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Spring 2020


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Jazz Journal is a regular column comprised of pithy takes on recent jazz releases of note, spotlighting titles that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Jaromír Honzák
Hard To Understand
Animal Music

The airy warm tones of "Francoise Truffaut" constitute an apt commencement for Czech double bassist Jaromír Honzák and his newest release Hard To Understand. Recorded and mixed by Milan Cimfe and subsequently mastered by Pavel Karlík (all at Sono Records Studio), these plush recordings reveal detail in the compositions mirrored in the quartet's empathetic musicianship. On tracks like "Just Thinking," there's no sense of a leader/follower hierarchy but rather a mutual sensitivity in and to the moment. The band always sounds like it knows right where it's going during a cut such as "Rain Cloud" and thus radiates a solidarity that also echoes through even the quietest numbers like "Simple Truth;" the collective awareness of surroundings makes for listening no doubt as engrossing as was the experience of playing. None of the nine tracks, including two parts of "Tamquam," go on for an inordinate length of time, but the cumulative effect of the record is nonetheless deep and abiding.

Francois Carrier/Tomek Gadecki/Marcin Bozen/Michel Lamber
FMR Records

Captured live on a single date, through recording then mixed and mastered by Francois Carrier himself (who also designed this package's cover art), Wide is as spontaneous as it is self-sufficient and independent. Three tracks, totaling some sixty-three minutes running time, create a palpable ambiance as broad as it is deep and while each musician of the four remains keenly aware of the others, there's no discernible rush to fill the space(s). On the contrary, the quartet seems to relish the openness, each player fully extending his imagination and the capabilities of his respective instrument. And, proportionally speaking, that's true on "Radiancy," the shortest track here at 9:44, as well as on the two longer cuts, the titletune and the ever-so-appropriate "Leeway." The latter in particular manifests the mutual confidence of these musicians and is, in turn, emblematic of the shared credit applied to the title, one that will conceivably satiate listeners but also make for compelling replays once the first is complete.

Tony Barba
Blood Moon
Shifting Paradigm

The saxophonist/bandleader/composer of all this material sets an emphatic tone for this deceptively unorthodox work from the very outset of its opening title track. Trade-offs between soloists are virtually indiscernible and that's even with the almost tactile presence of audio recorded and mixed by Mark Whitcomb, subsequently mastered by Justin Perkins; the four-way interactions ultimately constitute a musicianship relying as much on intuition as technical aptitude. Songs such as "Hide Alerts" boast tantalizing changes in both melody and rhythm, while the deliberate gait the ensemble assumes on the latter number belies the nuance each individual brings to the arrangement: it is the work of a group in tune with each other, the tunes, their playing and the studio process. As on "Rounding Up," the quartet conjures up the respective mood of each selection without unnecessarily belaboring the structures or their departures therefrom; as a result, the cumulative effect imprints an indelible impression over the course of its roughly fifty minutes duration.

Chris McCarthy
Still Time to Quit

Throughout most of his debut album for the Ropeadope label, pianist/composer Chris McCarthy leads a five-piece ensemble that moves nimbly, wholly as one on tracks like "That's All You Got." But each member of the unit also reflects attributes that he shares with his comrades, so, as on that jaunty opener, both members of the rhythm section—bassist Sam Minaie and drummer Jk kim — mirror the unpredictable bounces of the leader's playing, And that action, in turn, likewise spurs on and reverberates through the playing of trumpeter Takuya Kuroda and saxophonist Michael Blake. Equally admirable for its youthful vivacity as its mature temperance. the fivesome is respectful of each others' musicianship and the material while at the same time, as on "Toasty," letting some fleeting silences to become an indispensable component of the album as a whole; the recording expertise of engineer Todd Carder captured those nuances, in conjunction with producer Jake Leckie, the subtleties then preserved through mixing and mastering by Minaie.

Lakecia Benjamin
Pursuance: The Coltranes

Daunting in concept and execution of thirteen tracks, Pursuance comprises tunes of The Coltranes that instantly resonated with Lakecia Benjamin upon first hearing. And what is most impressive about this baker's dozen—seven tunes composed by John and six credited to Alice—is that, in the hands of Benjamin and a rotating cast of some forty musicians, the varying ensembles not only delve into, but deeply explore, the potential of the material. And the players are stretch their respective and collective capabilities as musicians in the process, so the ethereal tones are pervasive here from the first notes of "Liberia." Yet even as such an uplifting tone prevails through cuts like "Going Home," Benjamin and company also imbue the musicianship with an almost equally earthy air during the title tune and "Walk With Me." And given this star-studded list of credits, Benjamin excels as the producer by managing a stable core of players that, along with the sumptuous audio quality, lends continuity to this expansive offering.

