by: Hobart Taylor
Mike Reed - Flesh & Bone - (482 Music)
This extraordinary release by Chicago composer, scene meister, drummer, and shaman, Mike Reed, continues in the traditions of the AACM (creative music that emphasizes the collaborative and spiritual nature of what some folks call jazz) and thier progeniters like Roscoe Mitchell, Muhal Richard Abrams, George Lewis, etc.
I could point to stylistic musical connections (the bells in "The Magic Drum" and Mitchell's use of bells over the years), but a deeper connection, a blending of the intimate and the ethereal, is what matters. I could pretentiously blah blah blah about this, but instead shall respond with a poem to this genre absent purity of form embedded in these eleven tunes.
The tinitus is a 60 cycle siren song that hovers at 2 O'clock, four inches beyond the upper right quandrant of my skull.
Depth of vibrating fields kaleidoscope cattywampus.
I am again my breath.
I pick words from grunts and coughing, index fingers peck violently at flat black keys.
This now is full of doubt and comprehension.
Idi Shner - 9 Short Stories - (OA2 Records)
Saxophonist/composer Shner working in a quartet format with pianist Josh Hanlon, bassist James Driscoll, and Stockton Helbing on drums has a deft and quasi classical touch, e.g., "Like Satie". Her tunes are carefully crafted and subtly insinuating. Utilizing a tightly controlled high pitched vibrato on the one cover tune, the Billy Strayhorn miracle entitled "Pasion Flower", she demonstates remarkable virtuosity. That would be enough for a lot of folks, but she gives us more. Her tunes like "First Waltz", and the gem "Angst as Usual" contain mature reflection, humor, pathos, and understated grace.
John McNeil & Mike Fahie - Plainsong - (Destiny Records)
McNeil and Fahie are brass players who display a powerful symbiosis. Hard to tell when one statrs and the other stops. Their modus operandi is not call and response, but extended dialog. With commentary from pianist Ethan Iverson (The Bad Plus), basist Joe Martin, and the eternal Billy Hart (Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner) on drums, these tunes are shimmering mirages that hover ghostlike at the edge of our perceptions. Faves, Fahie's "Prospect", "Conversation Starter", a Monk tune "Green Chimneys" and McNeil's "Get Out".
Simona Premazzi - Outspoken - (Self Released)
Pianist composer Premazzi works here with bassist extradinaire Joe Martin (see previous review),Nasheet Waits on drums, Dayna Stephens on sax, and guests, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt and vocalist Sara Serper. She creates skew marches, laddering melodies, and wistful moments. Stephen's improvisatory flights serve as counterpoint to Premazzsi's carefully contructed houses of cards. Lovely stuff. Faves, "Up On A. Hill", the haunting "Digression", "Blakonian Groove", and the ballad "Later Ago".
Nick Maclean Quartet - Rites of Ascension - (Browntasaurus Records)
From Canada comes this updated soul jazz in the vein of the Blue Note acid jazz compilations. Fresh and youthfully joyful reworkings of three Herbie Hancock standards lead the disc off before we settle into several of pianist Maclean's own compositions. Key to the sound is the gloriously expressive trumpeter Brownman Ali, who contributes one of his own tunes here, the funky "Madness of Nero", as well as producing.
Vein - Vein Plays Ravel - (Double Moon Records)
This Swiss trio, (joined on a take of Ravel's Bolero by saxophonist Andy Sheppard), are not creating a jazz/classical fusion like say Claude Bolling. Those often reduce both genres to muzak. Here they use Ravel's melodies as frames and then paint their impresssions of them with swinging brushstrokes. This seems more honest to me, more respectful, like reading Gregory Rabassa's translations of Gabriel Marquez. Measured, precise, controlled, this is the essence of European melodicism that acknowledges the seductiveness of jazz progressions.
Michel Camilo - Live in London - (Redondo Music)
Pianist/composer Camilo is originally from the Dominican Republic, and certainly incorparates Latin rythms in his work, but his writing is ultimately sui generis. Cascading runs, multi linenear interpolations, and ellipsis are recurrent tropes in his work. On this solo recording his power, passion, and cleverness are unsurpressable. You won't believe your ears. It's like he's always poking you awake. Wonderful.
Blue Note All Stars - Our Point Of view - (Blue Note)
Here they all are, the new crop of mega stars in the jazz firmament. Guitarist Lionel Loueke, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, saxophonist, Marcus Strickland, drummer Kendrick Scott, bassist, Derrick Hodge, and pianist, Robert Glasper have all released many of the most acclaimed records in recent years, each leading his own ensemble. They are joined by two of the legendary Blue Note All Stars of the golden age, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock on my favorite cut, Shorter's "Masquelero". This record is instantly historic the way the first Art Blakey Jazz Messenger records were. It's a document of performance styles and musical fashion. While many of the artists, Glasper in particular, owe their popularity to their acceleration of bop rhythms, innovative sychopation over soul and hip hop beats, using electronic instrumentation, and fragmentary exhortations, there is also something else going on here. There is a connection to the angst ridden elctron driven quantum uncertainty that passes for communication in the internet age.
Gregory Porter - Nat King Cole & Me - (Blue Note)
Porter is the new top dog in male jazz vocalists, and it shows just how far off the popular radar jazz is, considering the fact that he should be as well known as the man his is celebrating on this recording. Porter has pipes. While some of his own songs are pretty fine, he has yet to always find material equal to his talents the way say Donny Hathaway did, so it seems appropriate that he borrow from the man who had it all, NKC. While not exactly a vocal clone job, Poter does capture Cole's phrasing, nuanced tone, and story telling skills whiule being acoompanied by arrangements that seem like subtly enhanced refinements of the originals (kudos to Vince Mendoza). The freshest cuts are "Miss Otis Regrets", "I Wonder Who My Daddy Is", and the best cut, Poter's original composition in the Cole tradition, "When Love Was King".