CD

Compact Disc

Emanon

26 Jul 2019
Wayne Shorter
CD
Blue Note

Wayne Shorter’s lifelong fascination with comic books spurred Blue Note’s boss Don Was to propose the idea of a graphic novel to be created as an integral part of a musical project. The story created by Shorter and co-written with Monica Sly with illustrations by Randy Du Burke talks of Emanon, a super hero on an interplanetary journey who has to confront four challenges which will ultimately yield a reward. To accompany the book, Shorter recorded with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra four compositions: ‘Prometheus Unbound’ ‘Pegasus’’ ‘Lotus’ and ‘The Three Marias’. These pieces were first performed live with the Orchestra, and literally recorded in the studio the next day. Emanon, or no name spelt backwards, a title borrowed from an old Dizzy Gillespie tune, is the latest and possibly the most rewarding chapter in the life of Shorter’s quartet now active for almost two decades. Emanon is available in two versions; a Standard Edition presenting the three CDs with the graphic novel or a deluxe edition containing three 180g vinyl LPs and CDs with the graphic novel enclosed in a hardcover slipcase.The first CD sees the trio playing alongside the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra whilst the two other CDs are live recordings by just the quartet at the Barbican in London in 2016. 

On the opening ‘Pegasus’ Shorter engages in a timeless and open ended dialogue for piano and sax seamlessly joined by the orchestra and the rest of the band. It’s a rolling ocean of swirling dramatic strings enhanced by powerful snare rolls stopping and starting at will. The beauty here is that the music flows naturally with the orchestra and the quartet complementing each other in an organic fashion. There is in fact a clear cinematic feel to the music which does sound at times like a film score very much rooted in late 20thcentury music. 

At this juncture, it is worth remembering that Shorter has a long history of sonic explorations going way back to the 1960s when his compositions shifted the goalposts by playing new combinations of rhythm, harmony and melody, often in an oblique and understated manner. In this context, the established patterns of bop were loosened, allowing more space and a freer dialogue between instruments. Here, solo voicings were often sparse and fragmented, seemingly on the lookout for a new direction to follow. The live recordings at the Barbican are quite possibly the culmination of six decades of Shorter’s incessant quest to reach new sonic dimensions. On CD two and three, his long standing group of Danilo Perez on piano, John Patitucci on bass and Brian Blade on drums joyfully engages in a happily free musical discourse clearly based on empathy and flexibility.  Having been a regular outfit for twenty years or so allows them the kind of telepathy and spontaneity which is often too rare nowadays. More remarkably so as Shorter doesn’t usually rehearse. 

Although the quarter revisits old Shorter pieces, it’s more like a brief touch and go with an old friend in the firm knowledge that the conversation will clearly move on in unexpected directions than a faithful note for note reproduction. Here, Shorter’s disinterest in completing structures comes across loud and clear; everything must be open ended. On stage, the band will often begin at a slow and somewhat tentative pace. A tune like ‘The Three Marias’ becomes a long exercise in abstraction.  Each musician circling around one another, cleverly shifting rhythms and patterns, always on the look out for signs of a new pulse to emerge. At some point in the proceedings, a clear pattern does emerge and the musicians come together. Throughout the two performances, Shorter slides in and out of action with a mixture of tenderness and wild abandon whilst Danilo Pérez ably creates deep vamps and hot licks whilst Patitucci anchors down profound bass lines, all well underpinned by Brian Blade’s explosive an often unpredictable box of drum tricks. Ultimately, whilst there may be no doubt that the two live disks hold a more instinctive and direct appeal as they show the quartet at its most unbridled, after repeated listening sessions the orchestral work is also ultimately very rewarding as it reveals different facets time after time. 

Charles Imperatori

Formats also available: 
DL

Wild Man Blues

1 Apr 2019
Ehud Asherie Trio
CD
Capri Records

Warning! This is a straight, old fashioned, pure wonderful jazz. No hocus pocus or complex musical expression. All such is replaced by the type of piano trio that will raise a smile in spite of and especially despite the best efforts of politicians to wipe such things away.The outrageous lack of pretence and joyful notes are performed by leader Ehud Asherie (piano), bass player Peter Washington and drummer Rodney Green.

