Friday, January 29, 2016

Fred Nardin & Jon Boutellier 4tet - Watt's (2016)

A qui voudra se lancer dans la carrière du jazz, on pourra conseiller de jeter un coup d'oeil à ce Watt's équilibré, gréé de ce qu'il faut de maîtrise autant que de folie, de morceaux de jouissances béates les plus grands publics aux clins d'oeil presque hardcore destinés à un auditoire plus fanatique et restreint. Qui voudra se lancer dans cette carrière pourrait s'inspirer des deux leaders, échappées d'une promo du CNSM qui ne manque pas de talent, et pollinise toujours plus le jazz français, à travers notamment l'Amazing Keystone Big Band où l'on retrouve en sus de Boutellier et Nardin ainsi que David Enhco et Bastien Ballaz, ici invités.

Watt's va surtout piocher, comme tant d'autres albums mais bien mieux que beaucoup, dans l'âge d'or des années 50 et 60, notamment le hard-bop : le pianiste Fred Nardin s'inspire de Tommy Flanagan pour composer « Round Twenty Blues », de Winton Kelly pour un solo enflammé et virtuose qui ne dénote pas avec votre discothèque du meilleur de Blue Note. D'ailleurs, à être juste et circonspect, le pianiste ne cesse d'impressionner, en soliste ou avec la section, par une discrétion générale et élégante officiant comme rampe de lancement vers des fulgurances parfois moins feutrées, toujours justes (« Highlander's Walk », si l'on veut).

L'ensemble du quartet fonctionne cela dit avec une homogénéité de talents et de bonne entente palpable, soulignée par chaque solo de l'un ou de l'autre. La section rythmique offre une ossature à l'exquise fermeté pour l'ensemble de ce Watt's, mâtinée du groove de la basse de Patrick Maradan – parfois aidée par les arpèges et autres block chords de Nardin – ainsi que du swing de Romain Sarron à la batterie.

N.B. : qu'on soit bien clair, Jon Boutellier, c'est très bien aussi, je ne savais simplement pas trop où le caler dans cette chronique.

Les invités – copains, amis, ce qu'on voudra – font des interventions nombreuses mais sachant ne pas se montrer trop invasives ; y compris les deux standards où chante, divine, Cécile McLorin Salvant. Au contraire, ces featuring révèlent plus encore l'art consommé de ce quartet, dans la réalisation aussi bien que dans l'écriture et l'arrangement, ici ciselés avec un perfectionnisme presque inquiétant : « The Gentleman is a dope », avec Bastien Ballaz, David Enhco et Cécile McLorin Salvant, un tube ; plus encore le « Chinoiserie » osé d'Ellington.

En cent mot comme en un, Watt's déchire, dans un jazz presque historique, qui lasse souvent à passer le cap du disque. Rien de tout ça ici, ce quartet diablement fin et libéré parvenant à trouver le fil rouge d'une musicalité généreuse, touche-à-tout, parfois inconvenante, le plus souvent bienvenue. Pierre Tenne

01. Watt's
02. Round Twenty Blues
03. The Gentleman Is a Dope
04. Hope
05. Highlander's Walk
06. East of the Sun
07. Not so Cold
08. Yatchan
09. Stevie the Great
10. Chinoiserie

Fred Nardin - piano
Jon Boutellier - tenor sax
Patrick Maradan - bass
Romain Sarron - drums
Cécile McLorin Salvant - vocals (3, 6)
David Enhco - trumpet (3, 6, 10)
Bastien Ballaz - trombone (3, 6, 10)


Renee Rosnes - Written in the Rocks (2016)

Label: Smoke Sessions

Why don’t we hear about jazz pianist and composer Renee Rosnes more? She’s just as good, if not better, than most of her male counterparts. Her February 5, 2016 album,Written In The Rocks, on Smoke Sessions Records puts her up there as one of the most in-flux, fluid, fantastic artists around.

Everything on this new record seems to rush at you, in a hurry, with some urgency, but rounded out with a fleshy magic. Her quartet is scheduled to debut Written In The Rocks at a CD release celebration February 5-7 of next year in three sets at New York City’s Smoke Jazz & Supper Club.

