Førdefestivalen Førde, Norway July 3-6, 2014 In its 25th year, the Førdefestivalen global music weekender became slightly nostalgic. Usually, a specialized theme is declared for each edition, but for this significant anniversary, a set of return invites were issued to artists who were fondly remembered for their previous appearances. Normally, the festival has a policy of continually booking first-time visitors, but we could forgive them for being a touch misty-eyed on this occasion. The other main thrust was to contrast, and often combine, local Norwegian folk talent from the surrounding fjords with a ...read more
Barcelona-born, Brooklyn-based tenor saxophonist Gianni Gagliardi has long been a wanderer. He left his homeland in his teens, relocating to the Netherlands to further his jazz knowledge at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. Later moves found him soaking up information at SUNY Purchase in New York, Le Conservatoire National Superior de Paris, Boston's Berklee School of Music, and Berklee's Valencia, Spain-based branch. Those experiences, along with international touring, make it clear that Gagliardi knows a thing or two about the nomadic nature of the modern day jazz musician. He willingly shares that knowledge on his debut album. Nomadic ...read more
Maira Freitas + Lenine Brasil Summerfest at Central Park Summerstage New York, NY July 19, 2014 For her New York City debut, Maira Freitas traveled lightly, backed solely by a drummer on stage. She did the first few songs on piano, beginning with a jazz- inflected samba and then moving on to a very personal rendition of Dream A Little Dream," her voice a clear soprano with great range. After introducing herself to the audience, she switched to an electric piano attached to a laptop, using lots of effects to enhance songs ...read more
"Big D, Texas!" If that's the Final Jeopardy" answer based on this recording, the obvious and very correct question would be: Where does the featured artist on Conscious Journey Part 1 & 2 come from?" Yep, it's where everything is expansive, free-wheeling and hot--and ditto this recording. Spanning two CDs and offering a dozen superbly-performed selections with nine originals, this is a Longhorn Steer of quality music--most of it exciting, swinging and all of it definitely entertaining. Here, Lavender--now a mainstay in the New York Broadway and freelance scenes--shows he is a high-energy, multi-talented artist on the ...read more
Pianist Denny Zeitlin's Stairway to the Stars recording sparkles to life on the familiar Great American Songbook jewel, There Will Never Be Another You." This version has everything that the best piano trio efforts offer: elegance, inspired three-way interplay, a vivacious groove--thanks to drummer Matt Wilson and bassist Buster Williams--and Zeitlin's always supple touch and endless inventiveness. Zeiltin, has rolled in a creative high gear since his teaming with Sunnyside Records in 2009, beginning with In Concert with Buster Williams and Matt Wilson. Since that Sunnyside debut, he has released on the label two masterpieces of solo piano, ...read more
Cold Truth Warm Heart isn't Mike Pope's first album as a leader (it's his third), but in the 12 years since The Lay of the Land (Whaling City Sound, 2002), the bassist has, in addition to some serious life-changers, forged a relationship with two musicians of unequivocal significance. First appearing on Joe Locke's State of Soul (Sirocco, 2002), Pope has worked with the superb vibraphonist and equally fine pianist Geoffrey Keezer in the by turns incendiary and profoundly lyrical Joe Locke / Geoffrey Keezer Group since 2006, first documented on the charging out of the gate Live in Seattle (Origin, ...read more
Pianist J.J. Wright has catholic tastes in more ways than one. He's the Director of Music at Sacred Heart Parish, the crypt church beneath the University of Notre Dame's Basilica of the Sacred Heart, and his musical interests range far and wide; Wright's inspired and influenced by everything from the music of J.S. Bach to the work of Thelonious Monk to the songs of Sufjan Stevens. His debut album--a piano trio session with the highly capable Ike Sturm on bass and the rhythmically engaging Nate Wood on drums--hints at some of these influences and points to Wright's faith without ever ...read more
