Thursday, March 18, 2021

Michael Formanek - Imperfect Measures (March 19, 2021 Intakt Records)

With his extensive artistic biography, Michael Formanek is one of the most outstanding figures in American jazz – As a composer, as a bassist in ensembles, and as a soloist. Although the bass often plays in the background, bassists write jazz history. So does Michael Formanek, who makes an impressive solo statement with Imperfect Measures (24 years after his first solo album).

About the creative process, Formanek writes: "I came to realize that for me, playing solo bass is much closer to a compositional process than a performance practice … Any structure inherent in a piece evolves in the moment, the product of the improvisation itself – as if one were building and traveling along a road simultaneously. The road only extends as far as we are in the moment, so there must be a total commitment to what is being created and constructed in real time, lest things quickly fall apart.“

The inspiring music is embedded in works by artist and illustrator Warren Linn, who created sketches during the recording process, developed them into collages/paintings, some of which are now featured in the CD package designed by Stephen Byram. A complete work of art!

1. Quickdraw
2. On the Skin
3. A Maze
4. Full Frontal
5. Airborne
6. Loop Back
7. Notice Moments
8. Wisp
9. The Stand

Michael Formanek: Bass

All compositions by Michael Formanek (Formtone Music BMI)
Recorded on September 10, 2017 at Heartwood Sound Studio, Baltimore, MD by Ben Frock
Mixed in August 2020 by Jake K. Leckie, Los Angeles, CA. Mastered in November 2020 by Nick Lloyd at Firehouse 12 New Haven, CT. Liner notes: Michael Formanek.

PUNKT.VRT.PLASTIK Kaja Draklser / Petter Eldh / Christian Lillinger - Somit (March 19, 2021 Intakt Records)

Following their acclaimed 2018 debut album, the band Punkt.Vrt.Plastik, which brings together Kaja Draksler, Petter Eldh and Christian Lillinger, three of the most exciting, profound and versatile musicians on the European jazz scene, presents another stroke of genius. With Somit they take their urgent ensemble playing to new heights, creating a highly individual sound aesthetic with unusual instrumentation (Kaja Draksler plays two different upright pianos) and sophisticated post-production, culminating in a deceptive puzzle of acoustic and manipulated sounds.

"Punkt.Vrt.Plastik have an amazing sound and a unique vision," writes Alexander Hawkins in the liner notes.
1. Helix GA
2. If Asked
3. Membran
4. Natt Raum
5. Amnion
6. Morgon Morfin
7. Fraustadt
8. Somit 
9. Axon
10. Enbert Amok
11. Trboje
12. Ribosome
13. Vrvica

Kaja Draksler: Piano
Petter Eldh: Bass
Christian Lillinger: Drums

Gretchen Parlato - Flor (March 2021 Edition Records)

“There is a story to tell, now.”

Gretchen Parlato has returned, not only to the recording industry but to herself, with her new Brazilian-inspired project, Flor. Portuguese for “flower”, Flor is the artistic embodiment of the GRAMMY®-nominated singer’s deep dive into motherhood over the last six years, a metamorphic interval of space that allowed Parlato to discover the fullness of her essence through a new lens. In this season of epiphany, Parlato reaps her most personal harvest yet, which she refers to as, “a blossoming, an opening, an offering, a return.”

A gorgeous synthesis of original material, American popular music, European classical music, and Brazilian standards, Flor exemplifies the many ways in which motherhood has reconnected Parlato to her own inner child, revisiting the enchantment of falling in love with music for the first time, particularly the various Brazilian genres she became enamored with as a young teenager. “This is music that I’ve always wanted to honor,” says Parlato. “What I’m trying to find isn’t outside of myself. It’s not out of reach, it’s actually that internal revealing of what already exists.”