Asherie has been on the scene for a long time as a collaborator and a band leader, he is a natural and largely self taught talent. He has collaborated with some very notable jazz luminaries including Cécile McLorin Salvant, Wycliffe Gordon, Catherine Russell, John Pizzarelli, and Charles McPherson. Wild Man Bluesis his 13th album.

This album is dedicated to a short romp that is not concentrated on any specific theme.  It’s style and sound will take some back to the 50s. His piano phrasing will remind some of Tommy Flanigan and others of Ray Bryant, he is not one to use artificial fireworks, instead listeners are treated to light fingers and many references to jazz classics as the trio under his leadership floats and jumps through eight tracks. The album lays out a tour of Jazz that takes one from the 30s to the 50s, ‘Parker’s Mood’ to Samba. The gentle presentation never misses a beat, Asherie’s style is always engaging and entrancing. There is a wee bit of cotton wool and sugar in places, but the overall result is that of great talent and charm. The words ‘lovely’ and ‘jazzy’ best described the album.  

The recording is excellent and will sound great whether it’s played on a home system or in the car. The overall sound is intimate although it lacks a sense of space around the instruments.

Reuben Klein

Formats also available: 
DL

About An Album

20 Dec 2018
Pinhas & Sons (פנחסובניו)
CD
Bandcamp

Pinhas and Sons or in their native Hebrew, Pinhas ve Banav, is an extraordinary collaboration of around 30 musicians. They weave remarkable textures, notes and styles, with classical, pop, prog rock, Arabic, Greek, Yemenite, Balkan, flamenco and samba elements, with some tunes managing to contain all of the above. The Pinhas tribe contains woodwind, brass, percussion, violins, violas, mandolins, Saz, etc. Some will compare the ensemble to Snarky Puppy, but to my ears the Pinhas’s effort is far more engaging and encompassing on many levels.

The list of musicians is far too extensive for inclusion here but the core group consists of Noa Karadavid (vocals) Ofer Pinhas (piano, vocals), Barak Srour (flute), Moshiko Givan (violin), Daniel Tanchelson (viola) Barak Sarour (guitars), Lior Ozeri (bass) Sharon Petrover (drums) and Matan Arbel (percussion). They are supported by around 25 other musician that aid in the creation of an intimate yet vast wall of musical tapestry containing rhythmic and harmonic combinations that in places beguile and in others mesmerise, all performed with uncanny precision and verve. Listeners will quickly get used to the constant flow of styles harmonies and rhythms, they form an intoxicating brew of unusual yet never challenging tracks.

The recording is very good and in WAV form at least is fast and accurate while forming a wall of sound that extends beyond the plain of the speakers. This is a perfect opportunity to immerse one’s ears in a bubbling gumpot of influences that are brought together in charming fashion by a highly talented ensemble.
Reuben Klein

Formats also available: 
download

The Snowghost Sessions

26 Nov 2018
Wayne Horvitz
CD
Songlines

Wayne Horvitz is a New York based jazz composer and musician who has collaborated with the likes of Bill Frisell, John Zorn, Fred Frith and Carla Bley among many others. Here the keyboard player and his rhythm section, Geoff Harper (double bass) and Eric Eagle (drums and percussion), navigates his way between a bit of the avant but mostly the modern and traditional, applying equal aplomb and talent to all three styles.

The Snowghost Sessions will divide, intrigue, charm and hold listeners spellbound, all in a manner that will never insult the intelligence and is devoid of any attempt to create controversy. Horvitz’s playing is sensitive and sensual, it has a beautiful balance that carries the listener through a marvellous musical landscape that combines tunes and rhythms that are as captivating as they are original and intelligent. The 15 tracks are soulful, mesmerising and melodious in equal parts, you are always left yearning for them to continue beyond their mostly short runs of two to three minutes.

The recording is open and accurate if somewhat ‘digital’ and processed, a warm fast sounding system will give it a bit more of an ‘analogue’ feel and smooth the slightly bright edge to the cymbals and some of the electronic effects. This is a slightly mellow but never dark album superbly performed by all involved. It’s exceedingly highly recommended for those who are looking for an original musical interpretation of modern jazz, the type that will endear and stay with listeners long after the last note has stopped reverberating.

