Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Estrada Orchestra - Vaba (2018)

"A creative & dynamic new force in jazz, Estrada Orchestra's new album "Vaba" transported me to a late night, back room players only jam session." 

1. Liberation 14:15
2. Pulsar (Part 1) 04:52
3. Pulsar (Part 2) 06:01
4. What is Content 10:38

Music by:
Ilja Gussarov, flute
Sasha Petrov, tenor sax, pecussion
Volodja Brodsky, wurlitzer electric piano, waterphone
Misha Panfilov, electric bass, perussion
Madis Katkosilt, drums, percussion

Recorded on May 1st, 2017
Produced by: Misha Panfilov
Mastering: Jörgen Hermaste
Design: John Henriksson, Mo Manley
Thanks to Frank Raines, Henrik Ehte & Galaganov
Released by Funk Night Records

Whiskey Moon Face - Formless Forms (2018)

Formless Forms is the third CD from trio Whiskey Moon Face. Northumberland born Louisa Jones is the leader and she writes most of the songs. She studied ethnomusicology at SOAS (like fellow unclassifiable musician Nick Mulvey) and plays accordion, piano, double bass, cornet and clarinet.

She was inspired to learn the accordion after staying with Celtic musicians in Ireland and she learned Drupad (a northern Indian classical vocal tradition) in Bhopal, India. American bass player “Dakota” Jim Ydstie (from North Dakota) originally came to London on tour with New Orleans clarinettist Dr Michael White. He then moved here to play with the Pasadena Roof Orchestra. Clarinettist Ewan Bleach, who arranges most of the songs, studied at the Guildhall, and plays and guests in a variety of bands, including New Orleans-based Tuba Skinny.

The trio all play in each other’s bands too. Bleach leads the Cable Street Rag Band which features Jones on double bass, Ydstie on piano and trumpeter “Magic” Mike Henry from the Chris Barber Band (who plays on track 11 of this CD). Jones and Bleach play in the Dakota Jim Band, led by Ydstie (playing accordion), with Jones on double bass. Jones and Bleach are members of Man Overboard, until recently with classical violinist Thomas Gould. There are others too, no doubt. 

The music of Whiskey Moon Face is charming and difficult to categorise, with influences from all over, not surprising given the trio’s diverse musical backgrounds. I am reminded of many different musics. There are elements of contemporary Western folk music, Eastern European and Klezmer, traditional New Orleans jazz and Hot Club de Paris, especially when guitarist John Kelly joins in. Almost half the tunes are accordion driven waltzes (I love a waltz) from light as a feather Parisian bal-musette to full-blown brass-drenched Nino Rota melancholy. Whiskey Moon Face conjure up a world where velvet curtained European cabarets, New Orleans marching bands, travelling circus players and Russian tea-houses co-exist in a fantastical bohemian London. Jones writes likeable tunes, and her voice is delicate and yearning, with a lovely light vibrato perfectly suited to both the old-time jazz tunes and the cabaret songs. I can hear hints of Tom Waits’ harmonium in her accordion playing and her tunes. She has an arresting voice – at times it recalls Madeleine Peyroux, Billie Holiday and Björk. 

Ydstie contributes a wistful tune Renia’s Waltz on which he plays the accordion and sings, Jones takes the double bass and Bleach gives us an elegant clarinet solo. Bleach’s two instrumental compositions are also lovely. There’s a stately but optimistic waltz Karolina, the dignified melody carried by Maxim Tartakovskiy’s trombone, with Bleach’s beautiful clarinet circling round, and Jones and Ydstie underpinning the whole thing. Into The Heather begins like a dance tune from the 1920s, then slips into Klezmer rhythms, before concluding in a sort of contemporary Hot Jazz style but with something very British in there too, maybe a suggestion of Jim Parker’s Banana Blush? 

Jones’ songs are a wonderful jumble of styles. The Brecht/Weillian ballad Starlight Night describes a night stroll around Limehouse Basin, with musings on its maritime history, as well as providing Bleach with the opportunity to demonstrate his virtuosic bubbling and swooping clarinet. The title track Formless Forms, with Bleach on piano, and Will Scott on clarinet, sounds like New Orleans music from the 1920s and Jones’ voice is perfect for this too. The lyrics however are not of the “moon and June” variety – Jones manages to fit in “rubik cube” and “Hadron Collider” along with the moonlight.

