Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Jason Anick, Tipping Point

Jason Anick is one mother, a terror of the violin and mandolin. He is excellent. The album Tipping Point (Magic Fiddle) gives a nicely composed and arranged fuzoid program that displays just how good he is. There are a couple of different bands and they are good, quite good.

There are about half standards, half Anick numbers. Lee Dynes plays some very nice guitar, Kris Jensen some very nice tenor sax, and the others kick in, too.

The line weaving on Jason's tunes is intricate and it sets you up for the extraordinary a-live-lee soloing.

His violin playing is bright and virtuoso, assured and strong. And his mandolin is pretty incredible, really. I cannot describe it but I haven't quite heard the like.

I've no reason to like this music. And my own integrity would prevent me from covering something with less than total honesty. So if I tell you this guy hits it on all-fours, I mean it. Listen him let loose lines on either the violin or the mandolin and you might let all the cards fall off the table. He's that cool.

And it IS a real gas to hear this album as music--not just a showcase. So get a hold of this and put it on. You'll see what I mean.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Daniel Lavoie and Laurent Guardo, La Licorne Captive

Avant pop? Cabaret and world fusion? Daniel Lavoie and Laurent Guardo's La Licorne Captive (Le Chant du Monde) defies categorization. Their album presents a musical meditation, all about the captive unicorn and ages gone by. Canadian Daniel Lavoie presides on expressive post-rock vocals; Laurent Guardo provides the unforgettable music and the arrangements, which are a rather exceptional combination of acoustic guitar, lute, viola d'amore and baroque violon and alto, violas de gambe, tabla, frame drums, dobro, bass and soprano.

It has a mythical, once-upon-a-time sound of a world long lost to us, which is totally fitting to the mythical subject matter--middle ages meets mideast meets French folk meets we the listeners. It took me a few listens to get into the beauty of it all, because it is one-of-a-kind.

But then I woke up to its excellence. If you open yourself up, too, to this one, you may be amazed. One of those rare events--the truly unexpected!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath

Who would have thought that a Black Sabbath tribute album could really hit it hard and sound great? Well to tell the truth it sounded like a good idea to me. Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath (Ubiquity) is even better than I imagined. One reason it works is that it's one band, Austin-based Brownout, getting into cool rearrangements of old Sabbath tunes. Alex Maas of The Black Angels is in there and they all get good leverage on the music.

They give the songs a real kick in the teeth with the heavy metal sound updated, then add horns and percussion to make it really push. Sometimes it sounds like a Crimsonian Sabbath reading of "20th Century Schizoid Man" in a funny way. Other times it just sounds vital and fresh. And that's plenty good enough!

The singing is Sabbath-worthy. And face it, early Sabbath did something to metal that it never recovered from--and set the pace for less worthy bands to follow, and some worthy ones too.

This album is a kick! You'll be surprised, then happy to hear the care with which they recreate the tunes anew. Seriously.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Jacob Young, Forever Young

Jacob Young plays guitar and he composes some very ECM sorts of plushly beautiful music. His third album for ECM is with us, Forever Young (ECM B0020848-02). He plays a very nicely together acoustic in ensemble and as a soloist. He switches off to electric too and then we are hard put to pin influence on him. The band is rather pan-Euro with Young being of Norwegian-American descent, tenor and soprano saxologist Trygve Seim is from Norway, and then there are three Polish players in Marcin Wasilewski (piano), Slawomir Kurkiewicz (double bass), and Michal Miskiewicz (drums).

Seim has some of that dramatically projecting Garbarek lyricism; Young has given Ralph Towner a good listen but goes his own way with that and has other things that happen when he lines on electric, nicely; Wasilewski has some Jarrett-Corea channeling and the music sometimes reminds me lyrically of early Eberhard Weber. But that is only to say that this is very much an ECM sound. Would you have been upset if you heard a Hank Mobley influence on an old Blue Note release? No. So if we take that as a given then we open up to the music itself, which is what it's all about, really.

We take it all in and find that a quintet of excellent musicians plays some very lovely, harmonically fluid music and solos with real style and eloquence.

Is this the album of the year? Well, not for me. But this is not a horse race either, so Jacob Young comes across with something very, very nice and the finish line we'll leave up to someone else for now. You will no doubt like it. And you can play it for your mom and she might well like it, too! It's people-pleasing without playing down to them. Nice!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Carol Saboya, Belezas

Brazilian jazz vocalist Carol Saboya has been garnering accolades and kudos for her music. Since I try and cover as much of contemporary Brazil as I can I scored a copy of her latest, Belezas (AAM 0704), and I've been listening. Antonio Adolfo arranged the music and produced the record, and he did a good thing!

It features some beautiful songs by icons Milton Nacimento and Ivan Lins. Adolfo in on piano in good form and we get some excellent acoustic and electric guitar work from Claudio Spiewak, an excellent rhythm section, and the appearance of the great Dave Liebman as guest on soprano sax.

The songs, the soloists, the arrangements make for very vibrant Brazilian jazz. But the presence of Carol Saboya puts it way over the top. She is impeccable, a vocal artist in the most classic sense.There are all the detailed aspects of a great Brazilian singer to be heard here. She has the magic!

Everything comes together for one terrific album. You should get this one if you dig the Brazilian thing. If you don't know what that is, all the more reason to get this one and listen. Wow!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein, Bill Stewart, Ramshackle Serenade

I was more or less minding my own business sometime in the early '90s, attending a free outdoor jazz festival in the courtyard of Lincoln Center in New York, when the opening act came on--organist Larry Goldings with guitarist Peter Bernstein and a drummer whose name I do not recall. I did not know these players then but I listened intently and liked what I heard.

From that time on Goldings became one of the more important, more acclaimed jazz organists on the scene. Peter Bernstein eventually went his own way and now is a highly respected player as well.

But they belong together! I am glad to have the new album in my hands of Larry Goldings and Peter Bernstein in a trio with the gamer drummer Bill Stewart. The album is Ramshackle Serenade (Pirouet PIT 3077), a collection of Goldings and Bernstein originals and a few standards, played loosely but very much in the evolved tradition of the organ trio.

To my mind Goldings and Bernstein very much are capstone cohorts in this context (and so also Bill Stewart) for their very simpatico interplay, for their facility in getting great lines going, for the way they extend the organ trio sound with some soulful but sophisticated utterances of real strength.

It is music that has enough grits and gravy to satisfy the traditionalist, yet takes it to high places that ramify what today's world is like.

An excellent recording on all levels.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Fred Hersch and Julian Lage, Free Flying

If you follow the contemporary jazz scene you are probably familiar with pianist Fred Hersch, since he has been doing some very exciting work. You may be less familiar with guitarist Julian Lage. But in fact Julian is in many ways Hersch's equivalent and equal as the "complete" contemporary jazz guitarist.

So it was a fortunate gathering when the two got together to make an album, Free Flying (Palmetto 2168). These are Hersch compositional vehicles, very good ones, with the exception of Sam Rivers' classic "Beatrice" and Thelonious' "Monk's Dream". The twosome are caught live in a NYC club Jazz at Kitano and that adds to the energy and spontaneity it would seem.

They both are on a roll here, both individually and as a group. Julian Lage can spin original and complex lines on changes with the best of them, in an original way no less, and then can get subtle and nuanced in the quieter balladic moments.

Fred Hersch is in every way himself here and so the two get quite a rapport and make for an every-moment-counts set. It's rather wonderful.