Reuben Klein

Formats also available: 
DL

Ritual

9 Nov 2018
Fire! Orchestra
CD
rune grammofon

Ritualsees Erik Lindgren’s Mannen utan väg (The Man Without a Way) a Swedish modernist poem noted for its unconventional imagery and syntax, brought to life in a musical format by the Fire!Orchestra in the shape of five long suites. Originally the simple trio of Mats Gustaffson on sax, Johan Berthling on bass and Andreas Werliin on drums the band have expanded and contracted in numer for each of their four releases. A few seconds into the opening explosion of saxes riffing in unison like a deranged heavy rock group you know that this is a big band like no other. The Fire! Orchestra unleashes challenging, powerful music that is full of unexpected tonal clusters, mad twists and turns, the odd bit of free jazz dissonance that often quickly dissolves into groovy bass lines and rock solid beats mixed with electronica. Somehow, they have managed to learn enough from the challenging big bands of yesteryear to bring the whole project to an entirely new dimension. When considering their influences, Keith Tippett’s Centipede, Don Ellis and even George Russell spring to mind. It’s an irresistible concoction with odd bits of psychedelia, prog and post rock appearing out of the wood work. Even a Fred Frith styled prepared guitar improv gets a look in.  

Lining up two drummers, electric piano, guitar, bass, two vocalists, walls of horns, saxophones, trumpets, and other paraphernalia could have been a recipe for acoustic anarchy. But here, the anarchy is contained within a steady selection of stirring repetitive rhythms which owe far more to Krautrock than expected. As the band ploughs on, rhythms become more intense, rising and falling with the music. They often repeat grooves incessantly often in odd time signatures and delivered with this entrancing energy, making this whole  album explode with relentless, unbridled  power.

Despite following a seemingly unusual trajectory the Fire! Orchestra is a finely chiselled and razor sharp big band with an incredible sense of urgency. The vocal performances by the two lead singers, Sofia Jernberg and Mariam Wallentin, act as the proverbial superglue that makes the performance complete and credible. They employ a wide range of vocal styles and techniques, taking from the heroic free jazz vocal improvisations of Maggie Nichols and Julie Tippetts as much as Bjork and other avant pop luminaries. From wailing, growling and howling to soulful purity and luminous transcendence, their voices are simultaneously scary and appealing. Whilst putting this album on repeat play may be considered a challenge too far, it is nevertheless what I ended up doing time after time. The sheer scale and sonic size of Ritual is a joy to behold and often charged with a sense of endless possibilities.

Charles Imperatori

Formats also available: 
vinyl

The Other Side

27 Sep 2018
Tord Gustavsen Trio
CD
ECM

Recorded at Oslo’s Rainbow Studio in January 2018, this is Gustavsen’s eighth album. It is also his return to a trio form after a number of albums that the Norwegian pianist made with quartets. Joining him on this occasion are drummer Jarle Vespestad his long musical partner who helped to cement the Gustavson sound, and bass player Sigurd Hole.

Tord Gustavsen’s fans will be delighted with this album, and those who discover him for the first time could not ask for a better introduction.

The Other Sideis reminiscent of his formative albums The Groundand Being There. But while his phrasing and style has been maintained some of the tango and flamenco themes that were evident in the music of his second and third albums has made way for themes that are more related to Nordic folk and religious hymns.

The album consists of 11 short pieces (the longest is just over six minutes). The rich sound that has been his hallmark with mighty drum, bass and a slight reverb, is a reminder of his earlier tiro albums, and like them this is an album that MUST be heard on a decent sound system to be fully appreciated. Auditioning on a mobile device or while in a car will not reveal the layers of sound and the brilliance of the playing. It is made up of contemplative and rhythmic tracks in equal amounts. It hovers between jazz and classical but is neither. It creates instrumental themes of immense size and intimacy all at the same time. An uncommon feast for the ears.

The Other Side is immense and is exceedingly highly recommended, I suggest you preview it on YouTube and then rush to buy tickets for the trio’s appearance during their visit to the UK as part of the London Jazz Festival in November. Consider this album a must have.

