viernes, 13 de noviembre de 2015

Sullivan Fortner - Aria (2015)



New Orleans has produced a bumper crop of notable pianists over its long and storied history—Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, Allen Toussaint, James Booker, Dr. John, Ellis Marsalis, Henry Butler, Harry Connick, Jr., Jon Batiste—and it's not done yet. Sullivan Fortner, a twenty-eight year old piano phenom who's been a hot topic since receiving the American Pianists Association's 2015 Cole Porter Fellow award, is the latest notable NOLA piano export to register on a national level. He's done his homework, having studied with piano masters like Marsalis, Fred Hersch, Peter Martin, Jason Moran, and Phil Markowitz; he's made some considerable contributions as a sideman, having worked with vibraphonist Stefon Harris, rising star clarinetist Oran Etkin, and trumpeter Theo Croker; and now, Fortner is poised to make his mark as a leader with his debut on the revived-and-thriving Impulse! imprint. 

Aria, featuring a spry quartet consisting of Fortner, bassist Aidan Carroll, drummer Joe Dyson, and saxophonist Tivon Pennicott, opens on a trio of originals that highlight the leader's sophisticated yet earthy way(s) with the pen and the piano. The title track is six-and-a-half minutes of forward motion, with Fortner's piano leading the charge, Caroll's bass bouncing about, Penticott's squirrelly soprano circling around, and Dyson's dynamic drumming weaving in, out, in front of, and behind it all. "Ballade," in contrast, moves in soulful fashion, while "Parade" presents as a harmonic triptych detailing the different emotions connected to Crescent City funeral processions. Each of those numbers points to different facets of Fortner's artistry, and when taken together, they help to show how expansive his skill set really is. 

As the album continues, Fortner finds his way onto more familiar ground, bringing creative flair tempered by judiciousness to standards and songbook favorites. Thelonious Monk's "I Mean You" becomes a study on walking a hip line between accord and discord, Fred Rogers' "You Are Special" is a waltz-time world of possibility that's ripe for the taking, "All The Things You Are" is stripped of its old hat swing feel and given a natty groove update, and "You Know I Care" is trio synchronicity and reverie rolled into one. And then, sitting between two more originals and holding the penultimate position in the running order, there's Fortner's solo piano performance of "For All We Know"—a fragile and slow-moving emotional catharsis that's pure perfection. Debuts don't get any better than this.

01. Aria
02. Ballade
03. Parade
04. I Mean You
05. You Are Special
06. All The Things You Are
07. You Know I Care
08. Passepied
09. For All We Know
10. Finale


Sullivan Fortner: piano
Tivon Penticott: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Aidan Carroll: bass
Joe Dyson: drums


Domi

Marnix Busstra - Firm Fragile Fun (2015)



Can a single word sum up the meaning and magic of a song? In the large majority of cases, the answer is no. But that doesn't mean a brief descriptor can't serve as a window into a composition's bearing. Just look at the track titles on the latest release from Dutch guitarist-composer Marnix Busstra: each song on Firm Fragile Fun gets its name from a single word assigned to it by some of Busstra's non-musician friends, instantaneously bringing to light the perceived heart of the matter(s). 

While some may say that the method of creation behind these song titles is merely a gimmick, those same people would be missing the point: if music is a tool of expression and communication, why shouldn't those on the receiving end be given a say in explaining the feel(ing) of a song? The title of a song does absolutely nothing to change the music itself, but the naming method behind these songs says a lot about Busstra's willingness to let his music speak to listeners on their own terms, rather than what's dictated to them. And in many cases, Busstra's buddies do a fine job of summing up the central tenets of his music. "Joy," for example, is a perfect encapsulation of a four-minute number in three letters. Consonance wins out as Busstra strums in sunny fashion and pianist Rembrandt Frerichs delivers uplifting chording with hints of spirited South African Goema. Whoever was charged with naming that one hit the nail on the head. 

In other places, it's tempting to argue with the title choices: the guitar-piano performance dubbed "Fragile" may have been better served with a title like "Peaceful"; the swaggering "Fun" could just as easily be "Swampy" or "Chipper," depending largely on whether drummer Pieter Bast's NOLA-ish groove or the melodic content is seen as the defining trait; "Deep" might be deemed "Meditative" by another set of ears; and "Crazy" could be "Intense" or "Ominous," as danger seems to lurk around the corner thanks to Arnold Dooyeweerd's bass lines and Busstra's suspenseful soloing. But those thoughts are only the semi-argumentative musings of one man. Meaning is in the mind of the beholder, and you can't blame somebody or second guess them for gleaning what they glean from a song. Ultimately, the substance is more important than the title(s), and there's plenty of substance to soak in on this one.


  01. Stress
02. Fun
03. Firm
04. Mild
05. Joy
06. Deep
07. Crazy
08. Smoky
09. Moody
10. Fragile
11. Gone

Marnix Busstra: guitar, bouzouki, electric sitar
Rembrandt Frerichs: piano
Arnold Dooyeweerd: double bass
Pieter Bast: drums


Domi

Jakob Nongren Jazz Orchestra - Pathfinding (2015)



One look into the eyes of composer/reed man Jakob Norgren tells you that he is an extremely purposeful, self- directed and intense person. His music for his Jazz Orchestra reflects these attributes, making Pathfinding quite an aural ride. 

Stylistically, this music fits somewhere between Ayn Inserto's story-telling Home Away From Home and John Fedchock's more traditional Like It Is. This is a very tight big band that can swing like crazy ("Serendipity") or blow the roof out (the 4/4 parts of "Pathfinding") with superior soloists taking advantage of sparkling arrangements. However, thrown into the mix is some atmospheric sound painting (the two "Secret Walks" for large sections) that moves Norgren's overall oeuvre out of strict "big-band." 

Norgren likes odd meters (and phrase lengths)— "Pathfinding" is in 11/4, "Parade" is in 7/4 and the bass line in "Some Kind Of Dancing" has that delicious odd-length hitch. However, these are not used for mere effect, and sound quite natural. 

All of the soloists, especially tenor saxophonist Jonas Kullhammar (who is listed as "featured") are on fire, making the most of the opportunity to get out front. 

Of particular interest are the two "Secret Walks." The first begins with a deep blues groove with a monster solo by Kullhammar that is overtaken by sustained notes of the band to lead into the quite different middle section that lopes to and fro until it thins out only to build and intensify; in other words, a sonic story. The second kind of picks up where the first left off, only drop into a spellbinding groove supporting a number of wonderful solos. 

Simply put, Norgren's music as played by the band is flat out exciting, continually surprising while maintaining that one-foot-in-the-tradition which makes it easy for anyone to appreciate and groove on.


01. Pathfinding
02. Some Kind Of Dancing
03. Serendipity
04. Parade
05. Secret Walks, Part 1
06. Secret Walks, Part 2

Jakob Norgren, Jonas Kullhammar, Peter Friedman, Lina Lövstrand, Kai Sundquist, Christian Herluf Pedersen: reeds
Fredrik Oscarsson, Jonne Bentlöv, David Ljunggren, Oscar Lindblom: trumpets
Mats Äleklint, Michael Rörby, Johan Åström, Klas Eriksson: trombones
Mathias Lundquist: piano
Lars Ekman: bass
Isak Andersson: drums


Domi