Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Ryan Raziano Quartet - Blue into Gray (2019)

The Ryan Raziano Quartet was formed in the Fall of 2017 with the simple goal of having an excuse to explore and play music that wasn't limited to any outward constraints. Though the musicians have individually known and performed with each other for years on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, it wasn't until the conception of this group that they played together all on the same stage as one group. 

The quartet started by performing music of a more modal approach, including Charles Lloyd, Joe Henderson, and John Coltrane compositions. It was very quickly understood that there was something a little more unique about this group, as the comfort and musical empathy among the members grew into a synergy that expanded the music beyond what was expected. With this, original repertoire composed by members of the band was added, and by the end of that Winter the performances had grown from covers to all-originals. 

The material on this album presents the music from this period, which were composed by both Ryan Raziano and Buddy Dubourg. The recordings capture the essence of this synergy between saxophonist Ryan Raziano, pianist Buddy Dubourg, bassist David Pellow, and drummer Pete Wehner, and all of the compositions combine to create a unified overarching mood and entry of the group's inception.

Buddy Dubourg - piano
David Pellow - bass
Pete Wehner - drums

1. Three Blind Squirrels 8:13
2. Blue into Gray 7:39
3. Last One Left Behind 5:21
4. Induced Thoughts 8:44
5. Lay It Back 7:21
6. Mysterious Journey 8:03
7. Gossamer 7:49
8. First Flight 5:51
9. Latecomer's Lullaby 6:16

Cæcilie Norby - Sisters in Jazz (ACT MUSIC 2019)

Look at the history of jazz, and it is all…frankly...a bit male. There have, of course, always been very prominent female jazz singers, but female instrumentalists and composers such as Jutta Hipp, Carla Bley or Geri Allen are few and far between. Today, even though men are still in the majority, female emancipation in jazz has definitely happened. Women are increasingly raising their profile and their visibility, and really making their presence felt. And the album "Sisters in Jazz" is proof positive of just how good a thing that is.

Jazz is feminine too. In fact, this short sentence serves as a very apt description of Cæcilie Norby's new album. The Danish singer has never been afraid to explore new avenues artistically. Her unique and versatile singing style has enabled her to collaborate with top instrumentalist on the International Jazz Scene. Most of whom have been male! So when producer Siggi Loch presented her with the idea of an all female band, celebrating women in Jazz, she was delighted. She says: "There is no doubt that strong, compentent female musicians are underrepresented on the music scene- nor is there any doubt that they excist!!“

With Rita Marcotulli (piano), Nicole Johänntgen (saxophone), Hildegunn Øiseth (trumpet), Lisa Wulff (double bass) and Dorota Piotrowska (drums), Loch has placed a band of outstanding European instrumentalists alongside the singer. After a Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic concert which he curated in November 2017 under the title "Sisters in Jazz" (with Terri Lyne Carrington as leader), he has taken the idea of the female band further, and provided Norby with strong female musicians for a studio album.

All the compositions were written by women, by jazz pioneers such as Betty Carter ("Droppin' Things"), Abbey Lincoln ("Love Has Gone Away") and Nina Simone (“Do I Move You?”) or the queen of the thoughtful singer-songwriters herself, Joni Mitchell ("Big Yellow Taxi" and "Man From Mars"). Plus two songs by Norby, and one by Rita Marcotulli.

"This album celebrates women in jazz,” says Norby. “That's why it was important to me that there were women artists who had a strong influence on my life and artistic development. Abbey Lincoln's and Nina Simone's songs don’t just have great melodies, but also great lyrics. I wanted to have lyrics that would fit with my age and life experience. “Bonnie Raitt's song "All At Once", for example, is a kind of love song, but it's also about broken hearts and families that are falling apart. These are grown-up, mature lyrics full of experience, not the usual jazz love songs."

The countries of origin of the musicians are very diverse, as are their artistic influences. "Sisters in Jazz" demonstrates the power of improvised music and its ability to bring people and even nationalities together. The music on the album encaptures the scintillating piano solos by Italian Rita Marcotulli, trumpet lines with a very unique sound by Norwegian Hildegunn Øiseth, the saxophone sound of the Swiss player Nicole Johänntgen which is very deeply rooted in tradition - here together with a powerful, grooving rhythm section with Lisa Wulff, from Northern Germany and Dorota Piotrowska, who originally hails from Poland. The percussionist Marilyn Mazur joins as a guest on four pieces. Whether they’re playing easy swing, or cool, or elegiac-nordic, or hard-hitting, or getting drenched in the blues, the musical range of “Sisters in Jazz is impressively wide.

