July 2021: Jazz records reviews

Punkt.Vrt.Plastik: Somit

Kaja Draksler, upright pianos; Petter Eldh, bass; Christian Lillinger, drums, percussion
Intakt 353 (CD). 2021. Kaja Draksler, Petter Eldh, Christian Lillinger, prod .; Martin Waschkowitsch, ing.
Performance *****
Sounds *****

There’s a lot to unbox with Punkt.Vrt.Plastik, but it doesn’t look like a struggle. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it very clear.

First the name. “Punkt” means point in Swedish. “Vrt” means “garden” in Slovenian. “Plastik” is German for “plastic”. The three words represent the nationalities of the three musicians: bassist Petter Eldh, pianist Kaja Draksler and drummer Christian Lillinger. The title of the album, Somit, translates to “accordingly”.

If all of this is vaguely suggestive while still being oddly confusing, then we’re on the right track. Punkt.Vrt.Plastik is a piano trio. Somit it sounds like jazz, but again it’s not that easy. The attraction is in the way the sounds ring.

What jumps first on Somit are Kaja Draksler’s pianos. She plays two, both standing. She plays lines in unison, sometimes almost in unison in the same octave on both instruments. The thin voices of the uprights differ – they may be siblings, but they are not twins – and they are not perfectly tuned. This tension is not always manifest, but it is always present, vibrating and refracting. The depth of Lillinger’s drums, from the harsh snap of the snare to the muffled toms further away, creates another sonic illusion. Eldh’s bass is deep and all-encompassing, slowly spinning below. Abrupt, rigorously executed changes sound like edits, but the acoustic warmth of the sustains is a testament to the precision of their playing.

The compositions work in the service of the group. The 13 tracks, between two and six minutes long, are bright, tense and easy to digest. A fascinating listening. ??Kurt Gottschalk

Ben Goldberg: Everything happens to be
Goldberg, clarinets; Ellery Eskelin, tenor saxophone; Mary Halvorson, electric guitar; other
SAC Production SAC 018 (CD). 2021. Goldberg, prod. ; Nick Lloyd, ing.
Performance ****
Sonic ****

Goldberg, a seasoned clarinetist whose early recordings were pre-Klezmer music, teamed up with saxophonist Ellery Eskelin and the Thumbscrew trio for this exceptionally melodious pre-jazz session. The album is loosely based on the concept of the chorale, with the musicians crafting melancholy and recognizable melodies, all composed by Goldberg with the exception of a familiar hymn, “Abide with Me”.

On previous tracks, such as “What About” and the dulcet “Fred Hampton”, Goldberg and Eskelin articulate the theme in unison or counterpoint before improvising together or in sequence while the three rhythms provide skillful embellishments. The band vamp in harmony or engage in lively musical conversation, but the sound is contemporary, devoid of the strident solos characteristic of free jazz and anything closely resembling bebop.

The title song is structured in a more conventional fashion, with Goldberg playing the lead role before him, Halvorson and Eskelin solo. “Tomas Plays the Drums” is the most distinctively avant-garde cut, with Goldberg screaming on the low alto clarinet accompanied by Halvorson’s electronically enhanced guitar, while Tomas Fujiwara vigorously respects the title of the track.

The performers all find the same melodious groove, namely that of Goldberg. Eskelin is a perfect foil; Halvorson bends and bends the ropes when not choosing straight tracks; and Michael Formanek and Fujiwara provide strong and flexible support. Fujiwara sits down while the others play together on “Abide with Me”, with Goldberg on the Albert-system clarinet. ??Larry Birnbaum


John Patitucci, Vinnie Colaiuta, Bill Cunliffe: Trio
John Patitucci, bass; Vinnie Colaiuta, drums; Bill Cunliffe, piano
Le Coq 695924331981 (CD, also available for download). 2021. Bill Cunliffe, prod .; Josh Connolly, P.Eng.
Performance ****
Sonic ****

One would have to be crazy not to applaud the people who have the courage to make a jazz imprint in the midst of a global pandemic. Le Coq appeared on the scene in early 2021. Label founder Piero Pata provided a succinct mission statement: “Honest jazz”.

Trio is Le Coq’s fourth release to date. Its principle was to bring together for the first time three high-level players and release them “without script”. John Patitucci is one of the great living jazz bassists. Vinnie Colaiuta is a leading crossover drummer, the choice of rock icons like Joni Mitchell and Sting. The star of this project is Bill Cunliffe, a master of modern mainstream jazz piano who is famous only among pianists.

Given the impromptu nature of the occasion, the set list had to be familiar material the three could play from memory. In a few minutes, they become a coherent and interactive whole. They go from soaring and thoughtful ballads like “Laura” to high energy workouts like “Seven Steps to Heaven” and make it a homogeneous flow. As Piero Pata promised, the music is honest and everything changes. “Good Morning Heartache” and “Just in Time” contain an emotion inseparable from the melody. Cunliffe elevates each of these culturally meaningful songs with inspired digressions into personal lyricism.

