Les frères Heath s’en sont vite rendu
compte: Jeb Patton est un pianiste comme on en voit peu. Élève de Jimmy
Heath devenu professeur à son tour, il explose de virtuosité, de nuance,
et par son érudition et sa sensibilité, il s’est fait une réputation
sur la scène jazz internationale en tant que compositeur et arrangeur.
Sur Shades and Tones, 3ème opus personnel du pianiste, il semblerait que toutes ces qualités soient réunies.
Y’a pas à dire, Patton sait
s’accompagner. Ses solos sont riches mais toujours calqués sur la
mélodie et le rythme du morceau. Ses mains, comme habitées toutes deux
d’une force musicale propre, défilent sur le clavier à un tempo effréné,
mais avec une subtilité et une imprévisibilité folles. Outre son jeu
expressif, Patton s’affirme également en tant que compositeur avec des
titres très équilibrés, assez classiques, comme « Holy Land » ou « Juicy
Lucy », et d’autres plus audacieux comme « Hidden Horizons » ou « Cool
On ne saurait pas non plus manquer
d’éloges pour ses musiciens : entre autres, Michael Rodriguez à la
trompette et au flügelhorn, David Wong à la basse, Lewis Nash et le
grand Tootie Heath à la batterie sur des titres différents. Tous
maintiennent une cohésion dans l’exécution des morceaux qui rend aux
compositions leurs accents et leurs forces. Bien que Patton demeure la
voix principale de l’album, les membres du groupe ne manquent pas de
briller par leurs solos respectifs.
Le titre, Shades and Tones, annonce un album aux teintes nuancées.
En effet, on entend du swing, du jazz modal, et ici et là des touches
de bossa nova, tant et si bien qu’à la fin du disque, il est difficile
d’avoir du style de Patton une idée très précise. Il reste très scolaire
dans son jeu, immaculé, sans taches ni énervements, mais maintient une
subtilité harmonique qui accompagne avec brio l’auditeur du début à la
fin de l’enregistrement, comme un fil d’Ariane.
Shades and Tones est un bel
album, un grand hommage à l’âge d’or du jazz, aux grands solistes des
années 1960, à Peterson et compagnie. Jeb Patton déballe une palette de
couleurs et de nuances dans un style qui tombe malheureusement en
désuétude avec le temps. Musicalement, on est servi, l’exécution et les
arrangements sont parfaits. Si parfaits en fait qu’ils manquent de
fraîcheur, de cœur, de personnalité: ces choses qui font d’un simple
motif une onde de couleur. - Paul Le Gloan -
Sometime, watch children as they eat the M&Ms. They will separate the colors into several piles—green, red, brown, yellow, orange, and blue. It's not that each color tastes different, except for maybe blue—I don't remember ever seeing that color before. Nonetheless, they go about savoring each color batch as an independent experience. Those little candies come to mind while attending to cornetist Kirk Knuffke's release Arms & Hands. The disc (released as both CD and LP) is a trio recording with Knuffke's newest band of bassist Mark Helias and drummer Bill Goodwin, but it also features three guest musicians; saxophonists Daniel Carter and Jeff Lederer and trombonist Brian Drye. Like the little candies, the guest appearances and the trio pieces are cut from the same clothe, but there is a tempting urge to divide up this recording.
Maybe that's because Knuffke has spliced his career into so many different directions. He has braided his horn into the bands of Matt Wilson, Allison Miller, Jeff Lederer, Andrew D'Angelo, and David Ullmann bands, plus his own groups Ideal Bread, Sifter (with Wilson and Mary Halvorson) and duo outings with Jesse Stacken, Mike Pride, and Brian Drye. He also works with this trio's partners in the separate bands, Helias' quartet and Goodwin's Ornette project.
The trio music here is dazzling. The combination of Helias' bass, which has kept time for Anthony Braxton and Cecil Taylor, and Goodwin's drums which have backed Phil Woods and Art Pepper, fuses the out and the in. Tricky, off-kilter pieces like "Root" and "Tuesday" satisfy those seeking challenging compositions, yet the groove is so inviting. Knuffke's cornet playing is (as always) flawless. He can deliver burning runs, slur and chirp notes, all with full command of his most demanding instrument.
Add the guests and the music doesn't taste better, it is just coated differently. Drye's trombone flavors the opening track "Safety Shoes," a meter-shifting feel good (no great) piece. Carter swoops upon "Bright Light" and "Atessa" with a notion that it is hip to be inside Knuffke's conceptions. Lederer's appearance with soprano honors Steve Lacy on "Chirp" and his tenor gives a nod to Sonny Rollins' appreciation of cornball. The band turns a potentially clichéd tune like Ernest Tubbs' country song "Thanks a Lot" into a very hip swinger.