The age range between the youngest musician in the line-up and the oldest is 30 years. "Sisters in Jazz" thus refers to another factor that is of only peripheral importance in jazz: the age of the players. "That's the great thing about jazz, borders like nationality, gender and age just disappear as soon as you start to make music."

Jazz is music of strong personalities who communicate with each other, jazz is timeless and ageless, knows no national borders and should also completely overcome gender boundaries. Because when the recording light goes on in the studio, all discussions of gender are over: "As soon as you play, it's all about listening and interacting. Then, it’s only the musical personality that counts", says Norby. There is only one conclusion: jazz is not male, jazz is not female, but it is above all one thing: human.

Cæcilie Norby / vocals & percussion
Rita Marcotulli / piano
Nicole Johänntgen / saxophone
Hildegunn Øiseth / trumpet
Lisa Wulff / bass
Dorota Piotrowska / drums
Marilyn Mazur / percussion (04, 06, 07 & 09)

1 Easy Money ( Rickie Lee Jones) 04:20
2 Willow Weep For Me ( Ann Ronell ) 04:49
3 Droppin‘ Things ( Betty Carter) 04:34
4 Man From Mars ( Joni Mitchell) 06:24
5 Naked In The Dark ( Cæcilie Norby) 03:59
6 First Conversation ( Cæcilie Norby) 04:58
7 Puzzled ( Rita Marcotulli / Cæcilie Norby) 03:47
8 Love Has Gone Away ( Abbey Lincoln) 04:25
9 Big Yellow Taxi ( Joni Mitchell) 04:04
10 All At Once ( Bonnie Raitt) 05:54
11 Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow ( Carole King & Gerry Goffin) 04:52
12 Do I Move You ( Nina Simone) 03:43

Produced by Siggi Loch with the artist

Recorded and mixed by Thomas Vang at Village Studios, Copenhagen, Denmark
Additional recordings by Lars Danielsson at Tia Dia Studios, Mölnlycke, Sweden
Mastered by Klaus Scheuermann

Emile Parisien Quartet - Double Screening (ACT MUSIC 2019)

There probably isn’t another jazz musician anywhere in Europe receiving as much acclaim at the moment as French soprano saxophonist Emile Parisien. The concert recording "Sfumato Live in Marciac" (CD and DVD), with Joachim Kühn at the piano, plus guests Michel Portal, Vincent Peirani and Wynton Marsalis, was released in 2018 and was greeted with rapturous enthusiasm: "An outstanding voice in contemporary jazz", remarked ARD Parisien, and with good reason. Arte Metropolis discerned a "magician on the saxophone", The Times of London called him "Europe's leading soprano saxophonist," and for Der Spiegel, it was "a pleasure to watch Emile Parisien perform his great art". In the US, Downbeat Magazine even considered it an understatement to limit Parisien’s importance to the sphere of European jazz, while Rolling Stone magazine confirmed him not only as perhaps the best saxophonist of his generation but also as the leader one of today's most impressive bands. And this is just a sample from many such plaudits...

So it is not overstating the case to describe Parisien as an artist who is setting the direction for his instrument. In the years since Sidney Bechet, John Coltrane and Steve Lacy, no player has devoted him- or herself to the soprano saxophone as intensively or with such a propensity to innovate. No one has brought out the vital, incisive, exotic, vibrato-rich tone of the instrument with such ease, and also recalibrated it and placed it at the centre of wholly new concepts.

Parisien's new album "Double Screening" marks a return to the quartet format, and combines all of the qualities of this exceptional musician. Parisien lets jazz shine through in a way that is inimitable: he poses questions, he elaborates, he finds new answers and new ways to re-define the old. It can be visionary; it is also joyous.

Parisien is increasingly integrating elements from his homeland as he creates a whirling mix of chanson with contemporary classical music, and also with French and North African folklore. His playing radiates improvisational dynamism and originality.

