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A Mixed Bag - Joonsam, Petros Klampanis, O.R.K., Peter Erskine, David Ambrosio/Russ Meissner

C. Michael Bailey By

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Joonsam
A Door
Origin Records
2016

South Korean bassist Joonsam Lee moved to New York City in 2007 and began composing...composing and meeting other like-minded musicians with whom to share ideas. For his debut recording, Lee has assembled these compositions, choosing those which reflect his many musical interests and experiences. With his sturdy rhythm featuring pianist Aaron Parks and drummer Nate Wood—Joonsam (who goes by this single name) adds trumpeter Ralph Alessi on trumpet on five of the eleven selections and guitarist Ben Monder on two, "Zadrak" and "Where Water Comes Together with Other Water" that stand as erstwhile centerpieces to this otherwise far-flung musical freedom party to which the bassist has invited us. Jazz and music, in general, is becoming atomized. One day there will be no more genres, just music. Joonsam's A Door is a canary in the coal mine of musical evolution.

Petros Klampanis
Chroma
Motema
2017

Greek bassist and composer Petros Klampanis provides us his first large ensemble recording following his 2015 release, Minor Dispute. Klampanis broadens his reach dramatically by adding a proper string section to his present collection of color-themed original compositions. Klampanis uses a base quintet of guitar, piano, drums, and percussion. His compositional approach is melodic, even for the drums and percussion, where Klampanis' charts shimmer like dancing dimes. Guitarist Gilad Hekselman and pianist Shai Maestro contribute greatly to Klampanis' harmonic thrust, facilitated by the lush bed of strings. The title piece reflects the recording as a whole: sumptuous melody, loosely tethered, separated by dense and technical solo sections where all core band members are enabled to stretch out. Chroma warrants the multiple listenings to reveal its true charms. The Listener will be rewarded.

O.R.k.
Soul of An Octopus
RareNoise Records
2017

It is near impossible not to appreciate any release from RareNoise Records. Presently here is the follow up to the band O.R.k.'s Inflamed Rides (Hard World, 2015). O.R.k. consists of vocalist and keyboardist LEF Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari, guitarist Carmelo Pipitone, bassist Colin Edwin, and drummer Pat Mastelotto. The music this quartet makes if the genetically-engineered love child of Black Sabbath and the Beatles. It is a glorious celebration of noise and entropy. There was a time when anti-blues pentatonic music ruled, but that music could only stay away from its mother for so long. "Collapsing Hopes" is "Paranoid" turned inside out. Electronically seduced, "Searching for the Code" is The Police on Ecstasy, in love with everyone and very, very thirsty. The electronica of the performances is impressive in the hands of Fornasari, who, with a Svengali-like hold, guides this unruly music in the direction of acceptance. RareNoise rarely produces anything useless. This is more from the masters of noise.

Peter Erskine and the Dr. UM Band
Second Opinion
Fuzzy Music
2016

It is really this simple. Winds player Bob Sheppard is the present best at what he does. While he does not hide his light beneath a basket, he is not near as well-known as his talent warrants. Sheppard has sided on a legion of recordings, making each on better for his presence. On Second Opinion Sheppard reprises his position on Peter Erskine's Dr.Um Band's Grammy-nominated Dr. Um (Fuzzy Music, 2015). He is grace as a sideman. Second Opinion reduces the original band to a quartet of the core members: keyboardist John Beasley, bassist Benjamin Shepherd, and drummer/leader Peter Erskine with Sheppard in tow. This quartet is full on the funk ("Hipnotherapy") and ballads ("Street of Dreams"). Erskine defines drummer-led recordings with his impeccable cymbal work and nimble command of polyrhythms. He is the one that ties all together. Sheppard's contributions, "Did it Have to Be You" and "Solar Steps" worship the groove principle with a bebop attitude. His tone and approach are so smooth, he readily takes over the festivities on his compositions. The recording closer is an angular treatment of "Willow Weep for Me," defying the laws of gravity and conservation of energy. Sheppard is tart and close in his approach, in keeping with the progressive direction of the band.

David Ambrosio & Russ Meissner
Moments in Time
SteepleChase
2016

I typically leave reviews of the more notable labels to my colleagues at All About Jazz. Jakob Baekgaard has previously review this release, saying: "Ambrosio and Meissner have penned the majority of the compositions that are rich on melodic hooks and narrative development. These are not merely blowing tunes, but compositions that justify the inclusion of different instruments." Jazz finds itself in a typical period of slow evolution. I am not entirely convinced that there are new horizons in jazz outside of those recordings considered, ..."what comes after music," something I suggested in my review of Tania Chen's Ocean of Storms (Self Produced, 2016). All nine compositions are original compositions from the band, all very much in the vein of whatever comes after "post-bop," if that even matters anymore. Guitarist Nate Radley's soft and warm tone softens the hard edges of this often aggressively progressive music being performed between the lines as much as possible.

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