This is no ordinary release, built on the whims and aspirations of a jazz artist in flux. The Canadian expat found inspiration in nature, building seven of the nine compositions to “The Galapagos Suite.”

Nature has always played a major role in Rosnes’ life growing up in beautiful British Columbia. “The infinite blue-green hues of coastal British Columbia are in my blood,” she explained in a recent DL Media press release. “My family's home sat at the bottom of a street that opened up into a deep ravine, and a half-hour's drive from there, the city lights were dim enough to offer an astonishing view of the night sky. Salty air, the smell of seaweed, the relentless pounding of waves, and the agreeable aroma of cedar — all of these provide me with spiritual nourishment and inspiration. To compose music about our planet's evolution was a stimulating concept and one brimming with possibilities.”

With Rosnes on this natural journey are her bandmates: Steve Wilson (sax, flute), Steve Nelson (vibes), Peter Washington (bass), and Bill Stewart (drums). “All of us have personal and musical relationships that have been growing for decades,” Rosnes continued. “As a band, we've developed a focused sound with a wide and nuanced palette of colors and rhythms. We play off of each other.”

Her bandmates play no small role on her album. That’s Nelson’s vibes all over the place on “Lucy From Afar,” touching on the intriguing discovery of humankind’s ancestor amongst the ruins of civilization. In the opening, “The KT Boundary,” her entire band joins in, notably drummer Stewart with Wilson on flute and soprano sax. Together, they posit the possibilities of new life from the end of the dinosaurs in a kind of mass, avant-garde hysteria that never quite takes leave of its senses.

On the title track, Nelson’s vibes gently make way for Rosnes, as she displays the kind of tranquil feminine touch missing in a lot of the slam, bang macho posturing found amongst the Millennial boys’ club nowadays. Yet, there’s the still life of a Bill Evans, a man who knew how to tap into his softer side for a melodic drowning, the fervor of the dying’s last wish. She contemplates the wonder, the history, the secrets beneath those age-old rocks, gently tapping at the grains of arctic sands, every note a forestry, a surging series of waves.

Outside “The Galapagos Suite,” Renee Rosnes and her band find common ground in the solid, straight-ahead jazz contemplation, “From Here To A Star,” and the hopefully nostalgic “Goodbye Mumbai.”

1. The KT Boundary
2. Galapagos    
3. So Simple a Beginning
4. Lucy from Afar    
5. Written in the Rocks
6. Deep in the Blue (Tiktaalik)
7. Cambrian Explosion    
8. From Here to a Star    
9. Goodbye Mumbai

Renee Rosnes - piano
Steve Wilson - saxophone & flute
Steve Nelson - vibraphone
Peter Washington - double bass
Bill Stewart - drums



Freddie Hendrix - Jersey Cat (2016)

Source & Label: Sunnyside

Many know New York City as the Mecca of jazz. Very few recall the illustrious players hailing from just across the Hudson in New Jersey. Many of the greatest jazz names hailed from the Garden State, including Wayne Shorter, Count Basie, James Moody and trumpeter Woody Shaw. It is to correct this oversight that the fantastic trumpeter Freddie Hendrix presents his new recording Jersey Cat, a wide ranging collection that represents the unique swagger and groove of the Jersey jazz musician.

Growing up in Teaneck, Hendrix was originally attracted to music by the way of doo-wop and R&B, most notably that of local legends, the Isley Brothers. His initial foray into playing was on the guitar, a struggle that led him to trumpet and junior high band. It was under the tutelage of teachers like Dave Brown, Dave Rogers, Robert Hankle and his church organist Dr. Maredia Warren that Hendrix’s love of jazz blossomed. A failed audition for a Teaneck area big band led to a renewed commitment to his studies, which finally led to Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Music Performance and, ultimately, to performing for two United States Presidents.

Out of school, Hendrix hit the ground running, playing with pop groups and jazz luminaries, including Christian McBride, Alicia Keys, Jimmy Heath and Wynton Marsalis. It was his work with the Count Basie Orchestra and Teaneck resident Rufus Reid that led to his first forays outside of the States, influencing much of his writing for Jersey Cat. But it was his relationships in his home state that really made the recording possible.