He stacks up the ideas at a fast pace but concentrates on making his lines readily comprehensible to the listener. He doesn't have to overwork any single motif, because they come to him so thick and fast. He never goes the simple route, and yet the compositions, which are all by him or the band members, have rousing energy, demanding arcs of concentration, and astonishing stringency. These organized jollifications are full of unexpected feints and sudden twists and turns. The boundaries between composition and improvisation are cast to one side. The superb way in which these band members communicate with each other and avoid any sense routine is a joy to experience. This jazz is fresh, frantic and original; and it calls out for all the superlatives.

Emile Parisien's prodigious gifts as an instrumentalist are in no doubt; in fact, it is not something he ever needs to prove. When he traverses into expressive free jazz areas, then rushes through tricky melody lines at top speed, lingers over complex ideas, or makes the soprano saxophone sound for a while like a Japanese Shakuhachi flute, it always has the purpose of serving the art. And there again, it's not about just the soloist either, but rather the band which instinctively, almost dreamily steers a course between the succinct and the emotionally honest, jumping out of the rough and immediately landing in the smooth. The music is built with precision, and yet it is full of spaces for individual spontaneity. This is new European jazz that is aware of its traditions, but can also depart from them to break new ground: it’s furious, it’s virtuoso and never ceases to take the emotions by surprise.

Emile Parisien / soprano & tenor sax
Julien Touéry / piano
Ivan Gélugne / bass
Julien Loutelier / drums

1 Double Screening I ( Julien Loutelier) 03:16
2 Double Screening II ( Julien Loutelier) 04:11
3 Spam 1 ( Emile Parisien) 02:05
4 Hashtag I ( Emile Parisien) 02:17
5 Hashtag II ( Emile Parisien) 03:59
6 Hashtag III ( Emile Parisien) 04:09
7 Hashtag IV ( Emile Parisien) 02:50
8 Spam 3 ( Ivan Gélugne) 01:58
9 Deux Point Zéro ( Julien Touéry) 04:20
10 Elégie pour Carte Mère ( Julien Touéry) 03:47
11 Malware Invasion ( Julien Touéry) 07:50
12 Algo ( Ivan Gélugne) 03:46
13 Spam 2 ( Julien Loutelier) 01:12
14 Daddy Long Legs ( Julien Loutelier) 05:43

Recorded and mixed by Philippe Teissier Du Cros at Studio Gil Evans de La Maison de la Culture, Amiens (France), December 2017
Mastered by Klaus Scheuermann

Paolo Fresu / Richard Galliano / Jan Lundgren - Mare Nostrum III (ACT MUSIC 2019)

The old saying that ‘all good things come in threes’ might be a cliché with no particular logic to it, but as a way to describe the virtues of Mare Nostrum, it’s right on the money. Twelve years ago, Sardinian trumpeter Paolo Fresu, French accordionist Richard Galliano and Swedish pianist Jan Lundgren, all from the upper echelons of European jazz, formed their trio. Each has his roots in the musical tradition of his home country, and each has used it to develop his own musical language. These are musicians who bring their individuality and inspiration to a multitude of projects in modern jazz, and so transcend borders and connect genres. All three men have poetry in their playing. Their love of melody binds them together, and does so more than ever in this new third album.

In fact, "Mare Nostrum III" completes a trilogy of albums. Right from the beginning of their decade-long collaboration, the group has had the idea of recording an album in each of their home countries. They made the first in Italy in 2007, and it took these busy musicians until 2016 to go to France and to record the second. Their third destination was Sweden, and the Nilento Studio in Gothenburg. "Once again,” says René Hess, the Swiss producer of the album, says, "it was a pure pleasure to see the sheer ease with which Paolo, Richard and Jan can create such great music."

The first thing the listener notices is the natural, spontaneous way the thread of the musical conversation unfolds. Their affinity in soul and spirit is immediately recognizable. This group of equals is a version of Europe which is united, democratic, and brings everything together. Each of the three contributed four original compositions plus a favourite piece. It is mostly possible to work out by listening who has written the pieces, and yet the trio translates into a common language; it’s a language which all have a thorough understanding of, and a genuine feeling for.