In jazz terms Puerto Rico has certainly punched above its weight, producing Juan Tizol--a mainstay of Duke Ellington's bands in the 1930s and 1940s, Eddie Gomez and Manolo Badrena--who came to prominence in the 1960s/1970s through their respective associations with pianist Bill Evans and Weather Report--and latterly David Sanchez. Lesser known--though perhaps that's soon to change--is guitarist Rafael Rosa, whose enticing debut reveals a composer and technician of some sophistication. Carlos Maldonado's barril--a lower pitched Afro-Puerto Rican cousin of the Cuban conga--introduces the lively Bomba Oscura." Maldonado's variations on the sicá rhythm percolate beneath the driving rhythms of ...read more
Armenian composer Tigran Mansurian's poignant and introspective Quasi Parlando on ECM consists of four string concertos. Two penned almost three decades apart and two others that he wrote specifically for each of the soloists on the album; violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and cellist Anja Lechner. The unifying theme of this splendid disc, and one that recurs throughout most of Mansurian's opus, is a sublime, almost effortless, narrative sense endowed with a timeless mysticism. The music is laced with both sorrow and solace, often simultaneously as is clearly heard on the penetrating and profound Four Serious Songs For Violin And ...read more
Blending modern jazz with any aspect of funk or R&B is a risky proposition for a young jazz musician. No matter how personal one's concept may be, or how artfully executed, a segment of the jazz- listening population is going to yell sellout!" at the first electric bass slap. Though he doesn't do slap bass, Michael Feinberg is unapologetically drawn to the funky, danceable aspects of jazz. He does so without really making any obvious pop or R&B overtures. Live At 800 East is a jazz album through and through. But it's one that can get your hips moving. In ...read more
Drummer Jeff Cosgrove certainly knows how to draw attention to himself. For his third album the DC area-based drummer enlists the services of two avant jazz icons in pianist Matthew Shipp and bassist William Parker. Just what a coup this is can be gauged from the fact that Shipp's previous sideman dates have included the legendary saxophonists David S. Ware and AACM iconoclast Roscoe Mitchell. Cosgrove has studied with masters like Andrew Cyrille and Paul Motian, and has covered the latter's tunes on Motian Sickness: For The Love Of Sarah (Self Produced, 2012). It was Cyrille who hooked him up ...read more
And now it's time for a personal pet peeve, something far worse than a squeaky sax or a fumble-fingered pianist: The mislabeled CD. Today's example: The Clifford Brown Memorial Album. Let's start by noting that this is a terrific record--recorded in 1953, released in 1956, shortly after Brown's tragic death in a car crash at age 25. This is early Brown, the great hard bop trumpeter, on the verge of stardom. It's a 4-star record that might be even better if only I knew the names of the songs and who's playing on them!read more
An exceptional improvised meeting between American saxophonist Matana Roberts, known for her Coin Coin project--Chapter One: Gens de Couleur Libres and Chapter Two: Mississippi Moonchile (Constellation, 2011 and 2013)--and two left-of- center, free improvisers from the Canadian, Montreal scene--guitarist Sam Shalabi, known for his Middle-Eastern-tinged band Shalabi Effect and his orchestral works with Land of Kush, and double bassist Nicola Caloia, who leads the improvising Ratchet Orchestra. Feldspar, titled after Earth's rock formations, was recorded in studio in Montreal in 2011 and features the conflicting approaches of Roberts on one hand and Shalabi and Caloia on ...read more
While making noise with her debut, Shoot! (Rune Grammofon, 2011), it was with All Them Witches (Rune Grammofon, 2013)--and subsequent touring that took her from her home country of Norway, playing at festivals like the 2013 Molde International Jazz Festival, to a short North American tour this year--that guitarist Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen's career really took off. Alongside Pixel, Hedvig Mollestad Trio represents some of the most exciting music from a new generation of Norwegian musicians, though the two groups couldn't be more different. And with Enfant Terrible" released just prior to its 2014 North American tour, Hedvig Mollestad Trio is ...read more
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