The members of the ensemble that Hendrix assembled were friends and regulars at drummer Cecil Brooks III’s beloved, but now closed, Cecil’s Jazz Club, in West Orange. Brooks not only plays on Jersey Cat , but also produced the recording. The rest of the cast includes all former or current New Jersey residents, including saxophonists Bruce Williams and Abraham Burton and pianist Brandon McCune, along with Manhattan resident trombonist David Gibson and the lone Brooklynite, bassist Corcoran Holt. The ensemble is talented and flexible, as Hendrix provides compositions for amalgamations of all sizes, including a octet that allowed him to use his arranging and part writing skills in an Art Blakey Jazz Messenger vein.

For the album, Hendrix wanted to provide a mix of original compositions and standard pieces that represented the strongest material in his book. He also wanted to make sure to represent the spirit of New Jersey, a more relaxed vibe that can jump off at any moment. The way he did this was to incorporate influences outside of jazz, namely R&B and hip-hop, into his music, creating music that grooves but also swings and is simultaneously current and retro.

The recording begins with Tex Allen’s snappy “St. Peter’s Walk,” which Hendrix first heard on Louis Hayes’s The Real Thing with his hero Woody Shaw, whose playing Hendrix lives up to. The trumpeter’s tone is exquisite on the subdued quartet take on the classic “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” while his travel inspired “The Journey Man” is a powerful Latin based blues with great group interplay. The title track is another original that features a laid-back tone and soulful melody, but with moments of flair. Hendrix’s “On The Rise” takes inspiration from Darren Barrett’s “First One Up,” but holds up on its own as an exciting medium fast post bop gem.

The romantic “Madeira Nights” is an early piece inspired by Hendrix’s initial trip to Portugal. The trumpeter pays tribute to another hero as he performs Freddie Hubbard’s “Hubtones” in a unique arrangement with a distinctive hip-hop influenced bounce. Hendrix’s take on the standard “Invitation” is inspired by the sound of the Ahmad Jamal trio’s Live at the Pershing session, but expanded to octet. The melody of “Whims of a Waltz” appeared fully formed in Hendrix’s mind on a moment’s notice when a blast of wind hit his face, while Horace Silver’s “Peace” has occupied a place in the trumpeter’s favorite ballad pieces for as long as he can remember.

On Jersey Cat, Freddie Hendrix provides a powerful program of original tunes and choice covers that cement his playing as not only some of the best in New Jersey, but also in the jazz world as a whole.

1. St. Peter's Walk 05:06
2. You Don't Know What Love Is
3. The Journey Man
4. Jersey Cat 06:24
5. On The Rise
6. Madeira Nights
7. Hubtones
8. Invitation
9. Whims Of A Waltz
10.Peace 05:50
11.JC Reprise

Freddie Hendrix - trumpet & flugelhorn
Bruce Williams - alto saxophone & flute
Abraham Burton - tenor saxophone
David Gibson - trombone
Brandon McCune - piano
Corcoran Holt - bass
Cecil Brooks III - drums



Trio Da Paz - 30 (2016)

Source & Label: Zoho

Only very special collaborations last 30 years, and rarely do they become more exciting and together over the decades. Trio da Paz, however, is one such long-lasting and still lightning band. The team of drummer Eduardo "Duduka" Da Fonseca, guitarist Romero Lubambo and bassist Nilson Matta, all Brasilian jazzmen of New York City, is just as dashing today as when the three first met in 1985.

So 30, their seventh album and ZOHO debut release, wastes no time glancing back. Rather, Trio da Paz celebrates the past as a way to get to what's now and what's next. This is not to imply that the band or 30 denies history. As friends, Duduka, Romero and Nilson are utterly secure in their enduring triangle, and as musicians they tap well-established elements of bedrock Brasilian samba and bossa nova -- the music of Jobim, Gilberto and Bonfá -- as well as bebop and its developments, Wes Montgomery, third stream and even free improvisation for ingredients of their signature sound. Romero's urban gypsy melodies and percussive chording, Nilson's firm yet flexible baselines and Duduka's rhythms -- which, whether surging or simmering, are always energized -- flow fast and inseparably over the course of 30.

Sampa 67 is characteristic: A brisk tune that welcomes the listener to enjoy the musicians' empathic interplay. The composition is slangily named for São Paulo, where Nilson, its composer, was born, and his rubato statement is at the track's center. Hear how Romero and Duduka, in stimulating exchanges, ramp the tempo back up to where it started.

