Monday, February 20, 2017

Theo Bleckmann - Elegy (ECM 2017)

Beyond being a vocalist of rare purity and daring, Theo Bleckmann is a sound painter who creates what JazzTimes has described aptly as “luminous webs” in music. The German-born New Yorker – after appearing on two ECM albums by Meredith Monk and another by Julia Hülsmann makes his striking label debut as a leader with Elegy.

This album showcases Bleckmann as a composer as much as a singer, with several instrumental pieces voiced by what he calls his “ambient” band of kindred-spirit guitarist Ben Monder, keyboardist Shai Maestro and the subtle rhythm team of Chris Tordini and John Hollenbeck. Highlights include Bleckmann’s sublime rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s “Comedy Tonight” (“tragedy tomorrow… comedy tonight”), as well as the mellifluous vocalise of “Little Elegy” and achingly poetic “To Be Shown to Monks at a Certain Temple.”

Staub Quartet - House Full of Colors (JACC RECORDS 2017)

Artistic creation is closely linked with the need to take that which remains hidden in the unconscious to a higher level governed by consciousness. 

In the exercise of transforming the occult into something visible, the artist, through a state of catharsis of being, goes about creating an imaginary space where they are able to germinate symbols, capture ideas and project from the magic of playfulness an aesthetic argument that aspires to transform the creative impulse into a significant and substantive action. 

However, for a work to be deemed a truly creative act, it is not enough to solely unearth the hidden in the unconscious nor to bring from the darkness that which exists in the depths of being. There must exist, within the artist, the will to manifest a transparency that allows the light to enter their inner world. 

The symbolism contained in the existing link between the action of "letting in the light" and creative realization, is embodied in a sublime way through House Full of Colors, the debut album by STAUB Quartet. 

This cooperative project, rooted in the development of acoustic improvisation, brings together four essential figures of our time in European creative music: violinist Carlos "Zingaro", guitarist Marcelo dos Reis, bassist Hernani Faustino and cellist Miguel Mira. The approach offered in this album debut of this quartet of distinguished musicians - all having emerged from today’s thriving Portuguese music scene - finds its inspirational epicenter in the concepts of light and color. 

This conceptual reference is embodied in the album title as well as the names of each piece while also giving life and nurturing a musical approach that yearns to explore uncharted creative territories. So claimed Paul Cezanne, "Light is not something that can be reproduced, but something that should be represented using something else". 

The artistic testimony amalgamated by STAUB QUARTET in House Full of Colors, the means used for that representation, are sounds and music. Talking about color also involves talking about light; it is due to light that we see the shapes and colors of forms. However, with subsequent discoveries about how the brain interprets colors in "Color Theory", outlined by Goethe, along with the current research in color psychology, it is agreed that color has a subjective value that is based on the phenomenon of human perception.

There is no doubt that subjectivity can be fertile ground for the blossoming of an artistic idea that seeks to extrapolate the perception of color to music and, in the case of House Full of Colors, that aspiration materializes in a sublime manner. The album passes through different climates - mostly associated with the perception of color and light that gives it life - but finds a common denominator in its abstract nature (which is to say that it doesn’t respond to predetermined stylistic concepts), a spacious and relaxed exploration of the material (which comes from careful listening and mutual understanding with which they interact collectively) and the constant playful instinct that pervades the improvisational approach of the quartet. In its subtle journey, the music passes through the spacious contours and introspective calm of Quiet Arcs, the disturbing intensity that emerges from the complex sound structure exposed in Red Curtains, the fleeting and elusive character of Opacity Rings, the sonic flirtations and emphatic dramatics of Knots of Light, the haunting beauty of a dream-like atmosphere developed in Resonant Shades and the multi-weighted temperament open to myriad readings emanating from Discrete Auroras. All of it ranked by the quality of the ideas of its interpreters and framed in the context of a consummate collective delivery. 

At the time, the brilliant Kandinsky - influenced by Goethe and Delacroix - showed that sound and color had powerful effects on the human condition as both can become "means to exert a direct influence on the soul." 

Based on similar principles, STAUB QUARTET, through House Full of Color, has produced a work capable of illuminating the soul of everyone who is willing to "let in the light" to their inner world. 