1. É Preciso Perdoar 05:56
2. Sweet Love (featuring Gerald Clayton) 04:11
3. Magnus (featuring Magnus, Thaddeus, and Ashley Thompson) 04:10
4. Rosa 04:32
5. What Does a Lion Say? 05:55
6. Roy Allan (featuring Airto Moreira) 04:11
7. Wonderful (featuring Gerald Clayton and Mark Guiliana) 06:02
8. Cello Suite No. 1, BWV 1007 : Minuet I / II 05:45
9. No Plan (featuring Mark Guiliana) 05:57

Gretchen Parlato -Voice
Marcel Camargo - Guitar and Musical Direction
Artyom Manukyan - Cello
Léo Costa - Drums and Percussion

Guest Personnel
Mark Guiliana - Drums
Gerald Clayton - Piano
Airto Moreira - Voice and Percussion

Produced by Gretchen Parlato
Co-Produced by Marcel Camargo and Léo Costa
Executive Producer Dave Stapleton

Engineered and Edited by John Davis at The Bunker Studio
Assistant Engineer: Alex Conroy
Mixed by Helik Hadar at Hadar Studio
Mastered by Felipe Tichauer at Red Traxx Mastering

Jihye Lee Orchestra - Daring Mind (March 26, 2021 motéma music)

Motéma Music is proud to announce the release of Daring Mind, the sophomore album by the Jihye Lee Orchestra, which streets on March 26, 2021. Produced by Lee, in collaboration with the innovative composer and Secret Society bandleader Darcy James Argue, and with renowned trumpeter Sean Jones as a key contributor, Lee’s Motéma debut showcases the South Korea native’s personal and adventurous storytelling approach to large-ensemble jazz over the course of nine spellbinding compositions. 

As a  follow up to her widely-acclaimed 2017 debut April, Daring Mind presents selections from Lee’s ‘Mind’ Series, including her BMI Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Prize-winning “Unshakable Mind” and her Manny Albam Commission “Revived Mind.” The album reflects her struggles, doubts, joys, and hopes while living in the amazing city of New York. The compositions explore the human mind, heart and soul, the various states of the human psyche from confusion to rage to enlightenment. 

Lee describes composition as a form of record-keeping for herself, as the documentation of her life, the process of finding musical equivalents to the images, thoughts and emotions in her mind. She writes first and foremost for herself, to release her feelings, which makes her music deeply personal. “My goal is to invite listeners into my creative world, to relate to my stories, and to reflect on the truth that as humans, we share similar struggles and triumphs regardless of where we come from. It is my hope that we can create genuine connections with each other through art,” she says. 

A native of South Korea, Lee had no jazz or classical training growing up, and she first found success in Korea performing as an indie pop singer. She graduated from Dongduk Women’s University with a degree in Voice Performance, discovering her love of large-ensemble jazz only after beginning her studies at Boston’s Berklee College of Music in 2011. Confidently she began to explore her own identity and voice within this exciting, historically rich medium, winning Berklee’s Duke Ellington Prize just months after declaring her Jazz Composition major (and again the following year). Though she could never have anticipated this new path, she has followed it to greater heights, moving to New York in 2015 and earning a master’s degree at Manhattan School of Music under the guidance of the great Jim McNeely. “Her music is imaginative and creative.” says McNeely. “And she’s not afraid to take some exciting chances in her writing.” 

Navigating the transition from pop singer to jazz composer has given Lee a different angle on jazz composition, providing her not only with a lyrical melodic sense but also a way of imagining characters in every composition, and writing memorable themes with which people can identify. Her first instinct is not to find chords and melodies — Lee is not herself an instrumentalist — but rather an idea, image or message, and then find a way to express it through musical elements. All of this and more is realized on Daring Mind.
Daring Mind begins with “Relentless Mind”, which emulates the bustle of New York City with its twisted rhythmic feel and repetitive notes. Featuring Sean Jones and trombonist Alan Ferber, the vibrancy and beauty of a pre-COVID city that never slept is on rich display in this dazzling opener. Following is “Unshakeable Mind”, winner of the 2018 BMI Charlie Parker Composition Prize. Inspired by the competitive environment of the New York music scene and the effects it has on one’s own psyche, “Unshakeable Mind” explores the nature of a determined and persevering spirit, with strong solo and ensemble support from alto saxophonist Ben Kono. The gorgeous “Suji” comes next. Written for one Lee’s dearest friends, this bright composition features only major chords played through chamber-like instrumentation. Kono once again plays a leading role here, as does pianist Adam Birnbaum. 

Gears shift on the fourth track, “I Dare You”, which was commissioned by American entrepreneur Matt Mullenweg. “Since I am not a traditional swing big band style composer, sometimes I face the famous question ‘what is jazz?’” states Lee. That same question arose in an interview with Wayne Shorter by Max Dax in 2014, and his answer is “To me, jazz means: “I dare you!’” This is the title of this song and in many ways the inspiration of Lee’s entire approach to jazz. “I believe that jazz is not a style or genre, but a daring spirit, being creative by cultivating your instincts.” Tenor saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff shines on this track which is full of sonic surprises. 

