miércoles, 22 de abril de 2015

Alexander Hawkins Trio - Alexander Hawkins Trio (2015)

Oxford, UK native Alexander Hawkins continues to chart a course that will inevitably place him in the creative category of pianist/composers of the caliber of Cecil Taylor and Andrew Hill. It is simply a matter of time before this is a young artist—who has an abundance of time—along with a distinctive, broad and progressive vision, comes to wider attention. In his relatively brief career to date, Hawkins has worked as a leader in nonet, ensemble, quartet and solo formats, now adding what seems like the inescapable trio configuration to his portfolio with this namesake release. Alexander Hawkins Trio features a rhythm section that includes bassist Neil Charles who has worked with drummer Jack DeJohnette, trumpeter Terence Blanchard and the Mingus Big Band. Rounding out the group (a working trio since 2012), is drummer Tom Skinner has worked with Ethiopian musician Mulatu Astatke, known as the father of Ethio-jazz. The trio members are also part of Hawkins' larger ensemble.

Hawkins has worked with free jazz sax legend Evan Parker, saxophonist Joe McPhee and the prominent South African drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo. He is also a co-leader of the Convergence Quartet featuring cornet virtuoso Taylor Ho Bynum, drummer Harris Eisenstadt, and double bassist Dominic Lash. As a leader, Hawkins has demonstrated an extraordinary range of compositional skills across disparate formats. Recording for the cutting-edge Babel label, he released an ensemble effort Step Wide, Step Deep and the solo collection Song Singular both in 2013. As different as those two settings were, Hawkins did a similarly masterful job of disrupting the interpretations of composition and free improvisation to produce an organic sound.

Hawkins is a jazz piano scholar, whose proclivity for the complex doesn't preclude a deep appreciation for the standard-bearers of the art of the trio. But Hawkins vision is occupied by a shape-shifting musical architecture that moves back and forth from dense structures to spare, often changing at lightning fast speed. Skinner is superbly adept at managing and guiding the frenetic pace without sacrificing his own influence. For his part, Charles incorporates elements from a wide range of stimuli and tempers those dissimilar ideas with his own concepts while supporting Hawkins.

Five of the eight tracks are adapted from commissioned works by the BBC and the EFG London Jazz Festival. "Sweet Duke" owes some of its underlying melody to Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" but before the tune takes hold, Skinner's infectious beat becomes the point of focus. Hawkins' rapid-fire attack on "Song Singular"—a piece that does not appear on Hawkins' solo collection of the same name—is a stellar display of his imposing technique and innovative concepts. Similarly, "Perhaps 5 or 6 Different Colours" shifts frequently and dramatically starting with a shuffling pace then becoming sparse as Hawkins gradually cascades his way to an absolutely frenetic pace. There are slower paced and somewhat blues-influenced pieces on Alexander Hawkins Trio, particularly "40HB (for Taylor Ho Bynum)" and "AHRA," though these as well are packed with contorted phrases and atypical constructs.

Hawkins is a unique presence in music; not bound by conventional thinking or the typical forces that guide trio playing. He looks through the music to a place that is, frankly, unfathomable to many musicians and listeners but—as a still relatively new voice—everything Hawkins has done as a leader to date, has been a strong and independent statement. Alexander Hawkins Trio continues on the path that will, in time, generate greater recognition for Hawkins.

Alexander Hawkins: piano
Neil Charles: double bass
Tom Skinner: drums, percussion

1. Sweet Duke
2. Song Singular – Owl (friendly) – Canon
3. One Tree Found
4. Perhaps 5 or 6 Different Colours
5. 40HB (for Taylor Ho Bynum)
7. Baobabs + SGrA
8. Blue Notes for a Blue Note (Joy To You)

Manuel Valera Trio - Live At Firehouse 12 (2015)

Label: Mavo Records
Source: Allaboutjazz
Gab's Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Cuban pianist Manuel Valera readily extends the jazz language of his predecessors Bebo and Chucho Valdes. He is comfortable leading all band formats from septets (In Motion (Criss Cross, 2014) to solo performance (Self Portrait (Self Produced, 2014). Valera may presently be found fronting an exceptional trio performing Live at Firehouse 12.

