On the Turntable — March, 2019 edition

March 5th, 2019

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Jazz is alive and well…So much so that it is impossible, really, to keep up.  That’s a good sign.

A month of walking the dog around the (often frigid) park, ear buds in place, resulted in lots of interesting. discoveries from artists known and unknown (at least to me).   This month, an eclectic blend of 18 recently released recordings from all over the globe…Enjoy!

 

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(Songs from this playlist are available on Spotify and other music streaming services, and of course at your local music store)

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Stephane Galland & (the mystery of) Kem

Ok…starting on the fringe of the obscure right from the start.  While I am still getting settled in with the entirety of this picturesque and interesting album,  one track stands out, “Black Sand,”  which features fantastic interplay between the Dolphy-esque, exotic flute — played by “one of the most prominent Carnatic Flute players in the world” from South India, Ravi Kulur — tenor sax, and Galland’s lively and skilled drumming.  I like the potential here, and may come back to this record later.

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Trumpeter Ralph Alessi is known for his elegant, pristine recordings – a reputation furthered on his new ECM release Imaginary Friends.   The quintet he leads includes the ever-expanding saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and the pianist Andy Milne.  Much of the album is laid back and subdued and lovely, but the two pieces that stick out for me, “Improper Authorities” and “Fun Room” pack a bit of a punch.

 

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I have to admit that I did zero research on bassist Larry Grenadier’s album The Gleaners before leashing up the dog, strapping on the ear buds, and heading out on a cool, foggy, February morning in Portland.  I know him mostly through his work with Metheny and Mehldau, and assumed this recording would be of him leading an ensemble of sorts.  Instead, it is an entire album made up of a dozen pieces of Grenadier, completely unaccompanied.

Would I have chosen this recording to listen to had I known that?  Probably not.  I am not generally one to have patience for listening to a solo  bass player.  I discovered it would be Grenadier alone throughout while listening to the second piece, and I let it play through to the third, thinking by then I would have enough.  By the fourth piece, I was hooked into the brilliance of this album – so much unique playing within each composition, and lots of space to take in the musician’s emotional, tender wandering, and the outstanding, bright sound of the recording.  Start with the album’s first track, “Oceanic,” a mystical, beautiful melody played with bow which serves as a welcome introduction to the experience the listener has embarked on.  “Pettiford” is a nod to the great bop bassist of yesteryear, and “Lovelair” is spacious and rich and warm.   A deeply satisfying experience…

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Jon Cowherd – the pianist in Brian Blade’s Fellowship Band – and Swedish flutist Elsa Nilsson have paired up for an entire album of duets titled After Us.  The recording is charming, delicate, and often wistful, expressing elements of jazz, classical and folk music.  While I have yet to embrace it in its entirety, there are a couple of very nice pieces to recommend.  “Blessings” has some bite to it, featuring Nilsson’s lovely, energetic playing, while “Baltica” showcases Cowherd’s style fans of Blade’s band will likely most recognize.

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Anna Maria Jopek & Branford Marsalis – Ulotne 

The Polish singer Ms. Jopek — who I enjoyed immensely on a recording she made with Pat Metheny some time ago, and whose credits also include albums with Makoto Ozone and Gonzalo Rubalcaba — has a wide-ranging, pristine voice.  (Crazy enough, I find myself hearing the British pop icon Kate Bush in her tone at times).  Her singing is breathtaking in accompaniment with Marsalis – most frequently heard on soprano sax – and when occasionally backed by a rich string section.

Is this jazz?  Some would argue that it isn’t, but, who cares?  Ms. Jopek describes it as music that “escapes classification of music styles and broadly interprets Slavic motifs in scales, poetics and mood…inspired by traditional themes or even derived from them.”

All I know is this album is filled with music that is beyond category, all jaw-dropping beautiful – it is frequently “bring me to tears” gorgeous.

As an introduction, pull up a chair and kick back to these wondrous pieces:  “W kadzidlanskim boru”, “Patrz I sluchaj” and “Pożegnanie Z Marią (To Tomasz Stańko In Memoriam)”

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Jimbo Tribe…Rite of Passage.  This is a pretty exciting record, loaded with ambitious compositions and world class playing.  The Italian ensemble (pianist Lewis Saccocci, bassist Dario Piccioni, drummer Nicolò Di Caro, and guest trumpeter Anotello Sorrentino) is sensitive, enthusiastic, and generally imaginative throughout.  Though not their first recording, this is a wonderful discovery.  Start with “Sole bianco” (fantastic, rich trumpet that brings the playing of Tom Harrell to mind), “A.I.” (the electric keyboard is nostalgic  yet refreshing), and the often dramatic “L.S.S.R.”

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The listening pleasure provided within Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick’s recent ECM recording, Ravensburg, is in the group’s eclectic instrumentation – piano, violin, trumpet, bass, drums, voice – and the quality of the musicianship.  This is an absolutely lovely record that often brings to mind the music of Metheny (c. 20 years ago) and trumpeter Mark Isham — especially known for his soundtrack compositions.  I recommend you start with “Children” (lovely interplay between trumpet and violin), the propulsive “Girlfriend,” and the mysterious, sneaky-great title track, “Ravensburg.”

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Coming back to where this began, to Stephane Galland & (the mystery of) Kem…An amazing blend of musical cultures with Galland’s brilliant percussion at the centerpiece.   In addition to the piece mentioned earlier, “Soils” is wonderfully disjointed and daring, exotic dance music (the flute is spectacular!), and “Symbiosis” is indeed a blending of distinct sounds and improvisational styles, polished off by a memorable, searing saxophone solo.  Who are these guys?

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“On the Turntable” — June, 2019

“On the Turntable” – May, 2019

“On the Turntable” – April, 2019

“On the Turntable” — March, 2019

“On the Turntable” — February, 2019

“On the Turntable” — January, 2019

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