Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Justin Gray & Synthesis - New Horizons (2017)

Justin Gray and Synthesis’ debut album, New Horizons, features a collection of original compositions, which feature the bass veena performed alongside an inspiring lineup of artists from around the world. Bandleader Justin Gray designed and co-created the bass veena, a multi-stringed instrument, which combines the fretless bass with elements inspired by various Indian stringed instruments. The music draws inspiration from Justin’s wide range of musical influences, including Indian classical, jazz, western classical, electronic and R&B music. Gray’s compositions synthesize these musical traditions with a unique combination of captivating melodies, rich sonic textures, and exotic grooves.

Justin Gray & Synthesis is a contemporary world jazz ensemble that explores a captivating cross-cultural blend of Indian and western music. The ensemble features Justin Gray on Bass Veena & Electric Bass, Ted Quinlan on guitar, Drew Jurecka on Violin, Ed Hanley on tabla and Derek Gray on drums, percussion & Tibetan singing bowls. Bandleader Justin Gray is an award-winning bassist, composer & producer based out of Toronto, Canada.

In 2010, Gray designed and co-created the bass veena, a multi-stringed instrument, which combines the fretless bass with elements inspired by various Indian stringed instruments. Justin is the first artist to perform on this instrument worldwide. Justin Gray and Synthesis’ debut album, New Horizons, features a collection of original compositions, which feature the bass veena performed alongside an inspiring line up of global artists.

The music draws inspiration from Justin’s wide range of musical influences, including Indian classical, jazz, western classical, electronic and R&B music. Gray’s compositions synthesize these musical traditions with a unique combination of creative melodies, rich sonic textures, and exotic grooves.

New Horizons features a number of exciting guest artists, including: Dhruba Ghosh (Sarangi), Trichy Sankaran (Mrdangam), Alam Khan (Sarode), Steve Gorn (Bansuri), Joy Anandasivam (Guitar), The Venuti String Quartet, Naghmeh Farahmand (Persian Percussion), Demetrios Petsalakis (Oud), Gurpreet Chana (Hang Drum), Todd Pentney (Piano), Joel Schwartz (Resonator Guitar) and Jonathan Kay (Esraj). 

Justin Gray and Synthesis have recently been presented in feature concerts across Ontario, including: Aga Khan Museum (2016), Dundas Square (Massey Hall 2016), Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts (JPEC 2016), The Aga Khan Museum (2016), Toronto Jazz Festival (TD Jazz 2016), Richard Bradshaw Theatre (Canadian Opera Company 2016) and Princess Margaret Hospital (Jazz for the Soul 2016/2017).

Bass Veena / Justin Gray
Guitar / Ted Quinlan
Violin / Drew Jurecka
Tabla / Ed Hanley
Drums / Derek Gray

Thomas Strønen, Time Is A Blind Guide - Lucus (ECM January 19, 2018)

Norwegian drummer/composer Thomas Strønen presents a revised edition of his acoustic collective Time Is A Blind Guide, now trimmed to quintet size, and with a new pianist in Wakayama-born Ayumi Tanaka. Tanaka has spoken of seeking associative connections between Japan and Norway in her improvising, a tendency Strønen seems to be encouraging with his space-conscious writing for the ensemble, letting in more light. As on the group’s eponymously-titled and critically-lauded debut album there are excellent contributions from the string players – the quintet effectively contains both a string trio and a piano trio – and Manfred Eicher’s production brings out all the fine detail in the grain of the collective sound and the halo of its overtones, captured in the famously-responsive acoustic of Lugano’s Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI in March 2017.

1. La Bella
2. Friday
3. Release
4. Lucus
5. Fugitive Places
6. Baka
7. Wednesday
8. Tension
9. Truth Grows Gradually
10. Islay
11. Weekend

Ayumi Tanaka, piano
Håkon Aase, violin
Lucy Railton, cello
Ole Morten Vågan, double bass

John Surman - Invisible Threads (ECM January 19, 2018)

Saxophonist and clarinetist John Surman is often characterized as a quintessentially English improviser and composer, and hints of folk music and a pastoral ambience are attributes of his music on well-loved albums like “The Road to Saint Ives” or “Saltash Bells.” Yet he also has a long history of working with musicians from other countries and cultures, players united by such invisible threads as a shared feeling for melody that transcends the idioms. John Surman met pianist Nelson Ayres – known to aficionados of Brazilian jazz for his work with Airto Moreira, Milton Nascimento and Banda Pau Brasil – while on tour in South America. In Oslo, Surman came to know and appreciate the playing of Rob Waring, expatriate US vibraphonist (recently heard on ECM with Mats Eilertsen). The three musicians come together to play a new program of Surman originals – plus Nelson Ayres’s “Summer Song” – in a session recorded at Oslo’s Rainbow studio in July 2017, produced by Manfred Eicher.