The album begins with Richard Galliano's "Blues sur Seine". It’s a plaintive piano melody reminiscent of Satie, or possibly Grieg. It’s joined by a veiled trumpet line before high notes from a lamenting accordion take over. Paris is in there, but so are fjords, Mediterranean shores and Basin Street in New Orleans. The whole thing is pure simplicity and enchantment. Characteristically Italian pathos then emerges in Fresu's "Pavese", in a natural frame of spontaneous soundscapes. Lundgren's "Love Land" has lively, cheerfully intertwining voices and a catchy theme that conjures up the magic of Swedish folklore. Then all three bring their persuasive lyricism to two of the most bittersweet melodies ever written, Michel Legrand's "The Windmills Of Your Mind" and Eduardo Di Capua's "I'te vurria vasà".

Three pieces follow that in each case deal with a very personal memory. With the wonderful "Le Jardin des Fées", Richard Galliano honours the memory of his compatriot and friend, the much-missed great jazz violinist Didier Lockwood. In "Del Soldato in trincea" Paolo Fresu recalls one of his favourite films, Ermanno Olmi's "Torneranno i prati". And Jan Lundgren strolls through the streets of "Ronneby", the small Swedish town where he grew up, with a strongly rhythmic blues-infused folk music melody. All three then bring Quincy Jones' love theme from the film "The Getaway" back to their own shores. Then follows Fresu’s concentrated "Human Requiem", played entirely on muted trumpet, and the slow sustained concentration of Galliano's "Letter To My Mother". In the final tracks, Lundgren's "The Magic Stroll", reminiscent of the musicals, and Richard Galliano's classically inspired "Prayer", with the feel of rolling along on the waves of the ocean, these three exceptional musicians have found a perfect symbiosis.

With "Mare Nostrum III", Paolo Fresu, Richard Galliano and Jan Lundgren have once again created a wonderful ballad album. Through their music they rise way above that old discussion about whatever "jazz" might be nowadays. What they have achieved instead is to bring the sound of Europe to life.

Paolo Fresu / trumpet & flugelhorn
Richard Galliano / accordion, bandoneon & accordina
Jan Lundgren / piano

1 Blues sur Seine 4:53
2 Pavese 4:56
3 Love Land 4:23
4 The Windmills of Your Mind 3:37
5 I'te vurria vasá 4:33
6 Le jardin des Fées 5:12
7 Del soldato in trincea 2:14
8 Ronneby 3:36
9 Love Theme from 'the Getaway' 3:09
10 Human Requiem 4:30
11 Letter to My Mother 5:09
12 Love in Return 4:26
13 Perfetta 3:17
14 The Magic Stroll 2:59
15 Prayer 4:13


Ill Considered’s 5th and 6th albums were recorded just over a year after their first. One studio album (Ill Considered 3) plus two live albums completed the vinyl output in their prolific first year. Albums 5 and 6 clearly demonstrate the development of the band’s sound and the interaction between the players. Taking only a few sketches of tunes into the studio over a two day period, the albums are still largely fully improvised. Some concise and well-defined hooky groove-based melodies are here, nestled beside rich, dark textural pieces that draw the listener in and propel them through this unique musical journey. 

The arrangements of bass, drums, percussion and sax are joined by bass clarinet, outrageously manipulated, yet emotive and at times searing electric guitar, an Indian shruti drone box, and powerful middle eastern percussion opening up new opportunities for interaction between Emre and Satin. 

The albums are beautifully recorded, mixed and mastered by Emre and each tune has its own sonic identity. There is however a progression between the tracks that ties both albums together in an intuitive journey, so that when you reach the end of album 6, you want to return to the start of album 5 again. 

Incredible playing from all four regular members and guest guitarist Steve Ashmore (on album 6) gives unexpected and surprising twists, massive climaxes and incredibly intimate moments, whilst never allowing themselves the luxury of self indulgent coasting. 

The sound is massive and the music unique. Whilst definitely not a coffee table album of background jazz, these are albums that you can immerse yourself in as well as allow to wash over you in almost any situation.

Idris Rahman: Saxophone, Bass Clarinet
Leon Brichard: Electric bass, Upright bass
Emre ramazanoglu: Drums, Nord drums
Satin Singh: Percussion
Vincent De Boer: Ink and Brushes

1. CALLING 05:20
2. OBSERVANT 07:48
3. LIFT OFF 02:51
5. UNICORN 05:23
7. PROFESSOR 04:07