Distant Song is another sad waltz (yet with a suggestion of the lambada about it), with lovely ensemble playing. Dirty Fingernails is a rollicking Russian dance with lively solos from everyone, Cold Wave Crest has a beautiful melody, and Jones singing touchingly “Oh love hide me down/Under the ocean bed/And in dreams I’ll be with you”. In Russian Waltz, Jones sings in Russian – a translation is provided in the accompanying booklet. Some of the songs are catchy dance tunes. It took me a while to notice that there is no percussion – the tracks are beautifully rhythmic without any need for drums. 

The Formless Forms CD is a delight. I have had the good fortune to hear these musicians live, and I can recommend going to see them too, if you get the chance. Their shows are life-affirming, with make-you-grin dance music mixed in with the poignant ballads. Fortunately the band perform often in London.

CD Review by Jane Mann /

1. Dictionaries 05:01
2. Formless Forms 05:31
3. Distant Song 04:24
4. Dirty Fingernails 03:53
5. Karolina (E. Bleach) 03:14
6. Cold Waves Crest 04:26
7. Russian Waltz 03:44
8. Starlit Night 03:25
9. Renia's Waltz (D. Jim) 04:16
10. Wildest Rose 05:15
11. Into The Heather (E. Bleach) 03:10

Vocals, Accordion (except Tr.9,11), Double bass (Tr.9), Piano (Tr.7)

Piano (Tr.2, 3), Clarinet (Tr. 5,7,8,9,10,11), Saxophone (Tr. 4, 6, 10)

Double bass (except Tr.9), Accordion (Tr.9), Vocals (Tr.1, 4 ,9)

Clarinet (Tr.2,4,11), Saxophone (Tr. 3, 8)

Trombone (Tr.3, 5)

Guitar (Tr., 6, 8, 9, 11)

Cornet (Tr.11)

Greg Adams and East Bay Soul - Conversation (2018)

Since 2009, and with three outstanding albums, trumpet player extraordinaire Greg Adams has been building his East Bay Soul creation into what is now the preeminent horn driven collective of its era. This hugely talented line-up has its roots firmly grounded in the uniquely soul based genre of San Francisco’s East Bay area and as a consequence delivers tight horn filled rhythms that are entirely timeless. Now this founding member of the legendary Tower of Power is doing it all again with ‘Conversation’ that will be released March 26 on Ripa Records. 

For those checking out East Bay Soul for the first time and wondering what the buzz is all about look no further than the big, brassy but understated ‘Possibilities’. It is one of seven tracks co-written by Adams and another is the first single to be serviced to radio, the jazzy ‘Look Book’, where Adams’ smoky horn has never sounded better. Much needed attitude is provided by Dwayne "Smitty" Smith's fabulous bass and talking of attitude ‘Send’, with an incredible piano solo from Nick Milo, plus more great work from Smith, has it in abundance. 

In terms of covers, Greg takes the Otis Reading version of ‘Try A Little Tenderness’ and, courtesy of Darryl Walker’s on-point vocal, infuses it with new life while elsewhere Adams reprises his original arrangement of the Little Feat favourite ‘Spanish Moon’. With Kay-Ta Matsuno reimagining Lowell George’s work on guitar and the ubiquitous Michael Stever stepping up on trumpet to combine with Adams and (another member of the Tower Of Power alumni) Lee Thornburg, they together make it all their own. 

When Adams eases down the tempo for the romantically disposed ‘Where Do We Go From Here’ it proves to be the ideal vehicle for Walker’s soulful singing voice. Lyrics for this one come courtesy of song-writer Rocky Maffit who also provides words and music for the similarly inclined ‘Our Love Devine’ where, not surprisingly, Walker again hits it out of the park. 

The rich and velvety ‘Tiger Beat’ is textbook East Bay Soul and then some yet in terms of personal favorites the wonderfully tender ‘Quiet Scream’ (complete with more of Walker’s sublime vocals) stands as a glowing tribute to Adams’ writing, arranging and production skills. It is right up there with the best that ‘Conversation’ has to offer although, all things considered, the accolade of Smooth Jazz Therapy ‘top tune’ goes to the decidedly sultry title cut that creates an aura not unlike that fashioned by Greg’s seminal 1995 smash ‘Burma Road’. 