1 At first sight  02:32
2 Autumn nocturne  06:50
3 Within the clouds  04:47
4 Byndweed  05:09
5 On still water  04:41
6 Another reflection  01:31
7 The admiral  05:13
8 Pitanga pitomba  07:02
9 Summer song  05:19
10 Concentric circles  06:30
11 Stoke damerel  03:34
12 Invisible threads  05:39

John Surman, soprano and baritone saxophones, bass clarinet
Nelson Ayres, piano
Rob Waring, vibraphone, marimba

Bobo Stenson Trio - Contra la Indecisión (ECM January 19, 2018)

The great Swedish trio of Bobo Stenson takes a stand against indecision in a decisively beautiful new album. As ever, the trio draws upon a wide range of source materials. A yearning title song by Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez, Bartók’s adaptation of a Slovak folk song, a piece from Mompou’s Cançons i Danses collection, and Erik Satie’s Elégie are integrated into the program, alongside original compositions by Stenson and Anders Jormin and group improvising. So strong is the group’s character and the musical identity of each of its members that the integration of this material always feels organic and logical. Stenson’s lyrical touch, Jormin’s folk-flavored arco bass and Jon Fält’s flickering, textural drumming are all well-displayed on Contra la indecisión, the trio’s first new recording in six years. Produced by Manfred Eicher, the album was recorded at Lugano’s Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI studio in May 2017.

1 Canción Contra La Indecisión 4:12
2 Doubt Thou The Stars
3 Wedding Song From Poniky
4 Three Shades Of A House
5 Élégie
6 Canción Y Danza VI
7 Alice
8 Oktoberhavet
9 Kalimba Impressions
10 Stilla
11 Hemingway Intonations

Jon Fält, drums

Kit Downes - Obsidian (ECM January 19, 2018)

'Obsidian' is a collection of Kit Downes’ solo organ works from the eponymous album released on ECM Records. It is a musical response to volcanicity, slow processes that cause extreme reactions. A mixture of written and semi-scored/semi-improvised pieces, it focusses on the nuances and unique features of both smaller chamber organs local to rural Suffolk as well as larger grander instruments from bigger cities around the UK. It is both a study of extended techniques from instruments sometimes in states of disrepair, and a connection and adaptation of the improvised tradition of the instrument, exploring themes of duration, vibration and mechanics.

1 Kings by Kit Downes 2 Black Is The Colour by Kit Downes
3 Rings Of Saturn by Kit Downes
4 Seeing Things by Kit Downes
5 Modern Gods by Kit Downes and Tom Challenger
6 The Bone Gambler by Kit Downes
7 Flying Foxes by Kit Downes
8 Ruth's Song For The Sea by Kit Downes
9 Last Leviathan by Kit Downes
10 The Gift by Kit Downes

Andy Sheppard Quartet - Romaria (ECM February 16, 2018)

Andy Sheppard's quartet extends the musical explorations begun on the 2015 release Surrounded By Sea, an album praised by Télérama for its poignant serenity. In this new program of compositions by Sheppard (plus the title track by Brazilian singer-songwriter Renato Teixeira), the drones and washes of Eivind Aarsets guitar and electronics aided by the generous acoustics of Luganos Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI help to establish a climate in which improvisation can take place.

Theres a highly atmospheric, ambient drift to the music which Sheppard clearly finds liberating, as do Michel Benita and Seb Rochford, free to move in and out of conventional rhythm section roles and to make impassioned statements of their own. Romaria was recorded in April 2017 and produced by Manfred Eicher.