Sergio Piccirilli

1. Quiet Arcs 6:10 
2. Red Curtains 6:59 
3. Opacity Rings 10:13 
4. Knots of Light 5:19 
5. Resonant Shades 9:14 
6. Discrete Auroras 5:42

Miguel Mira cello
Carlos Zíngaro violin
Hernani Faustino double bass

Tim Langedijk Trio - Up North (2017)

Up North, the trio’s brand new album, represents going home, to the northern part of The Netherlands, where Langedijk was born. To develop the compositions for this album, guitarist Langedijk and bassist Pannekeet spent the summer in Wedgeview Studio, located in the green heart of The Netherlands. A region that a century and a half ago was much loved by painters from The Hague, they found their inspiration for the particular sky, light and water. Distant from crowds, the two created this 6th album in peace. This unique collaboration resulted in a number of compositions that defines the band more than ever.

Tim Langedijk – Guitarist Langedijk (1984) graduated cum laude at the Rotterdam Conservatory. Langedijk started his trio in 2006. Besides his trio he does studiowork and arranging. With different groups he toured throughout Europe. Contemporary jazz that branches out into fusion and country, it’s all possible with Langedijk, yet always with a lovely tone and refined movements.

He likes beautiful melodic lines and subtle harmonies and he also searches for intriguing and adventurous soundscapes. He played with Jasper van ’t Hof, Adam Nussbaum, Tommy Smith.
Currently he’s teaching at the Haarlem Conservatory.

Udo Pannekeet – Bass player Udo Pannekeet (1978) graduated cum laude at the Conservatory of Amsterdam. In 2002 he started his own quintet Pitch Pine Project, featuring Martijn van Iterson, Tom Beek, Chris Strik en Rob van Bavel. The group got a lot of critical acclaim in the Netherlands as well as outside of it, playing in France, Belgium and Germany. PPP played at the North Sea Jazz Festival twice, with famous trumpet player Randy Brecker. Udo played at major festivals en venues in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, Turkey, China, the Philippines and Switzerland.

On (2014, Bow Shock Records) is his first album under his own name. With top-notch players: Jeroen van Vliet, Pascal Vermeer and Belgian saxophonist Erwin Vann.

Udo teaches bassguitar and theory at the conservatories in Tilburg, Haarlem and Enschede.

Hans van Oosterhout – Hans (1965) started playing drums at the age of seven. After graduating from high school, he is immediately admitted to the Jazz Department of the Rotterdam Conservatory. Even before finishing his studies, he is offered a position as a drum teacher at the Rotterdam Conservatory, a position today he still holds since 1987. Currently also teaching at Fontys in Tilburg. Over the years Hans has established himself as one of the much sought after drummers in Europe. He has been performing with Toots Thielemans, Philip Catherine, Kenny Wheeler, John Scofield, Gino Vannelli, Lee Konitz, Rick Margitza, Denise Jannah, and many more.

In 1998 The Belgian Jazz Magazine voted Hans ‘Best European Jazz Drummer’.

1. Current · 8:45
2. Gerridae · 4:38
3. Song of Secrets · 6:44
4. Flor Ane · 5:07
5. Up North · 5:20
6. Mystics · 3:00
7. Status · 3:34
8. Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry · 3:15

Papanosh - A Chicken in a Bottle (2017)

Dès le premier titre le ton est donné! Bienvenue dans l'univers tumultueux de Papanosh. Comme sur leur précédent album Oh Yeah Ho, les cinq jazzmen français débarquent avec un tourbillon swing destructuré et jubilatoire à l'imaginaire tout mingusien et dolphyesque. Le quintet du collectif des Vibrants Défricheurs joue avec les codes du jazz pour mieux le faire vivre et danser.

Sur ce A Chicken in a Bottle, les trublions imprévisibles brisent les rythmes, alternent mélodies élégantes et tempêtes rythmiques. Ils trempent leur groove fulgurant dans un folklore imaginaire, de Tijuana à la Havane en passant par La Nouvelle Orléans. Papanosh est un quintet de musiciens qui se sont construits ensemble, où chacun peut être leader. Solos et fièvre collective s'enchaînent avec une évidence rare, le tout avec une dérision que seuls les grands musiciens peuvent se permettre.