Reuben Klein

Formats also available: 
LP, DL 24/96

Binaural Baroque / España / Mozart By Candlelight

8 Dec 2017
Various
CD
Chasing The Dragon

If you’ve been fortunate enough to experience a symphony orchestra in a concert hall, you’ll appreciate how exceptionally difficult it is to capture the sound in a way that not only does justice to the intricacies, scale and emotional impact of the performance but also reflects the distinctive sonic qualities of the venue. Mike Valentine is among a handful of recording engineers in high demand for their expertise in such challenging live recording environments. Valentine’s modus operandi is capturing maximum natural spaciousness whilst faithfully preserving the acoustic timbres of instruments, and in his most recent projects he uses a binaural ‘dummy head’ microphone to achieve this. 

The trio of Chasing The Dragon binaural offerings, Binaural Baroque, España – A Tribute to Spain, and Mozart By Candlelight, provides a small but varied selection of classical styles ranging from the intimate to the grandiose that will interest many listeners. Even if you’re not a classical aficionado, but simply enjoy rousing music recorded to the highest reference standards, España is without doubt  a ‘must have’ album for its sheer dynamic impact. Not only do the arrangements make excellent use of the chosen instrumental ensembles who perform them with wonderful sensibility and spirit, the recordings themselves are of breathtaking sonic quality and showcase what is possible when the art and science are done properly. 

For headphone listeners the binaural mics contribute favourably to the listening experience by capturing the interchannel timing differences in a way that reveals a more natural ambience, depth and perspective that effectively teleports you inside the very concert halls in which the recordings were made.  I was able to compare the binaural version of one album with its conventional stereo counterpart and the former sounded preferably smoother, less strained and more dimensional, both through headphones and loudspeakers. If you care passionately about sound quality and are curious about binaural, these three Chasing The Dragon releases come highly recommended!

Richard Barclay

Formats also available: 
vinyl, 24/192 DL

Hudson

28 Nov 2017
DeJohnette, Grenadier, Medeski, Scofield
CD
Motéma
Hudson DeJohnette, Grenadier, Medeski, Scofield

In essence Hudson is all about a bunch of long time friends getting together and playing to their hearts’ content. Only those four friends just so happen to be elder statesman of jazz at their peak, the result is sheer musical magic. The quartet of Jack DeJohnette, Larry Grenadier, John Medeski and John Scofield have so much talent that listing all their collaborations and awards would take the better part of a few A4 pages but here are the headlines.

Band leader, DeJohnette, is one of the most famous drummers in jazz. His roots stretch back to the early sixties, he played with Miles Davis on Bitches Brew, and has provided rhythms for Stan Getz, Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett and just about everybody who’s somebody in the jazz world. Larry Grenadier has been strumming his bass strings professionally ever since he was 16 and had his talent called for by Brad Mehldau, Pat Metheny and Joshua Redman among many other collaborations since the early nineties.

John Scofield is one of the most influential guitar players of his generation. His unique style is as recognisable as George Benson or Wes Montgomery. His collaboration with Medeski, Martin & Wood established him as a musician who can adapt to funk as well as bop (and be). You can find his name associated with Steve Swallow, Larry Goldin, Elian Elias, John Patitucci and many others. John Medeski is part of Medeski, Martin & Wood, a band instantly recognisable for its sound and musical talent. He is a keyboardist equally adept at playing distorted electronica and accompanying Phil Lesh’s various Southern rock/blues/country blues session bands. Medeski and Scofield have worked together on many albums and tours as part of MM&W.

The combined talent shines from the first note, Hudson is a sumptuous album, and it is hard to judge if grace or sheer talent are driving it. There is a sense of togetherness about it that is hard to describe but creates the most attractive noise that one could wish to hear. Whether it is the opportunity to hear Medeski tinkling the ivories of a grand piano or the very gentle riffs of Scofield which are so familiar yet elevated to new heights. Or it’s the gentle backing of DeJohnette that ties the band together, or even Grenadier’s bass notes that fill and syncopate to augment is hard to tell but it sure hangs together well.

The album contains homages to a range of classic Americana courtesy of Dylan, Hendrix, Mitchell and the Band. In addition, it features original material and a nod to both gospel and native American chants. The interpretations breathe new life into ‘Lay Lady Lay’ and ‘Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’, ‘Woodstock’, ‘Wait Until Tomorrow’ and ‘Up On Cripple Creek’. Offering whole new vistas onto oh-so familiar tunes, all of which are associated in some way to the Woodstock festival which took place in the Hudson Valley nearly fifty years ago.

