Friday, January 20, 2017

Joshua Breakstone, The Cello Quartet, 88

Guitar jazz adept Joshua Breakstone returns with his Cello Quartet for a look at some fine composer-pianists within the hard-bop and related jazz idioms of the fifties and early sixties on 88 (Capri 74144-2). Pieces deserving a new look combine with some fine swinging modern jazz soloing from a top-notch group.

Breakstone is a fine chordal colorist and an excellent lining soloist who combines smarts and soul. Mike Richmond adds much to this quartet with nicely thought through pizzicato lines in a post-Pettiford manner. Lisle Atkinson's bass and Andy Watson's drums give the set a groovingly solid foundation at all times.

Breakstone gives a tributory nod to the pianists in his original "88." From there we get a worthy handling of some beautiful and lately somewhat or completely neglected masterpieces: Mabern's "The Chief," Clark's "News for Lulu," Walton's "Black," Waldron's "Soul Eyes," Hope's "Moe is On," Harris' "Lolita," Dameron's "If You Could See Me Now," and Tristano's "Lennie's Pennies."

The combination of the pianistic classic repertoire and the Cello Quartet instrumentation gives us a very fresh take and some very nice playing. This is surely one of Breakstone's best and I suspect any jazz loving listener out there will find plenty to like.

Very recommended!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Mili Bermejo, Dan Greenspan, arte del duo

In jazz the duo may be one of the most challenging configurations. It does not give you that absolute open form of the unencumbered individual, but neither does it provide an extensive backdrop for the solo. When you have a duo of voice and contrabass there are further challenges. These sorts of thoughts recede to the back of your mind, though, when you listen to vocalist Mili Bermejo and bassist Dan Greenspan carry forth on their recent album arte del duo (Ediciones Pentagrama 707).

These are song form excursions. Many (around half) were written by Mili and they are sparkling, but she also falls into wordless improvising and sometimes, something in between. Her songs are substantial but then she takes on some others (that you might know) and in every instance gives it all a vocal presence that is beautifully original.

Dan Greenspan plays excellent bass here as well. He works within the implied changes of any given tune and delivers an exceptionally mindful set of bass parts/improvs that define the duo as much as Mili does vocally.

There is a South American lilt to it all, not always quite bursting into full rhythmic cadence as much as they allude to what they hear but leave out. Then again, they sometimes let loose with the linear heat they have internalized and so we feel a thrusting forth as well as a hiding and a conscious partial erasure,

This is pure brilliance!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Ian Faquini & Paula Santoro, Metal na Madeira

Anyone who loves Brazilian samba jazz as I do will welcome Metal na Madeira (Ridgeway 005) by Ian Faquini & Paula Santoro. Ian wrote all the music for the album and it is excellent. He plays a well-put-together rhythmically and harmonically vital acoustic guitar in the idiom appropriate for this music. Paula Santoro is in charge of the vocals and she is brilliant in the role.

The minimal of the two together is supplemented on the various songs, respectively, by bass plus drums and percussion, or accordion and pandeiro, or drums, or electric piano, drums, bass, horns and backing vocals, or accordion, or clarinet. Everyone does the right thing to forward the music beautifully.

This is far and above one of the nicest samba jazz outfits I've heard in years. And the originals have everything going for them, as do Paula's vocals and Ian's acoustic.

Wow! Do not miss this one!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Eric St-Laurent, Planet

From Canada we have electric guitarist Eric St-Laurent and his album Planet (Katzenmusik 06). The trio-quartet involved is a nice conflation of St-Laurent's picking and plying axe combined with a woody and solid bass from Jordan O'Connor, nicely gauged percussion from Michel DeQuevido and when he is playing, some interesting piano from Attila Fias.

They do originals and classics like "Donna Lee," and it all sounds bright and contemporary. A big surprise is the theme from Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8, Second Movement. It works.

In the end we hear a guitarist who goes his own way, convincingly, and a band that sounds fresh and can PLAY.