Les cuivres du saxophoniste Raphaël Quenehen et du trompettiste Quentin Ghomari irradient, les rythmiques du contrebassite Thibault Cellier et du batteur Jérémie Piazza jouent avec notre tension, tandis que l'orgue B3 et autres claviers de Sébastien Palis nous propulent dans le groove des meilleures années Blue Note. Au milieu de cette cavalcade festive de compositions originales trône une reprise délicate du titre Plain Gold Ring immortalisé par Nina Simone en 1958. Un pur bonheur à voir sur scène absolument.

1. A Chicken in a Bottle 4:28
2. Monsieur Shadows 5:46
3. Bierbeek 5:02
4. Hermanos 6:45
5. Moquette 6:07
6. Plain Gold Ring 5:13
7. El Toro 7:52
8. 160 Bpm 3:34
9. Pour Andre 5:05

Chromb! - 1000 (2016)

1. Des Francis en quinconce
2. Bobby
3. Favrice
4. Le tombeau est vide
5. Bonjoure
6. La nuit des madames
7. Die Krabben leben noch
8. Il en fallait

Arrangé par les membres du corps de CHROMB! 

Clément Dupuis : ­ production exécutive 
Jérôme Rio ­ : prise de son et mixage 
Romain Rafini :­ mastering 
Benjamin Flao­ : images 
Sophie Blondeau : nourriture 
Pierre Chanel : Layout

Greg Diamond - Avenida Graham (ZOHO MUSIC 2016)

Modern musicians living in New York City -- those with their antennae up and with the open-mindedness to soak in their musical surroundings -- are invariably the beneficiaries of what the city’s former mayor David Dinkins once referred to as “a gorgeous mosaic.” 

Rather than depicting the city as a melting pot, in which myriad cultures blend into one homogenized mass of assimilation, Dinkins talked about the beauty of keeping rich cultures together, side by side, in his Inaugural Address of 1990. And so, it is possible, in walking through different neighborhoods in the boroughs of NYC, each with its own distinctive character, to experience Puerto Rican plena and bomba, Dominican merengue and bachata, Colombian cumbia, Peruvian festejo and landó and various other rhythms from the African diaspora in their pure form. And for eager musicians like Greg Diamond, those sounds and rhythms are bound to seep in.

A self-described ‘hybrid musician,’ guitarist-composer Diamond grew up in Queens, and later in a suburb of New York City, with a rich musical heritage in his own household, before he began experiencing the cornucopia of sounds the city had to offer. “I’m half Eastern European Jewish and half Colombian. My father’s a New Yorker, born and raised. He was an opera singer who studied classical piano at Juilliard, so I was listening to that music growing up. And my mother is Colombian, so I definitely grew up with that component as well.”

Spending two years in Colombia after graduating from high school was a kind of roots journey that led him deeper into his appreciation of Latin music. “When I moved back to the city in ’99, my main focus was jazz, learning the tradition,” Diamond explains. “Yet at the same time my interest in Latin music in its various forms continued further.”

From 2002-2013, when he lived near the intersection of Graham Avenue (aka Avenue of Puerto Rico) and Broadway in Brooklyn, Diamond would soak up the sounds of Hector Lavoe and Willie Colón blasting out of cars, apartment windows and porches in the neighborhood. “I got a good amount of inspiration living in that neighborhood, but more importantly, it represents a period of important growth,” he says.

Today Diamond is a quintessential product of New York City’s gorgeous mosaic, and Avenida Graham is a reflection of all his varied influences that have come together organically in his music. “I devote a lot of time studying the great masters but I also try to nourish another need to listen to other kinds of genres. I try not to limit myself to one part of the spectrum. Music is a universal language and we live in a rapidly globalizing and pluralistic society – I believe that a lot of music coming out today is a reflection of that.” 

Some of the pieces on Avenida Graham had their beginnings as far back as 2009. Others were written a few months before the May 2015 session at Sear Sound Recording Studio in Manhattan. All in all it’s some of his most accomplished writing to date. Diamond, who exhibits a warm, unaffected tone in his cleanly picked lines throughout this spirited recording, is joined by a stellar crew. Drummer Henry Cole (who plays with Miguel Zenon) and pianist Mike Eckroth (formerly of John Scofield’s band) are both returning from 2012’s Conduit, as are tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake (who appears on two searing tracks here) and percussionist Mauricio Herrera. Rounding out the lineup are saxophonist Stacy Dillard and bassist Peter Slavov. 