Lovers of pure straight jazz will be dazzled by ‘Tony Then Jack’ a fast paced classic bop that does not sound out of place on this album and helps to complete the exhilarating musical ride that this amazing quartet produces. The familiar tunes of Dylan, Mitchell Hendrix and The Band naturally integrate with the title track, a funky number that is reminiscent of the MM&W/Scofield sound.

The recording is very natural, you get a good sense of the room the musicians are playing in and it’s a joy to listen to throughout. In fact I haven’t stopped listening to it for three days now, whether on a high end hi-fi system, mobile device or in the car, it oozes energy and quality. The talent of these musicians gets more immense and impressive as the years pass, I hope this is not their last collaboration. And I really hope that DeJohnette, Grenadier, Scofield and Medeski get on the road and play in the UK for a few nights. 

Reuben Klein

Formats also available: 
FLAC download

Brightbird

1 Nov 2017
João Paulo Esteves da Silva, Mário Franco, Samuel Rohrer
CD
Arjunamusic

To some the album Brightbird might be considered an expression of modern jazz. I beg to respectfully disagree. This incredibly well recorded album sounds like a modern version of baroque music. It is very intricate and rich in tonal colour and harmonies. It is also almost ‘algebraic’ and often cerebral in its composition, requiring both concentration and a very open mind. Yet it is never difficult to listen to, a neat trick if you can pull it off.

Brightbird is a strictly acoustic collaboration by a trio of musicians. João Paulo Esteves plays piano, Mario Franco on double bass and Samuel Rohrer is the drummer/percussionist.  This is a very non-Brexit, pan European collaboration marrying Latin and Swiss temperaments and nationalities, it highlights the musical skills of all its protagonists and offer all the chance to strut their stuff.

Brightbird consists of 13 wonderfully recorded tracks that ebb and flow in a very intimate fashion with a constant gentle movement of complimentary layers of sound. The lush result relies on harmonies rather than rhythms and on intricate movements rather than on melodies.

The effect is a rich tapestry of musical shades that convey a very opulent yet reserved and introspective sonic character. In places intriguing, in parts very captivating, this album is certainly not for those who are looking for background music, it requires both concentration and an open mind (as well as open ears). Those who get to hear Brightbird will have the opportunity to enjoy a rich tapestry of sounds that are not often heard, and be the richer for it.

Reuben Klein

Formats also available: 
download

Guris Celebrating the music of Hermeto Pascoal

14 Aug 2017
Jovino Santos Neto, André Mehmari
CD
Adventure Music

Guris is a charming and in places romantic Brazilian antidote for super-hot summer days of the sort we occasionally experience in the UK. It is a musical smorgasbord that contains flavours from many musical styles but is fundamentally a testament to the very unique charm and magic of Brazilian music and culture. Those looking for a samba or bossa nova will be disappointed, while those rhythms are here, they are mixed and intertwined and never dominate or take the foreground. There are influences of modern classical and jazz but the harmonies and tunes can only be described as “Brazilian”. 

Guris is a collaboration that celebrates the life of composer Hermeto Pascoal, a musical tribute for his 80th birthday. It is full of soul, musicality and talent that’s charmingly performed by Jovino Santos Neto (piano) and André Mehmari (piano, Fender Rhodes, harmonium and bandolim). The album is a musical romp (for the most part) that oozes and smoulders its way through a mix of very lyrical and soulful tunes that one can easily sing along to or harmonise with. It is played by both with much confidence and a great deal of talent. The songs are Pascoal originals which while they may be familiar in his native land are not well known further afield. That said his Slaves Mass album was repressed by Pure Pleasure on 180g vinyl not so long ago. It is quite a gem.

On this album the performance is aided by voices and towards the end of the album the two performers indulge in what sounds like puerile nonsense (read: noises) as they add voice to the instruments. Pascoal used a pig to provide such sounds in at least one of his performances. The album is not for everyone, some may struggle with the absence of a clearly defined style, but those who take time to listen will discover a mighty rich tapestry from a musical world that can usually only be found in Brazil. The recording quality is somewhere between rich and exact.

Standout tracks
‘Samba Do’
‘Andorinhas’

Reuben Klein

Formats also available: 
none

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