The BMI Manny Albam Commission piece “Revived Mind” showcases soloist Mike Fahie on trombone. This colorful composition is an homage to nature and Earth, to rebirth and rejuvenation. Track 6, “Struggle Gives You Strength” was originally written for Carnegie Hall’s NYO Jazz and once again features Sean Jones. On this uplifting and inspiring composition, Lee comments:  “Struggle is an essential part of life and it molds us into beautiful individuals with character.” 

The final third of Daring Mind features the bluesy “Why Is that” with solos by Jones and alto saxophonist Rob Wilkerson; the dissonant tri-tone filled odyssey “Dissatisfied Mind” which ruminates on the negatively that can intrude ones’ thoughts; and “GB”, a stunning closer inspired by love found and lost. Highly cinematic, the beauty and joy of happy memories slowly gives way to crushing breakdown, before reluctant acceptance sets in. As an aspiring film music composer, this vivid track particularly showcases Lee’s great potential in that arena. 

With the release of Daring Mind, Jihye Lee makes a major statement that will likely propel her, deservingly, to the top echelon of contemporary jazz composers and bandleaders. Late last year, it was announced that Lee earned a 2021 ASCAP Foundation & Symphonic Jazz Orchestra commissioning prize, further defining a clear next step in her bright future. The first single “Struggle Gives You Strength” will be released on February 5th, and the second single, “Revived Mind” will release on March 5th.

1. Relentless Mind (feat. Sean Jones, Alan Ferber) 6:18
2. Unshakable Mind 9:57
3. Suji 8:53
4. I Dare You 5:49
5. Revived Mind 6:44
6. Struggle Gives You Strength (feat. Sean Jones ) 5:57
7. Why Is That 5:50
8 Dissatisfied Mind 5:54
9. GB 9:24

Ben Kono: Alto Saxophone
Rob Wilkerson: Alto Saxophone
Quinsin Nachoff: Tenor Saxophone
Jeremy Powell: Tenor Saxophone
Brian Pareschi: Trumpet
Sean Jones: Trumpet
John Lake: Trumpet
Alex Norris: Trumpet
Mike Fahie: Trombone
Alan Ferber: Trombone
Nick Grinder: Trombone (All tracks except 2, 5)
Mark Patterson: Trombone (tracks 2, 5)
Jennifer Wharton: Trombone
Adam Birnbaum: Piano (tracks 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9)
Haeun Joo: Piano (tracks 2, 5, 8)
Sebastian Noelle: Electric Guitar
Evan Gregor: Double Bass
Mark Ferber: Drums

Jim Hall - Jazzpar Quartet + 4 (Remastered 2021) March 19, 2021 Storyville Records

The history of the JAZZPAR AWARDS constitutes, in retrospect, a significant development in the recognition of jazz by international arbiters of taste, and by distributors of monetary recognition.

When the late guitarist and composer Jim Hall emerged triumphant in 1998, it was because his name evoked the most unanimous praise, out of the dozens of artists who had come up for discussion. Already at that point, his career had covered more than 40 years and evoked past associations with people such as Chico Hamilton, Jimmy Giuffre, Sonny Rollins and Art Farmer, plus the fact that they had some of their most interesting and unusual groups when Jim Hall happened to be in them. Some of his other frequent but less regular collaborators, like Paul Desmond, Gerry Mulligan, Bill Evans or Ron Carter, also clearly chose him for the stimulation to be gained from the experience. What these great artists (and many more) found in Hall was a player of great sensitivity and intelligence, to whom the idea of cooperation was second nature but whose approach was completely individual. This duality is not unique within a jazz framework, but the truth is that many jazz players do not manage to be simultaneously identifiable and compatible with others. Personality is obviously the key factor, and Jim’s can perhaps be described as confident but self-effacing. Musically, that translated into a style which was both cogent and laconic – which makes a lot of sense but not a lot of noise – and it’s this combination that lends itself to taking on board others’ ideas and complementing rather than contradicting them. In band terms, it bestows the possibility of being a leader through example, without being either too malleable or too dictatorial.

