viernes, 14 de noviembre de 2014

Gael Horellou - Brooklyn (2014)

Gab's Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

C’est le second album de Gaël Horellou à paraitre cette année après le live parisien en janvier, voici une session en studio à New York. Un quartet harmonieux composé d’Etienne Deconfin au piano, Viktor Nyberg à la contrebasse, déjà présent dans le précèdent opus et du batteur Ari Hoening, un local de la grosse pomme! Difficile d’affirmer que c’est sa présence qui donne à cet enregistrement, une dynamique, une pulsion que « Legacy » n’avait pas. Les tempos se sont plus rapides, les mélodies plus enlevées. Le pianiste semble se permettre des impros plus aventureuses tandis qu’Horellou pousse son alto dans des recoins jazzy forts agréables. Et même la ballade « Central Park Soul » ou « Etang salé » plus lents, sont aussi vivifiants que la brise des berges de l’East River. Passez le pont, osez Brooklyn!

 01. K (6:28)
02. Delta (10:10)
03. Dutch Blues (7:59)
04. Central Park Soul (6:45)
05. Another Ruffel (9:03)
06. Mangrove Special (13:53)
07. If You Could See Me Now (9:05
08. Etang Salé (7:07)

Gaël Horellou (alto sax)
Etienne Deconfin (piano)
Viktor Nyberg (bass)
Ari Hoenig (drums)

"The most important thing I look for in a musician,
 is whether he knows how to listen."
  - Duke Ellington - 


Graham Collier - Luminosity / The Last Suites (2014)

Graham Collier, 1937-2011

A new work, posthumously released and recorded—how many of those can there have been in jazz? Luminosity features two late works by composer Graham Collier brought to realisation through the efforts of his partner, author John Gill and conductor Geoff Warren. To say this record is a fine valediction is a statement infused with regret. These two compositions reveal just how much music Collier still had to offer.

Fortunately, Gill and Warren were able to bring together a band that is packed with Collier alumni. In fact, pretty much everyone on this album has at some point played his music and, in some cases—John Marshall, Art Themen, Ed Speight, Roger Dean, Steve Waterman and Warren, himself—the association goes back several decades.

Luminosity features both the suite of that name and The Blue Suite, both drawing upon particular Collier obsessions. Luminosity is inspired by the work of abstract painter Hans Hofmann, whilst The Blue Suite owes its debt to Miles' Kind of Blue, which was for the composer the defining example of his own belief that "Jazz happens in real time—once."

Has Collier's absence as conductor of this recording affected the outcome? Inevitably! It would have been different had he had been there, simply because he would have made different choices. Geoff Warren has, however, taken Collier's compositional materials and fashioned two works that are distinctive and coherent and which certainly still bear the composer's own stamp. In fact, Luminosity itself is as approachable and accessible as anything Collier has ever written.

Collier's aim in jazz was always to maintain the spontaneity and unpredictability of jazz in real time. He rejected firmly the approach of 'theme-solo-theme' found in so much big band jazz, realising that the composer's choice of musicians to play his or her music was itself a compositional decision in its own right. Their voices would become a key element in any composition, as would what they might do with the writing. Better, therefore, not to over-write. Better by far to devise material that maximised both the freedom of the players and that of the composer/conductor. No two performances could or should ever be the same. Most important of all, Collier trusted his improvisers.

Both works here use a number of Collier trademarks. Certain motifs and riffs could be made to appear and reappear in new guises throughout a work. This written material could be used as the main source for a musician's solo or it could inform the improvisation in some other way -texturally, harmonically or simply in terms of the mood. This, too, could be changed by the conductor's intervention or by that of other musicians. If this sounds complex or even a recipe for chaos, in fact, here and elsewhere it provided a script for some remarkable and entirely coherent music.

Each suite opens with a loosely structured and more or less freely interpreted movement which resurfaces in the middle and at the end of the suite. For The Blue Suite, this is called "Kind of Sketchy"—the reference to Kind of Blue should be obvious. With Luminosity, this piece is called "Orchestral Dominances." These short sections serve to integrate the other movements but also serve as a commentary on the work as a whole.

"Kind of Sketchy" has a vaguely Spanish hint, reminiscent of its reference point hint. It's marked by the brooding long notes of James Allsopp's bass clarinet, the simple melody of Andy Panayi's flute, and counter melodies from Roger Dean on piano and Ed Speight on guitar. With "Kind of So What," Roy Babbington takes a bass cadenza, which is followed by some 'free' playing from the ensemble before Allsopp leads the band into a section mainly built around two two-bar melodies that are repeated and varied. Roger Dean then solos joined by Panayi's flute and sotto voce brass on "Kinds of Green" before John Marshall's drums and Steve Waterman's trumpet take centre stage for "All Kinds." These are but brief elaborations of each of these sections—longer takes with more expansive solos follow later in the work. Collier's approach—and Geoff Warren's in realising it here -doesn't only give the work a sense of structure. It reflects back to Miles' original album, revealing as it does how the simple materials used by Miles, Coltrane, Bill Evans et al came to produce something unique. Here, Collier does something quite unusual in compositional terms—classical or jazz. He exposes the very architecture of the work for the listener.