1. Look Book
2. Conversation
3. Quite Scream
4.Tiger Beat
5. Spanish Moon
6. Our Love Divine
7. Possibilities
8. Send
9. Where Do We Go From Here
10. Try A Little Tenderness

Kathrine Windfeld Big Band plays Thomas Agergaard - Black Swan (STORYVILLE RECORDS 2018)

In recent years, some of the most exciting Danish jazz has been emanating from pianist, arranger and composer Kathrine Windfeld’s Big Band. She’s been widely praised by critics, both in Denmark and abroad. However, the 32-year-old Windfeld is also generous when it comes to letting others explore the possibilities of her 5-year-old big band – in this case an extremely experienced figure on the Danish jazz scene, saxophonist and composer Thomas Agergaard, who is 23 years Windfeld’s senior.

Clearly, Agergaard’s music for Kathrine Windfeld’s Big Band has been a creative challenge for all involved. The orchestra is used to Windfeld’s meticulously worked out and prepared compositions that. With Agergaard, however, the music is often delivered spontaneously, and some of the compositions were crafted right in the studio, a whole new way for the band to work.

“Thomas writes quite differently than I do,” says Kathrine Winfeld, “with many different references to contemporary classical music, among other things, and he often goes in for the free-tonal approach, sometimes the symphonic. He works more spontaneously and thrives on the energy of the moment. This is beneficial to the music, but is also a challenge when we are so many together and have to make something work within a limited time frame.”

On this occasion Agergaard utilizes smaller units of the big band while also working brilliantly with the entire ensemble. Part of the repertoire consists of renewed preexisting compositions, such as Different Corner and the vehement Hast, while other compositions such as the ballad, Airborne Lotus, was written just before the recording was made.

Thomas Agergaard displays his high caliber as all-around soloist on alto sax and flute. At the same time, he makes room for other soloists and quirky ideas, such as having the band’s guitarist spontaneously play the mandolin during a number for the first time. All of these are elements that have strengthened Kathrine Windfeld’s Big Band. As she says herself: “It’s been exciting for the band, and not least of all for myself, to have a different kind of repertoire.”

1 Black Swan 6:44
2 Human Be Legends 5:02
3 Different Corner 7:03
4 Hast 5:57
5 Air Born Lotus 4:04
6 Opus 1 Suite, Dream Society 3:48
7 Opus 1 Suite, History Talks 5:10
8 Opus 1 Suite, Fixing Room 2:33
9 Opus 1 Suite, For Nick 3:32
10 Opus 2 Suite, Storm P 6:11
11 Opus 2 Suite, Testing 3:19
12 Opus 2 Suite, Why Why Why 3:26

Christina von Bülow - On the Brink of a Love Song (STORYVILLE RECORDS 2018)

”My heartfelt thanks to Mr Lee Konitz, who has been a constant inspiration throughout my musical career. This album is a reflection of this inspiration - I owe a lot to this legendary alto player and master of improvisation."

The Danish alto saxophonist Christina von Bülow has created a very special trio with two jazz masters in their own right: The Swedish bassist Palle Danielsson and the American drummer Eliot Zigmund. Together, they pick up standards from the great songbooks of jazz and make them their unique own creations; like birds singing, never quite repeating the same sound. The music is very inspired by Lee Konitz with a focus on improvisation, intuition and interplay. Quite a few of the tracks on the album is Christinas take on new themes for old standards.

Thomas Clausen, writer of the liner notes, explains: “The present CD is all about this element of variation. But also about being natural, playing melodically. And it’s an album about interplay! Every bar these musicians play breathe this truth. Some tunes are straight standards. And the presentation of the melody is sometimes straight, as we know it. But it is varied all the time and never feels repetitive.”

What makes the new album special is a feeling of a collective spirit throughout. Christina is the main soloist, but she is always giving herself time to breathe and making pauses in her solos and thus room for the other instruments."

I Should Care 06:38
2 Just Too Very 05:24
3 Still Love You So 05:41
4 Out Lee 06:17
5 Don't Blame Me 6 I Love Paris 04:18
7 I Loves You Porgy 08:33
8 Of a Lovely Song 07:23
9 The Peacocks 06:31
10 Sørgemarch 05:07

Palle Danielsson - bass
Eliot Zigmund - drums
Pelle von Bülow - guitar