No wonder, then, that less well-known musicians were more than happy to be associated with Hall, and those who worked with him in Denmark are excellent examples. Chris Potter (born January 1 1971) was then another promising newcomer, who himself won the JAZZPAR prize in 2000 and is now regarded as a leading saxophonist of his generation. The Canadian drummer Terry Clarke (born August 20 1944), then based in New York, had played and toured with Hall since at least 1975, when he made the first of several albums with him. The bassist on the Danish tour was the latest in a long line of local virtuosi, Thomas Ovesen (who shared Jim Hall’s birthday, December 4, Ovesen being born in 1965 and Hall in 1930).

As is usually the case with JAZZPAR tours, there was more than one Danish musician involved but, unusually, at Jim’s request the others were a string quartet, formed of members of the Radio Symphony Orchestra and led by Russian violinist Alexander Zapolski. This combination of talents enabled Hall to pursue aims which were present throughout his career. He had made a notable re-examination of the dialogue between the needs of composition and improvisation in his recent albums, especially with ensembles differing from the conventional trio and quartet line-ups constituting the majority of Jim’s output in earlier decades. Although he recorded duos of guitar-and-piano as early as 1962 (with Bill Evans) and, in 1976, duos of guitar-andvoice (with his wife Jan) and guitar-and-drums (with Terry Clarke), nevertheless in the 1990s he had created carefully chosen chamber groups with, for instance, a couple of string players or a handful of brassmen, often with no drums or with drums but no bass. That kind of freedom is clearly evident here, for instance in the interplay with Clarke during “Stella By Starlight”, and with Potter towards the end of “Chelsea Bridge” (where Potter picks up Jim’s earlier quotation from “Rockin’ In Rhythm”) and in the duet encore on “In A Sentimental Mood”.

The compositional element, and the continuity of Hall’s career, is brought into focus by the two pieces with strings and the fact (somehow emphasized by the omission of one other octet track, for lack of space) that they were written 45 years apart. If these seem more concentrated and more ‘serious’ than the earlier part of the program, that feeling is deliberately undermined by the first encore, Zapolski’s arrangement of “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix, the guitarist who 30 years ago threatened to blow away all the subtleties personified by Hall. Jim may have the same initials as Hendrix but, hearing him use an octave pedal and then de-tune his A-string while sounding all the while exactly like Jim Hall, you can see another example of self-effacing confidence. 

1. Stella By Starlight (Remastered 2021)
2. Chelsea Bridge (Remastered 2021)
3. Mr. Blues (Remastered 2021)
4. Thesis (Remastered 2021)
5. Quartet + 4 (Remastered 2021)
6. Purple Haze (Remastered 2021)
7. In A Sentimental Mood (Remastered 2021)

Jim Hall - Guitar
Chris Potter - Tenorsax
Thomas Ovesen - Bass
Terry Clarke - Drums

+ The Zapolski String Quartet (track 4-6):
Alexander Zapolski - Violin
Jacob Soelberg - Violin
Iben Bramsnæs Teilmann - Viola
Vanja Louro - Cello

Recorded live, Holbæk Jazzklub, April 3, 1998
Falkoner Scenen Copenhagen, April 5, 1998

Palle Mikkelborg & Bjarne Roupé - Pieces: Generations at Sunrise (2021 Storyville Records)

Pieces is the meeting of two generations - The experienced and mature: the trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg and the guitarist Bjarne Roupé and the two young and ready: Anton Langebæk on bass and the percussionist Benjamin Barfod.

Bjarne Roupé Trio had been with Langebæk and Barfod for a while, and when Palle Mikkelborg was set to play a concert for Jazz Grooves at JB10 in Næstved, it was obvious that the four musicians worked together this evening. It became a success and the musicians took the initiative to use the recordings for this release.

Here it is: Pieces: Generations at Sunrise - five well-chosen compositions with Roupé's overview and broad sounds, Langebæk's pulsating bass, Barfod's distinctive percussion and Mikkelborg's trumpet and flugelhorn on top. We get extremely personal renditions of John Coltrane's ”Naima” and the Abez classic ”Nature Boy”. A Swedish folk melody, ”Saudi”, with a beautiful guitar intro and more of the same sonorous element in the opening track ”Witchi-tai-to”, which is carried on by Barfod's gubal. The fine little theme is presented only at the end. Coltrane's great ballad ”Naima” is performed for the first time in the history of music with sansula. In the collectively composed and arranged ”Pieces”, there are fanfares with electronics underneath, and Langebæk rounds off with a very solid bass solo. ”Nature boy” gets new and very beautiful life with Mikkelborg's horn followed by a very wellplaying Roupé.

