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Jazz Journal

Winter 2020


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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.

Michael Blicher, Dan Hemmer, Steve Gadd
Get That Motor Runnin'
Proper Music

Aficionados of the Hammond B3 may long for more of it during this record, but this is, after all, a cooperative effort. The saxophone from the bandleader accordingly takes precedence over the course of the half-dozen performances of original material, while the overall musicianship becomes progressively more keen. And the soulful singing of Paul Carrack on "First One to Know" is in keeping with the formulation of this trio: saxophonist Michael Blicher, keyboardist Dan Hemmer and legendary drummer Steve Gadd originally joined forces in 2014 to celebrate their shared love for organ-based soul/jazz. The clarity of the concept extends to the various technical aspects of the recording, where, ultimately, the presence of additional keyboards and guitar only render the main textures of the core threesome in greater relief. And the musicians swing with great vigor on all these performances.

Dream Shanti
Music In Our Dreams
Ear Up Records

Music in Our Dreams is a fairly astute if not truly expansive blend of Eastern and Western idioms. The Jeff Coffin-led Dream Shanti ensemble nurtures the cohesion most conspicuously through varied contributions of original material even though the shifting lineups don't take many chances on cuts like "Take It to the Bridge." The rhythmic thrust of the performances is actually the most enticing aspect of the album bolstered by the agile presence of Coffin's current and former bandmates (Dave Matthews Band's bassist Stefan Lessard and drummer Carter Beauford and Flecktones' Roy 'Futureman' Wooten). But the saxophonist/bandleader/engineer also readily exhibits his other great talent throughout, that is, how he has mastered the coloring of the other musicians' sounds, as with Chris Walter's electric piano during "Sandhya Deep."

Ben Bryden
Figure of Eight
Circavision Prod

Altogether delightful in its spacious yet complex sound, Ben Bryden's album sounds like the work of a well-practiced ensemble that plays with consummate ease and self-assurance because they know the material at hand so completely. Which isn't to say these originals aren't challenging—or that Billy Joel's "She's Always A Woman to Me" isn't demanding in its own way—but only that the bandleader and his comrades have mastered the tunes so that their confidence in their musicianship permeates all baker's dozen tracks. What may be most impressive, however, is how these players individually and collective maintain the fundamental flow over the course of the entire album: the impact is palpable whether it's Bryden's sax interweaving with Phil Robson's guitar, intertwining with the horn of Steven Delannoye (on the two tracks where he appears) or during the unremitting intuitive flow of Desmond White's bass around Raj Jayaweera's drumwork.

Bobby Previte, Jamie Saft, Nels Cline
Music From the Early 21st Century
RareNoise Records

Over the ebb and flow of this near-eighty minute CD, the fiery furor of this keyboard/guitar/drums alignment will almost inevitably call to mind between this amalgamation and the original Tony Williams Lifetime lineup. But the Saft/Cline/Previte axis does not necessarily suffer in comparison, though it cannot reasonably claim a similarly innovative thrust. Nevertheless, as captured in the spontaneity of a live setting, the threesome sparks mutual inspiration all around: the speedy introduction of ideas followed by comparably quick embroidery upon the themes may be too roiling and raucous for some ears. But if nothing else, Music From the Early 21st Century proves how remarkably malleable jazz-rock, at its best, has proven itself to be over the years since the initial fusion in the Seventies. For all intents and purposes, though Jamie Saft, Bobby Previte and Nels Cline together have here transcended genre labels (as each also does in their respective individual projects).

Giorgio Mikadze
Georgian Microjamz
RareNoise Records

Deeply cerebral but rife with passion, a tangible momentum develops over the course of this album's approximately fifty-five minutes playing time, even with (or perhaps precisely because of vocal interludes like "Moaning"). In this inexorable pursuit of elusive sound(s), Microtonal keyboardist Mikadze could not enlist a more capable or like-minded compatriot that guitarist David Fiuczynski, but that visionary musician defers to the project leader even as he makes his present felt on tracks like "Kartlos Blues." Meanwhile, the rhythm section of drummer Sean Wright and fretless bassist Panagiolis Andreou deserve kudos of their own: finding spaces in such a fastidious approach is difficult enough, but to react and fill those apertures sufficiently quickly is something else again. These two certainly prove themselves up to both those tasks, an impact only heightened through the technical expertise of recordist Matt Hayes, then mixing/mastering engineer Javier G.F. Escudero.

Tracks and Personnel

Get That Motor Runnin'

Tracks: Get That Motor Runnin'; Mr. T; The Moment She Falls Asleep; Samba de Menino; The First One to Know; Roll. Personnel: Michael Bilcher: saxophones, percussion; Dan Hemmer: Hammond organ; Peter Rosendol: piano; Andreas Lund: guitar; Eddi Jarl: percussion; Steve Gadd: drums

Music in Our Dreams

Tracks: Joy; Music in our Dreams; Live in 5; Miles Meets the Mahatma; Sandhya Deep ;Take It to the Bridge; Dancing with the Moon. Personnel: Jeff Coffin: soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax, bass flute alto flute, c flute, clarinet, bass clarinet; Subrata Bhattacharya: tabla, bol recitation; Indrajit Banerjee sitar, zitar; Chris Walters; piano, keyboards; Ryoko Suzuki: harmonium; Stefan Lessard electric & acoustic bass; Jordan Perlson: caixi drum, bells, triangle, percussion, camel bell, metal plate, shakers; Roy 'Futureman' Wooten: wavedrum, cajon, percussion, drums; Carter Beauford: drums.

Figure of Eight

Tracks: Luskentyre; The Cold Shoulder; Goodbye Lullaby; The Art of Fielding; Sielebost; Shels Always A Woman; Horgagost; Auburn Skye; Spectre By the Door; Scarist; A Respectful Salute to the Socially Relevant; Floe Gently Sweet Afton; Bostadh; Personnel: Ben Bryden: tenor saxophone; Steven Delannoye: tenor saxophone; Phil Robson: guitar Desmond White: bass; Rajiv Jayaweera: drums.

Georgian Microjamz:

Tracks: Metivuri (Prelude); Dumba Damba; Shedzakhili (Interlude); Elesa; Mirangula (Interlude); Racha (Interlude); Maglonia; Gelati (Interlude); Kartlos Blues; Gurian Lullaby (Interlude); Lazhghvash; Tseruli. Personnel: Giorgi Mikadze Microtonal keyboards; David Fiuczynski: fretless guitar; Panagiotis Andreou: fretless Bass; Sean Wright: drums; Ensemble Basiani: vocals; Nana Valishvili: vocals.

Music From The Early 21st Century

Personnel: Jamie Saft: Hammond organ, Fender Rhodes, MiniMoog; Nels Cline: electric gGuitar, effects; Bobby Previte: drums. Tracks: Photobomb; Paywall; Parkour; The Extreme Present; Totes; Occession; The New Weird; Machine Learning; Woke; Flash Mob.

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