When the longer versions of these pieces—along with the as yet unheard "Kind of Freddie"—make their appearance, they do so not so much as old friends but as old friends seen in a new light. Art Themen's tenor solo on the second "Kind of Green" is set up by Roger Dean's delicate piano and emerges with all that fractured romanticism of which Themen is so uniquely capable. It's a truly lovely moment that is followed aptly by Ed Speight's guitar cadenza on "Kind of Freddie," which then leads into the beautifully voiced, loping big band theme. James Allsopp's bass clarinet is again strategically placed to add a darker, ironic colour to the piece. Roy Babbington's bass again opens the return of "Kind of So What" before a stabbing brass riff appears along with the tune's original melody. There's some particularly strong playing from Graeme Blevins on tenor and Mark Bassey improvising freely on trombone over a subtly shifting rhythm section and punctuated by that same brass riff. "All Kinds" follows with a polyrhythmic cadenza from John Marshall and a staccato but strongly rhythmic solo from Steve Waterman and some acerbic alto from Andy Panayi before the final reprise of "Kind of Sketchy."

Luminosity is organized on similar lines. The ensemble, riff-led, Basie-like "Orchestral Dominances" bookends first "Yellow Hymn" and Above Deep Water" and then "Jardin D'Amour and "Blue Monolith." Each of the main sections begins with a brief cadenza or duet -Trevor Tomkins and John Marshall on percussion on "Yellow Hymn," Roy Babbington on "Above Deep Water," Andy Panayi on flute duetting with Ed Speight on "Jardin D'Amour," Roger Dean with Tayloresque flourishes on "Blue Monolith." Each tune is then expanded to allow for a series of three or four solos.

The opening of "Yellow Hymn" with its Satie-like theme might well be one of the most beautiful things Collier ever wrote but it then unfolds into an ensemble piece noteworthy for some graceful trumpet from Martin Shaw set against some poised and articulate comping from Roger Dean. Art Themen's soprano is suitably serpentine, whilst Ed Speight's chiming and melodic guitar solo seems to sit inside the rhythms of Babbington, Marshall and Tomkins only in turn to be enveloped by the brass and woodwinds. What is remarkable here is the way the same compositional materials allow for such contrasting moods, from the delicate to the robust.

By contrast, "Above Deep Water" is menacing and dark in its early passages before shifting pace and opening out with Andy Panayi's alto against two contrasting riffs from different sections of the horns. Again, the first theme returns before a shift in mood once more and a romantic piano trio interlude that leads into a fine, delicate bass clarinet solo from James Allsopp.. If there are two instrumental colours that stand out on both suites, it would surely be Panayi's flute and Allsopp's bass clarinet. In fact, the flute opens "Jardin D'Amour" whilst bass clarinet closes the movement. Two things are thrown into sharp relief here. Several players solo—Dean, Panayi, Allsopp and Speight—and do so beautifully. But what is most striking is how these improvisations intertwine and become so very integral to the splendidly lyrical composition. The same can be said of "Blue Monolith." It begins like a kind of freeform Rhapsody in Blue with Roger Dean's piano leading before another Basie-ish riff sets in offering ample space for both Graeme Blevins and Steve Waterman to do their stuff. The horn interjections also recall both Basie and Ellington but the way that Waterman and Blevins duet—trading phrases and crossing swords—is responsible for one on of the finest big band moments on what is a fine example of "jazz in real time—once."

These two suites unfold elegantly through a series of cleverly contrasting moods that are shaped artfully—and shape artfully—the contributions of the musicians. The thought that this music could be heard again but differently is one to ponder. The likelihood that that probably won't happen is in fact quite poignant. That said, if epitaph there must be, Luminosity is an exceptional commemoration of a creative life well and boldly lived.

