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Jazz Journal

Midsummer 2019


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Jazz Journal is a regular column consisting of pithy takes on recent jazz releases of note as well as spotlights on those titles in the genre that might otherwise go unnoticed under the cultural radar.

Jenny Scheinman & Allison Miller
Parlour Game
Royal Potato Family

It only takes a few listens to Parlour Game to conclude the billing ought to be altered for the album. In keeping with other previous collaboration with drummer Allison MillerScience Fair (Sunnyside Recordings, 2018)—pianist Carmen Staaf effectively commands the most attention with her alternately jolly and contemplative playing, nuanced dynamics of which her kindred spirit mirrors with similar restraint on "Top Shelf." Violinist/composer Jenny Scheinman isn't exactly left out of the proceedings, but she is most certainly overshadowed during the course of these eleven tracks. But, the very repeated listenings that solve the initial conundrum of artist credits for this record give every reason to think she saw her role as shepherd to all that which Miller and Staaf seem to so naturally conjure up together: a mix of joy and invention on tracks like "Beans & Rice" or "Fake Weather" that slowly but surely insinuate itself into listeners as discerning as these musicians.

Anat Cohen Tentet
Triple Helix
Anzic Records

Anat Cohen has an uncanny ability to realize her unique concepts for performing and recording even as she immerses herself fully as a participant within the projects. And while she steps forward early in this ambitious endeavor, on Astor Piazzola's "Milonga Del Angel," the strong, sweet sound of her clarinet serves as flash-point for the action of the other nine instrumentalists. Nuance builds upon nuance as the title concerto unfolds in its own luxurious time—hear the vibraphone and percussion of James Shipp in particular—but thanks in no small part to the recording and mixing of Brian Montgomery, subsequently mastered by Mark Wilder, the clarity of sound features each and every facet of these bejeweled arrangements overseen through Oded Lev-Ari's musical direction, the meticulous attention to detail of which reflects the unity of this album's title as much as the solidarity of the ensemble, not to mention the requisite authority of the woman at the center of it all.

Jamie Saft Quartet
Hidden Corners
Rare Noise

Jamie Saft's second quartet outing within the last year or so is distinctly different than its predecessor. In contrast to Blue Dream (RareNoise), just about as conventional a record as this multi-instrumentalist/composer is likely to make, Hidden Corners is a looser enterprise, the four musicians engaging in freewheeling interactions with room to elaborate a plenty. No doubt the presence of saxophonist/flautist Dave Liebman encourages free thinking, but it's still pure pleasure to hear the muted crescendos of piano that open the aptly-titled first tune "Positive Way." The musicians' humility abounds throughout, a virtue comparable to the self-awareness of the foursome (including acoustic bassist Bradley Christopher Jones and drummer Hamid Drake): during their readings of Saft's eight originals, like "Turn At Every Moment," they stay out of each other's way without seriously restricting their individual contributions or the ensemble's collective connection, rendering space almost as important as sound.

Red Kite
Red Kite
Rare Noise

Both the album and the band called Red Kite carry a visceral impact equal to or even greater than the technique in play (or the intricate likes of its original material as composed by guitarist Evan Helte Hermansen). The foursome skillfully paces itself over the course of but five numbers, beginning with from the near-twelve minute excursion into space called "Ptah: The El Daoud" (written by Alice Coltrane) through the shortest cut here" Flew A Little Bullfinch Through The Window" before rounding out the LP with "Focus On Insanity,"clocking in at nearly the same duration as the opener. There's as much muscular as mental effort expended for the duration as guitars sting, electric piano shines and drummer Torstein Loftus generates virtual tidal waves of rhythm, all of which would hit hard even if the pristine sound—recorded and mixed by Christian Engfelt, then mastered by Espen Hoydalsvik—didn't heighten the wallop.

Equal Time
Capri Records

Akiko, Hamilton and Decker immediately slip into a groove with a flourish on Equal Time and maintain it for the duration of the near forty-five minute playing time of their record. The trio's shared instincts prove impeccable throughout the album's eight cuts and whether it's on originals like the organist's "Asaka Samba" or interpretations of challenging covers likeJohn Coltrane's "Moment's Notice," the collective intuition is as sharp as the individuals.' And it's well-nigh impossible which of the three is more delighted with the interactions: Dechter's guitar bubbles with an effervescence that seems to match the ebullience of drummer Hamilton: a listener might hear him smiling through his kit. The natural informality of the musicianship here belies careful preparation involving the creative and arrangement of diverse material including Steve Allen's "This Could Be The Start of Something Big," a phrase that hopefully will apply to this formidable instrumental alliance.

Tracks and Personnel

Parlour Game

Tracks: Play Money; 116th & Congress; The Right Fit; Michigan; Fake Weather; Lead With Love; Beans & Rice; Meanwhile; Top Shelf; Miss Battle's Cannonball; Sleep Rider.

Personnel: Jenny Scheinman: violin; Carmen Staaf: piano; Tony Scherr: bass; Allison Miller: drums.

Triple Helix

Tracks: Milonga Del Angel; Triple Helix: i first—ii -for Anat iii -last; Miri; Footsteps & Smiles; La Llorona; Lonesome Train; Morning Melody.

Personnel: Anat Cohen: clarinet; Oded Lev-Ari: musical director; Nadje Noordhuis: trumpet & flügelhorn; Nick Finzer: trombone; Owen Broder: baritone sax; Christopher Hoffman: cello; James Shipp: vibraphone & percussion; Vitor Gonçalves: piano & accordion; Sheryl Bailey: guitar; Tal Mashiach: bass; Anthony Pinciotti: drums.

Hidden Corners

Tracks: Positive Way; Seven Are Double; Yesternight; 231 Gates; Turn At Every Moment; Hidden Corners; The Anteroom; Landrace. Personnel: Jame Saft: piano; Dave Liebman: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute; Bradley Christopher Jones: acoustic bass; Hamid Drake: drums.

Red Kite

Tracks: Ptah, The El Daoud; 13 Enemas For Good Luck; Flew A Little Bullfinch Through The Window; Focus On Insanity; You Don't Know, You Don't Know.

Personnel: Even Helte Hermansen: guitar; Bernt Andre Moen: keyboards; Trond Frønes: bass; Torstein Lofthus: drums.

Equal time

Tracks: Mag's Groove; Orange Coals; Osaka Samba; A Baptist Beat; Moment's Notice; Lion's Gate; I Remember You; This Could Be The Start Of Something Big.

Personnel: Akiko Tsuraga: Hammond B3; Graham Dechter: guitar; Jeff Hamilton: drums.

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