I plan to post much more on here this year. I ran into snags the last half of 2016 which I hope are remedied! Onward.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Curved Air Rarities Series Volume 2, Curved Space and Infinity

From the vaults and long deleted catalog numbers comes The Curved Air Rarities Series Volume 2: Curved Space & Infinity (Curved Air Records 002). The Brit prog band is caught in a psychedelic space-metal jam mode on two sessions somewhat separated in time but unified in their free, open spacey context. Disk one contains "Curved Space," disk two "Infinity."

The first was edited down from five hours of jamming from 2001 (?) and features Francis Monkman and Mike Gore on guitars, Rob Martin on bass guitar and Florian Pilkington-Miksa on drums.

The second disk, hailing from somewhat later, involves Pilkington-Miksa, Robert Norton on keys and Kirby Gregory on guitar.

This is the sort of thing they did as early as 1968--and sounds virtually nothing like the typical studio sessions. It's all space, all jam, and nothing in the way of songs.

But for the jam-space crowd out there this is wholesome good fun, deliberately off-track and filled with a huge quantity of stars and dark matter!

It's a reminder of the jam roots of the later '60s and in fact still sounds fresh and interesting.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Club d'Elf, Live at Helsinki Club, 2-CD Set

Club d'Elf has nearly always impressed me as a psychedelic fusion jazz outfit with smarts as well as soul. Their new 2-CD set, Live at Club Helsinki (Face Pelt 5003) continues that creative strain and adds to it, thanks in part to the addition of key phenom John Medeski. There is more than ever a pronounced North African strain to be heard as well, with Brahim Fribgane effectively coming through on oud, voice and percussion.

The rest of the band--Duke Levin (guitar), Mister Rourke (DJ), Mike Rivard (bass, sintir, bass kalimba), Dean Johnston (drums) and Thomas Workman on flute for a couple of cuts--bring us a groovingly varied program of long form improvisation and attractive riffs.

Perhaps there are less bands actively engaging in post-Milesian psych-jazz-rock now than there was a few years back, or perhaps it is only that I am not sent as much of this sort of thing than I used to, but in either event I am glad to dig into this set and explore it in depth.

There is finely detailed group interactions, nice guitar, oud and key soloing, and substance to be heard every step of the way.

Anyone who takes to the electric jam thing will find this one a boon, for sure. Viva Club d'Elf!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Mark Dresser Seven, Sedimental You

Last February I was pleased to review the remarkable DVD Virtual Tour: Reduced Carbon Footprint on my Gapplegate Music Blog. (See  It was an ambitious gathering of three fine ensembles playing elaborate compositions and improvising around them in two or three locations at the same time via advanced internet hookups.

Bassist-composer Mark Dresser was a crucial participant. Now we have a sort of follow-up with Dresser leading a seven-tet, some of the members of which were a part of the Virtual Tour. Along with Dresser we have a significant gathering of Nicole Mitchell on soprano and alto flutes, Marty Ehrlich on clarinet and bass clarinet, David Morales Boroff on violin. Michael Dessen on trombone, Joshua White on piano and Jim Black on drums and percussion.

The album is Sedimental You (Clean Feed 385), a word play referencing the standard "Sentimental You" as well as underscoring the importance of instrumental layering in the delightfully complex modern avant jazz fare we hear on this landmark album.

Seven composition-arrangements by Dresser define the set. They are beautifully detailed, freely sprawling significances for the trajectory and memorability of the melodic-harmonic spectrum each distinctively maps out.

At the same time there is a freedom both in ensemble moments and in solo work by Mark and the others.

This is jazz composition of a very original and satisfying sort, modern original music by a remarkable ensemble of players who interpret their parts and improvise as called upon in stellar ways.

This may be the jazz composition album of the year for me, or at least one of the very few most original and ravishing to come out.

Anyone interested in what's NEW in jazz should not hesitate. Get this!