Geoff Warren: Conductor
Mark Bassey: trombone
Steve Waterman, Martin Shaw: trumpet
Jonathan Williams: French Horn
Andy Grappy: tuba
Andy Panayi: alto sax, flutes
Art Themen: tenor and soprano saxophones
Graham Blevins: tenor sax, clarinet
James Allsopp: bass clarinet
Ed Speight: guitar
Roger dean: piano, electronics
Roy Babbington: bass
John Marshall: drums, percussion
Trevor Tomkins: percussion

1. The Blue Suite:
Kind of Sketchy/Kind of So What/Kind of Green/All Kinds/Kind of Sketchy/Kind of Green/Kind of Freddie/Kind of So What/All Kinds/Kind of Sketchy

2. Luminosity:
Orchestral Dominances (in)/Yellow Hymn/Above Deep Water/ Orchestral Dominances/Jardin D’Amour/Blue Monolith/ Orchestral Dominances

"Hearing is Everything" Peter Watkins


poLO - Pleasures (2014)

Source: ENG DMG Newsletter & poLO
Gab's Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

ENG DMG Newsletter, Bruce Lee Gallanter (may.2014)

Assaf Kehati Trio - Naked (2014)


Guitarist Assaf Kehati has never been one to hide behind the impenetrable or the opaque; his art has always been centered on clarity of thought and communicative expressionism, yet he's reached a new level of musical directness and comprehensibility with Naked.

On this, his third release, Kehati winnows away anything that could remotely be thought of as excess. There's still plenty to take in, as Kehati paints and peruses well-conceived canvases with his trio mates, but this music isn't about concealment or veiled delivery. Kehati simply speaks his mind through music, and as he does so, truth begets beauty. Naked opens on "Song For Saba," Kehati's heartfelt tribute to his late grandfather, and takes a swinging turn with "Long Ago And Far Away," a number that finds the guitarist coming off like a slightly caffeinated John Abercrombie. Then it's back to unadorned beauty with the title track, off to the Israeli desert for the exciting-but-measured "Beneath The Almond Tree," and on to standard territory for "Someday My Prince Will Come," a performance which avoids coming off as derivative by steering clear of firm waltz time and allowing for some room to breath.

As the program continues, the trio finds different ways to communicate. Drummer Ronen Itzik and bassist Ehud Ettun light a flame beneath Kehati, albeit on a fairly low setting, during "The Horses' Fight"; Ornette Coleman's "When Will 

The Blues Leave" serves as an exercise in mood reorientation, with the trio shifting between chipper, woozy, and upbeat gears; and "Nathan Bo Rega" is somewhat modular in nature, with odd-metered constructs, tempo variations, and a bluesy 4/4 swing send-off. Kehati's brief "Outro"—a minute-plus of solo guitar musing—officially closes out the program, leaving thoughts of promise and possibility hovering in the air. It's a concise display that further illustrates the guitarist's uncluttered approach to performance.

Assaf Kehati: guitar
Ehud Ettun: bass
Ronen Itzik: drums

1. Song For Saba
2. Long Ago And Far Away
3. Naked
4. Beneath The Almond Tree
5. Someday My Prince Will Come
6. The Horses' Fight
7. When Will The Blues Leave
8. Nathan Bo Rega
9. Outro

"Hearing is Everything" Peter Watkins


Mason Razavi - Quartet Plus (2014)

With the release of Quartet Plus, San Francisco Bay Area-based jazzman Mason Razavi joins ranks with a talented crop of guitarists spearheaded by Hristo Vitchev on First Orbit Sounds. His debut for the label fronts all-original compositions and contextualizes his tactile playing in a plush band setting.

Half of the album features Razavi in quartet with Bennett Roth-Newell on piano and keyboards, Dan Robbins on bass, and Cody Rhodes on drums. Together they take on the night with thoughtful tunes that highlight Razavi's eclectic background in rock, jazz, and classical. "Highrise" and "From Thoughts To Words" offer intelligent takes on the smooth jazz idiom. In the first, the rhythm section hits green lights at every intersection, while Razavi's electric flits from supportive chord voicings to lyrical soloing without so much as the bat of an eyelash. The second is dreamier. In it Robbins and Razavi follow natural progressions of hills and riverbeds in singsong monologues. For contrast, look no further than backbeat-driven "Urban Jungle Blues," sparkling pianism and all. Further down the line is "Song For Another Day," which from dark beginnings unravels the album's most delicate expositions.

The album's titular "Plus" comes in the form of a five-horn section augmenting the quartet for the four remaining tunes, shuffled into the above. Despite verging on big band, their compass follows a decidedly intimate magnetic north, yielding an even wider range of moods. The documentarian "Prayer For Newtown" turns tragedy into song. It lends a feeling of community by way of the denser arrangement and foils the joyous undercurrents of "Luck Has Nothing To Do With It." Razavi is the prime number in this anthem of recovery, finding unique solutions to melodic equations. Altoist Ben Torres cuts in with the album's only reed solo. Fluid yet geometrically soulful, he paves a robust detour toward the airbrushed ending. Last is the 13-minute "Mad Dance," which leads the way in groove and shows Robbins at his most acrobatic, complementing Razavi's picking every step of the way for an inventive finish.