In a similar mood and moving quickly, For Donato is Romero's tribute to bandleader and pianist Joao Donato, a Brazilian master who absorbed Caribbean accents during his stints with Mongo Santamaria, Cal Tjader and Tito Puente, among others, when he lived in the United States during the late '50s and '60s. The tune uses an afoxé rhythm that comes from Bahia, and is closely related to an Afro-Cuban groove.

The pace slows somewhat – Duduka using brushes instead of sticks - for Romero's bossa nova Outono ("Autumn"). Says the guitarist-composer: "With its changing of colors and cooler days after the summer, autumn is really a season for romantic music." And this is really music for romance. Alana is Duduka's piece for his older daughter, now an adult. Her father says Alana's personality is reflected in the song, which changes meter from 15/8 to 6/8 to a doubletimed 4/4 for the bass solo to Duduka's own episode in 15/8. So may we assume Alana is a sparkling and strong woman whose many dimensions fit together gracefully? Complementary yet contrasting, Luisa is for Romero's daughter, currently 17. The guitarist calls her "a beautiful person inside and out, who I love very much!" Although written in ¾, "Luisa" is not phrased as a jazz waltz but instead sways in a way that Duduka identifies as a waltz with a Brasilian lilt.
Brasilian guitar virtuoso Baden Powell (1937 – 2000), obviously a hero to Romero, Nilson and Duduka as an early exemplar of the pan-stylistic approach Trio da Samba favors, wrote Samba Triste which at a breakneck tempo doesn't seem triste at all. Nilson's Águas Brasileiras refers to the Atlantic ocean, which has exerted implacable influence on the Trio's native land. A ballad, the song moves in soft waves; the trio's improvisation opens up the theme's depths and crosscurrents. Nilson recorded this previously, on his 2010 ZOHO album Copacabana.

Sweeping the Chimney, which Duduka calls "fast, really fast," was inspired by workers attending to Romero's house in New Jersey. "Luisa was three years old when I wrote that," the guitarist mentions, "and she helped me decide some of the notes." Duduka contributed Flying Over Rio, the melody of which came to him in an airplane taking off over Guanabara Bay, giving him a view of the mountains around Rio and Sugar Loaf, their peak. "Wow, it was gorgeous," he remembers – also remembering to credit Paulo Jobim (Tom Jobim's son) with suggesting to him one perfect note that launched the bridge "in a completely different direction."

To conclude, Nilson's LVM/Direto Ao Assunto (the initials of his wife and sons/"to the point") goes in a flash from subtle reflection to searing line. Both of these songs have been recorded before by Duduka and Nilson with pianist Helio Alves: "Flying over Rio" in 2008 on The Brazilian Trio's ZOHO release "Forests", and "LVM/Direto ao Assunto" on that group's album "Constelacao". Nilson introduced the song on the late pianist Don Pullen's album Kele Mou Bana, released in 1991.

That was just one year before Trio da Paz's own recording debut, Brasil from the Inside. Annotating that album, I wrote, "If North Americans hadn't invented jazz, surely Brasilians such as guitarist Romero Lubambo, bassist Nilson Matta and percussionist Duduka Da Fonseca would have." In fact, the members of Trio da Paz have invented jazz that's personally and musically unique. Their music is cool and hot, rooted in Brasilian heritage but cosmopolitan, timely and timeless.

"After 30 years together, we still bring the same energy, emotion and happiness whether we're stepping onstage or into a recording session," says Nilson. "That's the secret to Trio da Paz, what captivates our fans and why we keep making new ones all over the world." Romero agrees: "To play as Trio da Paz is a unique experience because the music always transcends notes, chords, tempos and anything written on sheet music. Naturally, because we've been playing together for 30 years, we know each other so well that we don't need to explain anything. These are qualities that are impossible to teach or articulate in words. They come from the hearts, souls and feelings that we have as individuals and as a group." Duduka adds simply, "When we play, we're very organic and spontaneous. Even to songs we perform often, we like to take a fresh approach. Sometimes one of us does something a little different, and we all realize it's better, so we stick with that. It's like a democracy. We all have ideas and try to do our best." The best of Trio da Paz is very fine. And though journalists used to use "-30-" to indicate the end of a story, 30 whets the appetite for more from a band in its prime.   Howard Mandel 