Day Dream
The Corner Store Jazz Trio

The elegance with which Day Dream introduce this concert composite of their own material is only partially a harbinger of things to come as the album progresses. As trio livens up from the solemn opening of "Zebra" and steps into the understated gaiety of "Wedding Waltz," bassist Drew Gress, drummer Phillip Haynes and pianist Steve Rudolph abide by the thematic precedent they set for themselves with their two previous outings (the first devoted to ballads and its followup to standards). Jon Rosenberg matches the impeccable musicianship here with the recording, editing, mixing and mastering of live recordings from two nights in 2019 at Bucknell University: the realism he's maintained here includes the lightest touch of Haynes' percussion as well as the almost whispered resonance of Gress' instrument. And because this engineering expertise also allows the tones of Rudolph's keyboard to virtually encircle those of his bandmates' instruments, this audio becomes almost three-dimensional in scope, a remarkably accurate mirror of this threesome's intrinsic chemistry.

Tracks and Personnel

Hard to Understand

Tracks: François Truffaut; Just Thinking; Rain Cloud; Simple Truth; Tamquam; Hard To Understand; Cryptic; Foolish Senior, Tamquam 2.

Personnel: Jaromír Honzák: double bass, electric bass; David Dorůžka: guitar; Vít Křišťan: piano, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, electronics; Luboš Soukup: saxophone and clarinet; Martin Novák: drums and percussion.


Tracks: Wide; Radiancy; Leeway.

Personnel: François Carrier: alto saxophone: Tomek Gadecki: tenor saxophone; Marcin Bozek: bass; French horn; Michel Lambert: drums.

Blood Moon

Tracks: Blood Moon; Hide Alerts; Rounding Up; Wishlist; Washed Up; The Hypnotist; Drifters; Monster; The Long Haul; Cut and Dry.

Personnel: Tony Barba: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Matt Gold: guitar; John Christensen: electric & upright bass; Devin Drobka: drums, cymbals, Roland sample pad.

Still Time to Quit

Tracks: That's All You Got; Ready, Steady, Here You Go!; Shockingly Effective; Toasty; Valedictorian Driver; Happy Tired; the Nightmares; Bury Me in Times Square (Under the M&M Store).

Personnel: Chris McCarthy: piano; Takuya Kuroda: trumpet; Michael Blake: tenor Sax and flute; Sam Minaie: bass; JK Kim: drums.

Pursuance: The Coltranes

Tracks: Liberia; Prema; Central Park West; Walk With Me; Going Home; Syeeda's Song Flute; Spiral; Om Shanti; Alabama; Acknowledgement; Pursuance; Turiya and Ramakrishna; Affinity.

Personnel: Lakecia Benjamin: alto saxophone, keyboards, background vocals; Gary Bartz: alto sax (#1); Lonnie Plaxico: bass (#1-5, 9); Reggie Workman: bass (#2,4,9,13); Chris Rob: piano, Rhodes, organ (#1, 3, 8); Darrell Green: drums (#1,5,6,8-13); Gamiel Lyons: flute (#2); Sharp Radway: drums (#1, 3-5, 7, 9,10, 13); Surya Botofasnia: piano (#2, 12); Juliette Jones: viola (#2,5); Jarvis Benson: viola (#2,5); Malcolm Parson: cello (#2,5); Brandee Younger: harp (#2,5); Jazzmiea Horn: vocals (#3); Joe Blaxx: drums, backing vocals (#3,4,8); Regina Carter: violin (#4); Marcus Strickland: bass clarinet (#5); Rootstock Republic: strings (#5); Kenyon Harrold: trumpet (#6); David Bryant: Rhodes (#6); Ron Carter; bass (#6); Steve Wilson: alto sax (#7); John Benitez: bass (#7); Marcus Gilmour: drums (#7); Georgia Anne Muldrow: vocals (#8); Meshell Ndegeocello: bass (#8); Ricardo Ramos: guitar (#8); Dudley Perkins: background vocals (#8); Zakiyyah Modeste: background vocals (#8); Bertha Hope: piano (#8); Dee Dee Bridgewater: vocals (#10); Abiodun Oyewole: spoken word (#10); Jonathan Michel: bass (#10,11); Bendji Allonce: percussion (#10, 12); Marc Cary: piano (#11); Greg Osby: alto sax (#13); Bruce Williams: alto sax (#13); Riza Printup: copyist.


Tracks: Zebra (for Claude); Wedding Waltz; Beloved Refracted; Afterward; Vesper; Last Lullaby; Spell; Bossa 21 (for Katie); Paul-Christian; Let Fly.

Personnel: Steve Rudolph: piano; Drew Gress: bass; Phil Haynes:drums



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