Teemu Kekkonen Here/There Self produced
2022 Teemu Kekkonen
does indeed cross a lot of both "heres" and "theres" during the course of Here/There
. His debut has one foot in his native Finland's folk roots and one in the most urbane of metropolitan clubs. It could instead refer to jazz's past and present, as it channels the class of Bill Evans
with the modern rock-influenced fusion pioneered by Esbjorn Svensson
(the pianist's CV includes some time in an actual rock band on top of work in cinema and academia). Then again, the mix also has room for catchy grooves, classical sophistication, noisy wailing, and the odd breezy springtime romp, so any binary comparison quickly falls apart anyway. The session has too many shades to reduce to such simple descriptions anyway. The trio is as adaptable as the leader's omnivorous mind demands, equally comfortable dashing off chamber pieces or touches of blues and gospel on the way to something fun and funky. If there's one constant, it's their willingness to go anywhere.
Yosef Gutman Levitt Upside Down Mountain
2022 Upside Down Mountain
contains a world of colors and emotions for something resolutely pure and simple in structure. Yosef Gutman Levitt
's music is a quietly eclectic kind that lets straightforward and floaty melodies speak for themselves. It spins together folky and jazzy elements from everywhere he's been (born in South Africa, migrated to New York City
and eventually Jerusalem), spun into a set eminently charming and compelling.
Gutman's choice of acoustic bass guitar helps set a distinct tone right from the folky plucking that eases into the opener, making the trio format sound familiar and yet different from the more common jazz combo with upright bass. Similarly, his pieces feel homey and comfortable no matter how many different worldly traditions they touch on. He and Omri Mor
's piano float through sunny meditations and down-to-earth grooves overflowing with quiet warmth; there's something deeply spiritual running through it all, while the pieces easily transcend any themes based in specific religions or traditions. This music is many things, but above all simply human.
Michael Wollny Trio Ghosts
It's common (and even accurate) enough to say that songs are living things. If that's true, it only stands to reason that they eventually have their own ghostsnot that they actually stop "living" in that metaphorical sense, but because of the echoes they can leave behind in the minds of others. That, at least, is Michael Wollny
's theme for this fairly dark outing. "As an improviser," he explains, "you often find that it's not the compositions themselves you're playing, but your own memories of them." These are pieces that he frequently recalls and revisits, presented with a deliberate Gothic flair that keeps everything slightly (or sometimes more than slightly) unsettling.
Wollny being Wollny, he also gives each piece a fundamental makeover, though still usually leaving the shape at least partly recognizable. Fans of the band Japan might still have to squint to spot the title track's melody amongst clouds of haunting arco bass, for instance, while Gershwin's "I Loves You Porgy" becomes practically spooky with a dose of macabre drama. The album is not without spots of playfulness (the warmth of "She Moved Through the Fair" still comes through this trepidatious reading), balanced out with other moments of churning and roiling that verge on fearsome. Whatever the treatment, the pieces are kept in weird flux like actual ghosts, hovering between possible worlds and never feeling quite resolved.
Tracks and Personnel Here/There
Tracks: Here/There; Moksha; Dragonfly meditation; Dragonflies in July; Melancholia; Matkustaja; Endless Joy; Smile.
Personnel: Teemu Kekkonen: piano; Mikael Saastamoinen: bass; Roope Kantonen: drums. Upside Down Mountain
Tracks: Wedding Song; Time with Abba; Before the Journey; Jericho; Family (Folk Vibe); The Warriors; Arise; Joshua; Poltova; Twelve Stones; The Great River; Hodu Lashem.
Personnel: Yosef Gutman Levitt: acoustic bass guitar; Omri Mor: piano; Ofri Nehemya: drums. Ghosts
Tracks: I Loves You Porgy; Willow's Song; Hauntology; Hand of God; Ghosts; Monsters Never Breathe; Erlkönig; In a Sentimental Mood; She Moved Through the Fair; Beat the Drum Slowly.
Personnel: Michael Wollny: piano; Tim Lefebvre: bass; Eric Schaefer: drums.
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