Multi-reedist/composer Christian Vuust has been a mainstay of the Danish jazz scene for close to thirty years. A professor at the Royal Academy of Music in his hometown of Aarhus, Vuust has crafted a significant discography as leader, working with some of Denmark's best jazz musicians. Urban Hyms marks a departure for Vuust, being his first CD recorded outside Denmark. Recorded in a single day in jny:New York, Jeff Ballard, Ben Street and Aaron Parks's sophisticated yet subtle support frames Vuust's original compositions, which draw deeply from European and American wells alike. Danish psalms have heavily influenced Vuust--he's ...read more
Trumpeter Thad Jones and drummer extraordinaire Mel Lewis may have given birth to the band that's now known as The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, but the late Bob Brookmeyer gave the group artistic independence at a time when it was sorely needed. When Jones left the fold and departed for Europe at the tail end of the '70s, things could've gone a very different way for this storied outfit: it could've simply carried on as a pretty good band that covered Thad Jones' music, endlessly recycling songs of the then-recent past. The Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, né Thad ...read more
A release on the Dancing Wayang label is always cause for celebration for several reasons. Firstly, they are few and far between, with Alps being only the label's ninth release since it began issuing records in 2007; rarely do two appear in a year, and never more than two--which makes 2014 a special year as Alps follows the release of Motion by N.E.W. earlier in the year. Secondly, the reason for their scarcity is that each Dancing Wayang release is a labour of love, with great care and attention to detail lavished on each one. That extends from the careful ...read more
Given his proclivity for wildly eclectic, big-concept musical project featuring improbable combinations of multi-ethnic instrumentalists, Joel Harrison is about the last guitarist I'd expect to record a funky slab of power-trio jazz-rock-funk fusion. Across the board, his guitaristic skills have taken a back seat to compositional concerns and rich, detailed arrangements. Yet, here is Mother Stump, Harrison's paean to 70s-era jazz-rooted, rock-powered, funked-up guitar-centric instrumental music. Moreover, Harrison has pointedly eschewed all of the studio polish and post-production nonsense that bogs down must fusion albums these days. Like the best music in any genre, Mother Stump derives its potency from ...read more
Lion is a good name for Marius Neset's first recording with the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, for like a great cat, the Norwegian orchestra purrs and prowls, roars and pounces. Regardless of tempo--whether cruising or charging--there's majesty in the collective voice. Commissioned for the Molde Jazz Festival in 2012, the momentum from that performance took Neset and this twelve-piece orchestra into the recording studio with spectacular results. In fourteen years, the TJO has become something of a Norwegian national institution, reaching an ever-greater audience across Europe. Lion is another feather in its cap, following collaborations with Chick Corea, Pat ...read more
Julie Kelly is a talented singer whose talents are a fairly well-kept secret except on the West Coast, where she makes her home. Happy to Be is Kelly's eighth album, the first on Graham Carter's Colorado-based Jazzed Media label, and as has been her custom in the past, she chooses for the most part interesting songs that aren't heard nearly often enough. Compositions by Dave Frishberg, Bob Dorough, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Richard Rodney Bennett and even Phoebe Snow are here, hanging out alongside engaging themes by such lesser-known but no less able writers as Bill Peterson, Jim Tomlinson and Susan ...read more
Charles Lloyd Arrows Into Infinity ECM Records 2014 It's rare to have an opportunity to see a music film in both the theatre and the comfort of your own home, but a serendipitous invite to the 2013 Jazztopad Festival in Wrocław, Poland not only provided the chance to hear saxophonist Charles Lloyd premiering a new work, commissioned by the festival, with an entirely new group; it also presented, in a movie theatre, Arrows Into Infinity, a nearly two-hour look at Lloyd's life and career, directed by his longtime life partner, manager and co-producer Dorothy ...read more
When is a trio with a piano not a piano trio? British outfit Mammal Hands offers one answer to that conundrum with debut album Animalia, released on Gondwana Records, the label run by discerning trumpeter and producer Matthew Halsall. Actually, given the varied nature of the tunes on display--co-written by the band members--it offers eight answers. Nick Smart's piano is certainly a key element of the Mammal Hands sound, but it's by no means the dominant one--brother Jordan Smart's saxophones and Jesse Barrett's distinctive percussion are equally as important. Jordan Smart often favors the soprano saxophone--a choice that ...read more
Ever since I wrote the biography of Clifford Brown (Oxford University Press, 2000) I've been hoping that someone would come forth with some newly discovered recording, some new photos of Brownie, or some new piece of information about his life that wasn't available at the time the book was published. One of the great bonuses of new-age information technology is the amazing dissemination of material that seems to come forth in dribs and drabs. Any biographer hopes that new discoveries will appear to add to the knowledge of the subject. So it was with great joy that ...read more
La Scala (the ladder or stairway in Italian} was a theatrical production that bore this atypical chamber ensemble featuring French pianist Roberto Negro, brothers Théo Ceccaldi on violin and viola with Valentin Ceccaldi on cello and percussionist Adrien Chennebaut. The idea, like the play's title, was to find a musical equivalent to the concept of ascension. The music--composed and improvised---symbolizing a pathway through a spiral staircase, a paper stairway, a stepladder, an ever unpredictable rope ladder, used by this sure-footed, opinionated quartet with a constant ear to each other's movements. It can also be listened to as a reflection on ...read more
Colombian, Strasbourg-based viola player and vocal artist Elisa Arciniegas Pinilla studied classical music and viola at the Conservatorio de Música de la Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Bogota and jazz and improvised music at the Conservatoire de Strasbourg in France. She also specialized in performance and free improvisation at the Hochschule für Musik in Basel, Switzerland (one of her teachers there was Fred Frith. This wide spectrum of approaches enable Pinilla to create a musical universe that transcends borders, genres or conventions. The music on her debut album--after a yet-to-be-released collaboration with Chilean composer Javier Muñoz ...read more
Tori Freestone is a name that will be familiar to those with an interest in the British Jazz of the last few years. A multi- instrumentalist she contributed flute and sax to Ivo Neame's excellent Yatra from 2012 but you may equally have come across her work with the likes of Rory Simmons or Neil Yates. This trio collection on emerging London indie label, Whirlwind, sees Freestone making the leap to band leader on record for the first time showcasing the tenor saxophone side of her undoubted talents.As that CV implies Freestone is no rookie and there is ...read more
Even among established groupings Japanese composer and pianist Satoko Fujii continues to search for new means of expression. For the ninth disc from her New York Orchestra, Fujii departs from accustomed practice, particularly in the 36-minute plus title track which dominates proceedings. Truly orchestral in its scope, Fujii wields her composer's wand in a way which largely avoids some of the expected intricacy, in favour of more opaque connections, organically developed soundscapes and ragged choruses, from which the compositional signposts unexpectedly emerge. The loose painterly style recalls the trumpeter Bill Dixon's large scale works, in that the talented cast is ...read more
Grenoble-born keyboardist Matthieu Marthouret started playing the Hammond organ as a way of covering for bass players' absence from rehearsals. It became one of his favorite instruments, leading to the formation of the Matthieu Marthouret Organ Quartet in 2007 and then to the establishment of the Bounce Trio. Small Streams...Big Rivers is the first album from that outfit, an organ/tenor/drums triumvirate. On Small Streams...Big Rivers the Bounce Trio performs original tunes by Marthouret and saxophonist Toine Thys alongside a trio of covers. The band opens This Guy's In Love With You" with a few seconds of free-form noodling ...read more
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