Patitucci is an ongoing impending presence. His backing lines are complex responses to Cunliffe’s ideas, and his solos prove that in the right hands a bass can speak the truths of the human heart.Thomas conrad


Enrico Morello: Cyclic signs
Enrico Morello, drums, qraqeb, carillon; Francesco Lento, trumpet; Daniele Tittarelli, alto saxophone; Matteo Bortone, bass
Auand AU 5014 (CD, also available for download). 2021. Enrico Morello, prod .; Francesco Ponticelli, ing.
Performance ****
Sonic **** ½

Enrico Morello is probably the most requested drummer in Italy. He plays with young badasses (Francesco Diodati) and old masters (Enrico Rava). Cyclic signs is his debut as a leader. It is surprising how this essential sideman reveals himself as a fully trained composer and overseer of ensemble form.

In his liner notes, Morello identifies the underlying assumptions of this project. Everything is based on the “driving force” of the rhythm but with “unexpected variations”. The format, without a tuning instrument, facilitates an open dialogue between the horizontal (melodic) and vertical (harmonic) dimensions. Trumpeter Francesco Lento and alto saxophonist Daniele Tittarelli fulfill these roles in Morello’s 12 original concepts. Their sharp lines run parallel for an irregular counterpoint, or intersect for a mysterious harmony, or coincide for loose unison statements of Morello’s convoluted themes. Meanwhile, the leader’s drums and Matteo Bortone’s bass collide and bubble in rhythm with unexpected variations.

The strength of Morello’s group lies in the fact that four musicians who serve the ensemble with dedication are so able to give up their roles and go wild in the open air. On “Natural Movement”, Lento’s eruptions are adrenaline rushes. Bortone and Morello insert a volatile, splashing interlude. Then Tittarelli sets the mood again, floating above, spinning and weaving. Cyclic signs is a precarious balance of drive and organization and an ongoing adventure for creative listeners. It’s also further proof that Italy is the strongest jazz scene outside of the United States.Thomas conrad


Ches Smith and we all break up: Path of the Seven Colors
Sirene Dantor René, vocals; Miguel Zenón, saxophone; Matt Mitchell, piano; Nick Dunston, bass; other
Pyroclastic files PR 14/15. 2021. David Breskin, prod .; Ron Saint Germain, ing.
Performance ****
Sonic ***

Ches Smith did not take the exploration of Haitian music lightly. The percussionist writes, in the long sleeve notes of his chic new CD set Path of the Seven Colors, that it was only after people started to say that they had heard the Haitian influence in his game (he had studied privately for 15 years) that he decided to focus his energies and train a group. With his teachers Daniel Brevil and Markus Schwartz and pianist Matt Mitchell, he organized the first version of We All Break and released a small CD-R in 2017.

In 2020 the ideas grew and he returned to the studio with the original band plus singer Sirene Dantor Rene, saxophonist Miguel Zen ¢ n, bassist Nick Dunston and a fourth percussionist, Fanfan Jean-Guy Rene. Both sessions are included in the new package. The first disc is a spotlight for Mitchell, who takes off with the rhythms, but it is with the octet that the music really breathes. Smith brings a jazz sensibility, opening the band to explore and explore the pieces he built from drum patterns with new songs written by and traditional tunes woven by Brevil.

Producer David Breskin, who oversaw previous Pyroclastic releases (including the exceptional Kris Davis Diatom ribbons) as well as albums from Nels Cline and Mary Halvorson, and engineer Ron Saint Germain ?? whose extended production credits include Sonic Youth ?? keeping a warm sound for the sessions of 2020. You never forget that you listen to a live band. The results are inviting and engaging, playing with tradition without being beholden to it.Kurt Gottschalk


Dan Wilson: Wood and earthen vases
Dan Wilson, guitar; Christian Sands, keyboards; Marco Panascia, bass; Jeff “Tain” Watts, drums; other
Mack Avenue BRO4001 (CD, also available for download). 2021. Christian McBride, prod .; Todd Whitelock, P.Eng.
Performance ****
Sonic ****

Wood and earthen vases is the second release from Brother Mister Productions, bassist Christian McBride’s own imprint on the Mack Avenue label. Ships introduces a new guitarist who has the goods. Dan Wilson’s strengths include chops like the fastest young guitarists on the street and something rarer: a mature artistic vision.

Wilson is rooted in the great tradition of jazz guitar. You hear Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell in his sound. The heart of this album is a quartet with pianist Christian Sands. Wilson and Sands are artists with extensive knowledge of mainstream audiences, but they are so technically gifted and perform with such creative passion that they transcend traditional boundaries.

Wilson’s emotional range is also extensive. Her basic attitude is exuberance, as on Stevie Wonder’s “Bird of Beauty”. He gets the ecstasy of Wonder’s melody, but he integrates it into a full and detailed jazz arrangement. Then, together, he and Sands develop the song in a vast improvisation. “After the Rain” is very different, a rare guitar response to John Coltrane’s solemn and soaring prayer. Wilson respects the dignity of darker songs, but his natural elegance bathes them in a new light.

The quartet with Sands is smoking, yet the last two pieces, guitar / bass duets, are the best. “James” is one of Pat Metheny’s most beloved and assertive songs. Wilson elevates affirmation, adds funk, and lavishes new content on it. It is not easy to outdo Metheny Metheny. Ted Daffan’s “Born to Lose”, a country classic, is a tangy surprise. Wilson’s grace deepens his emotion. ??Thomas conrad


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