Orchestral or symphonic best describes Valera's pianism. His command of the complete keyboard; his ability to effect emotive arrangements with cogent beginnings, middles, and ends; and his sensitive composing announce him as a bright and authoritative presence in jazz: not just Latin jazz but in all jazz. His choice of playing partners in bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer EJ Strickland cements this image into vivid reality.

In six originals and two "standards," Valera lays out his entire musical vision: on of precision and accuracy, thoughtfulness and grace. His flair for the dramatic is evidenced in the opening original, "Spiral, where Valera evolves from an impressionistic reverie to a single note propulsion of power and momentum pushed even further by the driving drumming of Strickland. Valera is all melody, block chords, filling in every aural space available to him.

Glawischnig is hard middle on the beat, keeping things crisp and moving along. The lengthy piece features Valera's most far- reaching solo in the recital. He begins quietly, probing the piece's harmonic soft spots frequently accented by Strickland's precise stimulation. Glawischnig is given ample solo space that is brought back into orchestra with Valera's relentless left hand making "Spiral" a completed drama.

The two standards are outstanding. Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" provides Valera the melodic inspiration to find higher intervals of harmony while he investigates the ticklish portions of the piece. Valera draws every bit of pathos from the piece. His real triumph on the recording is his treatment of the "Intermezzo Sinfonico" from Mascagni's opera Cavalleria Rusticana. So perfect does the trio interact empathically that one wishes the playing go on and on.- C. Michael Bailey -

 En Route
Intermesso Sinfonico from Cavalleria Rusticana

Manuel Valera: piano
Hans Glawischnig: bass
EJ Strickland: drums

"Master your instrument, master the music 
& then forget all that & just play."
 - Charlie Parker -

Hugo Fernandez - Cosmogram (2015)

Of all the instruments in a group or orchestra, none has a broader or more variable sonic profile than the guitar. When it is played properly, with earnestness and sincerity, a guitar can move the listener to tears; when it is used, however, is to elicit sounds that are best described as disquieting and cacophonous, that is another matter entirely. Luckily, Mexican-born guitarist Hugo Fernandez treats the instrument with respect, showing its warmer and more pleasurable side on Cosmogram, a genial quartet date on which he shares the melodic lines with Cuban-bred saxophonist Ariel Bringuez.

Fernandez, who now lives in Madrid, Spain, after having studied at the Berklee School of Music and the University of New Orleans, composed each of the album's eight selections, and they are by and large likeable if otherwise unremarkable, the Latin influence ever-present but rarely conspicuous. Their underlying charm is amplified by Fernandez' smooth-flowing solos, Bringuez' assiduous work on tenor or soprano saxophone, and the group's world-class rhythm section: Spanish bassist Antonio Miguel and Mexican drummer Antonio Sanchez who wrote the score for this year's Academy Award-winning film, Birdman. 

For a preview of what Fernandez and his colleagues have to offer, one need go no further than the cordial opener, "Reconciliacion," whose moderate tempo and emphatic rhythms provide a template for what is to follow. Bringuez plays tenor on "Reconciliacion," moves to soprano on the slow-moving "Metro" and shuffling "Sublime," and basically alternates thereafter. Fernandez adopts a more metallic stance on "Sublime," as he does later on "Bakio." The other numbers, each one engaging in its own way, are "Grounds," "Auras," "Un-Balanced" and "Yap."

Everyone is technically sound, while the music, contemporary in spirit yet traditional in form, glides evenly along without causing undue concern. Neither, on the other hand, is it likely to quicken one's pulse to the point of unease. It's simply tasteful music, quite well-played by Fernandez' able quartet. If you are partial to guitar, Cosmogram should present ample grounds for approval.


1. Reconciliation
2. Metro
3. Sublime
4. Grounds
5. Auras
6. Un-Balanced
7. Bakio
8. Yap