1. Witchi-tai-to 10:07
2. Naima 09:30
3. Saudi 06:27
4. Pieces 08:55
5. Nature Boy 07:23

Palle Mikkelborg - trumpet, flügelhorn, effects
Anton Langebæk - double bass
Benjamin Barfod - sound triangles, gubal, sansula, water drum, udo, gong & cymbals
Bjarne Roupé - electric guitar & effects

Dean Stockdale Trio - Promise The Moon (March 2021)

The second album from the Dean Stockdale Trio. Featuring four new originals by Dean, plus fresh arrangements on a selection of American songbook standards.

'The trio's swinging take on Gershwin's They Can't Take That Away from Me and again on an effective arrangement of On the Sunny Side of the Street are particular highlights, and the closing selection, Witchcraft, with its fleeting echoes of Moon River, make Promise the Moon a fine album.' - Bebop Spoken Here

1. Moon River 05:04
2. In A Sentimental Mood 07:14
3. Promise The Moon 05:34
4. Mia's Lullaby 05:33
5. They Can't Take That Away From Me 06:54
6. First Light 05:25
7. On The Sunny Side Of The Street 05:42
8. Time For A Change 05:21
9. Witchcraft 05:35

Dean Stockdale - Piano/Arranger/Composer
Mick Shoulder - Double Bass
Abbie Finn - Drums

Recorded, mixed and mastered by Ian Stephenson - Simpson Street Studios - November 2nd, 3rd 2020

Shannon Barnett / Wolves and Mirrors - Wolves and Mirrors (March 31, 2021)

Wolves and Mirrors features the symbiosis of Barnett's disarming songs with the diverse colours of this unusual instrumentation, resulting in what is best described as a kind of fragile beauty.

In addition to her role as a trombonist - for which she is widely known - the bandleader presents herself through Wolves and Mirrors as an experienced lyricist, singer and songwriter and invites the listener into worlds she has previously kept from view.

1. Overseas I 03:04
2. Overseas II
3. Mantra
4. Martyr 05:36
5. Well
6. Mantra II
7. Song for Caroline (and others)
8. Phases

Shannon Barnett - Trombone, Voice
Heidi Bayer - Trumpet
Elisabeth Coudoux - Cello
Thomas Sauerborn - Drums

Recorded and mixed by Jonathan Hoffman
Mastered by Alex Kloss
Compositions by Shannon Barnett

Gunter Gruner - Summertime (2021)

The light-winged tunes were written for Max Weissberg's romantic drama "Summertime", thereby aired at the First Time Film Fest in NYC, where the movie won "best screenplay". The music was recorded in 2010 in Brooklyn with notable performers. duration: 31:58

1. Summertime Theme 06:56
2. Sunny Moon 03:59
3. We Wee Hours 05:28
4. Rebound 06:07
5. Drum Solo 04:58
6. Vamping Out 04:30

Gunter Gruner - drums, composition, production
Kirk Knuffke - trumpet
Emilio Teubal - piano
Keith Witty - double bass

Gunter Gruner - The Invisible Landscape (2021)

Recorded on 05/06/2007 in Harlem, The Invisible Landscape is a trippy journey through a modern jazz related jungle. With its line-up, a striking brass section, featuring two acclaimed saxophonists, the display isn`t short of adroit surprises. The group performed at the Vision Series, NYC and its product was used in film, thereby screened at Anthology Film Archives and other theaters. duration: 43'58''

1. Permanent Vacation 05:53
2. Another World Is Possible 05:20
3. Spinning the Clouds 04:14
4. Nova Express 04:48
5. A Time 04:16
6. Monolith 05:47
7. Fused Take Over 05:04
8. The Invisible Landscape 05:34
9. Colors of Light 03:02

Gunter Gruner - drums, composition
Kirk Knuffke - trumpet
Daniel Carter - alto saxophone, trumpet
Salim Washington - tenor saxophone, flute
Yusuke Yamamoto - vibraphone, electronic effects
Nicolas Letman-Burtinovic - double bass