1. And A Day...
2. Thirteen
3. Romaria
4. They Came Rrom The North
5. Pop
6. With Every Flower That Falls
7. All Becomes Again
8. Forever...

Andy Sheppard – saxophones
Eivind Aarset – guitar and electronics
Michel Benita – double bass
Sebastian Rochford – drums

Shinya Fukumori Trio - For 2 Akis (ECM February 16, 2018)

An ECM debut for a unique Japanese-French-German trio, with a lyrical sound of its own. Drummer-leader Shinya Fukumori, also the principal composer for the band, is an imaginative melodist at several levels, and the attention to timbre and detail and space which distinguishes his drumming is also reflected in the color-fields of his free-floating ballads. The spaciousness of the music leaves room for expression to tenorist Matthieu Bordenave and pianist Walter Lang

Bordenave has a deceptively fragile tenor tone, of considerable emotional impact, and Lang, one of Lee Konitzs chosen duo partners in recent years, is a subtle player, patiently shoring up the whole context. Together, the members of this Munich-based band have created something new and fresh. For 2 Akis was recorded at Studios La Buissonne in the South of France in March 2017, and produced by Manfred Eicher.

Matthieu Bordenave - Sax/Clarinet
Walter Lang - Piano

Nicolas Masson / Colin Vallon / Patrice Moret / Lionel Friedli - Travelers (ECM February 16, 2018)

After two ECM albums with the cooperative trio Third Reel, Swiss reedman Nicolas Masson presents a quartet for which he is the sole composer. The group has existed for a decade with unchanged personnel, touring as Nicolas Massons Parallels, and the leaders writing for it always encourages creative responses from the players. Amid the changing musical landscapes in which these travelers move, you will encounter some of Colin Vallons prettiest ballad playing, richly melodic bass from Patrice Moret, and subtle drum commentary from Lionel Friedli. Plus, of course, plenty of Massons pure-toned saxophone and elegant clarinet. Travelers was recorded at Auditorio Stelio Molo in Lugano in April 2017, and produced by Manfred Eicher.

Norma Winstone - Descansado (Songs for Films) ECM 16 February, 2018

A creative journey into the world of cinema with new arrangements - by Klaus Gesing and Glauco Venier - of music by Nino Rota, Michel Legrand, William Walton, Bernard Herrmann, and Ennio Morricone for the movies of Scorsese, Godard, Wenders, Jewison, Zeffirelli, Olivier and more. Several of the arrangements incorporate new words by Norma Winstone who, in addition to being one of the great jazz singers, has long been a sensitive lyricist. For this project, her acclaimed trio with Gesing and Venier is augmented by two special guests: Norwegian improvising percussionist Helge Andreas Norbakken and Italian classical cellist Mario Brunello. Norbakken is well-known to ECM listeners for his recordings with Jon Balke, Mathias Eick and Jon Hassell, while Brunello is highly regarded in classical and contemporary music circles for his interpretive versatility. Descansado Music for Films was recorded at ArteSuono Studio in Udine, Italy, in March 2017 and produced by Manfred Eicher.

“One of the Glories of contemporary Jazz”
– Jazz Journal

“Right now, she is at the peak of her form…
there is no jazz singer in the country to touch her.”
– Alyn Shipton, The Times, London

“Sets herself impossibly high standards, and then surpasses them.”
– Tony Sloman, Pizza On the Park

“Norma Winstone’s instrument: an unfettered intelligence spinning tales with language…or without”
– Thomas Conrad, Down Beat Magazine

“Her spare, subtle and intelligent approach to improvisation, jazz standards, impressionistic tone poetry like a vocal Jan Garbarek and the uncovering of overlooked songs that deserve to be classics, put her in the forefront of European singers.”
– John Fordham, The Guardian

“It is unlikely that there is a better jazz singer than Miss Winstone. She has none of the histrionics which mar so much of the work of her contemporaries, and one is left with tasteful ideas, expressed in pure musical form.”
– Steve Voce, Jersey Evening Post

“.. a one-of-a-kind singer blessed with an ear nonpareil… tones so pure, phrasing so unique and captivating, as to make each song an aural adventure.”
– The Skanner, Portland, Oregon

“.. a superb example of state-of-the-art, imaginative, virtually beyond-definition singing.”
– Don Heckman, Los Angeles Times