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Playing Catch Up With 2019

Jerome Wilson By

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There always seems to be a constant flow of worthwhile new music coming out, so much that it is to be impossible to cover it all within its calendar year. Here are seven notable releases from the last few months of 2019.

Gebhard Ullmann
mikroPULS
Intuition
2019

The German quartet mikroPULS experiments with using microtonality in the context of modern jazz, creating an environment where tiny movements of pitch infiltrate shadowy, blue-tinged melodies. Gebhard Ullmann's tenor sax and Hans Lüdemann's piano drift through this music like hazy, insubstantial dreams while Oliver Potratz's bass and Eric Schaefer's drums give the overall sounds shape and sometimes heavyweight force. On "F.J.D." the rhythm section stokes an off-kilter funk noise that sounds like a fourth dimensional version of Eddie Harris' "Freedom Jazz Dance" and on "Tanz der Mikroben" a throbbing bass and tough drumming give purpose to Ullmann's hoarse tenor hysterics.

John Yao's Triceratops
How We Do
See Tao
2019

John Yao's Triceratops features three horns, his own trombone and Billy Drewes' and Jon Irabagon's saxophones, stacked together in close harmonies over the slick rhythm work of bassist Peter Brendler and drummer Mark Ferber. The three horn players blend well on flowing low-key lines like "The Golden Hour" and "Doin' The Thing" as well as bouncy up-tempo walkers like "Two Sides" and "Tea For T" and the brooding "Triceratops Blues." There's a cool, offhand swagger to the band's sound that is reminiscent of some of Gerry Mulligan's small groups.

Shannon Gunn
Gunn's Ablazin'
Self Produced
2019

Washington, DC based trombonist Shannon Gunn has several different ongoing projects and she features two of them on this CD, her Firebird Organ Trio and her quintet. In the trio, Gunn sounds smooth and playful over Hope Udobi's simmering keyboards while in the quintet she mixes it up with Chris Barrick's vibes and Garrett Gleason's guitar in a more aggressive and lively manner. The trio tracks are highlighted by Gunn's double-tracked lines on the funky "Carried Away" and her singing tone on Erik Satie's "Gymnopedie #1."

Ben Wolfe
Fatherhood
Resident Arts Records
2019

Bassist Ben Wolfe put this CD together in tribute to his father, Dan Wolfe, who passed away in 2018. It conveys several different moods and contains a revolving cast of excellent musicians including pianist Orrin Evans and saxophonist JD Allen. An elegant string quartet and the insinuating grooves of new vibes star Joel Ross enhance several tracks including the waltz, "Uncle Leslie," the mid-tempo tenor burner, "The Enforcer" and the dramatic "The Kora La" and "Edged." Ross' and the quartet's work with Evans on the standard "What's New" is particularly lovely.

Noah Preminger Group
Zigsaw: Music of Steve Lampert
Self Produced
2019

In the past Noah Preminger has recorded the music of Bob Dylan, Frederic Chopin and Blind Willie Johnson. This time out, he does a single 48-minute work by contemporary composer Steve Lampert. Played by a seven member group, the piece snakes in and out of a glitchy electro-funk theme, providing space for Preminger and other musicians like pianist Kris Davis and trumpeter Jason Palmer to improvise and explore.

The wild card in the deck is an electronic keyboard called the Haken Continuum played by Rob Schwimmer that provides all manner of shape-shifting backdrops for the other musicians, ranging from funky backbeats to gauzy atmospherics. Nothing stays in one place for long in this music and the overall work sounds like a more compact and user-friendly version of one of Anthony Braxton's marathon ensemble pieces.

Pearring Sound
Nothing But Time
Self Produced
2019

This is a trio of alto saxophonist Jeff Pearring, bassist Adam Lane and drummer Tim Ford recorded live with slight post-production manipulation. The resulting sounds range from rattling free improvisation on "Gather and Go" to heavy, distorted funk on "Plugin Heavy." Other tracks throb and stutter electronically with the tarry depths of dub and the spacey wanderings of Sun Ra as touchstones. Lumbering electric bass and honking alto are constant elements. In this context, the unadorned acoustic beauty of the spiritually inclined "Sunday" and Duke Ellington's "Blue Pepper" really stand out.

