while embarking on a journey replete with smooth soul, funk, and ever-shifting rhythms that are constantly disrupted, just like the eight note figure that accompanies the song throughout. The violinist employs swift patterns and phrases to leap between registers, whereas Harrell swings and funks with a clever choice of notes. You’ll also hear improvisations from flute, bass clarinet, and soprano sax at the very end.

Reflective strings and woodwinds bring “Birth of Shakyamuni” to life. Sandwiched by moments of contrapuntal ostinato, Abbasi speeds up a concise yet highly articulated solo à-la Larry Coryell, contrasting with Sadigursky, whose tranquil melodies lead to a classy tango passage turned classical epic. The guitarist returns afterward for another supersonic intervention before a compelling flute incursion.

With the bandleader’s classically trained voice in evidence, “Blues in Jade” seems to explore the incorporeal. Conversely, “Tomiya” feels gleefully secular as it recreates the rhythm of a taiko drum ensemble. Elements of Japanese folk merge with jazz harmonies, shaping a gracious chamber jazz that lands on an uplifting Latinized vamp dominated by Harrell’s soloing aptitude. 

Ms. Okura was able to create magical crossover soundscapes with intimacy and subtlety, resorting to a pure lyricism and fascinating collective passages that never put the homogeneity of the whole into question.

       Grade  A-

       Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 – Ima ► 02 – A Night Insomnia ► 03 – A Night Insomnia

Erik Friedlander - Rings

Erik Friedlander: cello; Shoko Nagai: piano, accordion, electronics; Satoshi Takeishi: percussion.

Erik Friedlander is a multifaceted cellist and composer based in New York City who is not afraid of setting foot on different styles and moods. With last year’s “Oscalypso”, recorded with a sturdy quartet (Michael Blake, Trevor Dunn, and Michael Sarin), he made an incursion on pure bop territory with reinterpretations of nine emblematic compositions from the bassist Oscar Pettiford, a confessed influence. “Rings”, in turn, marks a welcoming return to a much more appealing creative freedom, mixing the incantations of the world music, the gallant tones of the modern classical, and the unexpectedness of the avant-garde jazz. 
The Seducer” is truly a seductive piece that sumptuously takes us to distant worlds through a fulfilling combination of weeping cello, conversational accordion, and the motivating percussion. 
In the contemplative “Black Phebe” I can see a train of camels crossing the desert at the same tranquil pace this song moves. Provocatively playful, “A Single Eye” proves to be suitable for an animated movie. In turn, “Fracture” is an affectionate ballad that transpires sentiment, opposing to “Risky Business”, one of those festive tunes played at Oriental weddings. 
There are a few atmospherically calm tunes that touch the abstract, and one of them, “Canoe”, gets eerie outlines with the addition of electronics. One is able to sing “Small Things”, a cantabile pop tune driven by Friedlander’s plucking cello and filled with Nagai’s melodious accordion. Great is the levitating aura of “Flycatcher”, which features a great cello work by Friedlander peppered by Takeishi’s contagious rhythms, and the rapturous sounds of Nagai, who stands out with a terrific unaccompanied piano solo.

Favorite Tracks:
01 – The Seducer ► 02 – Black Phebe ► 11 – Flycatcher