The collection kicks off with the churning, odd-metered groover Synesthesia which is fueled by Cole’s polyrhythmic pulse and Herrera’s percolating percussion. Dillard, on soprano sax, engages in some tight unisons with Diamond on the head, and as the piece opens up each contributes free-flowing solos that uplift the proceedings. Cole is also turned loose over a long tag at the end, bringing this opener to an exhilarating conclusion.

Rastros (“Traces”) opens on a tender note with Diamond’s fingerpicked arpeggios against Blake’s melancholy tenor tones. As the piece develops, it reveals a subtle tango flavor and gradually builds in intensity with Blake playing passionately over the top while Cole underscores with dramatic fills. Diamond’s solo here is elegant and introspective. “That’s one of my favorite tunes on the record,” says Diamond. “The harmonic progression is based on an étude that I wrote for guitar. The melody is very simple but there’s a flow to it that I like, and the mood of the piece is very somber and meditative.” He explains this track’s title: “‘Traces’ is about posterity. It also signals the importance of endeavoring to create music that is transcendent and timeless, in the face of a rapidly changing world that is becoming increasingly chaotic and ephemeral.” 

El Coronel is a buoyant piece that incorporates an infectious son montuno jam in the middle section. Blake and Diamond have some lively exchanges and Cole erupts on his kit at the tag. “It’s an homage to a character from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude,” explains Diamond. “It was one of the more challenging pieces for me to write and record. But in essence, I think the song itself, and many of my compositions for that matter, is all about creating a singable melody that can be seamlessly interwoven into a framework that can be both rhythmically and harmonically complex.”

Diamond plays fingerstyle archtop on the solo intro to the tender A Hint of Jasmin for more acoustic effect. This moving piece is also a brilliant showcase for Dillard’s expressive tenor playing. Gentrix, a rhythmically deceptive piece in five, incorporates lots of tricky subdivisions as the tune progresses. The presence of Herrera’s conga here also gives it a kind of Afro-Caribbean feel. Laia, on the other hand, is full of complexity as it opens with a rubato intro before leaping through different tempo changes and meter changes over the course of 8:26. Dillard soars on soprano here while Diamond contributes another remarkably fluid solo, spurred on by Cole’s scintillating and interactive pulse.

Ultima Palabra is a contemplative, graceful number that incorporates an alluring Argentine milonga rhythm. Eckroth contributes a particularly moving piano solo on this thoughtful number. Cascade is a lively, affecting piece that shows Diamond’s fondness for melody as a composer and also showcases Dillard’s outstanding soprano sax work. 

The collection closes with Diamond’s most ambitious work, Motion Suite, a kind of sequel to his “Inertia” (from Conduit). “It took roughly two years to complete,” he explains. “This one has more complexity than ‘Inertia’ in terms of tempo changes and changes in meter. I suppose that there’s a lot going on here, I’m just really happy that we could make it all come to life in the studio.” 

Indeed, there’s a lot going on throughout Avenida Graham, an auspicious and richly appointed outing from this promising talent on the New York scene. -- Bill Milkowski

Produced by Greg Diamond. Recorded: May 27th 2015 at Sear Sound Studios – New York, NY. Chief Engineer: Chris Allen. Assistant Engineer: Grant Valentine. Mixed by James Farber at Shelter Island Studios – New York, NY – assisted by Wyatt Offit. Mastered by Dave Darlington at Bass Hit Recording. Graphic concept and package design by: Jack Frisch. Executive Producer: Joachim “Jochen” Becker.

1. Synesthesia 6:13 
2. Cole’s Addendum 1:47 
3. Rastros 6:38 
4. El Coronel 7:23 
5. Hint of Jasmin 7:43
6. Gentrix 7:28 
7. Laia 8:25 
8. Cascade 6:38 
9. Motion Suite 8:32

STACY DILLARD Tenor and Soprano Saxophone (1,4-6,8,9)
SEAMUS BLAKE Tenor Saxophone (2,3)
MAURICIO HERRERA Congas & Percussion (1,3,5,9)