1 - SAMPA 67 5:16
2 - FOR DONATO 5:46
3 - OUTONO 4:18
4 - ALANA 5:02
5 - LUISA 3:33

Romero Lubambo - Acoustic & Electric Guitars
Nilson Matta - Acoustic Bass
Duduka Da Fonseca - Drums 



Aly Keïta, Jan Galega Brönnimann, Lucas Niggli - Kalo-Yele (2016)

Aly Keïta is one of the grand masters of the balafon, the West African xylophone. The Ivorian musician fits the balafon in interaction with artists such as Joe Zawinul, Omar Sosa and Jan Garbarek. Together with the Swiss clarinetist Jan Galega Brönnimann and Swiss drummer Lucas Niggli Keïta mixes the traditional African repertoire with Western jazz, Improvisation and African rhythms. This "Brotherhood of vibes and grooves" takes the audience on an adventurous ride. The first element that underlies “Kalo-Yele” (“moonlight” in Bambara) is a human and affective dimension, whose origin lies many miles from Switzerland and several decades before the three musicians entered the studio. Niggli and Jan Galega Brönnimann were actually born in Cameroon and they have been friends since they were… one year old! So, they spent their youth to the sounds and rhythms of West African music. Thierry Quénum writes in the liner notes: "If you ever wanted to try and classify the repertoire and interaction of these three musicians, I’d just have to wish you good luck! For each of them can handle the melody as well as the rhythm, or sail close to the jazz coasts as easily as near the banks of so called “world music”.

Aly Keïta: Balafon, Kalimba 
Jan Galega Brönnimann: Bass Clarinet, Contrabass Clarinet, Soprano Saxophone 
Lucas Niggli: Drums, Percussion

1. Kalo-Yele
2. Nyanga
3. Bean Bag
4. Mamabamako
5. Makuku
6. Langa
7. Abidjan Serenade
8. Dreams of Mikael
9. Bafut
10. Adjamé Street

Released January 15, 2016


Myra Melford + Ben Goldberg - Dialogue (2016)

Pianist Myra Melford and clarinetist Ben Goldberg have an association that goes back a ways, and they’ve worked together in various groups and various projects, most recently for Goldberg’s recent grand opus, The Orphic Machine. Since 2008, they’ve also partnered as a duo and that’s finally led to a set of recordings with only the two performing.

Dialogue is a true meeting of the minds between musicians who value a lovely strain and places just as much value to go anywhere with it. Over thirteen radio-friendly length performances (if not exactly radio friendly commercial-wise, anyway) Melford and Goldberg each contribute originals that emphasize their remarkable telepathy. The unencumbered tête–à–tête between piano and clarinet calls to mind the one Art Pepper did with George Cables at the end of Pepper’s life but Dialogue is freer and looser. Nonetheless, it’s got the same personal feeling.

It’s so intimate, you can clearly hear Goldberg pressing the keys of his clarinet. From the start with the first song “An Unexpected Visitor,” we hear them sync telepathically, sometimes moving together and other times interacting sympathetically with other. And when the melody takes a turn — which can happen at any time — they turn with it intuitively and gracefully.

There are echoes of the jazz tradition such as the swing found in “9 + 5” and the show tune sensibilities of “Anymore”. However, these songs, eight from Melford and five from Goldberg, are for the most part not explicitly jazz; they seem conceived to facilitate open and probing conversations. Occasionally flowing in and out of dissonance with Melford even breaking out some Cecil Taylor a few times, but the two always perform with purpose, emotion and unity.

Dialogue went on sale January 15, 2016 through BAG Production Records. Look for upcoming live shows by Myra and Ben.

Ben Goldberg — clarinet
Myra Melford — piano, harmonium

01. An Unexpected Visitor
02. Your Life Here
03. The Kitchen
04. Miniature
05. City of Illusion
06. Moonless Night
07. 1 Through 8
08. Be Melting Snow
09. Passing Phase
10. Montevideo
11. 9 + 5
12. Chorale
13. Anymore