Tom Wright's Cat And Mouse Quartet
Notes From The Journey
Self Produced
2019

Saxophonist Tom Wright and his quartet tell the story of their experiences touring around the world with swinging, energetic music. The music starts off with the soulful shuffle of "Atlanta Bread" and touches many others places and sounds. There is a combination of baroque swirl and urban funk on "The Visby Thing," for a medieval town in Sweden and a tricky exotic pulse on "The Tang Man" which came from visiting Rio de Janeiro. A trip to Tibet produced the easy melodic calm of "A Day on the Mountain" and "Tyne Cot," inspired by Belgian World War I cemeteries, is a shimmering melody where Diane Lee Clemons's wordless vocal flies along with the singing beauty of Wright's alto. Tom Wright is a consistently exuberant and soulful player, Philip Howe's piano is expertly melodic and sensitive and the rhythm section of Robert Nance and Kevin Korschgen is sharp and supportive

Tracks and Personnel

mikroPULS

Tracks: Flutist with Hat and Shoe; Enge Bewegung; F.J.D.; Head Quarter; Ankunft; Human Body Upgrade; Tanz der Mikroben; Zeit Lupe.

Personnel: Gebhard Ullmann: tenor saxophone; Hans Ludemann: piano, virtual piano; Oliver Potratz: double bass; Eric Schaefer: drums.

How We Do

Tracks: Three Parts As One; Triceratops Blues; How We Do; The Golden Hour; Doin' The Thing; Circular Path; Two Sides; Tea For T.

Personnel: John Yao: trombone; Billy Drewes: soprano saxophone, alto saxophone; Jon Irabagon: tenor saxophone; Peter Brendler: bass; Mark Ferber: drums.

Gunn's Ablazin'

Tracks: Orange Noise; Missing Perspective; Babes in Cages are NOT OK; Ellen; Ms. Cheverly; #canigetpaid; Cruash; Dinah; Carried Away; Gymnopedie #1; Cycal; Rainbow Connection.

Personnel: Shannon Gunn: trombone; Hope Udobi: keys (4-6, 9-12); Kelton Norris: drums; Chris Barrick: vibes (1-3, 7-8); Garrett Gleason: guitar (1-3, 7-8); Mikel Combs: bass (1-3, 7-8).

Fatherhood

Tracks: Blind Seven; Gone Now; Opener; Uncle Leslie; The Enforcer; It's True; The Kora La; First Things First; Edged; What's New.

Personnel: Ben Wolfe: bass; Donald Edwards: drums; Luis Perdomo: piano (1, 6-9); Orrin Evans: piano (2-5, 10); Joel Ross; vibes; Immanuel Wilkins: alto saxophone (1,7); Ruben Fox: tenor saxophone (2); JD Allen: tenor saxophone (3,5); Giveton Gelin: trumpet (3,4); Steve Davis: trombone (8); Jesse Mills, Georgy Valtchev: violin; Kenji Bunch: viola; Wolfram Koessel: cello.

Zigsaw: Music of Steve Lampert

Tracks: Zigsaw.

Personnel: Jason Palmer: trumpet; John O'Gallagher: alto saxophone; Noah Preminger: tenor saxophone; Kris Davis: piano; Rob Schwimmer: haken continuum, clavinet; Kim Cass: bass; Rudy Royston: drums.

Nothing But Time

Tracks: Plugin Heavy; Gather and Go; Blue Pepper (Far East of the Blues); Through Step; The March of the Aggressive Pedestrian; Sweet Sci-Fi Suite: a. To The Stars -b. Parallel Engines Grind -c. Interstellar Dust; Talking Outside Time; Sunday; Effective Translation; Plugin Light.

Personnel: Jeff Pearring: alto sax; Adam Lane: electric bass, acoustic bass; Tim Ford: drums.

Notes From The Journey

Tracks: Atlanta Bread; Galway Grab-a-Note; Michelina's Song; The Visby Thing; The Tang Man; Geneva Town Strut; Tyne Cot; A Day on the Mountain; Fish 'n Grits; Everything's the Same, Everything's Changed.

Personnel: Tom Wright: saxophones; Philip Howe: piano; Robert Nance: bass; Kevin Korschgen: drums; Diane Lee vocals (7).

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