The best recorded music is sometimes the result of life altering circumstances stimulating the creative impulses in receptive musicians, which then take the idea into the studio. By chance, multi-reed player and composer Yacine Boulares was turned on to the infectious rhythms of Cameroon, leading to the record Ajoyo, a delightful hybrid of expressive vocals highlighted by regional bikutsi and makossa tempos, with a strong dose of afro-beat thrown in for good measure.
Surrounding himself with an international cast of hand-picked accompanying musicians, Boulares composed a series of songs based around West African polyphonies leaning toward a jazz sensibility presented by featured vocalist Sarah Elizabeth Charles. Charles adds a silken charm to the music, and sets the tone with her inspired interpretations. From the accelerated pace of "Jekoro," to the sentimental "Idanwo," and into the percussive "Benskin," and "Tashikere," numbers, Charles displays a mastery of tempo and tone, and exhibits why she is a rising star in the jazz vocal realm.
The rest of the band also rises to the occasion on instrumentals and kicks into high gear on "Chocot," and fuels an afro-beat frenzy into "Soke Ijo." The real joy in this ensemble is how they flow seamlessly throughout the record in the true sense of an interconnected ensemble. Everyone played their role to perfection without stepping out of the projected concept. With a blend of European and African cross cultural players in the lineup, the music exudes sophistication, yet responds to a primordial pulse.
Having paid his dues in what he calls "math music," and playing by numbers, Boulares discovered himself in the wake of his experimental foray into African music, and came out the other side a renovated and inspired musician.Ajoyo represents an engaging synthesis of what is possible when positive and creative forces are allowed to develop and mature.
Sarah Elizabeth Charles: lead vocals
Linton Smith: trumpet, vocals
Alon Albagli: guitar & vocals
Can Olgun: piano, fender rhodes & C3 organ
Foluso Mimy: percussion & vocals
Fred Doumbe: bass & vocals
Guilhem Flouzat: drums: (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7)
Thierry Arpino: drums (3, 5, 6) udu (8)
Yacine Boulares:: sax, clarinet, percussion and vocals
Saxophonist Gilad Atzmon is a giant of jazz—an imposing physical presence, a huge personality, technically masterful and emotionally committed to every note. On The Whistle Blower, the Orient House Ensemble's eighth album since it formed in 2000, he's joined by long-term Ensemble members Frank Harrison on piano and Yaron Stavi on bass along with new recruit drummer Chris Higginbottom. The band is as strong as ever, the album a worthy addition to its discography.
Atzmon is an in-demand session player—he's on Pink Floyd's The Endless River (Columbia, 2014)—a producer and a long-term member of the much-loved Blockheads. However, it's the Orient House Ensemble that best represents his personal take on music, a quartet that's recorded some strikingly exciting original work as well as a loving tribute to Atzmon's early inspiration, Charlie Parker, (In Loving Memory Of America, Enja, 2009).
In his poetic self-portrait on The Whistle Blower's sleeve Atzmon describes the compositions as "about love, nostalgia, devotion and simplicity" and himself as "a reactionary existentialist," "the enemy of progress" and "the Imam of retro." Crucially, he also states "I am happy." The album title is a self-deprecating reference to Atzmon's instruments of choice as well as to his political activism.
The Whistle Blower is the first release on Atzmon's own Fanfare Jazz label. Atzmon wrote all of the tunes, mixing the sounds of his early years in the middle east with rock grooves and bebop flourishes. His playing focuses on the alto and soprano saxophones, but his accordion playing is also worthy of note, adding a jauntier and more upbeat feel to his often plaintive reeds.
"Gaza Mon Amour" is a fiery opener—fast, danceable, energetic and positive. The following half-dozen tunes have a gentler, mellower, vibe. "Forever" is a beautiful ballad, Atzmon's romantic side emanating clearly from his soprano sax. "The Romantic Church" is another slow tune, Atzmon's alto and Harrison's piano are cool, Harrison's keyboards add a string section feel and the result is a sophisticated success.
The 11-minute "Let Us Pray" takes inspiration from John Coltrane's spiritual jazz: it's an ambitious tune with some fine extended solos, though its impact would be heightened by reducing its length. The Gallic-flavored "The Song" puts the accordion center-stage and features the album's most graceful melody, while the dynamic "To Be Free" slowly builds and releases tension through soprano sax and piano solos. The Ensemble return to the romantic ballad with "For Moana"—Atzmon's paean to Italian adult-movie actress and politician Moana Pozzi, his "vintage romantic heroine."
"The Whistle Blower" is a cheesy, tongue-in-cheek, tune full of wolf whistles, clichéd rhythms, Tali Atzmon's wordless lounge-jazz singing and a rather jolly vocal chorus from the gentlemen of the Ensemble. It's all rather delightful, a reminder that Atzmon the activist and musician is also a joker—and he's happy.