Evocative storytelling (of which opener "Moonlit Message" is a prime example) is the hallmark of Razavi's music. So evocative, in fact, that one hardly needs individual track titles to suggest appropriate interpretations. Whether in the freshly squeezed quartet outings or the concentrate of the larger ensemble, their flavor is sweet just the same. Quartet Plus proves that, when it comes to jazz, one really can have the best of both worlds.

Mason Razavi: electric and nylon string guitars
Bennett Roth-Newell: piano and keyboards
Dan Robbins: bass
Cody Rhodes: drums
Justin Smith: trumpet and flugelhorn
Ben Torres: alto sax, flute and clarinet
Oscar Pangilinan: tenor sax and clarinet
Kevin Bryson: trombone
Cory Wright: baritone sax, clarinet and bass clarinet

1. Moonlit Message
2. Highrise
3. From Thoughts To Words
4. Urban Jungle Blues
5. Prayer For Newtown
6. Luck Has Nothing To Do With It
7. Song For Another Day
8. Mad Dance

"Hearing is Everything" Peter Watkins


Diva - Swingin' Life (2014)

Back in 1967, Buddy Rich was one of the headliners on a summer replacement television broadcast for "The Jackie Gleason Show." If I remember correctly, the show's theme, which Rich and the band did was "Away We Go." It was subsequently released on a Pacific Jazz record The New One. Why is it that the opening track on Diva's most recent recording A Swingin' Life reminds me of that recording? It's not because Sherrie Maricle is in the Buddy Rich mold. She's some drummer, to be sure, but maybe more like one in the Woody Herman Orchestra from the 1960s, like Jake Hanna or Ronnie Zito. The drummer's behind the band, not the other way around.

From the first downbeat of the opening track, "What the World Needs Now," Maricle's—and the band's—swing and authority are evident. Maybe a better title for the CD would have been "No Nonsense," but I know nothing about marketing. 

It's always hard to pick favorites, especially on a live recording that features singers like Nancy Wilson and Marlena Shaw. The band sounds great behind Nancy Wilson on "All of Me," old war-horse or not, just flat out swinging. "Blackberry Winter," which I had never heard before, done by Marlena Shaw, is probably not much recorded because it sounds tough on a singer, but this one is haunting all the same. Of the instrumentals, two picks. One is Terry Gibbs "Blues for Hamp," the closing track in which Roxy Coss, Jennifer Krupa and Tanya Darby take hot solos to Maricle's insistent rhythmic (and vocal) prodding. For sheer beauty, it's hard to beat "The Very Thought of You," which features an absolutely gorgeous flugelhorn solo by Nadje Noorduis. I know little about her other than I could listen to her play all day. "Pennies from Heaven," which showcases Noriko Ueda and Lisa Parrott is another good one, but you have to stop somewhere.

All in all, the choice of material is perhaps a tad conservative, but that takes nothing away from some seriously impressive performances. It's been some time since I've heard Diva perform in person. This CD tells me I need to again. And soon.

Sherrie Maricle: drums
Sharel Cassity: alto saxophone, flute
Karoline Strassmayer: alto saxophone (3, 4)
Leigh Pilzer: alto saxophone, flute, baritone saxophone (3, 4)
Kristy Norter: alto saxophone (3, 4)
Janelle Reichman: clarinet, tenor saxophone (3, 4)
Anat Cohen: clarinet, tenor saxophone (3, 4)
Roxy Coss: tenor saxophone
Scheila Gonzalez: tenor saxophone (3, 4)
Lisa Parrott: baritone saxophone
Tanya Darby: lead trumpet, Flugelhorn
Liesl Whitaker: lead trumpet (3, 4)
Jami Dauber: trumpet , Flugelhorn
Barbara Laronga: trumpet (3, 4)
Carol Morgan: trumpet, Flugelhorn
Nadje Noordhuis: trumpet, Flugelhorn
Deborah Weisz: trombone
Jennifer Krupa: trombone
Lori Stuntz: trombone (3, 4)
Leslie Havens: bass trombone
Tomoko Ohno: piano
Chihiro Yamanaka: piano (3, 4)
Noriko Ueda: bass
Nancy Wilson: vocals (3, 4)
Marlena Shaw: vocals (7, 8, 9)

01. What The World Needs Now Is Love Sweet Love
02. Nothin'
03. All My Tommorrows
04. All Of Me
05. The Very Thought Of You
06. Pennies From Heaven
07. Blues Medley [Goin' To Chicago Blues; Kansas City; Every Day I Have The Blues]
08. Blackberry Winter
09. Wonder Why
10. Nocturne #6 Opus 9, Number 2
11. Blues For Hamp